Bullet Holes and Bomb Craters

Trip Start Oct 24, 2005
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300
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Trip End Ongoing


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What I did
War Photography Museum

Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina  ,
Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Shortly after crossing the border, the sun set and it was too dark to really get a look at the beauty Bosnia-Herzegovina had to offer, so I drifted to sleep until the bus turned off the highway at Mostar. As we drove through town a little before 9:00pm, we were shocked by how dark and quiet everything was: there were only a smattering of people walking the streets at that "late" hour. 

We pulled into the bus station and were approached by a woman looking to rent her room for 20 euros. It was close to the station, so we agreed to take a look without too much trepidation, and were relieved to discover it was more than doable for the night's stay. Despite the fact that we'd been running all day, we weren't in the mood to sit still, so hit the streets to do a little recon. The streets were absolutely deserted, but there were people glued to TVs playing the Euro qualifier match in every single bar, cafe, and restaurant that was open. 

 We settled on a restaurant that was still serving food and grabbed some pizza, choosing to sit outside away from the smoke and the soccer fans. While we were noshing, the game ended; the winner was Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the town went absolutely nuts. Fans suddenly flooded the streets to celebrate the outcome of the match, completely transforming what had been a super sleepy town into a lively and happening city. The excitement was overwhelming, and a bit scary -- I was sure I heard gunshots (an often celebratory act in much of the world), and started to feel really freaked out. I finally found an English speaker to ask about it, and she laughed at me, sharing the joke with the entire restaurant. Apparently, what we were hearing were just fireworks, but they sure sounded like gunshots to me (I suppose I should be happy that I can't easily discern the difference between the two).

In an effort to avoid the crazy drivers tearing up and down the streets while flying the country's flags out their windows, we walked into the old town. The city's stari grad was a massive contrast to the wild area we'd just walked from: it was pretty dead and a lovely antidote to the near panic-attack inducing insanity we'd just left behind. We found a bar that was still open and treated ourselves to two icy Mostars before retreating to our home for the night and getting some shut-eye.
 
We were again limited by time, so planned to just spend the next morning/afternoon in Mostar before moving along to Sarajevo. We'd heard lovely things about the town, and were looking forward to checking it out in the daylight. The highlight was meant to be Stari Most, the old bridge, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The bridge was finished in 1566, and was considered one of the world's engineering marvels. It stood for 427 years before being destroyed in November 1993 during the appalling Yugoslav civil war. Our guidebook said that in 1995, the city looked like Dresden did post-WWII: all of the bridges (necessary because the Neretva River bisects the city) and all but one of the 27 Ottoman-era mosques had been destroyed. By 2004, the bridge had been reconstructed using 16th century building techniques and stone from the original quarry. So, while it's not the original bridge, they have done their best to recreate it and try and preserve the city's history.
 
By day, the city was far different: it was bustling and busy. Where did all these people come from? Were they all hiding in their hotels or were they from cruise ships? We wandered amid the throngs of tourists, then crossed the bridge and stopped off at the War Photography Museum. Inside there were many powerful black and white photos taken during the conflict, showing how the intense the devastation had been. 
 
From there, we negotiated our way down to the river and admired the bridge from a new angle. It really was beautiful, and we could see why people came from such great distances to see it in person. After spending quite a long time snapping pics, we returned to the old town and finally found a delicious veggie dish to enjoy during lunch. 
 
The rest of the time in Mostar was spent dashing through the old town and collecting souvenirs for ourselves (including some stellar football gear for Konrad). By the time we'd agreed to a deal on the sportswear, we were in danger of missing our bus, so ran back to our room, grabbed our bags, and then sprinted to the bus station (well, as much sprinting as was possible with my still tender toe). A few bus changes and some truly jaw-dropping scenery later, we were pulling into Sarajevo, our next port of call.
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