On arrival at the train or bus station, you may be forgiven for thinking that the beauty of MOSTAR has been somewhat exaggerated. There then begins a slow descent to the Old Town, during which it becomes more and more apparent that it really is a very special place indeed. Attentive ears will pick out rushing streams, salesmen crying their wares, as well as church bells and muezzins competing for attention, while steep, cobblestoned streets slowly wind their way down to the fast-flowing, turquoise-blue Neretva River and its Old Bridge, incredibly photogenic even when the Speedo-clad mostari – the brave gents who dive from the apex – aren’t tumbling into the waters below. The city is becoming ever more popular with tourists, though the dearth of high-end accommodation means that most visit on a day-trip – bad news for anyone on the Old Bridge around lunchtime, though great news for anyone staying the night; the best time to come is first thing in the morning or early evening.
Mostar’s history is irrevocably entwined with that of its bridge. Like hundreds of locals, this was to fall victim in 1993 when the Croats and Muslims of the town, previously united against the Serbs, turned on each other: the conflict rumbled on for two long years, each side sniping at the other from opposing hills. Locals claim that, prior to the war, more than half of the city’s marriages were mixed, but the figure has since dwindled to nothing; while relations are now much improved, the truce remains uneasy.
The Old Town, spanning both sides of the Neretva, contains most things of interest in Mostar, and in its centre is the Old Bridge, focal point of the city and the obvious place to kick off your sightseeing. On the eastern bank is the more interesting Muslim part of town, while the west is mainly home to Catholic Croats.