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Destination Bosnia:
The Daredevil Divers of
The Stari Most
(Dispatch #8)

Story and photos by Tom Weber

cemetery in Sarajevo

he scars of war may have been hard to spot on the warm and friendly faces of Bosnians that I encountered along the way – in open-air markets, storefronts, restaurants and neighborhood cafes – but the many bullet-ridden buildings and cemeteries that dot the landscape around Sarajevo and elsewhere were in full view, standing as grim reminders of the Bosnian War, the international armed conflict that raged across Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnia) between 1992-1995.

the Neretva River

Bosnia, no RESILIENT Bosnia, just like the phoenix, that mythical firebird that rose from the ashes, has picked itself up, dusted itself off, rolled up its sleeves and is slowly, but surely, rejoining the ranks of Europe's more popular tourist destinations.

According to World Tourism Organization estimates, Bosnia is on target to have the third highest growth rate in tourism on the planet by the end of this decade.

Mostar tourist guidebook with the Stari Most in the background

And, there really is no better place in the country to witness firsthand this national renaissance than in Mostar, where it's iconic Stari Most (Old Bridge), and the old town area that surrounds it, stands proudly once again, spanning the Neretva River and linking the cultural and religious diversity on both sides of this historic city.

the Stari Most or Old Bridge over the Neretva River in Mostar

Along with the other members of the intrepid "band of merry media" – 18 travel writers and photographers invited by Insight Vacations (Insight) to sample a portion of its Bosnia and Dalmatian Rivera itinerary – I'm following close behind Karin, our tour director/concierge, as she leads us towards the landmark expanse.

the Stari Most

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Stari Most, designed by celebrated Ottoman architect mimar Hajruddin – according to the design of his master-teacher, the great mimar Sinan – began accepting commerce and foot traffic back in 1566 and stood the test of time for 427 years.

buildings on the banks of the Neretva as viewed from the Stari Most

But, that all changed in a blink of an eye on November 9, 1993, when Croatian artillery fire during the Croat-Bosniak War – the so-called "war within a war" – destroyed the single-arch masterpiece, sending all of that history crashing down into the Neretva and dividing an ingenious city that had been united for centuries.

a mosque and other buildings on the banks of the Neretva River

After the war ended, with the assistance of UNESCO, the World Bank and a handful of generous European nations, the City of Mostar began the arduous task of painstakingly reconstructing the Stari Most and many of the historic bridge-area buildings. And, on July 23, 2004, with much fanfare, commerce and foot traffic began anew as the iconic bridge reopened.

the Kujundziluk, the Ottoman bazaar area in Mozar

Joining the masses, we walk the pedestrian-only cobble into the historic center, cross over the Stari Most and enter the Kujundziluk, the Ottoman bazaar area, the oldest part of Mostar, filled with tiny artisan stalls and handicraft shops showcasing carpets, jewelry, traditional garments, scarves and lots of hookah pipes.

one of Mostar's daredevil divers gets ready to take a dive off the Stari Most down into the Neretva

On our return stroll, we time it just right as one of Mostar's daredevil divers gets ready to take a "leap of faith" off the Stari Most down into the frigid waters of the Neretva, 20+ m below. A tradition dating back to 1664, today's on-duty diver just needs a little bit of encouragement from the crowd – hand clapping AND a €20 donation – and away he goes.

For complete information on Insight's premium and luxury-escorted itineraries, including 110+ journeys throughout Europe, just click HERE, or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

Insight Vacatoions' Sarajevo and Dalmatian Riviera brochure

All present and accounted for, Sasha, Insights' pilot, puts the sleek motor coach in gear and away we go. Where to? Split, Croatia, along the Dalmatian Coast, where we'll explore Roman Emperor Diocletian's 4th century seaside digs.

See you soon!

Related Articles:
Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope; My Kup Runneth Over with Kafa; Sarajevo's Storied Bridge to World War I; Dinner in Sarajevo with Mrs. Safija; Bird's-Eye Views from Sarajevo's Yellow Fortress

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Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973…beer was excellent!

--- David

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Hi Tom,

I must say, you're photographs are always amazing. They are top notch. You bring so much class to Traveling Boy. It's photographs like yours that make me want to go out and do my own traveling. Please don't get tired of sending us your amazing adventures. It's such a delight for the soul.

--- Raoul, Whittier, CA

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Hi Tom:

I'm also an American living in Italy. I've read with interest your blog and articles. I'd like to speak with you regarding residency and citizenship for Americans in Italy as you do seem to have a great deal of knowledge on all of these subjects. Would it be possible to give you a call on the phone? If so, please let me know how to reach you. If not, I can ask my questions via email.

Thank you!

--- David

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Hey Tom – Wow! Love those photos – they are so super that they make me A) Want to start eating NOW. B) Go there myself. C) See all that pristine beauty that looks so restful and peaceful. Great story, superb pix!!! Bravo!!

--- John, Los Angeles, CA

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Feedback for Destination Southwestern France: Saint-Émilion

Good job, Tom, and timely info. St. Émilion is in the list of places Jim Hayes and I will visit in September 2014. If we get the chance, we will exploit your experience to enhance the trip!

--- Bobby Harper, Dameron, MD

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Feedback for Vicenza Walks – Monte Berico

I lived in Vicenza for 4 years in the U.S. ARMY from 1963 to 1967. A wonderful place to explore. Palladio’s works are amazing. Have been back twice since and find new places to visit. My favorite is MONTE BERICO where I have some wonderful photos of my family.

--- Dr. Albert Pizzi, Hanover, MA

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I liked the new TB particularly the Vicenza article that took me back as a youth when we lived in Naples and travelled up there for a baseball tourney (U.S. Military Bases dependent schools played each other.)

Took me back to the plaza.

--- Bill

Feedback for A Canterbury Trail (Sutri)

Very interesting note. I have wedroned which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?

--- Pawel

You can find out more info on walking tours of Via Francigena at this site: Thanks for stopping by and commenting..


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Good article, enjoyed reading it. Saved your recommended sights for future use.

--- Dardenne Prairie, MO

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You're going to be great at this Tom. Congrats.

--- Donna Vissa -Montreal

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