Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

I was very excited as the bus crossed the border into Bosnia and Herzegovina. In fact, I cannot recall being this excited about visiting a country in a long time. This is because Bosnia is somewhat “off the beaten path”.

My first impression of Bosnia was that of lushness. All over the country, mountains and rivers fill the scenery. The setting is so peaceful and serene.

The fist town I decided to visit was Mostar, a city in the south that is famous for its old bridge (Stari Most) that was completely destroyed during the Bosnian War in the 1990s but rebuilt a few years after the war ended in 1995.

All over Mostar, the scars of war were apparent. Numerous buildings had bullet holes on them. Many half-destroyed buildings stood undisturbed. Cemeteries abound. Churches and mosques perished during the conflict. One sight that I will never forget is that of a destroyed department store, with its unique fa├žade of stone figures still standing. Walking through Mostar, I couldn’t believe that the Bosnian War occurred during my lifetime, in the 1990s. I felt like I had witnessed the war when observing the ruins. At the end of this visit, I was very grateful for being born and raised in a peaceful and wealthy country.

My favorite part of the city was the historical Turkish quarter by Stari Most and the Neretva River. There, stone buildings and cobble-stoned paths abound. Shops sell Turkish souk items (e.g., clothing, tea pots) and Turkish dessert. And even Turkish coffee.

One of the highlights was watching the jumping competition off Stari Most. Young men would dive either feet-first or head-first into the river. Some divers performed at an Olympic level, their dives filled with tumbles and flips.

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