We stayed in Dubrovnik, Croatia, for four days. That was more than enough time to explore the gorgeous Old Town, soak up some sun on the city’s glorious beaches and go on a day trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The old city of Mostar is undoubtedly one of the major highlights in this relatively unknown, yet fascinating, country in the Balkans. Mostar is located in the southern part of the country, in the region of Herzegovina, and is easily reached by bus from Dubrovnik—passports are needed, though, as Bosnia and Herzegovina is not a member of the European Union.
Mostar was an important hub of transportation as early as the 16th century, thanks to the bridges that cross the fast-flowing Neretva River. As the Ottoman Empire expanded, Suleyman the Magnificent commissioned the construction of a stone bridge across the river to replace the existing, but wobbly suspension bridge and make crossing the river safer for traders and troops alike. The original bridge used to be guarded by “mostari”, or “bridge-keepers”, from whom the name of the city is derived. The new stone arched bridge was completed in 1566 and, at the time, was one of the world’s most impressive technological marvels, the longest single-span stone bridge on earth.
Later, this bridge became known as the Stari Most or Old Bridge, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, almost four centuries after its completion, was still strong enough to support the tanks of the Nazis that arrived to occupy the city. In 1993, however, the bridge was shelled by Bosnian Croats during the Yugoslavian civil war. A true symbol of the previously peaceful co-existence of several different cultures and religions in the region, the destruction of the Old Bridge caused outrage among locals and even in the international press.
I don’t want to go any deeper into the 1990s conflict in the region and into the history of the Mostar, though. A quick Google search will provide all the information you may need or want.
I just want to say that nowadays, two decades after the war, this old city is as vibrant as ever. Although tensions still exist between different ethnic groups—the east bank of the Neretva River is where Bosniaks live, while Croats have their homes on the right bank—to visitors, Mostar is as safe a city as they come.
It may not always appear safe, though, for many of the buildings in the city are still ridden with bullet holes and some still lie in ruins. Signs saying “dangerous ruins” can be seen all over the city. That being said; if you use your brain and don’t venture into one of those ruins, you will be absolutely fine.
Mostar is a gorgeous city, a European city that couldn’t be further removed from what people usually consider European. It is dotted with mosques, its streets lined with bazaars and Middle Eastern shops—the heritage of centuries of Ottoman occupation. It offers a fascinating contrast of cultures, almost a culture shock for anyone who visits from a place like Dubrovnik.
I loved it and I would recommend anyone who’s in the region to take their time and pay a visit to this fabulously colorful and lively UNESCO World Heritage Listed city.
In my “city series”, I feature 20 photos of my favorite cities in the world and I simply have to include Mostar as well. Read on and enjoy the following photos of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.