It’s almost midnight when we see the lights of Mostar down below. As the bus slowly winds down the mountains we can only imagine how the capital of Herzegovina is situated. I have a special feeling visiting this city as I remember quite clearly that I saw on the news how the 16th century Ottoman bridge was destroyed in the Bosnian Croatian War. At that time I felt very sad to see such a masterpiece getting lost forever.
That was 20 years ago.
I was wrong thinking it would be lost forever, because directly after the war a UNESCO supported project was started to rebuild the Stari Most (old bridge). They used as much of the original materials and they certainly did a good job. It reopened in 2004 but it looks like it has never been gone. I feel touched when I cross it for the first time. As I stand still on the spot where the final grenade made the bridge fall down to the bottom of the river, I think about the commander who was in charge of the tank shelling. How can someone decide to shoot such a beautiful construction to pieces? It wasn’t even a tactical move because you can only cross the bridge on foot. The only purpose was to hit the people hard by destroying the city’s and even the country’s most important symbol.
But now that the bridge is reconstructed it means that live has slowly returned to normal and the country is getting back on it’s feet again. Mostar is a beautiful place and while the bridge is it’s biggest drawcard, the city and it’s surroundings have certainly more to offer. The cobbled streets and small stone bridges in the old centre make me think of a walk in the Efteling’s Fairy Tale Forest (for the non-Dutch readers: The Efteling is a famous amusement park in Holland) 🙂
We go all the way down to the river for a refreshing plunge in the river and have to be careful that the current doesn’t grab us. Meanwhile we watch the young men of Mostar leap of the bridge into the cold Neretva river, an old tradition. In earlier times they probably did it to prove their toughness, nowadays they also seem to get encouraged by a couple of Euros. Anyways, it’s 20 meters so better don’t try it yourself.
The city feels very alive. Not only because of all the tourist around but there’s a big youth scene that comes out at night. Next to our pension is a cocktail bar in a big garden that’s full with dressed up youngsters hanging on big pillows while smoking narghiles. We spent one night there but despite the cool hangout, it’s not really our scene. Together with Justus, a seasoned traveler from LA we met earlier that day on a trip to the monastery of Blagaj, we head for a bar close to the bridge where a local punk-rock band is playing. They’re good! Out of enthusiasm a couple of local fans even jump in the nearby pool.
Watching Mostar’s youth it seems it’s one happy, energetic city but there still are lots of memories from a less pleasant past. Next to the Karadjoz-Bey mosque is a cemetery and all the graves show 1993 as the year of death. I read that it used to be a park that had to be turned into a cemetery to bury all the death. In the next block there’s flat building still full of bursts from the tank shelling. Nobody wants to think about those times anymore. Don’t forget. They probably haven’t. But today the eyes are on the future.