Moving on to Mostar…the divided city

Moving on to Mostar

Beautiful Neretva River in Mostar

Leaving by bus from Split on a beautiful Croatian day, I was heading to Mostar. I decided to explore a bit of Bosnia – Herzegovina while on this holiday.  What a bus ride it turned out to be. Heading south towards Dubrovnik the road winds along the coast with its little villages built on the sides of hills leading down to the blue green waters of the Adriatic. It is a rugged coastline…no large expanses of white sand beaches are found here. The beaches are coarse and rocky as they are in this part of the world but the majestic beauty of these steep limestone mountain’s slashing down into the sea overshadows the lack of  “pretty beaches”. It is where the mountains, people and the sea are tied together in a timeless dance stretching back through time and civilizations. I can easily see the appeal of the Dalmatian Coast to the worlds travelers.

Just before Dubrovnik we cut inland from the coast and I have time to think about Bosnia. What is the picture of Bosnia in my minds eye?  I suppose my first thoughts are the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo but those are vague in comparison to the images the horrific war between the Serbs, Bosnians and Croats that filled the nightly news between 1992 and 1995. Stories of ethnic cleansing, massacre’s, wholesale rape and towns under siege for months on end.

Moving on to Mostar…the divided city

Stari Most…the Old Bridge a symbol of Mostar

This war was the first time in modern history where systematic rape and sexual enslavement was used as a weapon of war. This form of “Crimes against humanity” is second only to genocide and was widely used during the Bosnian War with between 12,000 and 50,000 women raped and enslaved. It was a short but brutal war. Along with the rapes there were over 100,000 people killed and 2.2 million people displaced.  Mostar was in the middle of these events and still bears the scars.

Moving on to Mostar…the divided city

Typical bombed out building in Mostar

Mostar is a small picturesque city straddling the Neretva river. And it is this beautiful emerald green strip of water that devides the city…East & West…Muslim and Christian. With 48.4% christian Croats and 44.1% muslim Bosnians each on their side of the river.  The city was controlled by the Ottomans from 1468 until The Great Turkish War in 1689 when the west gained control over Eastern Europe once again. Because of this the city has a eastern flavor and the old parts of the city could make you think you were in Turkey instead of Bosnia.  The main symbol of the city is the Stari Most or Old Bridge.  This beautiful arched stone bridge is 28 meters long and 20 meters high and when it was built in the 16th century by the Ottomans it was a architectural wonder. The bridge lasted until  the city was besieged in April, 1992.  It has since been rebuilt as has most of the historical part of the city by donations from the European Community and the Aga Khan Foundation.  Much of the old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Moving on to Mostar…the divided city

At the end of the Old Bridge part of the Ottoman ciry

During the shelling of the city twelve out of fourteen mosques, numerous churches and almost all the bridges were destroyed.  It is almost possible to forget the scope of the destruction in this small city of 113,000 until you walk down blocks with bombed out buildings surrounded by chain link fences. Everywhere in the city it is possible to be in fully functioning building sitting next to a bombed out shell of a building. Today the most prominent symbol of Mostar rising from the ashes is the new Franciscan Monastery of St. Peter and Paul which dominates the skyline with its 107 meter (351 ft) bell tower and is visible from every vantage point in the city.  Rebuilt after the war on the original foundation, the complex houses a library of 50,000 ancient text and a large modern church of poured concrete which is attractive on the outside but feels impersonal on the inside with its unadorned grey concrete walls and floors.

Moving on to Mostar…the divided city

A small city park in the old city

It is a charming city in so many ways but it is not on the radar for a great many travelers. The old Ottoman section of the city is by far the most picturesque with its stone buildings built on hillsides going down to the river. Narrow lanes with arched stone foot bridges and restaurants cantilevered over rushing streams made me feel removed from the 21st century.  I had some great food, which was incredibly inexpensive, in these little stone inns which made the stop very worthwhile.  Unfortunately, the most of the tourist area was filled with trinket and souvenir shops that were mirror images of the shops in Turkey. It is a sad assortment of beads, scarves, Nazars (blue evil eye amulet), cheap jewelry and knock off purses that did not draw my interest for one minute. Out side the tourist and commercial area there were some nice walks. One street in particular leading out to the Bishops Palace and the new Cathedral was a lined with enormous old sycamore trees and wandered through a nice upper class neighborhood. 

Moving on to Mostar…the divided city

Selling clothing on the street in downtown Mostar

I am glad I stopped for a few days here in Mostar but it is not a place for me to stay for an extended stay.  Having said that, I feel that there are some hidden charms that I failed to discover. It is picturesque beyond words…nestled in the mountains, as it is, with a ribbon of emerald green water rushing through the center of this old town is a magic photo op but the horrors of the war are still fresh in the minds of the older Bosnians and the remaining bomb damaged buildings are a reminder for the young of how fragile peace is in this ethnically and religiously mixed region. I could feel a heaviness in this town which is not easy to dispel or forget.

Moving on to Mostar…the divided city

Sparkling conversation between the guys in the cafe…not.

About Larry Bosco

In 2010 I had one of those “Is this all there is” moments and so in January 2011 I retired from Real Estate Appraising, sold off all my worldly goods and headed out as a solo traveler in search of a new place to live. Since then I’ve traveled around the world, made new friends and had many great adventures and some not so great. After staying almost a year in Cuenca, Ecuador I have headed back to South East Asia where I began the journey in 2011. Currently I am living in Chiang Mai, Thailand
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4 Responses to Moving on to Mostar…the divided city

  1. Claudia Hammer says:

    I learn so much history when reading your blogs! You could be a traveling historian. Love the little green river and bridge. This is a place I will never go to and it is nice to see it through your eyes, almost like being there… maybe. Bosco’s on the move.

  2. LindaRose says:

    whattya mean you weren´t interested in the knock off purses??? and what type of food is there? You see my interests, right? Great fotos……great travels.

  3. Barbara Hood says:

    You are a wonderful writer! Thanks for your photos and perspective.

  4. Ron S. says:

    Beautfully written description of the city of Mostar. Never heard of it until now and never realized it was an epicenter of the fighting during the recent wars there. Carry on O world traveller.

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