Mostar is the largest and most important city in the Herzegovina region. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is divided by the Neretva River, with Croats on one side and Muslims on the other. Mostar was founded by the Turks during the 15th century and expanded by the Habsburgs 300 years later. The city, and its famed old bridge (the Stari Most), was the most heavily bombed of any Bosnian city during the Balkan conflict following the break-up of Yugoslavia. All bridges were destroyed and 26 Ottoman-era mosques ruined.
Much of Old Mostar’s cultural monuments and historic bridges have been rebuilt. The Old Bridge (Stari Most) was reconstructed using 16th century building techniques.
Guide Maya led us into the almost claustrophobic Old Town filled with hundreds upon hundreds of tourists spending a day in Mostar. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes. Mostar made Dubrovnik look empty by comparison.
Hint: I strongly advise wearing good shoes. Mostar streets were constructed out of small, extremely slippery stones. Most of us took teeny-tiny steps, trying not to get ankles caught in the grooves, fall, hung onto walls, and railings on Stari Most Bridge.
What to see in Mostar? Fortunately, the main attractions are just to look at. You do not need a guide, or map with great signage thoughout. I’m confident you’ll find your own way around very small Mostar.
- Maya led us down Brace Fejica, the main street, with a stop to admire the Crooked bridge. This small bridge was reputedly the model for Stari Most Bridge. Constructed out of wood and hung on chains about 40 years before Stari Most Bridge, it was built for the heavily trafficked trade route. A former slave then rebuilt this “old, old bridge” out of stone as thanks to his community. However, “old, old bridge…or Crooked Bridge” was weakened during the war, completely washed away during a 1999 flood and now stands in its rebuilt (let’s hope, final) glory. Restaurants lined the other side of the river.
- Continuing on to a 16th century Hamam (Turkish Bath) (click these links to Eastern Turkey or Antalya for all the poop on Hamams). Mosques with minarets dotted the Mostar skyline two of which were: Karadozbeg Mosque, and early 17th century Roznamedzi Ibrahim-efendi Mosque. It is possible to climb the minaret at Koski Mehmed Pasina Dzamija built in 1618 for great views. (Maya droned on and on, boring us to death after this point.)
- Stari Most – The Old Bridge. Looking at it, taking the perfect photograph, standing on Stari Most is the Mostar tourist’s reason for being. You would think all these photos were going to be on National Geographic’s front page. This is Mostar’s highlight, originally built by the Turks in 1566 for Suleyman the Magnificent. Towers and fortifications were built in 1440 by the nobleman, Radin.
Members of the Mostar Diving Club stood in the doorway of Tara Gunpowder Tower waiting for tourists to pay 25 Euros to watch them dive off Stari Most Bridge. Diving off the bridge has been going on since the 16th century, but divers have recently discovered that this is a profitable occupation.
- Museums? Old Bridge Museum had exhibits, view from the top, video, and entrance into excavations below. The History Museum of Herzegovina had a small collection of photographs from Mostar history.
- Muslibegovica House is considered the most beautiful house from Ottoman period in the Balkans. Belonging to a wealthy family, this four-story house was built around a central men’s courtyard, has a women’s courtyard, furnished interior, etc. Maya led interested group members to this house.
All attractions charge to visit inside. Looking outside is free.
Beyond bored by now, we left the group tour to happily wander through Mostar alone. First making arrangements with Igor for tomorrow’s ride to Mostar bus station. Using Stari Most and the river as markers will enable you to find your way easily. Mostar is also hilly. Attractions are either up or down.
I bet key chains made from spent bullets are the #1 souvenir along with other items made from armament.