Bosnian War Tour, Mostar

Bosnian War Tour (Self Guided), Mostar

After the fall of Yugoslavia, there followed civil wars of particular savagery. In Bosnia, there were two distinct struggles. The first involved Serbs against Croats and Bosnians. The alliance of Croats and Bosnians proved effective, and the Serbs were repulsed. The Croats were mainly Christian, and the Bosnians were Muslim. There was antipathy between them.

The second part of the war was the more savage, former allies Croats and Bosnians tearing at each other. A number of famous landmarks were destroyed during the war. Symbolically, the Old Bridge, which had joined the Christian and Muslim communities since 1557, was destroyed. Many ruins still stand.

The Ferhadija Mosque of Banja Luka, built in 1579, was destroyed in two attacks in 1993. It was rebuilt in 2017. The Old Bridge, commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent, was restored in 2004. Mostar had suffered more bombings than any other Bosnian city. Buildings are pockmarked with bullet scars. The cemeteries' death dates are mostly 1993.

Mostar was under siege. People venturing out for food were picked off by shooters in the Sniper Tower, a former bank. Stones stand by ruins bearing the message "Don't Forget '93." Curiously, the signs are in English.

Bulevar Street, once a street in no man's land, is now the Main Street of Mostar and the location of the War Photo Museum. Spanish Square, five minutes from the Old Bridge, is named for the 21 Spanish soldiers of the UN forces who died there. The Neretva Hotel, once the symbol of the city, now stands in ruins, partially restored.

Bosnia is on the mend, but it has a way to go. People are still wary of each other. As the stones say, "Don't forget."
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Bosnian War Tour Map

Guide Name: Bosnian War Tour
Guide Location: Bosnia-Herzegovina » Mostar (See other walking tours in Mostar)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles
Author: derek
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • War Photo Exhibition
  • ‘Don’t Forget 93’ Stones
  • Stari Most (Old Bridge)
  • Museum of War and Genocide Victims 1992-1995
  • Spanish Square and Gimnazija Mostar
  • Sniper Tower
War Photo Exhibition

1) War Photo Exhibition (must see)

New Zealand photojournalist Wade Goddard has his exhibit of fifty powerful war photos on display in the Helebija Tower of Old Bridge, just above the Bridge Divers' Club. Goddard was in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the conflict with Croatia. The exhibit provides insights into the bloody happenings of 1993 and the struggle to survive.

There are visual records of the destruction and restoration of the world-famous the Old Bridge of Mostar. Bulevar Street, a frontline no man's land in the war, is transformed into Mostar's Main Street and the address of City Hall.

The exhibition space is small, but the photos and commentaries tell a vivid tale. It is recommended by some visitors that tourists should see the exhibit at least twice. The War Photo Exhibition hours are 9 am to 8:30 pm. There is a small admission charge. The time required to take in the experience is about two hours.
‘Don’t Forget 93’ Stones

2) ‘Don’t Forget 93’ Stones

The view of the Old Bridge at sunset, arching over the emerald waters of the Neretva River, sluicing through the center of medieval Mostar, is an enchanting sight. The eagle-eye view changes as one zoom in closer to the cobblestone streets and the bustling market below. One begins to see the hideous scars of the recent past.

Homes, churches, and mosques are chewed up from gunfire. Some buildings are gutted and in ruins. Bombs and fires have taken a heavy toll. For nine months, the city of Mostar was under siege. Croats on the west side of the river and Bosniaks on the east side tore at each other. Even now, when at peace, they rarely interact.

There are glimmers of hope peeping out of the ravaged cityscape. Here and there are stones inscribed with the same message: "Don't Forget '93". The stones are reminders not to repeat the past. The war ended 30 years ago. Tourists are coming back. Church bells toll and muezzins call to prayer. Where there is hope, there is a future.
Stari Most (Old Bridge)

3) Stari Most (Old Bridge) (must see)

Dervis Mehmed Zilli, a renowned Turkish traveler and writer of the 17th century, described the Old Bridge as "...a rainbow arch soaring up to the skies, extending from one cliff to another." The bridge spans the deep-flowing Neretva River that bisects the ancient town of Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The original Old Bridge replaced a wooden suspension bridge of doubtful stability in 1566 and was commissioned by the Ottoman ruler Suleiman the Magnificent. The bridge was designed by the architect Mimar Hayruddin. It was said that Suleiman made Hayruddin an offer he couldn't refuse: "Build it or die."

On the day the scaffolding was removed, Hayruddin had his funeral arrangements ready. As it turned out, the bridge outlived everybody. When the bridge was completed it was the broadest man-made arch in the world. The Old Bridge today is a stone arch 13 feet wide and 98 feet long. It is 78 feet above the river below.

