Mostar as it was in 1991
Gina and I are moving to Mostar at the beginning of February. It's 80 miles south-west of here, or about two and a half hours by bus. As you can see by the picture, a beautiful green-blue river runs through the middle, and the old city dates back to the 1400s.
Gina took this picture in 1991, when she was a 14-year-old girl travelling Europe with her cousin. When I was 14, I was wearing braces, getting beat up after school, and saving up for a new bicycle. How did I ever wind up with this woman? Anyway, the bridge in the background, designed by Turkish architect Mimar Hairedin in 1566, was blown up in 1993 by some Croats who thought the Bosniacs should stay on the east side of town.
War in Mostar
Lots of people died during those years. Like Selim Demirovic, pictured here. 20 years old. Poor kid. He was a Muslim--that's why he's got the green grave marker. The war started in Mostar in the spring of 1992, with Bosnian Serbs fighting the Bosnian Croats and Muslims. In July 1992, the Serbs were defeated and the Croats declared their own state in the area, intending to hand the region over to Croatia. The Muslims didn't like this idea, so war broke out between the two factions in spring 1993.
Eventually they stopped killing each other and forged an agreement in March 1994. Before the war, the city was pretty much evenly divided among Serbs, Muslims and Croats. Now there's no Serbs, and the Muslims all live on the east side of the river, and the Croats on the less-damaged west side. Each ethnic group is technically free to travel between the sides, but a mental wall exists that is much more of an obstacle than the geographical one.
War is Crazy
This kid was only 16. Sucks to live in Bosnia in 1992.
A German friend of ours who's lived in ex-Yugoslavia for more than a decade and visited Mostar several times during the war told us that it was common knowledge that snipers from both sides got together for coffee during ceasefires. Can you believe it? "Hey Ivan!" comes
the shout from the Muslim side. "Meet for coffee at Sidewinder's?" Rat-a-tat-tat. Pow! "Sounds good, Muhammad," comes the reply from the Croat. Rat-a-tat-tat. "How's 8 o'clock?"
Blow up a bridge, then put it back together
Here's Gina with the west tower of the old bridge in the background. They're actually working on rebuilding the old bridge. Apparently it's a fascinating architectural challenge, and students from around Europe are working on dredging up the pieces from the bottom of the river and putting them back together. War is pretty stupid. Blow it up. 10 years later, put it back together. Then blow something else up. Sounds alot like some of those make-work projects I used to get when I worked at Firstar.
A gorgeous city, besides the whole ethnicity thing
This is the east side of the old city as it looks today. Gina and I have an apartment right on the river on the west side, about a half-hour walk upriver from here. The balcony is great--I can sit and throw rocks into the river and watch the sun set behind the towering mountains. I'll post some pictures once we're moved in and get it all set up.
We're pretty excited about living in Mostar. Racial tensions aside, it's a beautifully architectured city in a gorgeous geographical setting. It's a desert climate--there's even palm trees--and it almost never rains. A steady breeze keeps the air crystal clear, and the proximity to the Adriatic Sea means the temperature is always about 15 degrees (Fahrenheit) warmer than Sarajevo. Rugged, barren mountains line each side of the wide valley, and the swiftly-moving river cuts a jagged gorge through the city. I think we'll like it here.
For further reading on Mostar, try:
City of Mostar - Official Site
Some dude's interesting description of Mostar and the bridge thing
Berzerkistan: Travel Guide to the Balkans
Pavarotti pulls out of War Child