Mostar is a must visit place if travelling in this part of the Balkans and is the most important city in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Predominately made up of Muslim Bosniaks and Croats, the mix of religion and culture with inspiration from an Ottoman past makes for a unique little city. The major attraction of Mostar is the famous Stari Most (Old Bridge) over the Neretva River. Mostar means “Bridge-Keeper”.
The original Stari Most was built under the order of Suleyman the Magnificent. Planning started in 1557 and the bridge was completed in 1566 to become somewhat of an engineering marvel for its time.
The Old Bridge managed to survive for centuries including Italian occupation in World War Two only to be destroyed after 427 years in November 1993 by Bosnian Croat artillery fire during the Bosnian War (1992-1995 fought by Bosnia-Herzegovina against the Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats). It took some 60 shells before collapsing on November 9th, 1993 (deliberately targeted)! By 1995 Mostar itself was in ruins from constant artillery barrages.
26 of 27 mosques were also destroyed in the war. For many years following this tragedy, the UNESCO heritage old town and Old Bridge were painstakingly restored (they followed the original design plans to rebuild the bridge and reopen it in 2004) and although the remnants of war are still readily visible around the city, where shell pocked and gutted buildings still remain, it is looking fantastic given what happened here just 20 years ago (the emotional scars of the war though, where one day people were your friends and neighbours, the next your enemy, will possibly never heal).