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From Illyrian times until the Ottoman invasion, the ancient settlement of Blagaj was the centre of political power and Mostar was no more than a tiny settlement along the banks of the Neretva.

It is believed that before Herzegovina fell to the Ottomans, the settlement of Mostar had only 19 houses with a small suspension bridge that united both banks. The men that guarded this bridge were called mostari (bridge keepers) and it is presumed that the town is named after them.

Herzegovina officially came under Ottoman rule in 1482. It didn't take long for Mostar to become the centre of Ottoman administrative and military rule in Herzegovina. The old town (carsija) that developed around the new stone bridge (Stari most) was completed by Dalmatian craftsmen, under in Ottoman design, in 1566. This oriental part of the city still preserves its old tradition of highly skilled craftsmen in metal engraving, painting and rug-weaving. With the old bridge at the centre, new mahalas (quarters) began to spring up on both sides of the Neretva. Mosques and medresas (religious schools) were constructed as Islam spread through the growing town. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, many of Mostar's most beautiful and significant Islamic structures were built.

During Ottoman times Mostar quickly became a key trading partner with Dubrovnik and other coastal cities. Caravan routes led directly to Mostar, carrying Dalmatian goods such as olive oil, fish and linen. Cargoes of wool, meat, honey and oats were shipped from Mostar towards the seaside cities. You can still walk the streets of the old town and find craftsmen and artisans of all sorts selling their wares. The end of the 19th century marked the final decline of the Ottomans, and after a three-year uprising throughout the country from 1875 to 1878, the empire collapsed. Opportunistic Austro-Hungary jumped right in and included Bosnia and Herzegovina in its administrative region. A railroad was constructed immediately, adding a European flavor to the oriental town.

During the short reign of the Austro-Hungarians, a public bath was built, many newspapers and periodicals were established, more schools and bridges were erected and the city expanded its road system. Christians also enjoyed greater freedoms, particularly the Catholics. This period saw the construction of several new cathedrals and churches throughout the Mostar area. All along the outskirts of the old town one can see the Viennese-style architecture from this period. Austro-Hungarian rule ended with the assassination of Prince Ferdinand in Sarajevo. In the decades that followed, much of Bosnia and Herzegovina experienced harsh economic and political struggles. With the end of World War II and the victory of Tito's partisans came a challenging but peaceful time. Mostar became one of the major socialist strongholds in the former Yugoslavia. It had the highest rate of mixed marriages and continued to be the most important city of Herzegovina. The city enjoyed great prosperity in the years leading up to the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

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Neum at the sea
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