Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
It was raining the morning we left Dubrovnik. Ugh! We debate taking a taxi but I didn't want to spend the money. What was a short walk in the rain. We had rain gear. I put rain covers on both my backpacks and put on my rain jacket. I wish I had a picture of mom in hers. She had bought a clear poncho to wear over her and her backpack. As I walked down the steps, I giggled. It looked like a large condom covering her! She did not appreciate this comparison and I should have stopped to get out my camera but I didn't. By the time we got to the bus, she was ready to rip the poncho off and throw it in the garbage. It was steamed up and hot. Just made the whole look even funnier.

The local bus was a quick ride to the station. We had a half hour to spare. I went to buy our tickets and the woman said "no" when I asked for 2 tickets to Mostar. What? I asked if it was sold out. "No, computer kaput! No work." I asked if I could buy a ticket from the driver and she just made a sweeping motion with her hand. I took that as get out of here. We walked down to the location where the bus was scheduled to arrive. I was not giving up. I had seen people get on the bus and pay for a ticket so it was reasonable we could do that to get to Mostar. I waited and when the bus arrived, I explains my dilemma to the driver. He told me to go back and ask at the window. I explained the computers were down and he walked with me. I felt bad. This turned into a yelling match at the ticket window. I don't understand Croatian but I could tell they were arguing about the ticket sales. The bus driver told me to wait 15 minutes. I took my bag and mom down to the bus while I waited at the window. After 15 minutes the woman shook her head no and told me to buy the ticket on the bus. As I walked back, the bus driver asked if the computers were up. No! He told us to get on bus, he would write a ticket. I realized quickly why he was arguing with the woman. He had a form to fill out for every person on board. It would have been easier for her to do it but he lost that battle. Luckily, he was accommodating and we were on board and headed to Mostar. 

We showed our passports several times as we exited Croatia and entered Bosnia. Then back to Croatia before entering  Bosnia again. I kept my passport close just in case. 

It was raining when we arrived in Mostar. I was excited to get a photo of mom with that cool poncho but she decided she would rather be wet. Stubborn? Definitely! Luckily, it was a short walk to our apartment, Pension Isa. We were greeted by Isa and her husband. They welcomed us to their pension and brought us a bowl of ripe mandarin oranges and cake. We devoured the bowl of oranges. They were delicious! I think we have each eaten 4 a day! After a short rest, we put on our rain coats and walked toward the bridge. The cobblestone paths were slippery in the rain but we both managed without falling. 
The streets were filled with shops and mom did a little shopping along the way.
The pearl of Mostar is the Stari Most (Old bridge). During the summer months, divers jump from the bridge into the Neretva River 78 feet below. On this cold and rainy day, nobody was jumping from the bridge. I looked down and thought they would have to be crazy to do it!
It was originally built in 1557 and took nine years to complete. At the time it was built it was considered an architectural achievement as the largest man made arch in the world. It stood until it was destroyed on November 9, 1993 during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Following the war, they decided to rebuild the bridge in 1998 and it was completed in 2004. Stones of the original bridge were pulled from the river but many were not salvageable. Stone was obtained from the same quarries for reconstruction. It took longer to rebuild the bridge the second time than it did originally.
The bridge is beautiful. As I walked down the cobblestone path, I stooped to take this photo.
Off to the left of the path is a stone that reminds everyone to never forget what happened here is Mostar.   
The bridge was attacked several times and it eventually fell into the river. But there was significant loss of human life in 1993. As we walked the streets of Mostar there remains remnants of the war. After 20 years, there are still buildings with mortar and crumbling from the effects of war.
But the saddest sight was the cemetery in the middle of the town. It had been a park enjoyed by families and children before the war. As fighting broke out in the city, it became the resting ground of those that were killed. It was overwhelming to see the majority of the graves had a 1993 date of death.
Once again, I realized how ignorant and unconcerned I was while all of the fighting was ongoing. I remember hearing of the war but it was far away. I was detached from it. It did not directly effect my life. These men were my age. I can not imagine living through a siege on my city. The fear and inability to be able to go outside and play. To live. Instead they were fighting to live. Once again I was thankful and humbled for the freedoms I have experienced and it hit home is all luck. I was lucky and born in the USA. I have freedom. I lived a life that was easy. I am thankful and these experiences change my perspective. These are histories and stories I will never forget.
We walked across the bridge and ate a traditional meal. It was meatballs and onions served in a grilled pita. It was nice with a cold beer. Then mom did some shopping while I went to see the little bridge. It was a smaller version of the Stari Most and cute but not as impressive. It was also rebuilt after the war.
The area was beautiful and the people were kind and hospitable to tourists. We returned to the apartment and talked to the owner. He also is a shoemaker. If we had more time in Mostar, I think mom would have had a pair of shoes made. We told him goodbye as we were leaving for Split, Croatia in the morning. We thanked him and his wife for a fantastic apartment and the hospitality of the town of Mostar.

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