New old bridge reunites
Trip Start Sep 12, 2006
100Trip End Sep 08, 2008
We arrived around midday and were greeted by a friendly, softly spoken girl at the bus station
Until the Bosnian war of 1992-95, Mostar was probably the most ethnically integrated city in all of the former Yugoslavia. Croats lived, and continue to live on the western side of the Neretva River and Muslims on the east (although they also control a small strip on the west bank). During 1993 the Croats instigated a deadly siege of the Muslim quarter, culminating in the destruction of the gracefully arched 16th century bridge spanning the Neretva.
Following the war the bridge was rebuilt, using the same limestone that the original bridge was built with. In 2004 it was completed, offering hope for the reconciliation between Muslims and Croats. I remember seeing this in my living room on the evening news, and I knew there and then that if I was ever in the region I was going to visit Mostar and its rebuilt old bridge, known as 'Stari Most.'
The walk from our private homestay to Stari Most took us down Brace Fejica, the pedestrian street which was the main thoroughfare of the Muslim part of the city
After having a look at most famous mosque in Mostar, the Karadzozbeg Mosque (next to which lay scores of graves, with the same year of death) we made our way to Kujundziluk, the cobbled old town filled with small shops selling Turkish souvenirs. It was here that I finally saw what I had come to see, Stari Most. The bridge really was magnificent, and we spent about 45 minutes in the area, taking in the incredible surrounds and trying to imagine what the place must have been like during the conflict.
Following a fantastic Bosnian roast for lunch we continued west to the Croat quarter and the now dramatic former front line. This main boulevard essentially divides the town between Muslims and Croats, and I was shocked to see gutted buildings still standing, their empty windows gazing at me like the eyes of a skull. These buildings weren't just riddled with bullet holes, but they were completely destroyed. Rebuilding had begun, but the strangest thing was to see parts of some buildings rebuilt, whereas other parts were left untouched. Every building that wasn't obviously rebuilt in the years following the conflict was damaged. Relics of the Austro-Hungarian Empire still stood, casting their shadow over murals depicting the reunification of Mostar. And the shadows deserved their place, as I strained my neck to look up at the huge steeple of the Roman Catholic Church
It really was a lot to take it. I'd travelled to places in the world that had suffered more tragedy then I could comprehend, but never had I seen the results of a conflict quite like this. Even more difficult to take in than the shelled buildings and bullet holes was the thought that the Croats and Muslims now lived peacefully, whereas just a decade earlier they were all trying to kill each other. We continued wandering around the city for a while, along small canals branching from the Neretva, and up a hill overlooking the city. Kujundziluk was an incredible site once the sun went down, and following another delicious meal we made our way back to our room through the now deserted city. Even though I spent less than 24 hours in Mostar it was an experience I would never forget, and the magnificent site of the crescent shaped bridge and shelled buildings would always remain with me.