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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bridge over Troubled Water

On our way back from Mljet to Lazarevts this summer we decided to cross Bosnia and Herzegovina and stop in Mostar and Sarajevo. I've been to Sarajevo several times both in winter to eat chevapi and in summer to contemplate Muslim architecture.

However, Mostar had always attracted me somehow: because of the beautiful name (keepers of the bridge), the story of the old bridge and the blue waters of Neretva whose delta I had seen some years ago at the Adriatic Sea.

And here we are, it's July, it's noon, it's hot but we dragged the kids for a stroll in old Mostar and a coffee on the old main street (carsija).

And here is the elegant silhouette of the bridge built by a student of architecture in 1566 when Mostar was in the Ottoman Empire. The literature says that it's a 'single span, stone arch bridge', 4m. wide and 30m. long.

Old bridge seen from carsija, Mostar

The bridge is actually quite steep and slippery. It really feel like climbing rather than simply crossing a river. No way to photograph the bridge without people.

It's steep, isn't it?

The mountains around Mostar look barren and unwelcoming and that is why the bridge, the river, the old street feel even cosier.

Naked mountain over Mostar

On both side of the bridge there is a typical shopping street seen in towns of the Ottoman Empire - carsija. It's the middle age Ottoman equivalent of the commercial streets of Western Europe nowadays. It's full of handicrafts, small art galleries and cute cafes where you can sit on the ground and drink Turkish coffee.

The old town of Mostar seen from the bridge

That's a part of the shopping street. I don't think pink was a common colour but...

A dukjan (shop) on the carsija (main street)

That's another view point to the old carsija and you can see the mosques, the old white towers and the stone roofs of the houses.

Carsija from above, Mostar

All this was not so fun in 1993 when the Croatian forces started deliberately targeting the bridge. Mostar is the main town of Herzegovina with a big Croatian minority and that's why Croatia had some territorial ambitions. By destroying the bridge they wanted to sever the Croatian part of town from the Muslim one. The construction was slowly eroded in spring and in summer until finally on 9 September, 1993 several artillery shots brought it down after 427 years. There is a museum with all the photos of the collapse and it is rather heart breaking. Just imagine what was in the head of the guy who pressed the trigger....

I searched you tube to embed a clip here but the only one I found with the original shots were edited by a Croatian nationalist group trying to prove that in fact the bridge was destroyed by Muslims. Obviously there is a conspiracy theory about that as well.


Michael Logan said...

Why didn't you jump off the bridge, you big scaredy cat? They were still rebuilding it when we lived in Bosnia, so I never had the chance.

Ruslan said...


This is a HIGH bridge - 21m. And the river is actually not deep at all. I think these guys are real professionals. Next time we go together, you jump and I'll give you 5 EUR, ok?

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

What a pity that the original bridge was lost. The town looks beautiful. I hope the two communities are now rebuilding the bridges to each other.