"When you spend a night in Mostar, it is not the sound that wakes you up in the morning, but the light." Ivo Andric
I am sitting under a mosque waiting for the prayer to end. I am recalling a tour I went on yesterday with a very unique tour guide named Bata. The tour started at 11am and didn´t finish until 12 at night. The first part of the tour was visiting the historical city of Pocitelj, which was a tiny village destroyed by the war and rebuilt by its citizens. The remains of a fortress stood in the center of the village. Bata told us to be like children and run around and climb it. The fortress was steep and on unsteady ground and rather unsafe we still (with caution) followed his command. After climbing the fortress, I was famished, it was only noon by the time and we weren´t going to relax with Bata the guide.
We were Bata`s sheep and he was our shephard. OUr shephard had lived through a war and saw much more devastation than most people living in this century. He was a risk taker and was relaxed about leading his sheep into what I would percieve as dangerous sitauation. We walked down to Mostar`s secluded waterfalls and went swimming in the ice cold water. The water was exceptionally cold, my lips turned blue instantly and there were water snakes swimming in the mossy water beneath us.
A girl named Chrissy and I instantly partnered up. She just got back from Africa and was continuing her journey for as long as her money lasted. We climbed up the slippery falls to admire the view. I never thought I would ever be swimming in waterfalls in Mostar, but what an experience it was. We met up with the group and went onto the next sight, which was a small pond with a rope swing where we swang up about thirty feet and let go. I was told that I screamed on the way down.
We hiked through the high grass along a barely visible path. The area we were in was basically a forest and it was raining hard. Soaking wet and cold and in nothing but a bikini really made me start to resent Bata as a tour guide. That was the least of my worries, I was afraid that there were land mines around, but instinctually I trusted Bata. Bata was jolly goofy man in his late thirties. He told jokes that were hit or miss. His only rule was that we couldn`t ask any questions and he continously convinced us we were on an adventure and were there to have fun. I wasn´t going to give up.
Our next stop was a 50ft cliff where we were expected to jump into the babbling water below. I debated whether to do it or not. The Austrailians and Kiwis jumped with no problem while the Europeans and I sat back in fear. I got so close, but couldn´t pull myself to taking the leap. I ended up climbing down the rocky falls unto our next challenge of walking underneath heavily flowing waterfalls. If you`ve never been under waterfalls before I greatly recommend it. The sensation is unreal. I felt as though the world was a mirror and somehow I walked through to the otherside.
We hiked back soaking wet and numb. I got tea and hoped my fingers would regain their sensation, but unfortunately it took several hours until that happened.
The next sight was Apparitian Mountain, where in recent legend four school-aged boys saw an image of the Virgin Mary. The town was covered with tourist shops selling plastic icons of the Saint. No one out of our group had any sightings so we left for dinner.
It was already 10:30pm and I hadn´t eaten anything since 8am. My dinner of two sauteed trouts with their heads still on was well worth the wait. For dessert I split baklava with Chrissy. I could taste the rosewater and honey. It was incredibly sticky sweet.
After dinner we went to a mosque set inside a natural cave. It looked like it was striaght out of a fairy tale. You could hear the bats echoing in the distance. Bata told us the history of the mosque and how they would employ the poor by giving them jobs of preparing food for the keepers of the mosques. They did this for many centuries. The mosque always had a hand in helping out whomever needed help no matter what religion or race.
I took off my shoes and noticed my feet were stained from my black shoes. The men working at the mosque gave me sandals to wear and wrapped my head in a floral scented berka. It felt soft on against my skin.
We walked throughout the mosque. This one was different than the ones I had been in before. It was more traditional decorated with wood carved designs in the wall and handcrafted Bosnian rugs. Bata told us the reason he does the tour is for theraputic reasons. After the war Bata fled Mostar to Sweden where he lived for about 15 years. He explained that it was a necessity to his mental state to leave for so long. He believed by sharing his story and the story of the war would help open up the minds of the people he interacted with. I believe it worked.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Several times a day intercom`s broadcast the prayer of the Koran from the minarets of mosques. They wake me at 5am and I fall asleep to them at night. You can hear them throughout Sarajevo not just in the Muslim neighborhood in Old Town. The chants make me feel tranquil. It is Ramadan so the cafes are quiet and empty. Everyone is at the mosque praying. From a Westerner´s perspective the crowd of people praying outside look as though they are exercising with soft yoga bends and stands. Part of me wishes I was a member of the community.
Two million books were destroyed in the National Library during the time of the war. Bombs exploded in every direction, but the main target was this national treasure. The Serbians wanted to eliminate the library because it had documents that dated back to the beginning of Sarajevo. It was a powerful source of information and now the locals have no records of where the origin of their people came from.
I visited the ruins of the national library today. The building was still standing and a local artist named Edo Murtic displayed his art exhibit on both levels of the remains of the library. This artist employs power of great range through his paintings. The exhibit showed the destructive essence of war through the perspective someone who first hand lived through it. The title of his series of painting is "Eyes of Fear." It shows man as in a state of primal fear living in an animal state of awareness. These painitngs are of such dramatic strength and politically charged with fear of power and how power power causes corruption in mankind. Some of the sketches look like they were out of pure madness all portrayed through a series of skull paintings. The contrast between the bombed building with hanging paintings was very powerful.