Experience 7: Jump off a bridge in Mostar, Bosnia. Or Not.
by Oliver Smith
And for a few, at least, it’s also a career. Today we met up with the professional divers from the Mostar Diving Club – a group of locals who collect money from tourists in return for hurling themselves off the town’s 20-metre high bridge, the Stari Most.
Looking at the bridge from afar, it looks tall – but not enormous. Only when you’re peering over the edge does it suddenly grow two or three times higher; a sight to make your goolies shrivel in horror that you’re even vaguely considering a jump. As locals attest, there’s a steady trickle of tourists who put on their swimming trucks, stand on the edge and look down...only to scamper straight back to their hotel rooms, cowering in fear. I didn’t even get as far as the swimming trunk stage.
"Long ago, local boys used to jump off the bridge to impress aristocrats," says Admir Deliç, the head of the diving club. ‘When I was younger we used to do it to impress girls."
Not long ago, however, Mostar’s bridge jumping was put on hold, and a generation of girls went unimpressed. In the early nineties, the countries of the former Yugoslavia imploded in a series of bitter civil wars – Mostar’s river became the frontline in the battle between Catholic Croat and Muslim Bosniak forces. Thousands of people lost their lives, and much of Mostar was destroyed – including the original 16th century Stari Most. Two decades on, and perhaps the biggest symbol of Bosnia’s recovery from civil war is the new bridge at Mostar. Reconstructed in 2004, it is now once again attracting maniac divers, irrespective of ethnicity. Among them is Igor Kazic, a diving club member whose first jump took place on the spur of the moment while taking an evening stroll with his parents.
"The first jump isn’t the hardest," he explains. "The worst one is the second, because you know what’s coming."