Mostar is a city in the administrative centre of Herzegovina-Neretva Canton of the Federation of Bosnia & Herzegovina. It has about 105,000 inhabitants as per the 2013 census taken. This is the 5th largest city in the country & it was named after the bridge-keepers “Mostari” who during medieval times guarded the Stari Most “Old Bridge”.
Mostar which is situated in the deep valley of the Neretva River, developed during the 15th & 16th centuries as an Ottoman frontier town & during the Austro-Hungarian period in the 19th & 20th centuries. Mostar is known for its old Turkish houses & the Stari Most. Browsing along the cobbled-street Kujundziluk Bazaar where colourful souvenir shops & handmade crafts beckon.
The Old City of Mostar & the Stari Most (Old Bridge) have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005 & this bridge built by the Ottomans in the 16th century is an exemplary piece of Islamic architecture in the Balkans.
Climbing up Stari Most which is an arched stone bridge commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1557. It was tasked to Mimar Hayruddin (a student of the Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan) who took 9 years to complete it.
The Stari Most superseded the previous wooden bridge that used to span Neretva River & upon completion in 1566 quickly became a wonder for being the widest man-made arch at that time. The arch of the bridge is made of a local stone called tenelija & its shape was formed as a result of the irregularities of the stones that lined the inner section of the arch.
The picturesque Old Bazaar Kujundžiluk on the west bank of Neretva River was named after the goldsmiths who traditionally crafted & sold their wares on this street. Today you can still find authentic paintings & copper or bronze carvings of the Stari Most for keepsakes.
Mostar was first mentioned in a document dating from 1474 & it was on the trade route between the Adriatic & the mineral rich regions of central Bosnia; thus the settlement began to spread to the east bank of the river.
Koski Mehmed Pašina Džamija- This mosque built between 1618-1619 represents another fine example of Ottoman architecture in Bosnia & Herzegovina & is the most monumental mosque in Mostar. This one space-plan with a dome was designed in the main architecture office in Istanbul & was built from precisely tanned stone blocks. It is significantly located on the cliffs by River Neretva in the centre of the city.
Looking from Stari Most at the east bank of the Neretva River which is today lined with restaurants. Having survived for 427 years the Stari Most was sadly destroyed during the Bosnian War in Bosnia & Herzegovina on 9 Nov 1993 when more than 60 shells were fired at it. That was deemed a deliberate attempt by the Croats to destroy cultural property & to wipe out memories of a shared cultural heritage & peaceful co-existence.
The view from the highest point on Stari Most is pretty to say the least. I spy a diving platform that would be useful during summer when the water level in the river rises in tandem with the temperature. There is also a modern bridge the Lučki Most nearby that carries both pedestrians & vehicular traffic.
Human settlements along the River Neretva between Hum Hill & the Velež Mountain have existed since prehistory & discoveries of fortified enceintes, cemeteries & evidence of Roman occupation have been found buried beneath the present town. Bosnia & Herzegovina of the western Balkans is mostly mountainous & it encompasses the central Dinaric Alps.
Passing under the semi-circular Tara Tower on the east bank of Stari Most which served as an architectural buttress, watchtower & ammunition storage during the Ottoman period. On the west bank, Helebija Tower was once a prison on the lower floor & a small barrack on the upper floor. Have a peek through the archway & see part of the Karst mountain range of the Dinaric Alps which extends for 645km from Italy in the northwest to Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro & Albania in the southeast.
The cobblestone pathway acoss the Old Town of Mostar & the Stari Most is called kaldrma. During reconstruction of the bridge, two distinct mortars were used. A dark red & a pink mortar which helped with preventing water penetration into the bridge & to make walking on them easier for the merchants & their animals.
The dark red mortar is located directly above the stone slabs recesses & above the stone elements of the arch. The cobblestones are submerged in pink mortar that fills the joints & gaps between the stone blocks thus setting the pavement & insulating it from water seepage.
Coming close to the waters’ edge – Neretva River is the largest river of the eastern part of the Adriatic Basin. There are 4 Hydroelectricity power plants & large dams with water levels higher than 15m providing flood protection, power & water storage. This is one of the most valuable natural & freshwater resource of Bosnia & Herzegovina.
The Stari Most is iconic of Bosnia & Herzegovina’s & instead of foundations, it has abutments of limestone that link the wing walls along the waterside cliffs. It spans 30m, is 4m wide & rises 24m above the emerald-green waters of the Neretva River.
We were lucky enough to witness a man diving beautifully off the bridge. There is a traditional annual competition organised end July where young men leap off the bridge into the very cold waters & I would think it is quite risky & only skilled & trained divers should attempt this!