As we wound through the mountainous roads leaving Bosnia and heading into Herzegovina, I found myself grateful for the window seat I chose. Engulfed by mountains and mesmerized by a turquoise blue water I have never seen before, I felt relief from a week that weighed heavy upon me. Mountains and water have that truly awesome effect, transforming anxiety and worry into a deep appreciation for what’s directly before me. My thoughts were overshadowed by an awe I didn’t want to lose or escape. It’s fitting that as I write this my background song is Rivers and Roads, a song about change, the ways things were, what they may become, and a faith that rivers and roads will lead us down meaningful paths.
And as we approached Mostar and began our walking tour of the city, there was both a deep sorrow and deep respect for a city that endured so much during the war yet found a way to transform and share its beauty and resilience. Many buildings wore the scars of intensive shelling and looked as if they had been ruined long ago. And at its center, Stari Most, the Old Bridge constructed by the Ottomans. It stood for 427 years before its destruction in 1993, an act that transcended physical destruction and assaulted the sociocultural fabric that supported harmony and diversity. The bridge was reconstructed in the late 1990s and it’s undoubtedly a symbol of both the pain and hope of a city and its people.
With the Neretva River at our feet and the bridge high above, we had the perfect view of a high diver who plunged from the bridge into the icy turquoise water. We sat for a long time on the river’s banks and repeatedly made comments about Mostar’s beauty. At the end of the day though, there’s still a pervasive disbelief. How do you reconcile the beauty and the sorrow? Walking down one of Mostar’s roads I discovered a sign: Don’t Forget. I think there’s power and potential in knowing about a place’s truth, whether it’s understood readily or not. Mostar is both beauty and sorrow; together, they make it what it is today and will influence what it becomes tomorrow.