Never Change, Mostar (Unless You Change)

Posted on August 13, 2014


photo (8) Forgive me for sounding like a goit, but when you’ve spent as much time as I have in a place such as Mostar, not much really changes. The old town is still full of people walking at the pace of a particularly lethargic sloth. The sun is still violent as all hell, something that my recently Bohinj-burnt skin can’t really take. That old guy (I really should know his name by now) still hates having his photo taken, the lemonade at Caffe Stari Grad is still amazing, the chap who can’t play guitar still walks around playing guitar, late night drinks by the bridge are still life-affirming and Sarajevsko is still awful.

Despite this, things are actually changing. It is difficult for me to approach Mostar as a tourist, so I still think of it in terms of the old maps I would show to people at Majdas. I had a routine, a process, almost every word of it was rehearsed in some fashion. Heck, they would even be colour coded beautifully. I couldn’t do this map now, because some of the major things have indeed changed.

For one, Majdas is in a completely new location. No longer is it two hostels, far from the bus station. A new, shiny location is nothing more than a five minute walk from the station, with enough space for all and no need for shuttling back and forth. The showers are every bit as good as their reputation implies. The colours remain the same, flags still adorn much of the space, but it most definitely is an upgrade. Just when you worry that things might be getting a little stagnant, change comes. No tour for me this year, but I can only assume it is still most excellent, as well as emotionally and physically exhausting.

Another major part of my map would be an explanation of the former bank that became a mercenary sniper tower during the war. The most abandoned of abandoned buildings, once upon a time one just sauntered in through the (former) door, up the stairs and onto the roof, easy peasy, for what is quite obviously the best views in all of Mostar. The building itself is extraordinarily dangerous though, full of broken glass and gaping holes. In a rare moment of common sense however, safety precautions have actually been put in place. The walls have been heightened and a padlocked gate is now in place of the entrance, making it impossible to just walk in. What isn’t impossible however is climbing in, so a group of backpackers and I were able to clamber over the walls and ascend to the roof. The views don’t change, they are still most excellent.

The Bruce Lee statue has also returned. Originally unveiled in 2005, the very first public monument to the man in the world. it truly is one of the most bizarre spomeniks I have ever come across. The story goes that the people of Mostar squabbled over the right figure for a monument after the war, and Bruce Lee was one of the few things everyone agreed on. Primarily the work of the youth of Mostar, Bruce Lee is supposed to be a symbol against ethnic division. He’s a bastion of liberalism, obviously. Within days of it being erected (Matt Berry voice) however, it had been vandalised, nunchucks stolen, and then the statue itself vanished. Rumours abounded as to why it had disappeared of course, everything from local Croat politicians to Roma people to bears (BEARS, ALWAYS BEARS). I assumed it would be gone forever, so imagine my surprise in finding the statue has returned to the city park, in (almost) all its splendour. I never thought I would see the day.

Squabbles over the statue remain however, with people complaining that it is in a fighting stance aimed in their direction. There is politics in everything here it would seem, even Bruce Lee statues. That will never change. Neither will the hordes of tourists gawping at bridge jumpers. Or the bare-bellied men sitting on the steps of shops with their morning pivo. Or the wonderful bowling staff. Or my Bosnian language skills. Or Mostar being my first love. No map-showing for me no more.