Mostar is a Town of stunning sights and colourful culture.
Of all the former Yugoslavian states, it could easily be argued that Bosnia & Herzegovina suffered the most and still struggles today in its recovery. Over 200,000 people died during the war leaving the territory with a population of just 4 million people. It is by far the poorest Country in the region despite an abundance of agricultural and mineral resources. It remains the region’s biggest producer of Tobacco,1kg of tobacco costs around €10. The region is known as the Bosnian California due to the abundance of vineyards and is building a strong reputation within the international community for its white wine. The Mountains around Mostar have been mined for their Aluminium ore and was used by the Yugoslavian ruler Tito as a centre for military industry. Much of the industry and infrastructure was unfortunately destroyed during the recent war.
It’s easy to become lost in the beauty of this Town, everywhere you look there are amazing photo opportunities and the Countries cultural heritage is easily seen through the local’s daily life. Look a little closer however, and you will see that almost every building still has tell-tale bullet holes. Rummage through the souvenir shops and you will find memorabilia from many wars not just the most recent Yugoslavian conflict. The Town’s people have used their metalworking experience to create works of art and trinkets from ammunition casings.
Most the former Yugoslavian states are populated by Orthodox and Catholic Christians but in the case of Bosnia which was formerly a territory of the Ottoman Empire it has become a melting pot of Christian and Muslim cultures. This is no more apparent than in Mostar due to the Geography of the Town. Originally two separate Towns on the lower slopes of parallel mountains, the Ottoman Empire built a bridge connecting the two Towns for trade purposes. To this day Christian families reside on one side of the bridge and Muslims on the other however The Town is also known for is its religious tolerance and mixed religion families.
Both sides of the bridge are stunningly beautiful and strikingly similar. The streets are narrow in the Turkish style so you can see the bargains on either side of you whilst shopping.
Mostar’s Bridge is also one of the Country’s most iconic landmarks and is one of the best examples of Islamic Architecture in the region.
The name ‘Mostar’ comes from ‘Mostari’, the name of the bridge keepers who guarded it after its construction in the 16th Century.
Many wars have passed through Mostar since the bridges construction and it survived them all until it was destroyed by the Croatian army during the most recent conflict. The bridge’s destruction was one of the events that led to international intervention in the conflict. There is a local legend that during the Second World War Hitler himself ordered that no harm should come to the bridge due to its “magnificence and cultural importance.”
The original bridge was built using Egg yolks and goat hair. The Town has been a UNESCO Heritage site since 2005 and they insisted that it be rebuilt using the same methods. It was almost impossible to replicate but the company that undertook the restoration was eventually allowed to use titanium hairs to strengthen the construction.
The residents of Mostar are known for their age-old rite of passage where men jump from the highest point of the bridge’s arch (25m) into the rushing emerald green waters below. The bridge has become so famous that it has featured regularly in the Red Bull bridge diving competition. Do not be tempted to try this yourself as despite its height the river below is only 5m at its deepest and many people have been seriously hurt in their attempts.
A local diving club dives daily for the visiting tourists, collecting donations for their bravery. If you watch closely you will see that the diver’s pull their legs backwards during their descent to avoid breaking their legs on the bottom.
— Rob ✈️ (@_MiniAdventurer) 22 April 2017
No matter if you’re travelling to Mostar from Croatia or another part of Bosnia it will be a picturesque trip. If you’re taking a tour pick a trip that stops at the Kravica Waterfalls (Often called Kravice). They may not be the biggest falls but they are stunning and the area abounds with colour.
It’s hard to reconcile such a peaceful and beautiful landscape with its reputation for war and destruction. As you approach the Town you will be quickly surrounded with new industrial buildings which seems modern and progressive but these buildings soon give way to the ghostly shells of ruined factories and buildings that are beyond repair.
Most tourists and companies park up behind the re-built Franciscan Church and its impressive bell tower reaching 107m into the blue sky.
The view from the top is impressive and an elevator takes you most of the way so it’s well worth the few Euro’s it costs. Take a closer look at the tower from the outside and you will notice that it is clearly leaning to one side but don’t mention it too loud as the locals are very proud of the construction.
There are dozens of Churches on this side of the Bridge and just as many Mosques on the other. Construction is currently underway on the Country’s largest Church in the hills above the Town.
In the Muslim quarter, you will find a Mosque with the most unique properties. A river runs underneath and it is said that during silent prayer it can be heard creating a divine and otherworldly experience.
If your visiting in Summer, take sun protection and plenty of water as Mostar is one of the hottest places in Europe and can easily reach 40+ºc. In the past, this has caused some alarming incidents such as in 2005 when the heat caused an undiscovered landmine on a nearby mountain to explode causing a small landslide which in turn caused other undiscovered mines to explode. This is not the first time that residents of the Town would have been forgiven for thinking that the war had started again. In 2002, a stray goat found another landmine with a similar outcome.
Despite An international effort to clear the area of mines the local tour guides still advise not to stray from the hiking trails.
Another by-product of the intense heat from the sun is the need to replace the orange roof tiles every few years as they soon become burnt and blackened.
One thing for sure is that the residents have a great sense of humour, strike up a conversation with them and ask them about their national flag and you will no doubt be regaled of how they couldn’t decide on what their flag should be so the European community created one for them.
My biggest advice? Take the time to eat in one of the local restaurants, many have great views of the bridge and the Bosnian cuisine is amazing. Be warned though, they like their meat and the servings are huge.
Don’t forget to try the “Bosnian” Coffee. Although this is ostensibly just Turkish Coffee which has matured within the Bosnian culture, the locals are very proud on the strength of their Coffee.
Be warned though. One cup is enough unless you don’t want to sleep for a week!