Mostar, Herzegovina

Another Medieval Ottoman city in Bosnia, another front line known as sniper alley were less than twenty years ago, combatants in civil conflict vented their anger on each other, across the divide and from the high surrounding hills, a few pockmarked walls and empty shells of buildings still stand (just) to bear witness.

This morning hundreds streamed out of the Catholic cathedral rebuilt in 2000 in stark concrete to replace it's destroyed predecessor while throngs of Japanese tourists marched past from the nearby coach park heading across 'sniper alley' into the Muslim Stari Grad or old town of Mostar.

The tourist tat shops spill out onto the cobbled approach to the world famous bridge and force the mass of humanity into single file as they press forward intent on recording their presence on mobile, camera and ipad for future generations to admire. The bridge itself is a cross between the Venetian bridge of sighs and the Chinese willow pattern bridge, open only to human traffic, with quite a steep pitch.

There is no doubt that this an impressive world heritage site, even if rebuilt after war damage (interestingly with Italy as the major contributor followed by Holland) and even if many seem more interested in the semi naked young man poised to throw himself into the sun-specked flowing water below, poised for a very long time it seems until sufficient funds have been collected to justify his foolhardiness. The location is really quite reminiscent of Rhonda gorge in Spain, surrounded by classic grey slate and stone buildings, precariously positioned overhanging restaurants and newer less pleasing buildings in the background.

They say that these are low-season crowds compared with August, but at times the street already seems at bursting point so August is unimaginable. However many arrive on day trips, some from Dubrovnik cruise ships, so inevitably by early evening, the town slows to a quieter more pleasant pace, the shops are locked down for the night and Japanese is replaced by Serbo-Croat. As my fellow-traveller puts it, the commitment to mammon here completely obliterates the awful recent history which, under the surface, still affects the local people's attitude to each other's community

The question remains why so many Japanese add Mostar to their European itineraries of Paris, London and Rome? Possibly Japanese TV once made a programme here. After all, they are now offering trips to the English tourist to see where BBC4's 'Inspector Montelbano' was filmed in Sicily.

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