Arriving at the Sarajevo airport, we rented a car and drove the 2-1/2 hours to Mostar. Specifically, we wanted to see Stari Most (Old Bridge). The bridge we saw is Version 2. The original bridge was built almost 500 years ago by the Ottomans. Stari Most joins the čaršija (old town) of Mostar which lies on both sides of the Neretva River. Mostar is named for the Mostari which means bridge keepers.
The Mostar Bridge was built in 1557 by architect Mimar Hajrudin, a disciple of Sinan, the father of classic Ottoman architecture. It was made with 456 blocks of white stone, held together by a system of anchors and dowels. Two fortified towers protect it: the Helebija tower at north-east and the Tara tower at south-west..., Upon its completion, it was the largest single-arch bridge in the world. (Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso's page on Mostar: the Old One, twenty years later).
During the 1992-1993 siege of Mostar, after all the other bridges in Mostar had been demolished, Stari Most became the next target. On November 9, 1993, after two days of shelling, the Stari Most was destroyed by Croatian forces.
Eleven years after its destruction, the bridge was rebuilt in 2004 with financial assistance provided by many sources (United States, Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands, Croatia, ...). The official opening of Version 2 was on 23 July 2004. Next month, some inhabitants of Mostar and the international communities will celebrate the anniversary of Stari Most v.2.
Looking southwest, the hill that towers over the Stari Most now has a cross on it. Like so many of the cities in former Yugoslavia, the cross was erected here in 2000.
On the way to Mostar, stopping at the city of Konjic to take a break, we found another old Ottoman bridge over the Neretva River, built in 1682, that had also been destroyed by war. The war in question was WWII and the perpetrators were Germans. The Turkish government restored this bridge in 2009. The bridge connects the territory of Bosnia to that of Herzegovina.
Driving back to Sarajevo, we stopped at Blagaj to visit the Sufi Tekija (house of dervishes). The tekija built in Ottoman/Turkish Baroque style in the 17th century is nestled next to and under a sheer 200-meter rock-wall face. There has been a tekija here since at least the 15th century. It felt like a good place to escape from thoughts of ethnic wars.
The source of the Buna River (a tributary of the Neretva River) is inside of the small cave that stretches far into the mountain. The powerful karst spring produces water at the rate of 43 meters per second (96 mph). The sound of water is everywhere. One of the Koranic quotes at the tekija is "We made every living thing from water" (Al-Enbya:30). Being here in the tekija, you can feel the water running through your body. It felt peaceful so we lingered.