The dance with the cars in the streets of Mostar. Look back and move to the right or the left. One car passes, and another behind. In and out between cars. Small cars, red, blue, white. Then walk in a group down the road. Then split and duck behind this car and that car.
In the old part of the city, it is largely pedestrian, except for the occasional car or one of many motorcycles or scooters.
Walking back home today from the store, via the bus station, I passed a few tourists returning from their day trips. A group of motorcyclists drove past. What did they see? One side, a huge ruin from the war undergoing rehabilitation, the bombed out department store, where a small Roma girl was digging through the dumpster while her mother begged for coins, and a few cafes and shops.
My first stop was the MEPAS Mall, where there was a car show on display. The MEPAS Mall with a Zara, Nike and similar shops. Plenty of cafes, along with a MacDonald’s. (But don’t think of garish orange plastic seats. Think of upholstered seats and espressos and cappuccinos. ) There is a grocery store, where you can buy household goods, like light bulbs and coffee cups.
When I crossed the bridge from the West, I paused at the Neretva River. It was beautiful today. Blue and green, roaring down, The vegetation on the banks was wild and green, the houses near the bank with fruit trees and grape vines. Looking up, you can see the tall mountains and cliffs, brown from a dry summer. It is a vibrant, and wild landscape. A powerful landscape.
The best place to see the landscape is from the hill surrounding the city. When I go running each morning, I pause at the top, surrounded by thin tall trees and rocky soil. Looking down and around, you can see Mostar settled in the bowl, the mountains look like a bowl than a series of petals. Each mountain has a defined character. There is something about the landscape that reminds me of the North Central California. When you drive from Mostar to Sarajevo, there is a point, where you turn a curve and there are the mountains. It is like John Muir’s sighting of Mt. Shasta. You don’t’ expect it. Then, you are in the midst of it. The human element, humanity, disappears.
Of course, the miracle of the landscape is in opposition to the narrow twisting road, carved from the mountains, and carved into the mountains. The peace of the land is unlike the drivers to dart and tailgate up and down the hill.
The houses and ruins are all scars. Scars that create a landscape of their own.
BiH is a study in contradictions. It is a beautiful and rugged landscape, but with sadness and wounds. People look relaxed in the cafes but there is an undefined uneasiness.