I don't know how to put into words what I experienced in Mostar today.
The city is an absolutely stunning place tucked away in the mountains. The river that flows through the city is unbelievably turquoise. We ate lunch on the bank near the Old Bridge and watched gutsy men collect money and jump into the river (a 20 m drop). The call to prayer echoed over the city twice while we were wandering around. We spent the afternoon shopping, eating ice cream, and learning about Mostar from our guide.
Alma, our guide, taught us a lot about the city itself but also shared her experience of the recent war. Mostar was named after the "gate keepers" that guarded the Stari Most Bridge, also known as the Old Bridge. The bridge is an iconic structure that is packed with tourists during the summer season. Alma explained that some backpackers travel to Mostar and train to jump off the bridge...which is definitely something I would not have courage to do!
Mostar was full of tourists and, if you weren't familiar with the city's past, it would be difficult to picture what the place looked like just 25 years ago. Most of the city was reconstructed in the early 2000's, including the Old Bridge, which was destroyed in 1993.
Throughout our tour, Alma shared her story about living in Mostar during the war. She described what it was like to fight for survival while nearly 10,000 men were sent to concentration camps. She explained how much she has changed because of the experience.
Being in Mostar felt different than any other city we have traveled to this semester. I think the reason for that was learning Alma's story on the grounds where it all happened so recently. We met her son, who owns a cultural coffee shop near the Old Bridge. He was around 5 years old during the peak of the war.
The part of the day that resonated with me the most was looking at the war photos in the Ethnic Museum. They were all dated between 1992-1994, again reminding me that this all happened just three years before I was born.
It was chilling to be in a place that experienced chaos so recently, but now has countless tourist casually eating ice cream while seeing the sights.