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Historical Reality Check in Mostar

sunny 27 °C
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"Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind." - JFK

Foodie moment

We arrived in Bosnia and decided to delve straight into Eastern Europe's love of meat, so we decided we had to try the Bosnian National plate. It included japrak (stuffed vine leaves), dolma (stuffed onions), bosnian cookies (mini burger-like meat patties, but better!), Cevapcici, Duvec (meat and vegetable stew), boiled potatoes, rice, sour cream and flat bread.


Cultural moment

One of the most poignant moments during my trip occurred in a cemetery in Mostar. I knew that Bosnia had a recent war torn history, but it wasn't until we came here that I got a true understanding of it. In 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia. As a response the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) attacked Mostar. This lead to the beginning of an 18 month siege on the town. It started with the Croatian defence council helping the Bosnian army defend against the JNA, but after a time they also turned on Bosnia and started their own takeover of the town. 1993 was the worst year for Mostar, with thousands of its inhabitants being injured or dying, and much of the town bombed and flattened. This was never more obvious than when visiting the cemeteries in the town centre. Every grave stone, as far as the eye could see displayed the same date, 1993. The sheer number was unfathomable, majority were men and the ages ranged from babies to the elderly.


Wow moment

The main tourist attraction for Mostar is its spectacular old bridge (Stari Most). The Stari Most is hump-backed, 4 metres wide and 30 metres long, and dominates the river from a height of 24 m. It connects the two parts of the city, and was essential for trade when it was built. When it is reflected in the bright blue river below, it is quite amazing to see. An added bonus is seeing the locals, who after collecting enough money from onlookers, dive (well, the one we saw actually went feet first) from the very top of the bridge into the rushing (freezing) river below.


What we learnt today

The Stari Most that stands in Mostar today is not the same one that was built in the 16th century. It stood for 427 years until the Croatian army destroyed it during their attack on Mostar. They used tank fire on the bridge, and over 60 shells hit it before it crumbled. A spokesman for the Croats claims that they destroyed the bridge on purpose for strategic reasons, but academics have argued that it held little strategic importance and was instead purely an act of deliberate destruction of cultural property. Perhaps another blatant act of racism, it is an Islamic built bridge and the Croatians were fighting against Muslims. In 2001 the Bosnians decided to rebuild the bridge as similar as possible to the original, using the same technology and materials. The bridge was built with local materials and done with absolute precision. It was reopened in 2004, and is held as a symbol of hope and reconciliation by the residents of Mostar.


After what we learnt today, we can definitely add to our understanding of the conflict and resentments that you can feel still exist between the countries of the former Yugoslavia. After learning about the Dubrovnik siege, the common perspective was that Serbia were the 'bad guys' but learning about Croatia turning on the Bosnians showed us that nothing is ever that simple in war. Bosnia has impressed us, they have faced conditions worse than a nightmare but they are still a friendly and welcoming country.... and the scenery is unbelievable!


Posted by travellinglise 10:51 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina

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