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Thursday, 19 October 2006

Mostar, Bosnia - Page 2

Written by Bradley Fink
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When a place lends itself to the leisure of other people it generally becomes a haven for the lewd and the superficial. I am now in the fifteenth month of a backpacking journey that has taken me to some of the less contemporary parts of the world. In speaking with people and seeing their ways, I have found that culture is what makes a country endearing, and that a culture exploited is something lamentable. A place that panders to tourism is simply a place without a soul.

 

The course of the Neretva as it winds through Mostar makes for an impressive landscape. Known to be of the purest and coldest in the world, it is certainly some of the most beautiful blue water I have ever seen. During the day, we lay by the river and napped in the shade. It was a pleasant afternoon: we had a quick swim and then went to the old town to sit and watch the people coming in from Sarajevo.river

 

Over the weekend there would be an influx of Bosnians from the city, coming to fill the pensions and cafes, and there would be music and dancing in the streets until the late hours of the morning. At sundown we showered and dressed and walked into the old town for dinner. It was a pretty night, the streets were dimly lit by lampposts, and the restaurant terraces along the river had filled up for the evening.

For only eleven Marks (about 6 dollars) each, we ate a big meal of fish and pasta at a little place called Cista Voda. It was the best meal we had had in awhile. As we talked, a young Bosnian man at the next table overheard our conversation. His name was Jusuf, and in perfect English he told us that he had just recently returned from Wisconsin – where he’d gone at the age if sixteen to escape the war. Talking with us – he was candid about the things that had happened there. He showed us his forearm with a Muslim tattoo, and told us about the war.

 

don't forgetHe explained how the Serbian army under Milosovic had invaded, setting up "camps" and taking Sarajevo, and how the Croats, after coming to help fight off the invasion, had then turned to take the capitol for themselves, and how the region erupted into bloodshed while the United Nations stood by to let the whole thing pass. When the war ended in 1995 over one hundred thousand people had died, and Mostar had been left in ruins. Changing the subject, I mentioned to Jusuf how incredibly beautiful the Bosnian women are. He smiled and said they are the most beautiful in Europe, stating it as if it was fact, and how because of what happened, there are now seven women for every Bosnian man. It must have been a very ugly war.

Leaving Jusuf, we walked through the town. On the old main street there was a cave that had once been a meeting place for ancient Muslim's which was renovated into a nightclub. We had a drink there and talked to some people before crossing over the bridge to the other side of town. In the narrow streets there was a celebration with drums playing and people dancing, while others sat clapping. For a short while we joined the crowd, watching the musicians play, dancing and singing, until nine o'clock when our train took us on into Sarajevo.

 

houseRegretfully, we said farewell to a few acquaintances and made our way to the station. As we left, I was saddened by the thought that I might not ever return there. There is a stirring sentimentality about Mostar, and there is a heartening, upbeat enthusiasm amongst the Bosnians, perhaps for the life that they are now free to live. There appears to be a certain amount of optimism for their future.

Recently, the old bridge has been inscribed to UNESCO's World Heritage

List for its protection and preservation as a significant cultural monument. The Bosnian people have taken a great deal of pride in this as an affirmation of their cultural stature. They are passionate people, and proud of their country. As the defamation from the war fades, I am certain that more travelers will be venturing there as freely as they do into Hungary and the Czech Republic. In visiting Mostar, one will experience a true Bosnia-Herzegovina, and gain an understanding of its vivid history.

city

Details: For accommodations I would recommend a private apartment, which can

found for about $10/night U.S. by inquiring at the tourist information

center. They will contact several residents who let very nice, fully

furnished and rooms in their homes.

For restaurants I recommend the old town all along the river. There are

terraces overlooking the bridge, good food everywhere around the old

bridge, its all very easy to find.

To visit, just walk through the old town, its not very big and you

can't miss a thing. If continuing on to Sarajevo, take the train, its

a comfortable three hour ride and the scenery is spectacular.

©Bradley Fink

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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