The old bridge of Mostar is inseparable from the city, it is the symbol and even beyond the city, it is the symbol of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Moreover the connection between this bridge and the city is even more important than one might think at first sight since the word "bridge", in the local language, Serbo-Croat, is said "mostar". The city is therefore identified locally as "the city of the bridge". In the local language, this bridge is called "Stari Most".
Mostar is the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the capital Sarajevo. It is the most important city of Herzegovina. It is 150Kms north-west of Dubrovnik, the most famous city of tourists coming to the country. It had 65,286 inhabitants in 2013 including its peri-urban area. If the city is fairly classic, its historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the bridge, its fortified ensembles East and West and the streets of the center.
The bridge itself is a marvel of architecture. It is a single arch bridge 4m wide by 29m long for a range of 27m. At its highest point it is 29m from the water flowing below, except when the level drops artificially due to a reservoir at a hydroelectric dam, upstream. Having a single arch gives the bridges that are built so great strength. Moreover, this bridge, since its construction in 1566 was destroyed only once, in 1993, during a modern war using weapons capable of destroying imposing buildings. But during its five centuries of existence, it can be said that the bridge of Mostar was of great strength.
More precisely, it can be said that it has a semi-circular arch, but that its railings are very slightly pointed. The stones that constitute it are of different size according to their uses, since the part situated below the bridge is made of large stones serving as support for the rest of the building, of more traditional construction. These stones are also of a slightly smaller width than the bridge itself, which marks the arch, aesthetically. Likewise, the railing is decorated with a stone line. It was initially composed of 456 heavy limestone, but now it is made of 1088 limestone blocks from the cutting of the stones which constituted it to which one added new, come from the area.
On the right bank stands the Helebija tower, its counterpart being, on the left bank, the Tara tower. These two towers are massive constructions, tall and wide, pierced by some modest-sized windows. These austere buildings are on the heritage protection site and are regularly restored. To be more precise, the Helebija tower is a fortified complex guarding the entrance to the bridge. It is composed of three buildings. The principal has a dungeon shape, it is he who gives the austere appearance of the whole. Topped with a simple broad slate roof, it is pierced by a few non-aligned rectangular windows. The building at its feet is of identical construction, but of a more modest height. Finally there is a tower on the northern part, tower whose roof is more aesthetic than that of other buildings. The Tara tower, which is on the left bank, is easier to describe: It is a big, tall, massive building with only a few small windows on the upper part. These fortifications could give the old town a terribly austere appearance, but the presence of many townhouses allied with the greenery of the river bed make this place a particularly pleasant place to visit. Besides, the city of Mostar is a high place of Bosnian tourism.
Geographically this bridge spans the local river, the Neretva. It is in the center of Mostar and connects the two parts of the city which is on both sides of this river. Without the bridge, the city is physically separated in two. Moreover when we look at the map we see that the eastern part is much smaller, but also denser, it is due to the fact that this area is more mountainous than the western part, whose ground is flatter. We are in a mountainous region, the bed of the river is therefore the type of torrents, with jagged edges. It is a river sometimes tumultuous in which it is not good to swim. The vegetation, however, is dense and participates in the postcard image of the old bridge.
The Mostar Bridge is the symbol of reconciliation, at least the meaning it is given nowadays. Yet physically it does not join two peoples, two religions or even two ethnic groups, it is just a bridge that connects the two shores of the same city, each district of the city having the same distribution of the population as the others. We can not say that this bridge is a real link, but only symbolic.
It also had another symbolic: That of the destruction of a World Heritage element, seen by other peoples as an attack on humanity. Indeed, the destruction of a UNESCO world heritage element is still controversial, we have the example of the Bamiyan Buddhas, statues in Afghanistan that were destroyed by Daesh.
The "Stari Most" as it is called locally is a construction dating from 1566. It is the work of Mimar Hajrudin, a pupil of the famous architect Sinan, father of classical Ottoman architecture to whom we owe a large part of mosques of Istanbul.
Mimar Hajrudin is known only for the construction of this bridge, the story did not leave us other buildings that he could have built. The legend says that once finished he fled the city just before the workers remove the scaffolding: Indeed, it is said that he would have been killed if the bridge had collapsed during this sensitive phase ! Anyway the bridge construction time was 9 years, from 1557 to 1566. To relive the context of the archives indicate that this place was a site inhabited since antiquity, without stopping. At the beginning of the 15th century it sheltered a fortification which served to protect the population. Between 1450 and 1475 the city was taken by the Ottomans who built a Muslim neighborhood north of the present bridge, near the river. To move from one bank to the other one used then a suspension bridge which probably had to be renewed regularly. Still, in 1566 the final bridge will be built, bringing the two banks closer together more efficiently.
