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 those visitors seeking to explore a little more of what Europe and the Balkans have to offer, a daytrip to Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina fits the bill nicely.
Located approximately 2.5 hours north of Dubrovnik, the small medieval city of Mostar is the cultural capital of the Herzegovina region. A cityscape of red terracotta roofs, stone buildings, minarets, and the jewel of the region, the Stari Most bridge, come together to create an atmosphere that whispers Old World in Mostar. However, the quaint surroundings of today 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 and rebuild from that destructive time, and Mostar epitomizes this new Balkan mindset.
Perhaps the most famous, and beloved, landmark in the country is the Stari Most (Old Bridge) in Mostar. And the mere mention of the fate it suffered in 1993 is enough to 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. But what had been the Mostar’s heart was torn out when shelling brought the bridge tumbling down into the river. It lay there 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 for the area. 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:
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, it’s not unusual to 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.
Experience the charm of Mostar on a cruise to Europe with Holland America Line.