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Humans are unfortunately very impressionable creatures and from an American point of view images of war and terror spring to mind when I hear the word Bosnia, even though the conflict that defined the Balkans has been over for more than 20 years. Stops in Croatia reaffirmed my love of that country and a day spent in Montenegro introduced me to a new country, one I quickly grew to like.
Bosnia was a little bit different and I was excited to visit for the first time on a day-long excursion offered when the Viking Star docked in Dubrovnik. The goal of the day was to visit the UNESCO protected city of Mostar and its famous bridge, but the day ended up being about so much more than that. Bosnia and Herzegovina, like its neighboring countries, was part of the former Yugoslavia, the dissolution of which in the early s led to the eruption of Balkan wars, creating all of those aforementioned images that are still seared on our collective memories.
As I saw throughout the day I spent there, those divisions are still very much alive. Mostar is one of the most popular tourist spots in Bosnia, mostly because of a single bridge. But Mostar has always been known for its bridges, the word Mostar actually means bridge keepers.
Sitting along a key trading route, the town flourished in the medieval ages while under Ottoman rule. It was during this time of Turkish control when the old wooden bridge spanning the Neretva River was replaced with a stone one, what later became known as the Old Bridge. The most impressive bridge of its era, the Old Bridge stood for years until it was destroyed in during the Croat—Bosniak War.
It has since been rebuilt and it was to see that new version, as well as the city surrounding it, that brought me to Mostar on a sunny autumn morning. Buildings in various states of ruin and bullet holes still marked the facades of apartment buildings. Mostar was especially hard hit during the wars, almost completely destroyed in fact, and walking around town you can see this destruction almost everywhere. That shocked me, to be honest. Visiting other countries in the region that also saw harsh times during the conflicts, I expected Mostar to have rebuilt just as they had.