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Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

A Bridge to the Future

After crossing the border from Croatia into Bosnia and Hercegovina, Mostar, a former small village set in a deep valley on the Neretva river, was about to provide an in-depth history lesson, as well as an appreciation of what both nature and reconciliation can collectively produce .
The Old Bridge (Stari Most) constructed in 1566 during the Ottoman Empire, once linked the former capital of Hercegovina.
It somewhat abruptly became the centrepiece of a divided society, country and region.
As the sun begins to set on a glistening summer evening, I stare up toward the bridge from the rocks on the bank. Local (professionally trained) thrill seekers prepare to make their leap; tourists watch, donate and wait in anticipation. The semi- translucent waters of the lightly dull green river flow quickly, my appreciation for everything grows, I’m lost in thought for no apparent reason.
This very bridge, along with most of the town, was destroyed in November 1993 by Bosnian Croat forces during a heavy artillery shelling. Through a collective effort it was restored using authentic materials, and to historical specifications, to be reopened in 2004.
I wander back over the bridge and begin to discover the Old Bazaar (Kujundziluk) – full of market stalls in addition to colourful Turkish houses and shops. As I stopped to buy a ćevapi – I was questioned on my ethnicity by the shop owner, had I crossed to the wrong side of the bridge? This, for me, was just a minor step back in time and cultural beliefs.
I wind my way through the neglected back streets of Mostar, taking notice of the building structures and designs; some colourful and untouched, some the opposite, many a mixture. This representation, in some way, reflected not only the city, but the country at this particular time.
Back at the hostel, the owner, a native Bosnian, didn’t have to use any persuasive skills in convincing me to join him, and other travellers, on a tour out of Mostar the next day.
Our small group, made up of three nationalities (one American, three French and one Australian) depart the hostel in anticipation.
The buildings around and out of Mostar paint a different picture to the green, cliff laden landscape and Turkish houses prevalent in the old Bridge area.
Bullet holes and structural damage a far too regular reminder of not so many years ago, especially in the most affected battle spots.
Our guide, who was a young adult at 17 years of age when the Bosnian War broke out, educates us as we commute to our first stop – Blagaj Tekija – an old Muslim village with a dervish Monastery located at the base of a towering cliff face. As a group we stop for breakfast – a choice of two traditional Bosnian bureks, we inquire about the village, learn and prepare for our next stop and hope that our heavy breakfast somewhat digests before we plunge into waters later in the afternoon.
Our next stop is Počitelj – a walled village steeped in history. Počitelj possesses two main towers – a clock tower (sahat kula) and a fortress tower. Whilst climbing the mountain towards the fortress, we passed traditional Turkish baths (hamam), The Hajji Alijia Mosque and numerous distinctive Mediterranean style buildings which locals still reside in.
We finally reach the pinnacle – Citadel Počitelj is a medieval tower with views over the town. The fort was used as a military watch tower during the Bosnian war. The old town of Počitelj, just like the Stari Most, are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites now.
To conclude our trip we spent time swimming in the clear and refreshing waters of the secluded Kravica Waterfalls. Picture a green wilderness, occupied centrally by cascading waterfalls surrounding the natural, circular like formation.
As my pre-frozen water bottle acts as my air-conditioning upon boarding the bus to Sarajevo the following day, my thoughts lie not just in the knowledge I have obtained about Mostar, but about what lies ahead whilst continuing to discover this country.
The bus trip is something else, Sarajevo is a story itself, but Mostar has provided the shiny platform that bond the past and the present with a positive connection to the future.

Posted by GlobalEd 19:28 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Tagged trains and history travel eastern hostels buses balkans europe yugoslavia war backpacking bosnia hercegovina

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