How old is the Old Bridge in Mostar and what else to see and do around

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Mostar, where we were welcomed with wine and brandy and felt on the right place

While standing under the Old Bridge in Mostar, I saw a man with a bandaged foot, getting ready to jump from the bridge in the cold waters of Neretva river. He actually appeared to be a local showman, trying to make some money from the curious tourists. Jumpers are a huge attraction in Mostar and there is even a local diving club, offering to teach any enthusiast to jump from the bridge. However, I was not very interested because Mostar has a lot more to offer.

Jumping from the Old Bridge

Neretva river, which flows quietly under the bridge, is one of the coldest rivers on the planet. The water temperature often falls below 7°C and the temperature in Mostar is around 12°C.

old bridge in mostar

 

If you are enthusiastic to jump from the Old bridge in Mostar, the local divers will teach you how to do it for 25 EUR. First you make some exercise from a nearby 10-m-high bridge and when you feel ready, you can try your courage from the 24m-high crest of the Old Bridge. Jumping from the bridge is so popular that there is even an annual diving competition held on the last Sunday of July. However, enthusiastic tourists are another thing. They are actually not very attractive and during their jumps there is also a local diver ready to rescue them if something goes wrong. I wouldn’t be more attractive either so I decided not to become a laughingstock.

old bridge in mostar

What you need to know about Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a wonderful Balkan country and still among the least popular travel destinations in Europe. However, in the recent years it attracts more and more tourists with its beautiful mountains, natural parks and historical cities like Mostar. It is also easily accessible and relatively safe and on the tourist spots you will rarely see a track from the wars in the 90-s. Local people seem to appreciate the tourism potential of their country so they are quite welcoming. The local currency is Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark (KM) which is fixed to the EUR. 1 EUR = 1,955 KM and it is usual to calculate the exchange rate by 1:2. EUR is accepted almost everywhere. Local traders use this calculation too so I would suggest it is more profitable to pay in EUR instead of buying KMs upon arrival.

Mostar is one of the most popular (for a reason) travel destinations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It proved to be a beautiful old city and a typical Balkan destination. We love travelling through the Balkans and in Mostar we felt at the right place.

Travelling to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Our preferred way of travelling is by car because of the freedom to travel whenever and wherever you want. So for us there was no doubt how are we going to Bosnia. It is a long drive from Sofia – almost 11 hours and 700 km so it took us 2 days to reach Mostar.

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Мостар 43.337600, 17.810700

We chose to travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina through Serbia, one of our favourite countries. We spent a night in Kragujevac and then took the long road to Mostar. We crossed the border near Mokra Gora natural park – a famous natural retreat and a popular ski destination in the winter. Mokra Gora is also known as the home of director and musician Emir Kusturica who has built an entire village there – Drvengrad Mecavnik. On our way back we spent a night there and we totally fell in love with this place.

The Bosnian mountain roads

If you are going to Bosnia and Herzegovina by car, you should get ready for a long but picturesque drive through curvy mountainous roads. Bosnia and Herzegovina does not have many highways, the main roads are quite busy and driving is slow but picturesque.

Just 20 km into Bosnia, we stopped for a rest and a nice walk in Visegrad. It proved to be a beautiful city located by the Drina river and a home to the Nobel laureate for Literature Ivo Andric. In Visegrad is located the famous Mehmet Pasha Sokolovic Bridge which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. It is a beautiful long bridge over Drina that inspired Ivo Andric to write his famous work “The Bridge on the Drina” (1945). We spent a few hours in Visegrad because the city had a lot more to offer but I will tell you about it in another post.

After Visegrad we had two options to reach Mostar. One of them was driving through the Bosnian capital Sarajevo. This is the main road and the easier one but not faster than the other one. The second option – the south way, was a 4-hour drive through a curvy but beautiful mountainous road through the cities of Gorazde and Gacko. I am not saying it was easy, we were really tired when we finally arrived, but if I have to choose now, I would pick the south road again.

Driving to Mostar

While driving to Mostar, we got quite familiar with the administrative division of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Shortly after we entered the country, we saw huge billboard informing us that we are on the territory of Republika Srpska – one of the two main autonomous entities inside the country. The other one is the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The south road to Mostar is almost entirely on the territory of Republika Srpska. However, we exited the territory just before Mostar, which is located in Herzegovina. We were already impatient to see the city and its main attraction, the Old Bridge.

The Old Bridge in Mostar

(1557–1566 г.)

We were welcomed at our hotel in Mostar with a glass of wine and a quick tour around the map of the city. Shortly after, we headed to the Old Bridge. It is so beautiful and monumental that we crossed it probably hundreds of times.

Mostar Old Bridge

The Old Bridge in Mostar is actually not very old. The original Old Bridge was destroyed by Croats on 9 November 1993 during the Croat-Bosniak war (video). So the bridge that survived disasters and natural phenomena for more than 400 years was destroyed by people.

