As I made my way around the Balkans I ended up in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The minute I stepped off the bus and started to walk into the city I got an eerie feel walking through many of the buildings which were dilapidated and beginning to be taken over by nature. I would soon learn the reason the buildings looked this way and get a very personal insight into the Bosnia War thanks to the owner of my hostel, Hostel Nina.
I was told my other members staying at the hostel to make sure to do the war tour, which left every other day and was $30 USD. To me that seemed a bit pricey, but I was assured by the other patrons that it was well worth it. The tour started off by taking visitors to an old abandoned military base. The base was kept a secret from the city and was built into the side of a mountain. The government used it to store airplanes and work on upgrading and fixing its current fleet. The base has long been abandoned and looted but the sheer mass of the base was incredible.
After the military base we went off to the Kravice waterfalls and Dervish House which were both incredibly beautiful places. Towards the end of the tour you toke the cars, up a long winding hillside to a spot on the mountain where you could overlook all of Mostar. You were told not to stray too far because landmines from the Bosnian war still scattered the mountainside. This is the spot were the owner of Hostel Nina told us his story.
He was a teenage boy when the Bosnian War began and stayed in a house near the East Side of the city with his mother. The east side of the city is the Muslim side of the city and were many people were forced to move to during the war, it is also the side which saw the heaviest damage. This is the reason for me seeing the buildings still torn up when walking from the bus station, scars from the war that are still healing.
During the talk on top of the mountain we were told how brothers fought brothers, and friends fought friends. We were shown 3 bullet holes in the back of this man sharing his story about how he was shot while out trying to gather food and water for his mother. I have never been so close to a war so recent and personal. This man woke up one day to a war that would last 3 years and see about 70% of civilian causalities be Bosnians.
Finally we went to a building that was covered in graffiti and we had to open up a chain link fence to get access to. It was the old Yugoslavian National Bank building. We climbed the open stairs to the very top of the building were we were able to stand in an old snipers nest. The bank fell on the front lines of the war and you were able to stand in the same spot as a sniper did, with bullet casings still littering the ground around your feet. It was a surreal moment for me. I think it’s important to visit these sites and learn the darker side to history when traveling. It can be hard to listen to, but it’s important to learn from so we don’t repeat it again.