Today we are going to Neretva Valley, heading to Mostar. The landscape displays an amazing beauty mixing spectacular views of the mountains, water and blue sky. At times, a burned village reminding of ancient ruins, but this is not a deserted village of 1500 years, but the maximum four years.
Neretva Valley tightens more and more as we pass through some magnificent gorges among villages untouched by war on a side and completely scorched villages on another side. When we approach the Mostar the valley suddenly opens and you feel a breath of Adriatic: the sky is blue, the grey lead-like atmosphere of Sarajevo is left back.
Mostar: New Town is Croatian, Old Town is Muslim. When you reach the Old Town, you will get to admire a sample of authentic Turkish-Oriental architecture. Being quite close to the Dalmatian coast flooded by German and Scandinavian tourists, many of whom come to Mostar for a breath of Oriental exoticism on European soil.
The symbol of the city, the famous Mostar Bridge, built by the Ottomans in 1566; the pinnacle of engineering for its time, it was destroyed by well-targeted ordnance in November 1993. Now, a suspended and flexible bridge, it is hanged at about 100 meters above the Neretva, tethered to what’s left of the ends of the bridge. They say the old bridge was made of a special stone taken from a quarry in Herzegovina which used to change color depending on how the sun touched the stone.
More than 20 years after the war that broke out and slaughtered tens of thousands of lives throughout the city, Mostar came alive in power and joyfully receives thousands of tourists every day. While Stari Grad (Old Town) is animated, colorful and restored in most part, the rest of the city is like a ghost that haunts the locals and doesn’t allow them to forget what happened in ’93. Nor do they want to forget: the hills outside the city are full of graves, almost every family in Mostar had lost at least a loved one in the months of that gory interethnic siege, on November 9, 1993 Stari Most – the bridge built at Suleyman the Magnificent’s orders between 1557 and 1566 – was shot and fell into the river Neretva.
During the Ottoman Empire, Mostar was a boundary city and, in in 1557, Suleyman the Magnificent asked to be built here a bridge across the river. It is said that nearly 10 years later (in 1566) – When the bridge was ready, the architect did not believe that the stone structure will resist and that virtually signed his death sentence. Well, the bridge has stood the test of time, and it was recreated from its ashes, with pieces of the old bridge, recovered from the waters of the river, and is now protected by UNESCO.
In the1400s the Old City of Mostar (Stari Grad) was bordering the Ottoman Empire and over the years the homes of the Turkish ethnics and the Bazaar have been kept in perfect function and the bridge over the Neretva River has long been the binding element between ethnicities that lived together in peace and harmony ( Muslim Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs).
The Mostar of today is a scenery of colored silks, fine pottery, kettles, brass and other “bling-bling” items, a huge bazaar of mottled merchandise, with the traditional Turkish coffee where coffee kettle is the epitome of hospitability, with restaurants perched on cliffs that dispute the supremacy over which one has the best view of the river Neretva and its turquoise waters.
The oldest and the most beautiful street in Mostar is the one where boutiques, art galleries, houses with stone roofs are aligned one one side – a mixture of colorful buildings that give life to “the gold street ” as it is dubbed.
Kujundžiluk Mostar is the soul of the Old town; this is where the Muslim inhabitants in the city begin and end their day – at Koski Mehmet Dzamija Pasina Mosque, built in 1617. The mosque is open to the public and it cost 8 convertible marks (4 Euros); anyone can visit it and climb the minaret for the most spectacular view of Stari Most.
Stari Most – Old Bridge in translation –has been the strongest link between residents living on each side of the Neretva River for generations, regardless of their ethnic or religious background.
Stari Most’s most photographed tourist attraction in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In full touristic season, you have to stand in line so you can take a picture of it. In every July the locals (and a few brave tourists) jump off the bridge in the cool waters of the river – a tradition that’s been lasting for nearly 50 years (with a break of 10 years when the bridge was destroyed).
As for accommodation, in Old Mostar there are plenty of hotels, guest houses, pensions and apartments for rent and prices start at 100 lei per night / double room.
Just come here with an open heart and you will enjoy the beautiful landscapes, the cultural blend and the touching real-life stories of the warm hearted locals.