Two iconic landmarks in Mostar:
The sniper’s nest and the old bridge.
Destructive and constructive, the contrasts couldn’t stronger and the impact of both is powerful.
The sniper’s nest resides or rather comprises an entire building situated about 1km from the bridge. The ghostly shell of an old bank building, it still stands as one of the tallest structures in the city. Shattered glass, empty shells, and crumbling concrete are found throughout the building. You can make your way up to the 7th or 8th floor via staircase that is seems to be suspended by rusty sinews of iron rods. Each step increased both my anxiety and altitude, until I stopped in my tracks and looked out on the surreal scene unfolding in front of me.
From where I stood I could see Hisako silhouetted against a backdrop of green, rolling hills, and a vibrant turquoise river – all framed by shards of glass. Beneath my feet the glass crunched and shattered and my toe bumped up against some spent ammunition. Below me and spreading out from the building was a beautiful park with fathers, mothers, children, and pets at play. It was hard to imagine such a beautiful setting being caught up in war.
I held a used bullet shell in my hands. I turned it over wondering about its violent and brief history. Wondering. To my left was an empty elevator shaft that ran straight down, 7 stories deep. The doors long gone and a creepy wind howling through its bowels. A shaft of sunlight was streaming in through a hole in the shaft towards the top. Only later did I realize that it was a whole created by an RPG. Everywhere I looked destruction, desperation, and depression.
Before long neither Hisako nor I could take it any longer and we hurried back down the rickety stairs and felt a the emotional weight lift from our shoulders as we stepped into the sunlight and out of the ruined lobby.
We then struck out from the sniper’s nest toward the bridge of Mostar.
An engineering marvel when it was built and another engineering marvel when it was rebuilt, the bridge arcs beautifully across the Neretva river that runs directly through the center of town. Built in the mid 16th century, the bridge stands a steeped in mystery in terms of its construction. But you need only stand on, beneath, or beside it to appreciate the elegant shape. Supposedly the widest man-made arch when it was built, you can find all kinds of other juicy details over on the Stari Most page on Wikipedia.
Our main mission, though, was to try and capture the bridge in the sunlight. Since it was already October and the sunlight coming in at low angles by early afternoon we made our first pass at the bridge around 10 in the morning. Unfortunately, the shadows were just so that the bridge and water below it were not illuminated. Disappointed, but not discouraged, we made our way around town looking at the numerous shops selling trinkets made of bullet shells or small models of the bridge. We found a nice little cafe to enjoy a few relaxing hours whiling away the time and noticed that the shadows were starting to get long again. Hurrying back to the bridge we found, to our great dismay, that the time had flown by and now the shadows were being cast from the other canyon wall. A perfect shot just wasn’t to be had this time around.
Aside from our superfluous failure at capturing the bridge in a good light, we were nevertheless, is a great mood after seeing the bridge. Much like our time in Sarajevo, a ray of hope was shining strongly in the dark history of Mostar and I was glad to have soaked up the rays for just a little bit of time.