For a tiny town Mostar packs a punch in terms of history, culture, and sights and is a firm favourite on a Balkans hit list. Despite its size it is the most important city in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia.
WHEN SOMEONE TELLS YOU TO BUILD A BRIDGE
The town was actually named after the guardians of the bridge, the Mostari, and the cultural importance of the bridge runs deep. Stari Most literally translates to Old Bridge but the bridge you see now isn’t that old. In fact, it was only reopened in 2004 giving us a clue to the destruction that befell the city in the conflict of the early nineties. The historic bridge was destroyed by Croat forces collapsing not just the cities icon, but morale of local Bosnians too. When it was rebuilt in 2004 it became an enduring symbol of the city and a UNESCO listed site.
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JOIN THE CLUB
The Bridge Divers Club has been, unofficially, running for 450 years. Ironically, they name themselves after Icarus who, in Greek mythology, fell to his death. It doesn’t sound like a club you’d want to join, but that’s sort of the point. The club is elite and spots are reserved for only the bravest, willing to risk their lives for a moment in the spotlight.
HAMISH AND ANDY GAVE IT A GO
Local boys train their whole lives to become official bridge jumpers - a coming of age achievement that is held in high esteem by the generations of elder bridge jumpers that have come before them. Tourists, however, treat the jump with a much more cavalier attitude. For ten euro, and a short training, anyone can perform the jump with permission from the Bridge Divers Club. Even our beloved Hamish and Andy, jumped from the bridge in their 2012 Gap Year series.
SHOW ME THE MONEY
For young men that are members, learning how to work the crowd, for tips, is as important as the jump itself. The boys lie in wait for a large tour group to cross the bridge and slowly remove their clothes. Seeing that someone is preparing to jump the group stops, as does anyone else passing by, so the jumper soon has a sizeable crowd. He climbs over the railing and stretches his toned body, dipping his feet off the ledge. JUST as you think he is preparing to jump he swings himself carefully back over the guardrail to safety and asks the crowd for money if they want to see him jump.
The jump itself is beautifully executed. Arms outstretched and knees bent the boys drop silently, and gracefully, into the freezing water of the Neretva river. It’s a special experience to watch with a crowd. The silence in the seconds before the jump, the collective intake of breath as the jumper steps off the ledge, and the cheers and claps that erupt as the head of the jumper breaks the water and he strikes out, strongly, for the bank. You feel like you’ve been a part of something special by sharing this unique cultural experience.