One of the few events to report about its history is the addition, during the seventeenth century, of the two doors East or West. These are the fortified towers Halebija (on the right bank) and Tara (on the left bank) that can still be seen today, although they have been partially rebuilt since then.
The history of the bridge is not particularly interesting until 1993 because it has always been in state, never being damaged, destroyed, nor rebuilt until modern times. It can still be said that the city experienced a commercial and demographic influx when Bosnia-Herzegovina passed under Austro-Hungarian rule, and that it saw the Nazi tanks pass during the Second World War, absorbing their weight without any problem.
The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-1995)
The Mostar Bridge will be destroyed for the only time in its history on November 9, 1993, and rebuilt after the war, from 2001 to 2004.
Above all, it must be known that the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina is provoked by the nationalist sentiments expressed in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina following the break-up of Yugoslavia, itself caused by the fall of the USSR. . As the Balkan populations were territorially intertwined, the formation of new nations was inevitable, but the borders of each of them necessarily had to encroach on their neighbor, each nation having reasons for the recovery of a territory. On 9 November 1993, the Mostar Bridge was destroyed by the artillery of Croatian forces in order to cut off communications within Bosnian forces. The city remained without means of communication for a few years, the time that the war ends and the project of setting up a temporary bridge is realized.
The first call for the reconstruction of the Mostar Bridge was launched on 10 March 1994, only four months after its destruction, and while the conflict was not over. In June 1994 a delegation arrived on site to assess the emergency measures to be taken. Fortunately the Dayton Accords, signed in December 1995, put an end to the war. It stipulates that national monuments will be placed under the tutelage of a commission commissioned by UNESCO. It is in this context that in July 1998 UNESCO issued an official appeal to add a fund for the reconstruction of the bridge, estimated at more than 12.5 million euros. The following 5 countries replied:
- The World Bank: 4 million
- Local authorities: 2 million
- Italy: 3 million
- The Netherlands: 2 million
- Croatia: 0.5 million
- The Council of Europe Development Bank: 1 million
It was the local authorities who organized the project, managed the funds and put in place the practical measures. The World Bank ensured the centralization of funds and UNESCO was responsible for scientific and technical coordination. An International Committee of Experts was appointed in October 1998, the project was set up.
The work really began on June 7, 2001, after the scientific committee finished its work and gave its prerogatives for the reconstruction. Until June 2002 the works consisted of removing the stones from the Neretva river bed, because they could not only encumber the river, especially in case of high flood, but these stones could be reused as part of the reconstruction. , at least partially. From June 2002 construction work began. On April 14, 2003 the first stones of the ark were laid. Work continued until July 23, 2004, the day of its inauguration.
The construction techniques were very specific. The idea was to reconstruct the bridge identically, so it was necessary to use, as much as possible, construction techniques similar to those that had been used in 1566. For that we began by choosing identical stones, the type "tenélija "and" bretcha ". They were extracted from local quarries in the territory of Mostar. Then they were cut with voussoirs, crampons and tenons, old tools of the time. Moreover, about the size of the stone, it should be known that the authorities opened for the occasion stone-cutting schools specifically to train inhabitants of the region to these techniques more or less forgotten, and that in order to not to have to bring workers from countries like Italy or France, workers who make reference in this matter.
In addition, the engineer in charge of the definition, coordination, and supervision of studies for the reconstruction of the Mostar Bridge, Mr Gilles Pequeux, insisted that the workers should come not only from the city of Mostar, but on both sides of the bridge, to ensure the diversity of the population. He pointed out quite rightly that this bridge was so important to the inhabitants that its destruction was seen as the loss of a loved one, requiring mourning. This word did not seem to him overestimated at the time since some inhabitants did not even want to see the damage, considering that the shock would be too important. Suddenly rebuilding it quickly also caused misunderstandings among some inhabitants, who raised the question of the interest of its reconstruction, however obvious. Moreover, the choice that was made to rebuild the identical is significant that the inhabitants wanted to forget as soon as possible the episode of its destruction, preferring to see their intact bridge rather than imagining another bridge, more modern .
So the bridge of Mostar was rebuilt identically.
The inauguration (July 23, 2004)
The inauguration of the Mostar Bridge took place on 23 July 2004 in the presence of many foreign leaders. There were the Presidents of Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro as well as the French, Italian and Dutch Foreign Ministers, whose countries had respectively participated in its reconstruction. There was also Jacques Paul Klein, the special representative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
The ceremony began with the Bosnian national anthem, followed by some speeches. Then, symbolically, the leaders crossed the bridge. The evening ended with fireworks. The main message was reconciliation, because even though the war is over, even if the wounds were healed, there was still a lot of resentment between the different communities living in Bosnia. Moreover, Bosnian President Sulejman Tihic did not hesitate to say that this bridge should serve to "strengthen the foundations of a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional and multi-cultural Bosnia, where meet the civilizations of East and West ".
