SPEND A DAY IN MOSTAR AND THE STARI MOST
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The walled European city of Dubrovnik has much to offer cruise passengers looking to sample Croatia’s charms. From its pedestrian-only old town and baroque churches to palatial buildings and a newly restored funicular, Dubrovnik earns its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, for visitors seeking more of Europe and the Balkans, travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina fits the bill nicely.
When it comes to things to do in Bosnia, exploring fascinating and inspirational Mostar tops the list. Roughly 2.5 hours north of Dubrovnik, this small medieval city is the cultural capital of the Herzegovina region. A cityscape of terracotta roofs, stone buildings, minarets, and the jewel of the region, the Stari Most bridge, create an atmosphere that whispers Old World in Mostar. However, the quaint surroundings can easily make one forget the Balkans’ turbulent past. In the 1990s, a series of conflicts wracked this region, and scars can still be seen, and felt, in places. However, much has been done to move on from the shadow of war and rebuild, and Mostar epitomizes a new Balkan mindset.
A visit to Stari Most is a must when it comes to travel to Bosnia. It is perhaps the most famous, and beloved, landmark in the country. And the mere mention of the fate it suffered will bring tears to the eyes of locals. Before the war, its Ottoman-styled stone arch and fortified towers stood over the Neretva River for over 400 years, connecting the two sides of the city. Shelling brought the bridge tumbling down into the river in 1993 and Mostar’s heart was torn out. The bridge lay in the river for years as a symbol of the divisiveness that broke Yugoslavia apart.
In 2001, an international coalition formed to rebuild Stari Most and much of the Old City damaged in the war. The bridge was reconstructed and opened for use on July 23, 2004 and serves today as the main focal point of tourism and travel to Bosnia. Its symbolic nature likely overshadows its importance as an architectural piece, as the people of the Balkans strive to rebuild the metaphorical bridges of trust and cooperation.
Tips for visiting Stari Most:
- The bridge is steep and its surface can be slippery, be sure to wear shoes with firm traction for crossing.
- Jumping from Stari Most into the Neretva has been a tradition since well before the war. Today, you may see local men jumping from the bridge, after they’ve collected some donations from visitors, of course. Do not attempt this yourself — it’s very dangerous. These guys know what they’re doing.
- The nearby Koski Basta Caffe offers a picturesque view of the bridge. Enjoy a cup of Turkish black coffee while watching the divers take their perilous plunge.