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When most people hear the word “Bosnia”, they immediately associate it with the devastating Bosnian War of the nineties.  In fact even I did up until our visit this past summer.  The Bosnian War was an international armed conflict that started in April of 1992 and lasted until December 1995.  The war was intertwined in the breakup of the nation of Yugoslavia, however is much more confusing than that.  Without getting into the entire history of the events that transpired during this time, it’s important to note that this war was the worst act of genocide since the Nazi regime’s destruction of some 6 million European Jews during World War II.  The war involved ethnic cleansing involving systematic murder and rape of tens of thousands, and the indiscriminate shelling of cities and towns in the current nation of Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Mostar during Bosnian War

The city of Mostar was one of such cities that during 1993 was under constant siege by the Croatian Army.  The once beautiful city was torn to pieces during the siege which left it in dire conditions.  Even the famous Stari Most (old bridge) which divides the city practically down the middle was left in ruins.  The bridge, which spans the Neretva River, was the world’s largest man-made arch after its completion in 1566 and has been the center-piece of the city ever since.

Stari Most in 1993

Stari Most in 1993

Over 20 years has passed since the war, and today much of the city has rebuilt itself.  Even the Stari Most was rebuilt from the ground up using original techniques and some of the original stones.  It reopened in a grand celebration on July 23, 2004 – 10½ years after its complete collapse.

Stari Most Rebuilt

Our family loves history, and enjoy exploring unique and interesting places.  Even the kids love history!  Therefore, while we were vacationing in neighboring Croatia and Montenegro, we decided to take an excursion to visit the once war-torn city of Mostar.  Reading the history of the events that transpired there further compelled us to want to go.

We arrived in the city by car, and followed signs along with our GPS to the Old Town at the heart of the city and the location of the historic Stari Most.  We were able to find parking on the street which was a short walk to the bridge.

Stari Most as seen rooftop

The city of Mostar is divided in half – almost exactly by the Neretva River.  The eastern half of the city is generally inhabited by Muslims, and the western half is Orthodox or Christian.  The bridge serves as a connection between the two halves and is a remarkable masterpiece at that.

As we started to cross the bridge we immediately noticed how unique and beautiful the pathway was.  Smooth white stones made up the top of the bridge which consisted of rows of raised “bumps” which were unusual and quite interesting.  The material was so smooth that it was a bit slippery which reinforces the need for the raised bumps.

On the Stari Most

Every year the bridge hosts a diving competition where many men will dive off the apex of the bridge plunging about 80 ft (24.4m) into the water below.  This stunt originated over 480 years ago as a Muslim tradition, but today remains mainly a tourist attraction, but one that is still very popular.

The bridge also provides an incredible view of the city and makes for some very excellent photos of Mostar.

View from Stari Most looking north

Walking through the Old Town of Mostar is very pleasant and enjoyable, especially if you like shopping for knickknacks and souvenirs.  Once crossing the bridge we entered the Bazar Kujundžiluk, which is a vibrant and very colorful market place with many merchants, craft shops, and traditional restaurants.

The street itself is made up of magnificent looking cobblestone which dates back to the Ottoman era during the mid 16th century.  The street served as the center of business for the whole region with more than 500 workshops.

Bazar Kujundžiluk

Our family in the Bazar Kujundžiluk

Walking up this street awards you with wonderful views of the bridge which makes an excellent place for family photos!

My family in Mostar

It was hard to believe this beautiful city was once piles of rubble.  While most of the city has been completely restored, some remnants of the war still remain.  The picture below which I took shows the remainder of a shelled building that suffered so much damage it was beyond repair, and hasn’t been replaced as of 2017 when we visited.

Remnants of Bosnian War

While I would like to see all these building restored to their former glory, I think it’s important for the Bosnian people living in Mostar to remember the history of the war.  Not to hold grudges against their once enemies, but to remember what can happen from holding such grudges and prejudices against the many various ethnic groups of the area.

Sign that reads Don't Forget

Besides just the buildings, you could see the history of the place in some of the older residents of the city.  There was one lady I won’t ever forget.  She was a fragile old woman of about 85 years or so, and was sitting on the edge of the road near the entrance to the old city.  The look on her face just made me think of what this place must have been like for her back during the war, and even prior to it as Yugoslavia always had a shaky history since it’s formation nearly 100 years ago in 1918.  I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to live in a place where the threat of war hangs over your every day life and you are never quite certain that one won’t suddenly break out.

While the city of Mostar and the nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is safe today for tourists, the chance of another outbreak of war is not impossible.  Many believe it to be very unlikely, which I hope is true, but the possibility still looms while there are tensions between the various ethnic groups.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Mostar and we are very glad we made the excursion to this amazing city.  The city can be easily reached from Dubrovnik, Croatia (a city visited by millions of tourists every year), and takes approximately 2.5 hours each way by car.  If you plan to rent a car and drive it, make sure your rental company allows you to drive into Bosnia and Herzegovina, and you have the proper insurance coverage which is verified at the border.  If you have any questions regarding this, or visiting the city in general, feel free to ask me and I’ll answer it just as soon as I am able.

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This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. So many teachable moments in these photos. I can’t imagine seeing it with my own eyes. Very excited to put Bosnia on my list. Thank you for the inspiration.

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