La version française est en cours de traduction. Merci de votre patience.
Our introduction into the harsh reality of Mostar is immediate. I might even call it abrupt!
The highway we used so innocently the day before, turns out to mark a division between two territories. East for Bosniaks, West for Croats. Bata took the time to make sure we understood that both are Bosnians. The Croat side is rich; fewer ruins; several modern shopping centers and hotels. Even a McDonald’s. Bata drives us back and forth between the two and gives us an overview of both sides; several important buildings that were destroyed and the secrets they hold. The City Bath with its Olympic size swimming pool where Bosniaks have to wait months for a ½ hour training session.
The Music School with its new 2MIO euros façade and rotten interiors. The ghost of a shopping center with its impressive bas-relief motifs inspired by Bosnia’s early mythology: it lost its eight floors of apartments to a bomb. The 25000 seat Croat-controlled Stadium where the Bosniak team is not allowed. The street plaques painted over and renamed with Croatian names (thus rendering our map unusable). The University where the language of admission is Croatian. The high school, used as an example of children being educated together when in fact, Bosniaks and Croats are kept apart. The elderly who are reduced to dumpster-diving to augment their meager pensions. The city parks which, except for two, were all turned into cemeteries. I went back the next day: without fail the tumbstones bear the same death year. The Promenade where young single people would parade and try to find a mate. As Bata’s story goes, the men were so busy acting like peacocks that the women all left and got married elsewhere, thus leaving a slew of older single guys behind – they’re still on the promenade today, sipping their beer in hopes of finding the right woman. We saw them!
The information doesn’t just rain on us. It’s a deluge. It is not organized like a nice history book. Clean and unemotional. Architecture and historical information are mixed with painful details of the on-going consequences of war in every-day life for Bosnians. Nothing one will ever read in a guidebook.
A couple of hours later, it’s time for an abrupt change of pace! Bata jumps on the main road and heads out of town at the speed of light. He is taking us to the Kravice Waterfalls. As we get out of Bella, he says now we rest, we don’t speak about history anymore. We relax. Have fun. Swim. Eat. Drink.
The break is welcome. For him as well as for us. Bata gives it all he’s got. He must be exhausted. Personally at that moment I am thinking that the ten-hour tour is just a name … who would ever really do that? It’s crazy. So I’m preparing myself for the inevitable: the return to Mostar after the Falls. Wrong – woman of little faith. I really didn’t know or understand the Bata phenomenon!
There is as much to come as we have already experienced …