Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Day 23 (Bosnia-Herzegovina): rest day in Mostar

today’s distance: 0km
total distance: 2134km
riding time: 0h

You wake up in the city of Mostar … to a rooster doing its thing. That would be fine, but the rooester didn’t sound like what you imagine a rooster to be (and of course it woke me up way too early). The image in my mind wasn’t one of a proud and strong rooster, but of a scrawny and weak one. And it kept going at it for a long time, so there was some endurance at least.

What a day … it is hard to put it into words and I’m sure I won’t do justice to it. I pretty much roamed about where my feet would drag me. The city is an interesting conglomeration of buildings and has been torn apart by the civil war. No lecture intended, but here is the gist: after defeating the Serb forces together, the Croats and the Bosniaks (Muslims) fought each other in the city they had been living in peacefully for hundreds of years. The frontline went right through the city and there are still a large number of visible scars remaining after more than 12 years.

It is just hard to fathom what happened and while I have been involved with the issue for quite some time, it was still a different issue to stand in a city that had been almost entirely demolished at one point.


I eventually made my way past an open air market and a number of mosques, squares to a museum depicting what Mostar had been like during the years prior to the war.


The movie was extremely powerful and moving. It frames the history of the city around the old brige, which had been a symbol for the city for centuries. Kids had been diving from the bridge into the cold water for centuries and all of this went on even during the war. The bridge was destroyed during the war through grenade fire from the surrounding hills. What struck me was the fact that this was actually banned on film in such a clear fashion. Several accounts surfaced, one being that it was pure chance (hard to believe given that the war went on for years), another that he was informed of the attempt to shoot the bridge for good, the third that he paid money for it (hard to believe also, but in the realm of the possible). Eventually the bridge was rebuilt with again the divers playing a major role in the celebrations.

I went to the bridge to meet up with Milos, a couchsurfing host who had offered a bit too late to host me (my mistake for getting in touch with him so late) and when he texted me that he would be late a bit, I started talking to the jumpers and divers who were wooing people to pay them to jump off the bridge. It was an intersting conversation complete with a short tour of the inside of the old bridge (Milos figured that he had been living here for most of his life (except for the time of war) and still hadn’t been led down there. Dzenan, one of the divers told me about the dangers of jumping, of the oldest person who has jumped off (about 65 years), only to spend a couple of days in the hospital. And about the competition that takes place on the last Sunday in July, attracting participants from all over former Yugoslavia and even beyond. Out of tradition, the jumpers even carried on this tradition during the war he said and it was clear that he felt proud to be a member of a small group of people (roughly 10 people) that jump from the bridge consistently.

Coffee with Milos was great. We talked over coffee about this and that, idenity in tihs somewhat strange political entity and how it feels for him as an ethnic Serb to be living in this city. The good thing is that it doesn’t seem to matter much any longer. Sure, there are signs of anymosity around (and actually quite visible I thought - such as the “my cross on the hill is bigger than all of your mosques combined” which to me looked placed just right to annoy people who happen not to be Christians; there may well be another explanation though).

It was a great pleasure to talk with Milos - thanks for taking the time on a busy day and I hope that all goes well with your job plans.

Milos suggested that I walk to the Partisans’ Monument while in Mostar. This I did. It is an eerie place with at least one shady person (not the guy in the picture), but well worth visiting. It is Communist architecture galore. To me it felt like a gigantomanic nondescript piece of architecture, an amalgamam of shapes that didn’t really seem to have anything in common. A strange, but somehow fascinating place. Maybe that’s what it was designed to be.

On the way back to the city, I encountered these guys playing their daily round of boccia. They seemed to have tons of fun.

And of course this would not be complete without a picture of the bridge in all its glory.


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