Revisiting Mostar

After reading Safe Area Gorazde last week, my mind has absently been thinking about Bosnia, which holds a special place in my heart. While researching something else (another post coming soon..) I came across this Josef Koudelka picture from Mostar, which is a city in western Herzegovina that was the site of some of the worst street to street fighting of the Bosnian wars. Notable too because it featured all three of the major ethnic groups, Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), Croats (Bosnian Catholics) and Serbs (Bosnian Orthodox). It was also the site of one of the worst symbolic moments of the war, when a Croatian tank commander (who ironically was a theater director, I’ve been told) directed his cannon at the Stari Most bridge, which spans the mythical Neretva river in the center of the Turkish quarter. It destroyed a cultural landmark and point of pride for all Bosnians that was built in 16th Century.
(c) Josef Koudelka, Magnum. Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1994.
Due to the symbolic significance of this bridge, and its new status as an UNESCO World Heritage site, it was amongst the first historic structures rebuilt following the war, at an estimated cost of 12million Euros. Koudelka returned in 2005 and took this picture:
(c) Josef Koudelka, Magnum. Mostar, BiH, 2005.
I was in Mostar for a week in 2007. It is an amazing place, and that bridge is an amazing sight. It is known for the Mostari, who perform for tourists by leaping from the 20m tall span into the swift, shallow and disturbingly cold river. And a youtube video of their jumps at the annual Mostari festival. People die every year doing this, I’ll add…