Mostar: Stari Most
June 3, 2015
Dear Adventure Travelers,
Did you know that for a small fee of a mere 25 Euros, you can personally perform a (supervised) high dive off the most famous bridge in the Balkans?
The Stari Most or Old Bridge of Mostar, built in the Sixteenth Century, stands 25 meters (82 feet) above the Neretva River. By comparison, the Olympics Platform Dive is a measly 10 meters (33 feet).
In 1993, during the Civil War in the former Yugoslavia, the original bridge built by the Ottomans was destroyed.
The elegant bridge was rebuilt in 2004 and is the most recognizable landmark in the country. There’s a lot of history here.*
In 2012, Stari Most was the venue for an international diving contest. Eighty divers from the region competed in two categories: head first and feet first. Apparently, thousands gathered around the bridge to see the divers perform.
Now, if you pay a small fee to one of the local divers, he’ll be willing to take the plunge and demonstrate his expertise.
Today there are hundreds of tourists on the bridge. When I tried to cross, it was “body to body.” So I turned around and visited other local sites. And as I am wont to do, I dove head first for the hills.
After my hike, I trod feet first to a local restaurant and took the plunge into a bowl of watery-salty chicken-vegetable soup and an energetic espresso. Pastry was extra, for a small fee.
In case you’re wondering, “Did he?”
Once again I left my bathing suit in the car.
Your “chicken” friend,
*I found a newspaper article about Stari Most that reminds us of those frightful and tragic years in the 1990’s:
Croats destroy Mostar's historic bridge
November 10, 1993
THE STARI MOST, Mostar's spectacular 16th Century stone bridge and one of Bosnia-Herzegovina's greatest architectural treasures, collapsed yesterday in a barrage of Croatian shells. It was a moment Bosnians, particularly those under siege in east Mostar, had prayed would never happen.
For at least 25,000 Bosnians trapped on the city's east side, the collapse is a disaster - a tremendous blow to morale and a strategic victory for the Croats.
The bridge was the only access to a source of drinking water which people retrieved by scurrying across at night under threat of sniper fire. It was also the main route to the places where the front line crossed into west “Croatian” Mostar.
Built in 1566, supposedly with mortar made from egg whites, the 66 foot Stari Most was the last and most treasured of seven across the Neretva River gorge. It was once compared with a “rainbow rising up to the Milky Way” and was included in the United Nations list of worldwide cultural heritage. But the war turned it into a battle-scarred monument to the gap between the Croats and Muslims fighting for Mostar.
Many considered it a miracle the delicate Ottoman bridge had survived so long. Pitted by sniper and mortar fire, its steep arch was festooned with old car tires in a futile attempt at protection. The bridge had taken dozens of hits during the past 19 months, but gave way when 60 Croatian shells rained down on it yesterday.
Veso Vegar, the spokesman for the Bosnian Croat Defense Council (HVO) in Mostar, said it probably collapsed on its own.
The only bridge now connecting east and west Mostar is a rickety rope and wood plank suspension affair close to Croatian positions and within easy range of snipers. Some Croatian sources said the Stari Most was destroyed in response to a string of defeats the Bosnian army has inflicted on the HVO in central Bosnia.
Croatian enclaves round Vitez and Busovaca in central Bosnia were yesterday braced for a final assault by the Bosnian army. Alarmed by the collapse of Croatian defenses round Vares, and by the loss on Saturday of Zaborje, a village guarding the approach to an explosives factory, Croats fear the worst. A Bosnian army spokesman hoped Vitez and Busovaca would fall “before winter.”
In Sarajevo, dead and wounded children littered a playground and classroom when mortars wreaked havoc on an infant school. Nine children died in the city's worst carnage since Muslims rejected the Bosnian peace plan in late September.
About 40 casualties from the school and a nearby bread queue were taken to hospital with serious shrapnel and blast wounds. Bosnian radio implied Serbian gunners launched the attack.