The fascination of Mostar, chief town of the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton and ancient crossroads of people and civilizations, appears today full of renewed strength, thanks to a constant reconstruction which, from 1995 onwards, has allowed the city to return to its normal life after the heavy bombings of the early 1990s. Due to its geostrategic position, Mostar was grievously damaged during its last rounds of fighting. Slowly, the situation has improved. Nowadays, past and present live together in an urban context which speaks of a complex history, made up of places, people and events that touch anyone who comes to visit this romantic town.
As many other ancient cities, Mostar has gradually grown in time, proud of its five centuries of history.
The antique historic centre, situated along the sides of the very famous Stari Most (Old Bridge) is a really unique attraction, not to be missed: accompanied by the whirling rustle of the Neretva River, visitors can admire the symbols of the old city, the district dating back to the Ottoman era with splendid 16th century mosques, towers, houses and Turkish baths, apart from the numerous small shops of the kujunžije craftsmen (copper beaters) who enliven the streets with the buzz of their daily activity.
The city is characterized by the meeting and by the living together of the four religions present in the area – Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Islamism and Judaism – and this factor explains a great part of its fascination.
Mostar is also a jewel set in a luxuriant and uncontaminated nature. For this reason, too, and not only for its emerging artists, it has always attracted tourists, painters and poets who have visited it, loved it and immortalized it in their works of art. Mostar is a place which bewitches you with its history and its culture, the result of a meeting between East and West, a mixture of treasures and essences that you can still breathe, wandering through its ancient streets.
The Old Bridge (Stari Most 1566;2004)
An almost instinctive image comes to mind when one thinks of Mostar and that is that of its splendid Old Bridge; it thereby follows that this stone masterpiece is the monument that has given its name to the city and which symbolizes its many significances.It was built during the Ottoman period by the Turkish architect Hajrudin and commissioned by the sultan Sulejman the Magnificent; it was completed in 1566 after nine years’ work. Right from the start, the bridge became part of various local legends, one of which narrates the stubbornness of Hajrudin who stopped underneath it for three days and three nights in order to demonstrate its absolute solidity. And it remained so for 427 years, until 1993, the tragic year when the bombing of the bridge became not only a strategic, political and military objective but also the most vicious way to strike the heart of the town’s unity and beauty. The reconstruction of the Bridge lasted almost ten years and it was truly a notable enterprise for it was decided to use the same antique building techniques, dating back to the 16th century, as well as its original method of assembling the parts and with the stones cut in an approximate manner in order to recreate the imperfections and the uniqueness of the prior structure. The Tenelija stone, with its crystal clear and ever-changing tonalities according to the intensity of the sunrays, was extracted from the same quarry as the first time and some of the surviving pieces from the old bridge were used again in its reconstruction.
The Stari Most joins the two banks of the Neretva River together and is situated between the Herceguša and Tara Towers, on the left bank, and the Halebija on the right: it is 28.7 metre long, 4.49 metre wide and is characterized by a single stone arch which, in summer, stands 21 metres above the water.
Something not to be missed is the exciting diving competition which, since 1968 every year in July, takes place from the bridge. And, some historic sources confirm that this has been common practice since the very construction of the bridge. Youngsters coming from all over the world meet here to participate in an impressive athletic event. The meeting takes its inspiration from a local ritual that has always taken place during summer, when the youth of the Divers Club (which has its headquarters nearby the Halebija Tower) show off their own virility by leaping into the icy waters of the Neretva River: a unique spectacle with a complex and allembracing ritual. Amidst the frenetic applauses of the crowd, these young men reach the highest point of the bridge; then, in the typical silence that precedes a tough trial, they jump off in an exciting thrill, and this continues constantly all day long.
The new Old Bridge of Mostar was officially inaugurated in July 2004 to symbolize, once again, the city of Mostar and its wish for its rebirth, based on its glorious past and around its most beloved monument.
In July 2005, the Old Bridge and the entire old city became officially a part of the Cultural Heritage of the UNESCO.
Crooked Bridge (Kriva Ćuprija) (1558)
On the Radobolja River, near to where it joins the Neretva, close to the Old Bridge, stands the Crooked Bridge, a miniature version of the Stari Most. Built in 1558, eight years prior to the more famous Old Bridge, it is believed to have been built as a trial attempt for the following, more daring, construction.
Destroyed in 2001 by the river flooding, it has recently been rebuilt.
Address: Oneščukova .b.b.
Tara and Halebija Towers (17th century)
The two towers, standing on opposite sides of the Old Bridge, soar as architectural buttresses of the bridge itself, and seem to be stone guardians controlling the way. On the east bank rises the semi-circular Tara Tower, a deposit for ammunitions in the Ottoman era and, today, seat of the Museum of the Old Bridge.
The Halebija, on the west side, was once the prison on its lower floors, and small barracks on its upper floors, also used as a look-out post. Behind the Tara, on the left bank of the Neretva River, is the Herceguša Tower, built in the first half of the 15th century during the reign of Herceg Stjepan Vukčić Kosača.
Address and contacts: (only the Tara Tower is open to the public), Staru grad.b.b.; tel. +387 (0)36 551 004. Opening times: every day (except on Mondays) from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Clock Tower (Sahat Kula) (1630)
Another important monument belonging to the prolific Ottoman period is the Clock Tower standing beside the Herzegovina Museum. This square tower, dated about 1630, is 15 metres high and verbal tradition relates that it was built and commissioned by an influential lady named Fatima – kaduna Saric. The well-known Ottoman writer and traveller Evlija Celebija wrote that the sound of its bells could be heard at a distance of three hours’ walk away. The tower suffered serious damage during the last war and was restored in 1999.
Address: Bajatova b.b. (Not open to the public).
Monumental Partisan Cemetery (Partizansko Groblje) (1965)
In the western part of the city, dominated by extensive green areas, there lies this magnificent Monumental Cemetery. It was built in 1965 (during the period of renewal and reconstruction following the end of World War II) by the architect Bogdan Bogdanović, in memory of the partisans of Mostar who lost their lives during the war. The Cemetery has 661 tombstones and every stone has its own symbolic significance, like the Monumental complex itself.
Address: Kralja Petra Krešimira IV b.b.
Statue of Bruce Lee (2005)
In Mostar, on November 28th 2005, the first statue in the world dedicated to Bruce Lee was inaugurated, life-size and made in golden bronze by the Croatian sculptor Ivan Fijolic. This initiative was intensely desired by a group of young artists and members of the Urban Movement Association of Mostar as a symbol of peace and of overcoming ethnic differences. A few hours before the ceremony, vandals stole the “nunchako” held in the hands of the Kung Fu hero. But, despite the damage done to the statue and the stupidity of the deed, the “little dragon” of Hong Kong will still be proudly standing in the Gradski Park, as an example of eternal values such as the fight against injustice, wickedness, nationalisms and corruption.
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