When I think of Mostar, I think about the beautiful mosques, the awesome bridge, the icy-cold river and the amazing people I met there.
But a towering and decaying menace stands horridly high above the decrepit buildings below. It’s dubbed “sniper nest tower” by the locals.
This old shell of concrete was destined to be a bank, before it was taken over by the nationalists in the war and used as a sniper point to shoot at those below. As it is the highest building around, they held the city under siege for two years, firing indiscriminately. This ethnic cleansing has mostly been brushed under the dust of the fallen buildings. But people wanted this city, and wanted the Bosnian Muslims, to go. The UN even denied them weapons to defend themselves.
It is easy from here to acknowledge that whoever controls this tower, controls the city.
The ground floors are covered in artwork, most with strong political or anti-war messages.
Ascending, the place got eerier.
Above you can see the main church on the Croat side, and a cross above the hill. On the other side of the city lies no fewer than 13 mosques. From every point in the city you can see the cross, even when you are surrounded by Muslims and mosques. At night—continually illuminated by huge, bright lights—it appears to float in the darkness above the black hill. I can’t help but think this slightly selfish and tasteless advertisement of religion would be better removed.
Many people believe that the government overseeing Mostar—largely Croatian—invests more in the Croatian side. But to me, both sides look dilapidated.
I find it strange that three religious groups—Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox Christians—lived here together for so long—hundreds of years—peacefully, and suddenly ended up fighting each other. I can say pretty confidently that nobody fully understands the troubles of Mostar. The town is roughly split by a river, separating the Croats and the Bosnians, dividing Muslims and Christians, and buildings largely destroyed by war nestled amongst new developments. I heard even the children are separated in the high school. What message is that sending to the new generation? It’s a real shame that the war has somehow divided this once united community.
It’s not difficult to see the effects of war here. There are literally war-damaged buildings everywhere you look. And the buildings here, in some way, are quite representative of the people. The old bearing the irremovable scars of war: silently broadcasting history. The young freshly standing amongst them with their different colours and purposes: reminding us to accept what has happened and not to worry about who’s who, and what’s what.
Reminding us, like in Mostar, the lines dividing us are purely imaginary.