Thursday, 23 August 2007

Herceg Novi (Montenegro) to Mostar (Bosnia)

We'd been to Mostar before. Three or four years ago, and such was the impression it left on us, we vowed to return.

It was a day trip from Dubrovnik the first time as I recall and I wasn't convinced a three hour bus ride (one way) was going to be worth it. Luckily for me, wifey sometimes puts her size fours down and insists and for that, with hindsight, I was most pleased.

We'd bought a guide book on the place (pre-internet days for us) and on the drive over we whetted our appetite reading up on the history and looking at pictures of widely diverse architecture and awesome structures the city was famed for.

Mostar is the fifth largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, situated on the river Neretva with nine bridges allowing access from one side to the other. Its most famous bridge, is the "Old Bridge" and this is what the city is named after, Stari Most.

The population of the city is pretty much divided between Bosnians and Croatians, each claiming one side of the river but the number of Serbians is negligible following ethnic cleansing during the Bosnian War.

When we arrived we were shocked to see the devastation the war had left behind and the majority of buildings we had looked at in the guide book were no longer standing. It was truly awful to witness but as we were there, there was a massive rebuilding project in place (mainly funded by European Union) and there seemed to be an air of positiveness and hope which is what prompted us to want to return.

Sometime thereafter, we stumbled over a documentary on the rebuilding of the Old Bridge on one of the Discovery channels and it was amazing how much effort was being made to restore the bridge to its former glory. Completely original parts wherever possible (most of the stones were reclaimed from the river by divers) and traditional craftsmen were used and the whole project took years. Again, we said we'd return and so we did.

What a change a few years can make.

The city is now flourishing and whilst refurbishment work is on-going, it is transformed. Old meets new, the bridges are back in place and Stari Most still attracts the tourists by the hundreds.

If you're lucky, you'll see the local kids trying to earn a few Marks by diving into the waters off the bridge but be prepared to be patient- they'll milk you for hours and I'm not convinced the guy we saw posturing in his Speedos is still there now, flexing his muscles but getting no wetter than I did.

We loved our stay there and once again we have promised to return again, one day. In the meantime we will have to make do with some pictures.

1 comment:

  1. tragedy of people living out there. the war, and now the strong feeling that both sides of the bridge have their people and the river should not be crossed... too often.
    btw Stari Most would be in polish "Stary Most". i haven't thought those languages can be so similar!

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