When deciding on a route for our travels through the Balkans and Eastern Europe and which places we should visit, Mostar stood out to us after hearing about people who have jumped off the famous old bridge. Although being slightly apprehensive beforehand about visiting Bosnia because of the negative media attention the country had received back home when we were growing up, we knew that we were still going to visit regardless and make our own minds up about the country. Nic’s mum and dad both took a day trip to Mostar from Dubrovnik and told us great things about it and also watched people jumping off the bridge and straight away thought about us two saying that we would be mad enough to do something like that! So Mostar was put on our list and was our first stop in Bosnia.
History of the bridge:
Stari most which translates to old bridge is a reconstruction of a 16th century Ottoman bridge in the city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it crosses the Neretva river and connects two parts of the city. The old bridge had stood for 427 years, until it was destroyed on 9th November 1993 by Croat forces during the Croat-Bosniak war. A project was then set up to reconstruct it, and the rebuilt bridge opened on 23rd July 2004. Mostar itself is named after the bridge and it has become a symbol of the city. The rebuilding of the bridge was an important cultural historical and symbolic act for both Mostar and Bosnia as a whole. The bridge was subsequently added to the UNESCO world heritage list in 2005.
It is a tradition for the young men of the town to take the plunge from the 24 meter high bridge into the icy cold Neretva river below. This can be a very risky feat which only the most skilled and best trained divers will attempt, and the practice dates back to when the original bridge was built. The first recorded jump was way back in 1664.
It has now become an attraction for tourists and backpackers who pass through the city, but the Mostari diving club charge a fee of 25 euros for anybody wanting to jump. If a tourist successfully takes the plunge they are supposedly free to jump again for the rest of their lives. There is also a record book in the Mostari club house which lists every single person who has been brave enough to do the jump, there have been approximately 2000 people listed so far and only around 10 of those are women! Etched onto the front cover of the book reads “Performing the jump from this beautiful bridge isn’t so easy. It demands a lot of courage. Everyone who jumps from its high arch deserves to be registered in the pages of this book”
Watching the divers:
When we arrived in Mostar the old bridge was the first place we headed over to, we immediately saw a guy standing on the other side of the railing ready to jump in! We got our cameras in prime position and waited for him to jump. We thought, wow how lucky was that that we turned up and straight away there was somebody on the bridge ready to jump. We realised though that after around 20 minutes of waiting and the guy still hadn’t jumped that we wasn’t so lucky after all!
One other guy kept coming around to everybody on the bridge and down on the beach trying to collect money, we knew he wasn’t going to jump until they collected enough money. After another 10 minutes of waiting another guy started climbing into a wetsuit and then over the railing, the original guy who was stood up there then climbs back over and onto the bridge and leaves the guy in the wetsuit to psych himself up. With our cameras back at the ready we watched him jump off, after about 3 seconds of free fall he hit the water knees first, it was such a thrill to see it in real life!
The next day we went back to the bridge and saw the same guy up there again, we knew straight away that he wasn’t going to jump, he is only there to gather a crowd whilst someone else collects money and the actual jumper gets himself ready. So this time we slowly made our way down to the beach area which provided a much better view. It’s definitely worth all the waiting around and when they finally take the plunge it’s awesome to see. So if you do visit Mostar and want to watch the divers then bare this in mind because it can be a long wait holding your camera in place!
We would love to go back one day with the courage to do the jump but it’s nearly a full days training before you can do it, and after hearing about some awful stories about people not taking it seriously who have just climbed over and jumped, they have lost their lives doing so. But it’s certainly something to go back for though when we have more time there!