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Thursday, 23 Mar 2017
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An almost instinctive image comes to mind when one thinks of Mostar and that is that of its splendid Old Bridge; it thereby follows that this stone masterpiece is the monument that has given its name to the city and which symbolizes its many significances.It was built during the Ottoman period by the Turkish architect Hajrudin and commissioned by the sultan Soliman the Magnificent; it was completed in 1566 after nine years’ work. Right from the start, the bridge became part of various local legends, one of which narrates the stubbornness of Hajrudin who stopped underneath it for three days and three nights in order to demonstrate its absolute solidity. And it remained so for 427 years, until 1993, the tragic year when the bombing of the bridge became not only a strategic, political and military objective but also the most vicious way to strike the heart of the town’s unity and beauty.The reconstruction of the Bridge lasted almost ten years and it was truly a notable enterprise for it was decided to use the same antique building techniques, dating back to the 16th century, as well as its original method of assembling the parts and with the stones cut in an approximate manner in order to recreate the imperfections and the uniqueness of the prior structure. The Tenelija stone, with its crystal clear and ever-changing tonalities according to the intensity of the sunrays, was extracted from the same quarry as the fi rst time and some of the surviving pieces from the old bridge were used again in its reconstruction.The Stari Most joins the two banks of the Neretva River together and is situated between the Herceguša and Tara Towers, on the left bank, and the Halebija on the right: it is 28.7 metre long, 4.49 metre wide and is characterized by a single stone arch which, in summer, stands 21 metres above the water. Something not to be missed is the exciting diving competition which, since 1968 every year in July, takes place from the bridge.

And, some historic sources confirm that this has been common practice since the very construction of the bridge. Youngsters coming from all over the world meet here to participate in an impressive athletic event.The meeting takes its inspiration from a local ritual that has always taken place during summer, when the youth of the Diving Club (which has its headquarters nearby the Halebija Tower) show off their own virility by leaping into the icy waters of the Neretva River: a unique spectacle with a complex and all-embracing ritual. Amidst the frenetic applauses of the crowd, these young men reach the highest point of the bridge; then, in the typical silence that precedes a tough trial, they jump off in an exciting thrill, and this continues constantly all day long.The new Old Bridge of Mostar was officially inaugurated in July 2004 to symbolize, once again, the city of Mostar and its wish for its rebirth, based on its glorious past and around its most beloved monument. In July 2005, the Old Bridge and the entire old city became offi cially a part of the Cultural Heritage of the UNESCO.

 

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