Spending all summer along the sea is a dream for many people. Split is a beautiful place and the people are great (of course). With a short drive, you can travel to Zadar, Dubrovnik and wonderful small towns along the coastal path. There are many similarities in all of these places along the shore and sometimes it is nice to see something a different. In comes Mostar.
In a little more than two hours by car (buses also available at the Split bus station that continue on to Sarajevo) you can reach the wonderful city of Mostar. The name Mostar comes from the Serbo-Croat word for bridge most and the bridge keepers mostari who guarded the site during medieval times. The Old Bridge (Stari Most) is the greatest site in the city and it connects the Old Town across the Neretva River.
The most famous activity in the town also occurs at Stari Most–bridge diving. The first recorded dive off of the 24 meter high (nearly 79 feet) bridge was in 1664 and diving still occurs today. Formal diving competitions began in the late 1960s and have generally occurred annually. When Mostar was under seize during the Yugoslav War, divers continued jumping off the bridge amidst sniper fire. Diving here is not for amateurs. The Neretva is cold, shallow and full of obstacles. The destination is not for adventure seekers, just picture takers.
Croatia destroyed the original bridge in 1993 in what some stated was a deliberate act of destroying important cultural monuments. The bridge was rebuilt to appear the same as the original bridge after the end of the war. Diving still occurs today. Divers from the Diving Club located on the bridge collect money from passersby and jump when the total gets to 25 Euros. For a Euro or two and a little patience, the dives are a must see.
The remainder of the Old Town is very charming as well. The small shops and restaurants are heavily influenced by Turkish styles brought in from the Ottoman Empire. You can watch artisans perform detailed metalworking by hand on tea and coffee sets, and nice art pieces. Other shops sell beautiful handmade glass mosaic lamps and chandeliers (for good prices) and tobacco for hookahs (water pipe), further showing the city’s hang on Ottoman influences. Keeping with Muslim traditions, many places do not serve alcohol, which can be disappointing if you are looking for a cold beer; though, beer can be easily found and sipping a tea can add to complete the historic and cultural experiences.
Getting to the city is easy by car and is a beautiful drive. Mostar sits in a valley and you get some beautiful views from high on the mountain as you enter the city. That is, if you can stomach the heights while driving around the cliff. The outer parts of the city are lined with nice cafes and appear to provide some potential afterhours fun. You can still see evidence of the heavy shelling the city received as you enter the old city area. This should not discourage anyone however as the city is very safe, though the blight can be a little disconcerting.
It is recommended to spend a night there when you go for a visit. Offseason rental prices are inexpensive and you can really get a feel for the culture and the city by spending a little more time drinking an espresso over the Neretva or enjoying some shisha with the locals. If you want to go for just a day, you could definitely get in all of the major sites and see some bridge diving. Before we roll the clocks back anyway–be sure to leave early for daytrips. It is recommended you get over the mountains while there is still some light.
For a getaway from beach life and to see some different cultural influences from Croatia, the drive to Mostar is worth part of your weekend.