Like many travellers, Mostar was on my ‘must-see’ list while I was in Bosnia and Herzegovina It was a photo of the Ottoman architecture, the river flowing through the city, and mountainous surroundings that enticed me.
My first introduction to Mostar wasn’t that image though. My journey from the bus station to the guesthouse was a bit of an eye-opener because a number of buildings had holes in them. I was expecting to see some buildings with bullet holes, having read about it beforehand, but not the amount I came across. Nor was I expecting to see so many derelict buildings that haven’t been renovated, like the building in the photograph below.
In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised because Mostar was the most heavily bombed city in Bosnia, which caused extensive damage. In addition, there was a huge decline in population as about 100,000 people died and 2 million were forced to leave. The reality of what happened there really struck me when I saw a newspaper clipping of the house I was staying in. As you can see, it was destroyed in 1992. Thankfully, Taso (the owner) and his family had moved by that time so none of them were injured or killed.
Mostar is a beautiful city where you can take some fabulous pictures but, unless you walk around with your eyes closed, it is impossible not to see some reminders of the conflict. It isn’t something that can or should be forgotten, in my opinion. We need to remember what happened and the effect it had on those involved and learn from it. It gave me a much better appreciation for the city and the people who live there.
The next photograph was taken from the rooftop of a former bank. It has far-reaching views, which are stunning. The thing is, this building was occupied by snipers during the conflict so the rooftop was used during attacks. Being in that building and knowing what it had been used for sent shivers down my spine while I was on the rooftop and as I walked across I don’t know how many pieces of broken glass that carpet each and every floor.
Karađozbegova Džamija is a 16th century mosque. Apparently, it is the largest and one of the most beautiful in Herzegovina. As with many other buildings in Mostar, it was destroyed during the war but has been restored to its former glory.
The Old Bridge Area (Stari Most) of the Old City of Mostar, built in the 15th and 16th centuries and later restored after the conflict, quite rightly became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. It is a magnificent sight to behold and the Old City (Stari Grad) is a great place to wander around. It’s hard to believe that it was reduced to rubble 20 years ago.
Should you wish to find out more about the conflict, the Old Bridge Museum and a bookshop next to it both have videos of Mostar during and after the conflict. There is also a photographic exhibition on the other side of the bridge.
The Crooked Bridge (Kriva Ćuprija/Aslant Bridge) is a smaller version of Stari Most and is thought to have been a trial run before attempting to build Stari Most. It straddles the Radobolja River, close to where it joins the Neretva River. It has also been rebuilt, having been destroyed during a flood in 2001.
I have no idea why it is referred to as the Crooked Bridge because it doesn’t look that crooked to me. What do you think?
Zrinjevac Park, the central city park, is a relatively new addition to Mostar. It doesn’t tend to get mentioned but it’s a place where locals kick back and relax. It leads to the newer part of Mostar. This is one way to get a feel for ‘real’ life in Mostar because the Old City is very touristy. There are some great coffee shops and restaurants on the other side of the park.
Mostar, particularly the Old City, is picturesque but there are stark reminders of the 1990s conflict. It is something they will never forget although, with the help of the international community, they have started to rebuild the city and get on with everyday life.
The reconstructed Old Bridge and Old City of Mostar is a symbol of reconciliation, international co-operation and of the coexistence of diverse cultural, ethnic and religious communities. (UNESCO World Heritage Centre, 2005)
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Have you been to Mostar? What was your experience of it?