Old Bridge – Mostar, Derwent-Rexel soft pastel pencils on a large sketchbook.
This one is dedicated to Bob, for two reasons:
1. Being a man of (written) word, I bet he’d be among few who would read through this (longest so far) story of mine,
2. He demanded once: “I really like the way the red roofs complement the green in the surrounding trees. More like this please!” – So, here is more…
So, this one is for you Bob (and I duly expect one-up from you – Even if you didn’t like it…)
Now, this is an “Old Bridge” (Stari most) in Mostar, the city some 130 km south from Sarajevo, on the way to the Adriatic coast. Some photos and background info you can find here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stari_most
Still, I’ll emphasise some interesting facts and legends. The bridge was built, from 1557-1566, by Persian-born Ottoman Architect Hayrudin, upon the location of even older scary hanging bridge. The city derives its name from the bridge passing fee collectors called “mostars”. Hayrudin, according to legend, disappeared a day before its grand opening, due to fear of failure and certain death by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Apparently he hadn’t seen it standing free of the formworks. He was never seen again. However, bridge stood another 437 years until, in the Bosnian war, Croat film-director/general, ordered its destruction. Exact replica was made after the war, and was re-opened in the summer of 2004.
Bob, keep reading…
With 30 m span and height of 24 m above the water, its thin arch was architectural wonder of the era. A hundred years later famous Ottoman traveller Ewli Chelebi in his 10-volume itinerary wrote: “I have been in every corner of 16 emperies and kingdoms, but I have never seen taller or more beautiful bridge!”
Ever since it was built it became a measure of manhood – if you are mature enough you should dive from its top to icy-cold water of Neretva River. BTW, Neretva has unique milky turquoise colour called “Neretva-blue”, and is one of the most beautiful rivers I’ve ever seen.
Mostar was a city of great witty people (three ethnic groups and three religions – Muslims, Catholics and Ortodox), who lived together without even knowing who was who (until 1991). It was famous for having distinguished figures living bohemian life-style, and constantly joking about life… Most famous of them were artists Ico Voljevica, Meha Sefić and Vasa Kisa.
Bob, are you with me?
Ico was a pretty ugly looking painter who, upon remark on his looks, stated: “I was born as a very beautiful baby – BUT THEY SWAPPED ME IN THE NURSERY!”
After the World War II, upon visit of a high-ranking Party official, who admired the bridge, Ico told him: “We are going to destroy the Old Bridge!” You can’t do that, said official, why would you do such a thing?” Ico replied: “TO BUILD AN EVEN OLDER ONE!” Little did he know that his prediction would materialise within 45 years…
Meha was a painter and café musician. Once in a pub someone accused him of collaborating with German occupying forces – because he was singing to their troops in the cafés. He said: “I did sing to them, but it was always OUT OF KEY!”
In those post-war days of communist rule it was punishable to tell political jokes. Vasa was prosecuted for telling one in public. In the court, just as judge proclaimed 2-month jail sentence for him, Vasa started laughing like hell. Judge warned him: “I’m warning you, you’ll get extra time for discontent of the court!” Vasa said: “Sorry your Honour, I really couldn’t help it… I JUST RECALLED ANOTHER ONE (political joke), AND BELIEVE ME, THIS ONE IS SO GOOD – IT’S WORTH AT LEAST 2 YEARS!!!”
These all are true stories. Those guys were all artists, as my father was, and being peers they were also good mates – so my dad knew them very well.
Bob thanks for reading it through. Congratulations. I hope it was worth it…
PS. My mom once said (reading very boring Joseph Heller’s “Something happened”) – “If he could write all that, then, I can read it.”