By Samantha Behlog
The Old Bridge, the iconic structure of the medieval Bosnian city of Mostar which was originally built in 1566 and has hosted a diving competition for over 450 years, which is a tradition and rite of passage for the city’s youth. The bridge, first built in the Ottoman style with traditional methods, was bombed during the conflict in the 90s.
The bridge was restored in this style using no steel beams or concrete and the competition again resumed. At the top of the bridge is the Mostar divers club, a group of men (I personally saw no women involved) who regularly jump off the 21m bridge into the Neretva – a beautiful turquoise river- which is in fact the coldest in the world.
A few dozen meters away from the bridge there is a practice platform which is less intimidating and used more frequently by the nonprofessional divers. The platform is 10m high, and can be reached by swimming across the river and climbing up a small cliff and ladders. During our day at Mostar, I decided to take the jump with a few of my classmates. We first dipped in the water to adjust to the temperature before jumping off the ledge and swimming across the river, whose current was known to be quite strong. One by one we climbed to the top of the platform and jumped. The airtime was only just over 1 second, but the adrenaline lasted long after. Once we got across we were applauded by the locals; myself in particular for my lack of hesitation in jumping (because I knew if I waited my nerves would grow). I believe it’s because it is much less common for a girl to do it at least from what I observed. It was an unexpected experience but it was one that I will carry with me and I am beyond glad that I took a chance to do something a little crazy.