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Mostar – The Old Bridge

The first of my catch-up posts written way back, but just now ready for public consumption (I have a stringent post approval process, as I’m sure you can tell). At least I can add pictures 😉

The (New) Old Bridge

I’m now in Mostar, one of the front lines in the Bosnian/Serbian war of the 90s, and one of the worst hit architecturally.

It was attacked by Serbian and Montenegrin forces in 1992 with an onslaught of heavy bombardment lasting 6 months. In May 1993 (just over 15 years ago, remember) – Bosnian Croat forces within the city attacked the Muslims living there. They were taken from their homes, moved to detention camps, dividing the once united city into two distinct halves.

There is a strong emphasis in Bosnia to never forget, through leaving some destroyed buildings as a monument, to simple plaques alongside rebuilt areas. “Forgive, yes … But never forget” says Bata. It seems a healthy way to be, but undoubtedly a lot easier said than done.

Don't Forget '93

The Old Bridge in Mostar once stood for 500 years, and was visited by people from all over the world throughout its lifetime. It’s the symbol of Mostar, and regular diving traditionally takes place from the highest 21m point into the freezing river below. Everything seems to be built around that single central point which draws the focus of the town.

Once it was gone, everything the bridge had stood for in the city went with it. Christians, Muslims and Jews became divided. After the war, it was replaced with a wooden bridge before being rebuilt to be identical to the old bridge and reopened in 2004. This meant using stone from the same quarry, as well as using the old methods with no modern technology. It’s said that the original Turkish architect fled to the nearby Dervish monastery after it was completed the first time, through fear that it would collapse once the scaffolding was removed. I like to think the same tradition was held to this time around, and if you stay real quiet, and watch very closely – you can still find that man hiding out amongst the pigeons in the caves below.