Two fortified towers stand at either end of the bridge. They are called the "bridge keepers." The Helebija Tower guards the west end of the bridge. It had a prison on its lower floors and a barracks on its upper floors. The semi-circular Tara Tower, on the opposite side of the river, houses the Museum of the Old Bridge.

The bridge limestone abutments are linked to wing walls on the river cliffs. After standing for 427 years, the bridge was destroyed by artillery fire in the Croat-Bosnian War in 1993. It was restored, using original materials, in 2004. Today divers plunge from the top of the bridge into the Neretva River for a modest fee.

The Old Bridge has been a tour stop of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. These jumps do not involve bungee cords. Divers go all the way. Dervis Mehmed Zilli, who had traveled through 16 countries, had never seen the like. Did he ever imagine jumping from this "rainbow" of stone?
Museum of War and Genocide Victims 1992-1995

4) Museum of War and Genocide Victims 1992-1995 (must see)

A short walk from the Old Bridge of Mostar is the Museum of War and Genocide Victims, the most important museum in Herzegovina. Behind the scenes of a city jammed with tourists, there are frightful wounds and horrors of the past. Ethnic "cleansing," concentration camps, and mass murders are remembered here; the story of the Balkans.

The number of items and artifacts exhibited in the museum grows endlessly. Each item comes with a story about it. Hours of reading are possible. The stories are in English and Bosnian. The staff consists of people who have suffered in different ways from the war. They tell stories that are difficult to listen to.

There are many testimonies of atrocities and photos taken by prisoners and soldiers never shown in the press. Witness accounts are available of United Nations peacekeepers who were unable to protect civilians. Summary executions are documented. Personal items exhumed from mass graves, statements of survivors, and documents attest to these evils.

Museum hours are from 9 am to 9 pm every day. The museum is without government support, so donations are welcome.
Spanish Square and Gimnazija Mostar

5) Spanish Square and Gimnazija Mostar

Spanish Square is a five-minute walk from Old Bridge of Mostar. It is the main intersection of the city, quite different from the neighborhoods of the Neretva. The City Park, the Mostar High School Building (Gimnazija Mostar), City Hall, the Promenade, cafes, the theatre, and street art make the Spanish Square a place where everything and everyone intersect.

The Square is named in honor of 21 Spanish soldiers who died serving in the United Nations Protection Force in the Croat-Bosnian War. The Promenade of the Square was originally called Stephanie's Promenade for Princess Stephanie, wife of Prince Rudolf, son of Emperor Franz Joseph.

Spanish Square connects to the city's largest park, Zrinjevac Park, named for the Duke of Zrinski, a Croatian nobleman and general. The square and the park combine to make a vast peaceful recreation area.

The Old High School is another name for the Mostar High School. This enormous school building dominates Spanish Square. Built in 1902, it was the oldest and most exclusive school in Yugoslavia. For many years it was named for Aleksa Santic, a famous poet of Herzegovina. Today it is known simply as Old High School.

The Old High School is one of the few schools in post-war Bosnia to serve students from different ethnic groups. It was built in the Moorish revival style with a crenelated roof, Bosniak motifs, and warm colors. Like other buildings, it suffered damage in the Balkan conflicts, but it has been beautifully restored.
Sniper Tower

6) Sniper Tower

The upper floors of the Brutalist layered Ljubijanska Bank provide an excellent view of the surrounding cityscape of Mostar. The building performed well enough as a bank in the days of Yugoslavia. But in the days of the two sieges of Mostar, it gave outstanding performances as a sniper nest. Shooters could cover every niche and corner below.

The second and more deadly siege of Mostar occurred in the struggle between the Croats and Bosniaks, former allies against the Serbs. The ruined bank building was the tallest structure and was held in Croatian territory, near the Neretva River. Residents of the Bosnian section were completely cut off, without food and the necessities.

Anyone who ventured out to search for anything became an easy target for shooters in the bank tower. The bank building was gutted and riddled with the marks of shells and bullets. In 1995 the war ended, and the work of restoration began. Sniper Tower was cleaned of debris, rubbish, and foliage.

Street art adorns the exterior and interior walls. There seem to be no plans for the remains of the building. After the cleanup, it was left as it was, a ragged monument to grief and despair. As the stones say, "Don't Forget."

Walking Tours in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Create Your Own Walk in Mostar

Create Your Own Walk in Mostar

Creating your own self-guided walk in Mostar is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Mostar Introduction Walking Tour

Mostar Introduction Walking Tour

Settlements by the Neretva River, between Mount Hum and Mount Velez, go back to prehistoric times. Remains of fortified encampments, cemeteries, and Roman foundations have been discovered beneath present-day Mostar. The name Mostar was derived from a document dated 1474. It called the residents "Mostari" which means "bridge-keepers."

Mostar was strategically located between...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 Km or 1 Miles