Mostar (Side 1) : Bullet Holes and Lace
Mostar Travel Blog› entry 189 of 268 › view all entries
[Okay Iâ€™m gonna kinda split my observations of Mostar into two â€™Sidesâ€™, a loose division between observations of destruction and reconstruction so fear not if todayâ€™s entry revels a little too much in the grimmer reminders of conflict. ]
Iâ€™m trying to think if I have ever seen a bullet hole before. Itâ€™s one of those things you think that by the age of 30 you might well have done. But then, having grown up in middle class England why would I have? Nope I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve ever seen them before. Not like this anyway. 15 years on from the worst of the fighting here in Mostar and the bullet holes are still in full bloom and itâ€™s a challenging, oddly hypnotic sight for the uninitiated to confront.
As we roll into town along the main Marsala Tita road from Dubrovnik the houses are peppered and pitted with them. At first, travelling along at speed it just looks like some kind of mossy growth upon the building fronts. A fungal bloom of dull grey-brown blotches running up the sides and around the windows and guttering of often abandoned homes. But no, these are signs of a much more modern decay. As these grey-eyed wounds collect and spiral and strafe across the cracked plaster faces of once fine buildings, the sad parade of crippled structures is only briefly interrupted as a large cemetery of shining white stone markers opens up and flashes past. Yes, there are two things completely pristine in Mostar.
Into the heart of town now and I am beginning to be amazed at the extent of the visible devastation that still exists so many years after the conflict ended. Old stone building after building frowns down upon you with their glass eyes completely put out. No more now than large stone sarcophagi enclosing their tumbledown innards of burnt timbers, broken glass, broken hearts, bricks and tiles and the occasional warning not to enter. â€™ATTENTION! Dangerous ruin.â€™ Large tree boughs reach out of shattered walls and cracked, burnt wooden window frames. Bursting the seams of all these pitiful scenes. Grown too big for the limitations of human confines already.
I leave Miro of the Miran Guesthouse and fellow guests wilting in the shade, taking cover from the phenomenally hot sunshine (45 degrees is mentioned although not necessarily true) to break out into the light and the town and have the first of my meandering strolls.
Stari Most stands now as the brightest symbol of Mostarâ€™s regeneration having been the most prominent and poignant victim of the intense fighting in the town in 1993, when after having stood proud for nearly 450 years it was blown up and crumbled into the deep cold waters of the Neretva to be reconstructed in the years since.
Itâ€™s a funny process trying to get to know and understand a destination when you have no frame of reference, little or no prior knowledge and no resources to give you pointers and fill in the blanks. A lot of the time I quite like this as you are left to try to piece together at least one idea; your own idea of a cityâ€™s identity in your own time and in your own way. Journey making as puzzle making. You see many pieces of the puzzle strewn about you. A community with a past, a present and a future is composed of an infinitely expanding number of these pieces. A never ending puzzle without edges. Without a static picture on a box to guide you towards one finished immobile image of what the town â€˜isâ€™, or looks like, or will look like in finality.
So you have to make the best incomplete picture you can with the pieces you sift through with your eyes and pick up on the way. See what stories you find. Mostly just the story of destruction here. Make some stories up to please your own imagination. A form of reconstruction. Appraisals of architecture, old and occasionally new. Much that is broken. Some that is not. Faded shop signs. Old dusty products within. Broken windows with old pop concert and political fly posters torn upon them layer by layer. Empty businesses not even far from the cityâ€™s heart. Broken masonry. Half torn down structures, particularly to the East of the city centre. Buildings so pitted with bullet holes that they seem more hole than whole if you follow my meaning.
So many of the buildings have been re-inhabited by Nature, and so quickly. The arms of trees reach up through the many broken walls and openings afforded by long absent window panes and their fine green heads of leafy hair blooming far up through the spaces where ceilings once lay.
One window caught in the sunlight as I walk again along Marsala Tita particularly grabs my attention.
I take note of the prevalent graffiti too to see what this might teach me after the event of my visit.
In reality, now having looked into these â€˜tribal hieroglyphsâ€™ a little more on the World Wide Wonder Web it turns out I wasnâ€™t so far from the truth in this reading. They in fact represent supporter groups of the townâ€™s two main football clubs, which are broadly speaking divided along ethnic lines. The â€˜Ultrasâ€™ or â€˜Ultras Mostarâ€™ are the somewhat extreme (to the right), and almost exclusively Croat wing of the support for HÅ K Zrinjski Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovinaâ€™s oldest team (founded 1905) whom were banned between the years 1945 to 1992 under the auspices of the Yugoslavian Communist government who did not permit institutions possessive of nationalist names or symbols.* The â€˜Red Armyâ€™ are the supporters of VeleÅ¾ Mostar who are mainly supported by the predominantly (although not exclusively) Muslim Bosniaks.
But my attentions are of course not exclusively taken up with the aesthetics of destruction that Mostar presents. Though I cannot deny the fascination of the uninitiated during my stay. Mostar to me is a beautiful, survivor town with a great pulsing community heart, albeit a heart with chambers that continue to beat out of rhythm with one another. Aside from my strolls I spend much time sat by the waters of the Neretva looking up at the â€˜newâ€™ Stari Most. All life in this town, and there is so much of it, revolves around its famous Bridge and the river it spans and I canâ€™t wait to tell you about it.
[ Turn over to Side 2 --> ]
* Wikipedia and www.ultras-zrinjski.net