Visegrad and beyond : Bridges and Divisions
Visegrad Travel Blog› entry 192 of 268 › view all entries
That Was Yesterday
āIād like to buy a ticket for ViÅ”egrad please.ā. āNo. No ViÅ”egradā.
āSorry, what I mean is, could I have a ticket for the bus to ViÅ”egrad for tomorrow?ā.
āNo. ViÅ”egrad. No bus.ā Hmm, Iām not getting through here. I donāt think itās getting completely lost in translation. āTo ViÅ”egrad, you are saying there is no bus?ā. āNo!ā. As in, āyes, there is no bus to ViÅ”egradā I presume. āThatās very strangeā I say as I am at the main bus station (Autobus Stanica) of Sarajevo the nationās capital, āSo how do the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina get to ViÅ”egrad? It is a major town yes?ā.
As For Today
Sat on said bus I muse. Juan was able to shed some light after a conversation with his Bosnian mother on the subject of my surly reception at Sarajevo Main Bus Station yesterday. ViÅ”egrad is part of the predominantly Eastern territories of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) considered to be and included within the Republika Srpska, the Serbo Croat ethnic domains of BiH. Whilst BiH is of course a technically unified nation, prior to and following the inter-communal war of the 1990s, division along ethnic (and therein religious) lines remains pronounced if off the very weak radars of most visitors and tourists such as myself. Republika Srpska and its eastern districts of Sarajevo even unbeknownst to Juanās mother before her investigations last night exists in a situation of reciprocal non-recognition for any practical purposes with predominantly Bosniak (Muslim majority) Bosnia, and Sarajevoās chief administration.
āStuffā that finds me in GoraÅ¾de early(ish) today. Itās okay, todayās about minor literary pilgrimages anyway so I am happy to be, if in ever such a fleeting and unmeaningful manner in GoraÅ¾de for a while, it being the town whose sufferings during the 1990s conflict form the focal point of the superbly gritty creative labour of love and sympathy āSafe Area GoraÅ¾deā by the Maltese-American ācomic journalistā Joe Sacco.
āOkay, could I please buy a ticket to ViÅ”egrad ?ā. āNo. No ViÅ”egradā. F**k me, this is getting to be an all too familiar refrain. āYou mean there are no buses from here to ViÅ”egrad?!ā. āNo. No bus ViÅ”egradā. What the f**k! āBut the people at the Autobus Stanica Sarajevo told me to come here to get to ViÅ”egrad!ā. āSarajevo to ViÅ”egrad, yes. GoraÅ¾de to ViÅ”egrad, noā. āBut Iāve just come from Sarajevo!!! So how do I get to ViÅ”egrad now?!!ā. āSarajevoā. āWell, Iām not frickinā going back to Sarajevo.
The man from GoraÅ¾de bus station makes a harassed looking phone call āblah blah blah ViÅ”egradā¦ blah blah blah Inglaiseā¦ blah blah blah Inglaise ViÅ”egrad etcā¦ā. He hangs up. āItās okay, my friend here help youā. A man appears and whilst Iām tensing up sensing an expensive taxi ride or a tourism-tout f**king (not that there is tourism in GoraÅ¾de), instead he walks me 100 yards down the road, points to a patch of the pavement and scribbles on a snatch of paper ā11.
So finally, here I am.
It is fabulous to see the bridge now stretched across the deep, deep emerald green of the powerful Drina now before me. Something that previously only existed as black ink on paper for me, although evocatively so. Its eleven white arches, two falling on an embankment and the other nine into the waters reach out before me.
In brief overview, the history of the bridge stems from the relations of the region with the incursions of the Ottoman Empire. Under Turkish rule Serbian children would be kidnapped; abducted by force and taken to Turkey where they would be converted to Islam and sent to train in elite Turkish military schools to serve the Empire. This was also the fate of Bajica Sokolovic a boy from the region of ViÅ”egrad who when he later returned to the region as Mahmet Pasha Sokoli, one of the most powerful men in the Turkish empire, he ordered that the bridge over the Drina be constructed. His commission coming in 1571. The architect was one Mimar Sinan. Its construction and history are steeped in bloody and sometimes amusing anecdote and given lack of space within this blog, I can only direct you to Andricās masterpiece for more.
After exploring all angles Iāve decided to spend just a whole day in ViÅ”egrad with my bags for company and to crash on through to Belgrade on a fantastically convenient night bus that Iām told will run into town later on. So plenty of time just to stroll around the few sights of this slumbersome little town, most of which have too early closing times (The Ivo Andric school room and Ivo Andric Memorial Library). Mostly I sit in the glorious sun and read.
I of course spend plenty of time just sitting and thinking on the bridges stone Capia watching the waters flow far, far below. Incredible to think that following a devastating flood in 1896 when the waters of the Drina rose to an unthinkable 1.6 metres above the level of the bridge, whilst ViÅ”egrad was to all intents and purposes completely annihilated, the bridge stood firm.
It appears well used with age now, of course. The mortar between its many dirty, time worn blocks seeming to consist entirely now of small green and white clover like blossoms, and around the Capia, discreetly stuffed cigarette butts discarded by ViÅ”egradās youth, who seem, come evening anyway to be the Capiaās main visitors these days. Looking down from the Capia, a small, inexplicable slit-window opening seemingly of no function but leading towards a chamber - if my poor memory serves - wherein the children of Andricās ViÅ”egrad are led to believe a poor woman (I think?) is bricked in during the construction of the bridge.
Night has fallen now and much to the amusement of locals whoāve passed by a number of times and the little local guy who befriends me, Vlad, I am still here.
ā¦ as the marvellously helpful man at the tiny ViÅ”egrad Tourist Information Office had assured me that at 23.