I meant to write this post for couple of months now but the whole Bosnia experience seemed to overwhelm me. After writing a guest post for Katie about the remnants of the war in Bosnia & Herzegovina (that took me way too long to finish anyway because at some points it was too much for me to deal with all the awful things that happened there) I was too exhausted to continue with the topic, even if it was (and still is) very vivid in my mind.
Bosnia and Herzegovina was my dream destination for years. Mostar and Sarajevo seemed to be too beautiful to be true! But what I couldn’t see on the pretty pictures before visiting these places were huge post-war scars that were so widely seen in both cities. I just wish I was more prepared for what I was about to see and experience.
Bosnia War in 1990s
I vaguely remember the Balkan war in the 90s, after all I was just a small kid then, war was an abstract thing to me and Balkans seemed to be far, far away! In my head always Sarajevo was the place that struggled the most during the war, after all it was under the siege for 3 years which made it the longest siege in the history after World War II. But I had no idea that Mostar was as well destroyed during the Balkan War and that these days the troublesome past is more seen in that city.
The Old-New Bridge
First thing that comes to everyone’s mind when they think/hear of Mostar is the beautiful old bridge (Stari Most) over the Neretva river. It’s the symbol of the city and even it has the name after it. But the bridge we can admire now is just the reconstruction of the Ottoman bridge that was standing in that place for 427 years. It was connecting the two parts of the city until 9th November 1993 when it was destroyed during the Balkans War. The bridge was re-opened in 2004 and even if it looks exactly the same as it was 20 years ago it’s good to keep in mind what happened back then. I spent the good part of my time in Mostar staring at this wonderful creature almost with tears with my eyes as I can’t even imagine why someone would destroyed something that beautiful, connecting two worlds and two cultures.
Mostar war remnants
The whole area around the Old Bridge is the center of the tourism in Mostar. Most of the restaurants, souvenir shops and museums are there. And of course lots of the people, one tour after another are walking slowly, listening about the history of the place while buying yet another souvenir. But further I went into the city, more remnants of the Mostar war I could see. One of the main streets, the Boulevard, is full of destroyed, collapsing houses or blocks holed with bullets – but all these buildings can be seen only on one side of the road hence it’s easy to notice from which direction the city was attacked. It’s a long, wide streets and I felt kind of scared to walk there, surrounded by these haunted houses, even if it was a lazy, sunny Sunday afternoon so many years after the war.
All over the city, that was under the siege for 9 months, I could spot lots of buildings in ruins or houses full of bullet holes. But the most shocking was a small block of flats that looked like it’s gonna collapse every minute yet in the higher parts there were still people living… I mean, how??? At that point I was really overwhelmed by the Balkans War, it haunted me on every step, with every mortar hole on the street, every memorial tablet showing how many people were killed in that very place, every small sign that just 20 years ago this city was a battlefield. I just couldn’t take it anymore.
Later that day when I was trying to relax in the guest house I was staying in and proceed everything I’ve seen and experienced on that day I’ve noticed the picture on the wall, showing how much this house was destroyed during the Mostar war, it was literally in pieces. The owner, who was more or less in my age, a fun, cheerful guy, told me the stories about the war, how he was frightened then, how his childhood were taken away by the war and when it all finished how much his family was determined to rebuild the house and to have their old life back. It immediately made me thinking what if all of that happened in Poland or what if I was born in the different part of Europe and I’ve realized how lucky I was, even if we didn’t have all that much at least we didn’t have to live in the times of such a brutal war…
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Both my experiences in Mostar and Sarajevo made me fall for Bosnia and Herzegovina even more, put this country on the very top on my favorite places. Even if it was so much different than I expected and surprised me big time, even if it played tricks with my head and I still can’t get over it I loved every single minute I’ve spent there. Not only I could admire the beauty of this country but it also made me fully realize about the cruelty of the war…
Have you been to Bosnia & Herzegovina? Would you like to go?
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If you think of visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it:
- The most tragic city in Europe – Sarajevo history
- Multicultural Sarajevo
- Alternative Sarajevo guide
- and more!
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