Mostar Old Bridge

In the 15th century Mostar was a small town with around a dozen houses and the bridge in Neretva river was wooden and very unreliable. The Ottomans conquered the area in 1468 and some 100 years later sultan Suleiman the Magnificent ordered the construction of a new stone bridge over the river. The construction took 9 years – from 1557 to 1566. Little is known about the building of the bridge. It is believed that its architect was Mimar Hayruddin, a student of the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. Charged under pain of death to construct a bridge of such unprecedented dimensions, the architect reportedly prepared for his own funeral on the day the scaffolding was finally removed from the completed structure. Upon its completion it was the widest man-made arch in the world.

Mostar Old Bridge

Sinan’s bridges in my blog:

Mostar Old Bridge

Shortly after its completion, the bridge became a popular place to dive from. It is said that the tradition began just after its inauguration and since 1968 an annual diving tournament is held there. The games were suspended in 1994 after the destruction of the Old Bridge and resumed in 2004, when the new Old Bridge was opened.

Mostar Old Bridge

The new Old Bridge in Mostar

The newest history of Stari Most (Old Bridge) starts from 1995, when the reconstruction of the bridge was launched. The project was funded with donations from Italy, Croatia and Turkey. In the reconstruction were used some of the original stone blocks that were recovered from the river. The builders used the same technology as their Ottoman colleagues 400 years ago and the original look was recovered. The huge project was completed in 2004 and on 23 July 2004 the new Old Bridge was inaugurated. in 2005 Stari Most was included in the UNESCO World Heritage list.

A view from the Old Bridge, Mostar

Neretva River

Stari Most is not only a top landmark in Mostar. It connects the two banks of Neretva river and also two different cultures. We crossed the bridge more than 100 times in the 2 days we spent there. I enjoyed every step and felt like in the 15th century. My wife, however, did not find passing through the bridge a very nice experience because of its slippery surface.

Mostar Old Bridge

Halebija and Tara – the guardians of Mostar

The two towers, standing on opposite sides of the Old Bridge, are a part of the architectural complex around the bridge. They are also known as “mostari” or guardians of the bridge. On the east bank of Neretva rises the semi-circular Tara Tower which was once a deposit for ammunitions in the Ottoman era. Today it hosts the Museum of the Old Bridge. Halebija, on the west side, was once the prison on its lower floors, and small barracks on its upper floors, and also used as a look-out post. Now it is the home of the Mostar Diving Club and the city art gallery.

Halebija tower Mostar Old Bridge

Halebija

Halebija tower Mostar Old Bridge

Halebija Mostar Old Bridge

Tara Mostar Old Bridge

Tara

Where to eat in Mostar

There are plenty of good restaurants in Mostar, offering delicious local food and drinks. Probably the most popular place to eat in Mostar is Sadrvan, where visitors are greeted by girls dressed in traditional clothing. We didn’t hear a negative review for this restaurant so I believe it is really good. However, it is really popular and you might need to wait for a while in the peak hours.

Kriva Ćuprija bridge in Mostar

Kriva Ćuprija

The first evening we had dinner at Konoba Taurus, a cozy traditional restaurant near Kriva Ćuprija – a small Ottoman bridge near the Old Bridge. We also visited the Divan restaurant which proved to be a nice place.

The local food in Mostar is not different from what is traditional for the Balkans. Grilled meat, most notably pljeskavica and cevapi, is a classic. I would also recommend you to try burek (a local pastry) and also baklava, which is a Turkish dessert but very popular across the whole Balkans. I really love baklava and I eat it everywhere.

The city of Mostar

Mostar is not only the Old Bridge. On the left bank of Neretva is located the old market – the Kujundziluk street, where you will meet both local handicraftsmen and traders offering virtually everything. Together with the smaller streets around, they make the Old town. The name came from Kujundzije or in English “coppersmiths”. This is a tradition very well preserved even today. Unlike then you can now find them everywhere in the old town and not only in Kujundziluk, as well as you can find other kinds of shops in kujundziluk that are not necessarily coppersmiths.

Mostar

Mostar

Mostar

Mostar

The numerous cafes and sweet houses are another attraction on the Old Town. Having a cup of Turkish coffee together with baklava is a must if you are a coffee lover. Ice cream, fresh juice and other refreshment are also a good idea in the summer.

Mostar
Besides the Old Bridge, Mostar offers to its visitors other attractive places like mosques and museums. A very interesting museum is the old Turkish house Biscevica Kuca, built in 1635. It is a traditional Ottoman house representing the lifestyle of rich Turks 400 years ago. There you can also taste the traditional local juice from pomegranate.

Biscevica Kuca

Another famous place is the minaret of Koski Mehmer mosque. You can climb to the top and enjoy the best view towards the whole city.

