Given its fame and close proximity to Sarajevo, Mostar was destined to be our first excursion.
We took back roads to Lake Jablanica, then followed the Neretva River, winding our way down to Mostar and its city center.
Our hotel, Hotel-Restaurant Kriva Ćuprija, is stunningly beautiful, and hangs over a small, rushing river, feeding into the Neretva just below the Stari Most. We dropped off our bags and immediately hit the cobblestone streets of Old Town.
The center point and tourist draw for Mostar is the famous Stari Most, the beautiful “Old Bridge” straddling the aqua blue Neretva River. Designed by apprentices of the famous Ottoman architect Sinan (seriously, this Ottoman contemporary of Michelangelo and Da Vinci was the bomb, and worth serious study), and completed around 1566. It stood for 427 years until it was purposefully destroyed during the 1992-1995 war. In 2004, it was rebuilt as an exact replica and today the bridge and Old Town are UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The war also took its toll on many of the buildings of Mostar. There are a number of reasons much of the damage has not yet been repaired, but it serves as a startling reminder of the last conflict. The ruins also offer blank canvases for graffiti and street art; some showcasing considerable talent, such as the profile above, while the rest is just your run-of-the-mill tagging.
Besides the Stari Most, there were two sites we wanted to see while in town – the Old Bridge Museum and the Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque. The museum was unfortunately closed, but the mosque is open year-round. Rebuilt in 1618, it boasts a small, beautiful courtyard, a lower terrace overlooking the river, and sweeping town (and bridge) views from the top of its minaret (accessible via a claustrophobic, winding stone staircase). If you’ve seen a picture of the Stari Most, it was most likely taken from the top of the minaret.
We quickly discovered Mostar practically shuts down during the winter months, and many of the hotels and restaurants in Old Town were vacated. The perk? We had the city to ourselves, and it was perfect for a quick, exploratory trip – this place will definitely be a repeat visit in the Spring!