When I arrive in Mostar in the late evening after a long day of travelling, and find a place to stay close to its famous Old Bridge, I cannot resist the temptation, and walk to the Neretva river. My footsteps echo on the cobble-stone streets of the old town, and very soon, the buildings around me disappear, and I find myself on the famous bridge I have come to see. There are old marble steps on the bridge, and to my untrained eyes, the bridge looks quite old. It is only when I arrive at the other side, and walk down to a viewpoint at the river Neretva, that I can easily see that the bridge has been reconstructed. After its construction by the Ottoman builder Mimar Hayruddin in 1566-7, it proudly connected the two sides of the river, and it was considered one of the architectural wonders of the time. It was the widest man-made arch in the world. But the Bosnian war changed all that: the Croatian army deliberately destroyed the bridge. It was subsequently rebuilt from 2001-4, and once more stands as one of the wonders of Ottoman building techniques in the heart of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Stari Most, or Old Bridge, once more is the symbol of Mostar and one of the major sights of the country, and probably the best known. And the Mostari make sure that the bridge is in the limelight: powerful lights make the arch stand out in the dark of the night, and the star of the show. Here, from a stony beach on the banks of the Neretva river, you can easily appreciate the height of the bridge. The two gatekeepers, or mostari, on either side are also highlighted: they are the Tara Gunpowder Tower on the left, or southwestern, side, and the Helebija Tower on the right, or northeast. Instead of walking the bridge again, I walk to a newer bridge a little further downstream, from which I have a good view over the river and bridge.
The next morning, I make sure to wake up very early, and I am at the bridge well before the sun rises over the mountain range to the east of Mostar. Good thing: there is no other soul around, all shops are closed, and it feels like the bridge is mine. I walk it several times, finding the best way to deal with the slippery marble steps, and wait for the sun to rise at a particularly good viewpoint at the Koski Mehmed Pasha mosque. When I see the first rays of sunlight fall on the stone bridge, I walk back, and walk it several more times. For the rest of the day, I visit other places in the vicinity of Mostar; when I come back and return to the Stari Most, it clearly is not my bridge anymore. Many people slowly walk the bridge, following someone with a flag in their hands: tourists have taken over. It is not even high season yet. I walk down to the beach again, and to my surprise, I see several of the famous divers jump off the over 20 metres high arch bridge into the green, ice-cold Neretva river under the cheers of the crowd. It is amazing to see the control they have over their body, which allows them to enter the water perfectly. I return to my viewpoint of the early morning where I now watch the sun set over the arch-shaped stone bridge. Let us hope the bridge will stand many more centuries to come.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Mostar Old Bridge (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Mostar Old Bridge.
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