The small Bosnian city of Mostar attracts thousands of adventure travelers annually thanks to its natural beauty and the world-famous Stari Most (Old Bridge) which provides extreme sports enthusiasts with a perfect platform for BASE jumping.
According to the preliminary results of the 2013 Census of Population, Mostar is inhabited by 113,169 people. Nevertheless, this little Bosnian city has such a touristic potential that the annual number of tourists who visit the city surpluses the population of the old town. This interest is mainly because of the unprecedented beauty of the Old Town area which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. This also serves as a home to the world famous Old Bridge, which constitutes the focal point of the city since thousands of spectators gather around to see young men jumping off the 24 meter-high structure.
A Notable Example of Ottoman Architecture
Prior to the construction of the stone bridge in the 16th century, the local people of Mostar had to cross the river Neretva on a wooden suspension bridge which increased the adrenaline levels of the people who had to walk across it as slowly and carefully as a snails.
The solution was to write a letter to the most powerful ruler of the era, Suleiman the Magnificent. The Ottoman sultan commissioned one of the most famous Ottoman architects of the era, Architect Hayruddin, who was a student of the world-famous Ottoman architect Sinan, to design a stone bridge in Mostar.
Construction of the bridge began in 1657 and lasted around 10 years. When it was completed, the Old Bridge was the widest man-made arch in the world. It gained reputation quickly after its completion and became a renowned landmark. According to famous 17th century Turkish traveler Evliya Celebi, the bridge “was like a rainbow arch soaring up to the skies, extending from one cliff to the other.” He further claimed that despite the fact that he had been to 16 countries, he hadn’t seen such a high bridge. In other words, Ottomans built a concrete structure to demonstrate their technology and power.
The Destruction of the Old Mostar Bridge During the Bosnian War
The man-made bridge decorated the stunning gorge of Neretva like a precious necklace for 427 years until it was destroyed on the 9th of November, 1993 due to shells hitting the bridge during the conflict between Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and Bosnian-Croats. According to the Bosnian press, more than 60 shells hit the bridge before it disappeared under the water until its reconstruction in 2004.
The temporary cable bridge served the duty of the Old Bridge for 11 years. Nevertheless, it looked like a scar on the face of beautiful Mostar. Young men couldn’t jump off it in order to prove their courage to their lovers. Adventure travelers didn’t bother to visit the spoiled beauty of the gorge. Nevertheless, the World Bank, UNESCO, Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the World Monuments Fund initiated the reconstruction the bridge with the help of such nations as Italy, Croatia, Turkey, and the Netherlands. The construction was finalized in 2004, 3 years after the initiation of the project. Once again, Stari Most was ready to crown the beauty of Neretva.
Base Jumping at the Bridge
Jumping off the Old Bridge is rooted in tradition, rather than a recreational activity in Mostar. Young men who wanted to marry a girl had to jump off the bridge in order to prove their courage. Nevertheless, this tradition lost its importance since Base jumping at the bridge has become a touristic activity since the re-opening of the bridge. Today, if you want to marry a girl who is a local resident of Mostar, and you have no intention of jumping from a 24 meter-high bridge, then you can hire a person to perform the task on your behalf.
As a matter of fact, local youngsters of Mostar still jump from the Old Bridge to exhibit courage. Nevertheless, they mostly do it for fun since this activity is an essential part of their local community and their history. Considering the beauty of the scenery and the height of the bridge, it is not a surprise that it also attracts adventure travelers and watersports enthusiasts from all over the world.
Base Jumping off the bridge has become a well-known tradition in time. For instance, Stari Most Diving Competition is organized annually at the end of July, and divers from different countries. Since the bridge is quite high and the river is very cold, the amount of adrenaline felt during the jump situates Mostar Old Bridge among the best adventure travel destinations in Eastern Europe.