Weaving slowly through the tombstones, Alen explained, "In those years, night was the time when we lived. We didn't walk...we ran. And we dressed in black. There was no electricity. If the Croats didn't kill us with their bullets, they killed us with their music.” That politically charged, rabble-rousing Croatian pop music, used — apparently effectively — as a kind of psychological torture, was blasting constantly from the Croat side of town.
As we wandered through town, the sectarian symbolism of the conflict was powerful. Ten minarets pierced Mostar's skyline like proud Muslim exclamation points. Across the river, twice as high as the tallest minaret, stood the Croats' new Catholic church spire. Standing on the reconstructed Old Bridge, I looked at the hilltop high above the town, with its single, bold, and strongly floodlit cross. Alen said, "We Muslims believe that cross marks the spot from where they shelled this bridge. They built it there, and floodlight it each night...like a celebration."
The next day, I popped into a small theater where 30 Slovenes (from a part of the former Yugoslavia that avoided the terrible destruction of the war) were watching a short film about the Old Bridge, its destruction, and its rebuilding. The persistent shelling of the venerable bridge, so rich in symbolism, seemed to go on and on. The Slovenes knew the story well. But when the video reached the moment the bridge finally fell, I heard a sad collective gasp. It reminded me of how Americans feel, even well after 9/11, when watching video of the World Trade Center disappearing into a column of ash. It helped me, if not feel, at least appreciate another country's pain.
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You are reading "Dark Times and a New Cemetery", an entry posted on 06 July 2009 by Rick Steves.