Koski Mehmer mosque

Around Mostar

Blagaj

Blagaj is a village-town very close to Mostar, most famous with its Dervish Monastery and the source of Buna river. The ensemble of the Blagaj Tekke was presumably built very soon after Ottoman rule was established in Herzegovina, around 1520.  The musafirhana (guest house) and türbe (mausoleum) are tucked into the natural surroundings, constituting a single entity with the cliffs, source of the Buna river and mills. The musafirhana of the Blagaj tekke and the türbe have been preserved to this day. The musafirhana was built before 1664, and rebuilt in 1851 – its original appearance is not known.

According to historical narratives, the Dervish house on Buna spring was founded by Dervishes from the Bektashi order in the 16th century. It is known that the Dervish house existed as early as mid-17th century. In mid-19th century, it was renovated by Omer Pasha Latas, and it became part of the Kaderi order. Today, the Dervish house is owned by the Nakshibendi order

Blagaj, Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Blagaj 43.257045, 17.903139

Blagaj, Bosnia and Herzegovina

When visiting the monastery, you will be asked to remove your shoes and cover your shoulders and legs. Scarves are available on site if you arrive unprepared. Visiting some of the rooms is restricted to Muslims-only.

Blagaj, Bosnia and Herzegovina

After you visit the house you can have lunch in one of the many restaurants along the Buna coast. The prices are identical to those in Mostar and you receive a wonderful view to the river as a bonus. If you are an adventure lover, you could take a boat to the source of Buna which will take you inside the cave and back.

Near Blagaj and Mostar is the Blagaj Castle – one of the largest fortresses in the area. It was one home to King Herceg-Stjepan. The castle itself still has most of its outer structure. What we heard about is that the castle is reachable by a steep trail, starting somewhere in Blagaj, but we did not have time to explore it.

Kravice waterfalls

Despite we loved Mostar, Kravice was the absolutely most beautiful place in this area. Reaching the marvelous waterfall cascade takes around 40 minutes driving from Mostar. The place is very busy in the summer because it offers great conditions for a weekend escape from the heat of the big city. It is perfect for sunbathing and swimming or just for a walk. Swimming under the waterfalls is officially allowed, however it is related to some adrenaline. The water is quite cold so we couldn’t stand it for long. However, many locals seemed to enjoy it. You could spend a whole day at Kravice and you can have lunch or coffee in one of the many restaurants there.

Kravice waterfalls

Kravice waterfalls

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Kravice 43.155935, 17.608380

The waterfalls themselves are reachable by 15-20-minute walk from the parking lot. You can walk down the stairs or take a ride with the tourist train car.

Kravice waterfalls

Počitelj

Počitelj is a fortified village around 30 km south from Mostar. The fortress once stopped the Ottoman attacks but finally, in 1471, it was conquered, too. Počitelj represents one of the few urban ensembles in Bosnia and Herzegovina that were preserved in their integrity to the present times. It was also developed through the several phases of the history beginning with the medieval period. Its significant strategic role from the 13th to 17th century gave its inhabitants the power to build one of the most important, and best preserved ensembles within the city walls in the region.

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Počitelj 43.133897, 17.731391

Places to stay in Mostar

There are hundreds of hotels in Mostar, as well as guest houses in mostar, with different price range and facilities. For us the most important facility was the private parking. For some reason, Bulgarian insurers do no cover car theft in Bosnia and Herzegovina so we were really concerned for our car. So we picked a hotel in central Mostar offering free private parking with 24 hour surveillance and luckily it worked for us.

Villa Anri, was a very nice hotel near the Old Bridge and it was really comfortable for us. The hosts were very kind, we were offered wine and brandy as a welcome drink. In the morning we were pleasantly surprised by the rich and delicious breakfast, including local delicacies and Turkish coffee. Have in mind that espresso is not a very popular drink in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Instead, at most places you will be offered Turkish coffee or instant coffee. The only thing that bothered us was the air conditioning system of the neighbouring hotel that was quite noisy. However, there are plenty of good hotels in Mostar so you have a big choice.

If you are wondering what to buy from Mostar, there are many options. The local production includes fruit brandy from figs, oranges or pomegranate. You could also buy home-made syrups. All of these you will find on the city market.

If you just want a souvenir, you can pick whatever you like from the Kujundziluk street. Scarves and jewelry are among the most popular goods offered.

Some peculiarities of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Mostar was our main destination in Bosnia and Herzegovina and we spent there almost 3 days. We left the city with very good impressions. Bosnian people are very welcoming to tourists and seem to realise that tourism has a great potential for their economics. So everything in the most visited places is tourist-friendly. The only thing that we didn’t like was that we had to pay for parking everywhere. Probably we were assuming that everything in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be really cheap but the prices is most restaurants were the same like in Sofia. Eating in neighbouring Serbia is quite cheaper.

But we were not angry about this because every country has its own peculiarities. Bosnia and Herzegovina is still a very nice and interesting country and we are already planning our second visit there. Next time we will definitely go to the capital Sarajevo and my wife wants to go to Tuzla as well.



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