Boat Race on the Neretva

 

The source of the Neretva is tucked away deep in the Dinaric Alps of Bosnia and Herzegovina, from where the river flows in a northerly direction until after Konjic, and then takes a southern, Adriatic-bound course through deep canyons. Its power is harnessed by several hydroelectric dams, alone three of which are between Jablanica and Mostar. Of the Neretva's total length of 230 kilometres, the first 208 lie within Bosnia and Herzegovina and the remaining 22 in Croatia, where the river forms an alluvial delta before joining the Adriatic Sea. The Neretva boat marathon, or Maraton Ladja, is held on the Croatian stretch of the river between Metković and the seaport of Ploce and covers 22.5 kilometres. The race is named after the traditional timber-built vessels, the ladje, which were used throughout the ages as water vehicles to transport people, livestock and produce. Progress and modern life made the boats redundant, and many fell into disrepair or were left shipwrecked on the Neretva and its numerous tributaries. The first Maraton Ladja took place in 1998 to revive a tradition and restore the vessels to their former glory. Custom-built boats have been used since 2004, each manned by a crew of between 12 and 18. Men, women and children may take part. Held on the second Saturday in August, the Maraton Ladja is a popular social event under the patronage of the Croatian president, and up to 50,000 spectators line the river banks to cheer on their favourites. The winning crew's time is usually around 2 hours 15 minutes. 

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