Rick Steves, the American travel writer, says that for some Americans, a visit to Mostar is Bosnia can be “a bit jarring.” This photo may be a good example of what he means: an inviting sidewalk cafe is juxtaposed next to a building that is riddled with bullet holes.
I have been to Mostar twice and both times I am reminded of the long term consequences and scarring that war brings to people and cities. But Mostar also reminds me of the resilience of human beings. If you have a chance, I think you should spend some time in Mostar.
Stari Most (“the Old Bridge) is a name I’ve seen for bridges in other places in for former Yugoslav Republic. But this particular bridge is the most famous Stari Most. It spans the Neretva River in Mostar, Bosnia. Though it is called “the Old Bridge,” parts of it date back to very recent history because it has been reconstructed.
It stood for close to 500 years before it was intentionally destroyed in the Croat-Bosniak war. In war there is a general convention that art and architecture are spared. But in this case the enemy made an exception. Fortunately, it has been meticulously reconstructed.
This is not a remarkable photo. Do a Google search and you will find many more that are better. I did want you to see this bridge, though, since I have referred to it in other posts. To me, the most remarkable thing about this bridge is that it stood for centuries and both literally and symbolically bridged the cultural differences that existed in Mostar.
Then, in 1993, it became an intentional victim of the bitter war that affected so much of this region. The bridge was rebuilt with the aide of the international community but there are signs everywhere that say “Don’t forget ’93,” which was the year the bridge was destroyed.
One Muslim man I encountered the day I took this photo told me that “don’t forget” is not a call for revenge. Instead it is a reminder that we should never forget the damage that intolerance and hatred can inflict on people.
June 15, 2009
For several centuries, Mostar was a place where people with strong ethnic and cultural differences could live, work and worship in harmony. But in the 1990s that tolerance unraveled and buildings as well as people became victims.
This mosque, for example is one of only ten surviving houses of Muslim worship in Mostar. Before the war there were over thirty. The rest were intentionally destroyed, as was the famous bridge called Stari Most that spanned the Neretva River.
The bridge has been rebuilt and the mosques are active places of worship again. I think that tolerance has returned but everywhere there are signs of the war including shelled-out buildings and bullet-riddled walls.
The heart of Mostar is a beautiful place to visit and while the people seemed friendly and eager to please, I got the sense that people are still recovering from the pain and hardship of living in a war zone.
Click here for more photos of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
This cemetery is in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina. After visiting the famous Stari Most, which was destroyed in late 1993 during the war in Yugoslavia, Deb and I wandered off the beaten path. We ended up in a cemetery. This one is the final resting place of young men who died in the Yugoslavian war in the 1990s.
Almost all of the “inhabitants” of this cemetery were around 30 years old when they died. And all died in 1993 or 1994. I learned later that cemetery occupies a plot of land that was a park before the war. The dead were buried under cover of night because snipers couldn’t see in the dark.
A few minutes after leaving the cemetery, we ran in to a man and his young son. He told us he had left Mostar to start and new life in Germany but was home visiting his sister. When we told him we had just been to the Muslim cemetery, he said, “Most of those guys were my friends.”
Am am not the only traveler to comment on this cemetery check out Dag Trygsland’s post from late last year.