The fascination of Mostar, chief town of the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton and ancient crossroads of people and civilizations, appears today full of renewed strength, thanks to a constant reconstruction which, from 1995 onwards, has allowed the city to return to its normal life after the heavy bombings of the early 1990s. Due to its geostrategic position, Mostar was grievously damaged during its last rounds of ﬁghting. Slowly, the situation has improved. Nowadays, past and present live together in an urban context which speaks of a complex history, made up of places, people and events that touch anyone who comes to visit this romantic town.The antique historic centre, situated along the sides of the very famous Stari Most (Old Bridge) is a really unique attraction, not to be missed: accompanied by the whirling rustle of the Neretva River, enchanted by the emerald tonalities of its water, visitors can admire the symbols of the old city, the district dating back to the Ottoman era with splendid 16th century mosques, towers, houses and Turkish baths, apart from the numerous small crafts shops of the kujunžije (copper beaters) who enliven the streets with the buzz of their daily activity.The city is characterized by the meeting and by the living together of the four religions present in the area – Catholic, Orthodox, Islamic and Jewish – and this factor explains a great part of its fascination. Mostar is also a jewel set in a luxuriant and uncontaminated nature, a green landscape, sunny and full of ﬂowers, with a Mediterranean climate and long, hot summers. For this reason, too, and not only for its outstanding art, it has always attracted tourists, painters and poets who have visited it, loved it and immortalized it in their works of art. Mostar is a city which one leaves promising to return because, with its unique and original complexity, it is a place which bewitches you with its history and its culture, the result of a meeting between East and West, a mixture of treasures and essences that you can still breathe, wandering through its ancient streets.
As many other ancient cities, Mostar has gradually grown in time, proud of its i ve centuries of history. It is mentioned half way through the 15th century when it speaks of a small Roman fortress accessible by a suspended wooden bridge. The original nucleus was made up of twenty houses situated on both sides of the Neretva River. The Ottomans took possession of its fortifications around 1500 and then developed its transport and commerce, all around its main bridge (the new stone bridge was built in 1566) whose strategic presence has always determined the very soul of the city. On the banks of the river were then built two towers in which the bridge’s guardians (called ‘mostari’) lived; Mostar thus seems to have been named after these ‘mostari’. During the Turkish domination (15th – 18th centuries) many monuments and buildings in Ottoman style were erected in the city: bridges, mosques, hammam and residential palaces, and from the 16th century onwards, Mostar became the economic and cultural centre of Herzegovina. In 1878, Bosnia Herzegovina was annexed to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and for this city, lying on its emerald river, a new economic and cultural order opened its doors towards Europe; as can still be seen today, the architecture built in this period such as the Secondary School and the Public Baths. After the terrible years of two World Wars, Mostar spread outwards thanks to its post war reconstruction, trebling its population, intensifying and modernizing industry, agriculture and commerce. The war of the 1990’s (1992-1995) which witnessed the clash between Serbians, Croatians and Muslims deeply tore this land apart. Mostar was seriously struck in the ’93 bombings, which damaged the Muslim part of the city and destroyed the Old Bridge (rebuilt in 2004). In these last years, the city has slowly progressed towards normality, many refugees have returned to their own homes and the damaged areas have mostly been built again. The multicultural heritage of this vast historical and artistic inheritance suspended between East and West, between past and present, still represents today the eternal fascination of Mostar which, thanks to the will of its residents and to international aid, is slowly rediscovering peace and a greater serenity.
Administration and Urban Order
Mostar belongs to the Canton of Herzegovina Neretva, one of the ten Cantons of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Federation (Federacija Bosne i Hercegovine), organized in 9 Town Councils and populated by 270,000 residents. A particular characteristic of this Canton, from a geo-morphological point of view, is that it comprises, in its relatively small territory, mountain areas, plains and coastlines. Mostar is the political, ﬁnancial and cultural centre of the Canton. Its urban area is divided into numerous districts, many of which have maintained their ancient names, such as Carina, Luka, Mahala, Tekija, which are to be found in the old part of the city, near to the Old Bridge, while others are more recent, such as the Centar II and the Avenija, in the north-west part of town.