During a recent trip to Sarajevo , I decided to take a day trip to Mostar, the regional capital of Herzegovina.
It’s 2-3 hours by bus or train from Sarajevo. The buses run more frequently, but the train tracks run higher than the road and it’s especially scenic.
I took both modes of transport on my day trip. The scenery itself on the drive through the mountains and along the abundant water in this tiny country is stunning.
Mostar itself is a beautiful destination. It is the capital of the Herzegovina region, situated on the Neretva River. Throughout the Middle Ages, it was only a tiny settlement along the river. In 1482, The region of Herzegovina came under Ottoman rule and Mostar became its administrative and military center.
There used to be a simply suspension bridge across the Neretva River and the bridge keepers were called mostari, which is believed to be the origins of the town’s name.
The suspension bridge was replaced by a new stone bridge, which is now the city’s most famous monument – the Stari most (Old Bridge). This bridge was built in 1566 by order of Suleiman the Magnificent. It is, in a word, spectacular. It spans the Neretva River between two guard towers. The peak of its delicate arch is 20 meters high.
Following its construction, the town expanded all around it. Numerous homes, mosques and madrasas were built in the typical Ottoman architectural style. Mostar flourished and became a key trading partner with Dubrovnik and other coastal cities. Markets and craftsmanship proliferated in the town.
There is a second, smaller Ottoman bridge in town, the Kriva Ćuprija (the Crooked Bridge). It was built before the Stari most and spans the tiny, but picturesque Radobulje Stream that feeds into the Netretva River.
Mostar suffered terribly under the 1992-1995 conflict. The city has been rebuilt, but the evidence of the fierce fighting is still on display in town, with shelled out buildings and shrapnel damage still visible.
In November 1993, the Stari most that spanned the Neretva for over four hundred years was destroyed by tank fire. At the end of the war, plans for its reconstruction were put into place. A project estimated at 17 million USD got underway and the bridge was reconstructed with its original stones. Reconstruction was completed in 2004.
Mostar is truly a lovely place to visit and there are so many wonderful vantage points from which to admire the Old Bridge. My favorites were from down on the river bank, where you really get a sense of just how high that 20 meter arch is, and from the lovely minaret you can climb when visiting the Koski Mehmed-Pasha Mosque. Do make a point to climb to the top of the minaret – it offers an unparalleled view over the town.
Don’t miss a visit to beautiful Mostar if you are in Sarajevo or in Croatia, for it’s also a popular day trip from Dubrovnik. This beautiful city is a wonderful example of Ottoman architecture in the Balkans and a lovely place to spend a day exploring.