Local teenage boys plummet more than 20 meters off the Stari Most Bridge into the beautiful but chilly Neretva River. Talking about welcoming newcomers to the city with a splash! Welcome to Mostar.
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The Mostari diving club rule the bridge and if foreign daredevils want to follow their example they are charged up to 25 euros. A friendly advice: Don’t even think about it! The Neretva is risky because of its whirlpools and rocks and even though (mainly) Bosnian men have been doing this for as long as 450 years it’s truly hazardous business. The long tradition isn’t without its sad stories. So instead, enjoy the sight from the safety of one of the many atmospheric surrounding cafes with kilim rugs and wooden tea tables.
Aside the action taking place on and off the bridge, the structure itself is no doubt the pride of Mostar and a must-see for any and all travelers. Until the Ottomans gained power in Herzegovina in the late 1400s, Mostar was just an insignificant hamlet with a small cluster of houses along Neretva and a modest suspension bridge to connect the two banks. It was the Turks who built the bridge and the men who watched over it were called mostari (bridge guards), hence the city name Mostar. With Austria-Hungary's takeover of power, the infrastructure was brushed up and a Central European feel was added to the otherwise Oriental-looking town.
Things to see, adventures to experience
It was the Croats who bombed Mostar’s trademark, Stari Most, the Old Bridge, in 1993 but today the medieval arched bridge has been reconstructed and the Herzegovina's main town, extending on both sides of the green Neretva River, is flourishing again. The nearby alleys are full of shops and market stalls that will keep you busy for a good time, but if you want to learn about the bridge’s culturally significance and its long history, stop by at the Stari Most Museum. Then take it all in from the Koski Mehmed-Pasha Mosque’s minaret that gives you perfect panoramic views of the town.
And what’s underneath the famous bridge is at least as, if not more, interesting. The handsome Neretva River below offers great rafting adventures to those who dare to take on the challenge!
Mostar is a perfect base if you want to explore other interesting towns in the region. Not far from Mostar, and also along Neretva, lies the old UNESCO-protected town Počitelj. Also the world's second most visited pilgrimage village for Catholics, Medjugorje is within easy reach. If you are a sucker for religious kitsch there’s no better place than this! Both towns are about a 45-minute car ride away from Mostar.
North to Mostar, just under an hour’s drive, you will find Jablanica which is unofficially known as the Balkan’s capital of roasted lamb. There’s plenty to choose from but the dish to try is spit-roasted lamb.
Mostar is connected with all major towns in Bosnia and Herzegovina – not just the nearby ones. The beautiful bus trip from Mostar to Banja Luka is a stunning journey into the back lands. Get a local experience, and explore a few roadside restaurants where the long distance buses stops for a lunch break. If you want to meet people, a bus ride can be a perfect opening for new friendships.
And if you have a thing for breathtaking train rides, don’t miss the railroad from Mostar to Sarajevo.