The bridge nowadays
Nowadays the Mostar Bridge has become the symbol of the reconciliation of peoples. It is above all a tourist hotspot where many foreigners eager to enjoy the calm of the old town, in a soothing architecture. But mass tourism is not compatible with serenity, and it must be admitted that during certain periods of the year, the center of Mostar is a real hive noisy, even stifling.
Getting to Mostar
Most of the time visits to Mostar are made through a trip to Dubrovnik or Split. From there, take the inner road through Imoski, it is the most direct. You will have for around 2:30. If you prefer to go by the coastal road, count instead 3:30.
To go to Bosnia and Herzegovina you will need to have a valid identity card, simply. Be careful, if you want to drive, make sure that Bosnia is one of the countries for which you are insured, some insurance do not support this country. This is true even if you rent a car on site, of course.
Where to park
Mostar is not a populous city, but it is spread out. And as your center of interest, as a tourist, is the historical center you will have to follow the road signs that change from time to time to park. In high season the crowds are huge, do not try to get near by car.
See the bridge
When you are in the historic center you will inevitably pass on the bridge, but this monument, as symbolic as it is, is only a bridge. So to see it, do not stay on it. Fortunately the banks of the Neretva are sometimes wide, you can find beautiful views in several places. The houses closest to the bridge and overlooking the river bed have often been converted into restaurants, bars or hotels. For the best point of view, do not hesitate to stop at a table.
The city Mostar
The city of Mostar, though rather small, has good tourist facilities. Near the bridge you can also visit the Turkish house, a typical Turkish house that is said to be the oldest house in the city. It offers a beautiful panorama of the river and, further, on the local landscape. In the center is the old bazaar, a typical market where the tourist is not systematically solicited and where the prices are acceptable, in spite of an inevitable increase related to the increase of the tourism. History buffs will travel to the Neretva hotel, an old hotel dedicated to Tito. It was heavily bombed during the war and the municipality decided, for now, to leave it in state as a testimony of the war. Seeming ready to collapse, it is rather surprising, in the landscape.
Another thing to visit in Mostar, the peace tower. It is a 107m high bell tower, making it the tallest building in the city. It is next to the Franciscan Church Saints Peter and Paul. You can enter and even climb to the top, by the elevator or the stairs. The view at the top is 360 °, it is the most interesting view of the whole city. A visit to the old bridge of Mostar should not go without a walk to the city center, nor a climb in this tower. Otherwise, there are also various other things to see in Mostar, including the Biscevic House. It is an authentic Turkish house with a richly decorated ceiling, centered around a very pleasant inner courtyard.
Mostar is a town in Bosnia and Herzegovina known for its UNESCO-protected Old Town. The bridge that spans the Neretva, the local river, is the symbol of this city.
It is a unique arch bridge, which ensures its solidity, 29m long and 4 wide. It is in local stones, stones of the type "tenélija" and "bretcha" extracted from the careers of the city.
Built in 1566 by Mimar Hajrudin, a young architect of the Ottoman Empire then master of the region, this bridge allowed the cultural, religious and economic development of the city at all times. It went through the years without being damaged by time or human activities until 9 November 1993. That day, while the Balkans had been at war since 1992, the bridge was bombarded by Serbian artillery with the aim of cut off communications between Bosnian communities. Only four months after its destruction a call was made for its reconstruction. In December 1995, the Dayton Accords ended the war in the Balkans, with each camp returning to its frontiers. UNESCO then raises funds and organizes the reconstruction project, with the support of local authorities and a scientific and technical committee. The identical reconstruction lasted from 2002 to 2004. The new bridge was inaugurated on July 23, 2004, in a city where the different communities are still not brotherhood.
It is now an emblem of the city of Mostar and even of all Bosnia and Herzegovina. Thanks to him the old city of Mostar has become world famous and has triggered an ever-increasing influx of tourists.
The old bridge of Mostar is in the old town. It is very easy to find, as long as you approach this area. It's easy, it's the tourist area, so you can not miss it.
The bridge is 29m long, for a distance of 27m (since it goes up and down a little) It is 4m wide and passes 29m above the water when it is at its maximum.
Registered as World Heritage by UNESCO in 2005.
Every year in Mostar, at the end of July, a diving contest is organized from the top of the bridge. It is a kind of tradition that has turned into competitions since the young people of Mostar have always competed with each other by leaping into the river from the top of their 29m, but it was not until 1968 that these jumps were organized in official competition. Since 2015 this competition is supported by Red Bull.
Of course, a dive of this height is dangerous, and only people accustomed to this exercise can do it.