Mostar: How To Enjoy This Beautiful Yet Divided City
September 6, 2018
by Harriet Reynolds
Mostar is a city in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, within easy travelling distance from Sarajevo as well as Split and Dubrovnik (Croatia) and Kotor (Montenegro). Whether by bus or by train, the journey to Mostar is a pleasure in itself – along mountain roads and past green lakes and rivers.
At first, I was slightly worried about spending more than a day in Mostar. The pictures looked wonderful, but I imagined I’d be stuck for ideas after I’d taken a few photos of my own. I needn’t have worried though because there is plenty more to Mostar than just a picturesque bridge.
Mostar Old Bridge (Stari Most)
Mostar’s old bridge, spanning the beautiful turquoise waters of the Neretva River, quite rightly takes centre stage in the city. Few tourists leave Mostar without a picture of the iconic bridge on their Instagram account, but it’s so photogenic you can’t really blame them. The bridge was originally built by the Ottoman’s in the 16th century, but after standing for more than 400 years it was unfortunately destroyed during the war and later rebuilt in the same style. For those who are interested in the bridge’s history and reconstruction, there is a whole museum dedicated to this topic.
Mostar old bridge is not only famous for its looks and history, but also for its bridge jumpers. Every day you can expect to see some brave locals jumping the 20ish metres from the bridge’s peak to the icy cold water below, and if you happen to be (like me) in Mostar on the last Sunday of July you can catch the annual bridge diving contest, where Mostonians compete to be the diver of the year. If you’re looking for an adrenaline hit, you can even take the plunge yourself, but first, make sure to get the proper advice and training. Visit the Mostar diving club (their clubhouse is right on the bridge), where for €25 you will be trained in the correct technique, practise jumping from a lower diving board and have a rescue canoe waiting at the bottom, just in case.
Below the bridge is a little “beach” where you can cool off in the river. The currents are rather strong and the water is absolutely freezing so it’s more of a dip-your-feet-in-the-water than a swimming kind of place. It’s the perfect spot to sit and admire the bridge and the divers, and there’s a little bar so you can relax with a beer.
Mostar Free Walking Tour
After spending a day and a half wandering around the city, feeling relaxed and charmed, I decided I should learn a little more about it. A fellow guest at my hostel recommended a free walking tour, so I set out to meet Ševko to see what he could tell me. I soon found myself hanging onto every one of his words as he skillfully narrated the history of the city, including a detailed and impartial explanation of the war and the current political situation. I left the tour feeling both informed and moved, and am truly glad that I took the time to learn about this fascinating city. You can find Ševko (Sheva walking tours) in the square outside the Hammam museum every day at 9.30am and 6pm.
Museum of War and Genocide Victims 1992-1995
For an in-depth explanation of the tragic events that tore Bosnia and Herzegovina apart between 1992 and 1995, head to this museum. Inside you will find detailed accounts of the war crimes committed during this era, in the form of victim statements, personal belongings, documentary films, photographs, court testimonies and so on. Of course, it doesn’t make for a light activity, but it’s worth visiting if you want to learn about what happened during this dark, and such recent, period of European history. Even if you’ve been to similar museums in Sarajevo or elsewhere, there will be something new to learn here, as the war in Mostar was fought predominantly between the Bosniaks and Croats – rather than the Serbs.
Mosques, Churches and Views
Bosnia and Herzegovina is often heralded as the place where East meets West, with its mix of architectural styles and religions. In Mostar, there is still a clear divide between the eastern side of the town, where the skyline is full of minarets from the many mosques, and the western side, where Saint Peter and Paul monastery’s bell tower rises up in a blatant attempt to outdo the Bosniak side. This bell tower is the tallest structure in Mostar and provides those who climb it with a wide panoramic view of the city. However, supposedly the best view of Stari Most and the river can be had from the top of the minaret of Koski Mehmed Pasha mosque, a climb which is not recommended for those who suffer from claustrophobia as the minaret is incredibly narrow.
Kajtaz Ottoman House
For a few marks, you can enter the Kajtaz house and see how (wealthy) Ottomans lived. Inside there are preserved rooms and around the back is a peaceful little courtyard where you can sit and relax.
The Kravice waterfalls are about 40km from Mostar and are an ideal place to cool off in the hot weather. Unfortunately, it can be a little tricky to get there if you don’t have a car, but there are plenty of group tours from Mostar. Tours operated by tourist agencies in Mostar seem to cost around €40, but you may find that your hostel offers a cheaper version. I stayed at hostel Dada, which offered daily trips for €15 per person, the only catch was that there needed to be enough (4) people interested. The entrance fee to the park itself is between 6KM (€3) and 10KM (€5) depending on the time of year.
Another possible day-trip from Mostar is to the small town of Blagaj, where, beneath a cliff wall, by the green waters of the Neretva, sits an old monastery – Blagaj Tekija. As both Kravica and Blagaj are to the south of Mostar, it’s possible to combine trips to both of these places in one day.
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September 11, 2018
A very interesting and informative article on Mostar!