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Monday, May 19, 2003
Mostar Bridge
Source: BOSNET October 11, 1994
w3.tyenet.com/kozlich/kiss.htm [DEAD LINK]

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia Croatian gunners destroyed the renowned Old Bridge in the Bosnian city of Mostar on
Tuesday, sending one of the most graceful examples of Ottoman architecture crashing into the Neretva River.

The four-century-old arch, described by a Muslim poet as ``a crescent moon in stone,'' was one of the most
formidable metaphors for the common life that the Muslims, Croats and Serbs of the old Yugoslavia enjoyed
before the country's violent breakup into separate nation-states began in mid-1991.

``It is one of the most beautiful bridges in the world,'' wrote the British author Rebecca West in her
pre-World War II travelogue of Yugoslavia, ``Black Lamb and Grey Falcon.'' ``A slender arch lies between
two round towers, its parapet bent in a shallow angle in the centre.''

Veso Vegar, a spokesman for the Bosnian Croats' militia, admitted Tuesday that the militia's gunners had
targeted the bridge, whose foundations were laid in 1557 at the orders of the Ottoman Empire's greatest
ruler, Suleiman the Magnificent.

``Since the bridge is in a place that is strategically important and the Muslim positions are very near,
70 to 100 metres, the bridge has constantly been shelled,'' Vegar said, adding that Croats fired 10 shells
at the span on Monday alone.

Bosnian government radio reported Tuesday that 60 shells hit the structure, which opened in 1566 and eventually
became known as the Old Bridge, or Stari Most. It gave the city its name.

The Bosnian Croat leadership has named Mostar, whose population was mixed before the war, capital of the
self-declared Croatian republic they have created. Bosnian Croat troops began evicting Muslim residents
from the Neretva's west bank in May, herding adult men into concentration camps and forcing women, children
and elderly people across a treacherous battlefront.

For months Muslims on the west bank dodged sniper fire to cross the bridge to the Muslim-controlled east bank,
where they could fill plastic containers with drinking water. The city's mostly Muslim Bosnian army contingent
used it take up their positions on the battle lines on the western side of the river.

News of the Mostar bridge's downing plunged many people from all over the former Yugoslav republics into gloom.

``I enjoyed my first kiss on that bridge,'' said Borjanka Santic, a 70-year-old relative of Aleksa Santic,
a Serb who was one of Mostar's most famous 19th-century poets. ``I remember even now the stars and the moon
shining down. I remember how we dropped stones into the clear water. Now this has all been wiped out.''

``The bridge was the meeting place for the young people of my generation,''she said. ``The walkway's stones were
rubbed so smooth by the footsteps that you had to hold on to the rails to avoid slipping even when it was dry.''

Stonemasons from the nearby city of Dubrovnik built the 200-foot-wide bridge at the narrowest part of the Neretva
River canyon, joining the span's locally quarried limestone blocks with iron braces and pointing the cracks with
molten lead. The bridge's designer, Hayrudin, studied under the greatest of all Ottoman architects, Sinan.

The bridge survived a flood that practically covered it in 1713, history books say, and the only time its walkway
was closed came during an 1815 feud between local families.

The bridge survived dozens of wars and uprisings unscathed. Each summer in recent decades, divers held competitions
to see who could make the most beautiful leap from the bridge's apex to the swirling Neretva 70 feet below.

The first war damage to the bridge came in May 1991, when Serbian artillery commanded by Miodrag Perusic, the present
chief of staff of Yugoslavia's army, blasted it in two places and leveled much of the surrounding neighborhood.

The Muslims draped old tyres over the side of the bridge and erected scaffolds over its walkway in a futile attempt
to deflect shells.

Over the last 18 months, Serbian and Croatian shells badly damaged the stone towers on each end of the bridge, which
were used in the 19th century by the Turks to imprison Serbian rebels bent on freeing themselves from Ottoman rule.

Television pictures broadcast here tonight showed that the bridge's entire span is gone.

``It is as if one of my closest relatives has died,'' said Bogdan Bogdanovic, a Belgrade architect who
designed a monument in Mostar to the World War II partisans who fought Hitler. ``The bridge was a piece
of metaphysical architecture that linked cultures and peoples.''

``A person simply loses the sense of himself at times like this,'' he said. ``It was like a heavenly arch.
It had nobility, a kind of elan.''

``I ask myself how the people of Mostar will live without that bridge,'' he said. ``They have now lost a part of
their being. With a loss like this people, people lose their place in time.''

This article does not have permission of the copyright owner, but is being offered for comment, criticism and research under the "fair use" provisions of the Federal copyright laws.
Source: BOSNET October 11, 1994

w3.tyenet.com/kozlich/workshop.htm [DEAD LINK]
[Possbile replacement link - http://www.members.tripod.com/~UnconqueredBosnia/Mostar3.html ]
...for example, the famous bridge over Neretva river at Mostar built in 1566 is an integral part of the human psyche. When such objects of self identity are destroyed, much of human spirit goes with it. When the bridge in Mostar fell on November 9, 1993, after days of incessant shelling, the Croatian journalist Slavenka Drakulic wrote in the Observer that she had never visited the bridge, foolishly thinking that "the bridge would be there forever... When I remember what is no longer there, I feel a spasm in my stomach, a knot in my throat. I feel death lurking in the absence."

She continues: "I've heard that people in Mostar, even adults, cried when they saw that the bridge had fallen. I believe the reports, for I have seen people who are not from Mostar cry as well. An elderly journalist, a lawyer. A singer, who wept for the first time since the war started.

"Not so long ago, the newspapers published photos of a massacre in the Bosnian Muslim village of Stupni Dol. One picture showed a middle-aged woman with a long, dark knife-cut along her throat. I don't remember anyone crying over that photo or others like it. And I ask myself: Why I feel more pain looking at the image of the destroyed bridge than the image of the woman?
''Perhaps it is because I see my own mortality in the collapse of the bridge, not in the death of the woman. We expect people to die. We count on our own lives to end. The destruction of a monument to civilization is something else. The bridge, in all its beauty and grace, was built to outlive us; it was an attempt to grasp eternity. Because it was the product of both individual creativity and collective experience, it transcended our individual destiny. A dead woman is one of us--but the bridge is all of us forever."

This article does not have permission of the copyright owner, but is
being offered for comment, criticism and research under the "fair use"
provisions of the Federal copyright laws.

Source: by Dr. Amir Pasic via Chicago-Kent College of Law, 9 Nov 1993


One year after the destruction of Mostar's Old Bridge



by Dr. Amir Pasic
November 9, 1993: The Stari Most in Mostar, on the river Neretva, gave its name to the city of Mostar. It was built in 1556 between two medieval towers on the location of a former wooden bridge. The architect was Mimar Hajrudin, a disciple and collaborator of Kodza Mimar Sinan. The bridge is really one stone arch with a span of 28.7m. The supporting vault is 77 cm thick, four meters wide, and its height in summer when the water is low is about 20m. Three ribs rest on its vault, a middle one and two at equal distances on either side of it, to support the roadway. The entire construction is thus considerably lightened. The stone used for the bridge is the local 'tenelija', a limestone of exceptional physical and chemical qualities. It is used for the entire bridge including the ballustrade, and its sides were cut so smooth that there was not need for an intervening adhesive material. The roadway is made of limestone
resistant to the wear of people and animals crossing the bridge. Pieces of stone were joined to each other by iron clamps and then filled with lead.

The basic architectural form of the bridge reflects an extraordinary marriage of constructional logic and beauty, maintained for centuries in its original form. The bridge has been an object of admiration by people coming from both East and West: the poet and statesman Dervis-Pasa Bajezidagic (16th c.) compared it to a rainbow, geographer Hadzi-Kalfa said that its vault 'will astonish all masters of the world', Evli Celebi, the famous Ottoman travel-writer said that he 'has crossed sixteen empires and has not seen such a high bridge'; the French traveler A. Poulet wrote in 1658 that this bridge is 'more courageous and more impressive than the Rialto in Venice.'

The bridge was built within the previously constructed medieval fortification system and represented the centre of gravity for the entire urban network of Mostar. Some twenty mahalas (individual neighborhood complexes) have been built in the area around the bridge. The commercial zone in its vicinity made up the historical core of the city. The Old Bridge was a monument of exceptional value from an artistic and scientific point of view, representing a masterpiece of bridge construction and architectural and landscaping design.

The most beautiful bridges were created in the second half of the 16th century at the time of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent and his grand viziers Rustem-Pasa and Mehmed-Pasa Sokolovic. The latter's bridge on the Drina in Visegrad is a work of the greatest Ottoman architect Kodza Mimar Sinan, and the Old Bridge in Mostar of his disciple Mimar Hajrudin. Also from this epoch are the Arslanagic Bridge near Trebinje, the bridge near the confluence of the Zepa and the Drina rivers, and many others.

Semicircular or, rarely, pointed arches of these bridges for the most part spanned a distance of 10-15m. The span of a very 'brave' arch might even be close to 30m. Bridges over wide rivers would consist of several arches (at Buna, 14, and in Visegrad, 11), while those spanning deep riverbeds would have only one arch. In the lower part bridges were usually built of resistant limestone, arches are often made of plaster, and the finishing cornice and fences were of limestone boards. The roadway was paved with cobblestones, separated by transversal stone thresholds.

The big and long bridges sometimes have a stone sofa in the middle, backed by a high wall in the form of a portal decorated with ornamental patterns and containing inscriptions about the construction of the bridge.
Simple stone bridges were built by local artists, especially in the latter part of the Ottoman rule in the Balkans.


Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey through Yugoslavia, by Rebecca West, (Viking Penguin, 1995), A Penguin Twentietth-Century Classic, 1181pp, illustrated, $19.75 (paperback)

Cover illustration: a photograph by Anne van der Vaeren of the "Stari most," the Old bridge spanning the Neretva River in Mostar, Bosnia, Designed by the great Ottoman architect Hayrudin, the bridge, which was described by West as "one of the most beautiful in the world," first opened in 1566. It was destroyed by Croatian gunners in November 1993

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Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel (Male Edition), by Milorad Pavic, (Random House, Inc, 1989), translated from the Serbo-Croatian by Christina Pribicevic-Zoric, 338pp, $11.70 (paperback). GS#2471. Ordering Information

Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel (Female Edition), by Milorad Pavic, (Random House, Inc., 1989), translated from the Serbo-Croatian by Christina Pribicevic-Zoric, 338pp, $11.70 (paperback). GS#2462. Ordering Information
A national bestseller, Dictionary of the Khazars was cited by The New York Times Book Review as one of the best books of the year. Written in two versions, male and female, which are identical save for seventeen crucial lines, Dictionary is the imaginary book of knowledge of the Khazars, a people who flourished somewhere beyond Transylvania between the seventh and ninth centuries. Eschewing conventional narrative and plot, this lexicon novel combines the dictionaries of the world’s three major religions with entries that leap between past and future, featuring three unruly wise men, a book printed in poison ink, suicide by mirrors, a chimerical princess, a sect of priests who can infiltrate one’s dreams, romances between the living and the dead, and much more -- GS.

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