November 9, 2013

0232, 0266 & 0857 BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA (FBiH) - Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar (UNESCO WHS)

Old Bridge in Mostar after 2004

Posted on 31.05.2012, 03.07.2012, and 09.11.2013
Very few cities in the world are so connected to a single construction as is Mostar (the political and cultural center of Herzegovina) and its Stari Most (Old Bridge). Basically, the city grew around this stone bridge, which link the two banks of the Neretva River at the narrowest point of the river gorge, and gave the name to the city (mostari mean the bridge keepers). It replaced a wooden bridge that marked the center of the settlement in the 15th century. From the middle of the next century, the settlement had grown significantly, making Mostar the main regional connection between the Adriatic Sea and the interior, linking cities to the north, south and west. Its strategic location led the Ottomans to build a permanent and solid crossing.

Designed by the architect Mimar Hajrudin the Younger, a pupil of the Mimar Sinan, the chief architect for sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and erected between 1557 and 1566 by Dalmatian craftsmen, the bridge, built in local tenelija stone, a limestone known for its endurance, had 29m long and 4m wide, and the vault supporting the roadway had 77cm thick. The stones were fastened together with iron clamps and then joined with molten lead. The bridge was later fortified at either end with a tower where stationed the guards, on the east bank (the Tara, or Hercegusa Tower) in 16th century, and on the west bank (the Halebinovka or Celovina Tower) in the 17th century.

Old Bridge in Mostar after 2004

"The bridge is like a rainbow arch soaring up to the skies, extending from one cliff to the other", wrote the well-traveled Evliya Çelebi in the 17th century "...I, a poor and miserable slave of Allah, have passed through 16 countries, but I have never seen such a high bridge. It is thrown from rock to rock as high as the sky."

With the old bridge at the center, new mahalas (quarters) began to spring up on both sides of Neretva River, Mostar quickly becoming a key trading partner with the Adriatic's coastal cities and experienced a long period of cultural, political and economic growth. Many beautiful mosques and medresas (religious schools) were constructed in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. All three ethnic / religious communities (the bosniaks / muslims, the croats / roman catholic, and the serbs / orthodox) lived in harmony for centuries, the Ottomans having a high level of religious tolerance.

When the Ottoman Empire started to decline, Austria-Hungary included Bosnia and Herzegovina in its administrative region, building railroad, bridges, and schools. After WWI much of Bosnia and Herzegovina experienced harsh economic and political struggles, and Mostar wasn't a exception, but after WWII the city enjoyed great prosperity.

Original Old Bridge in Mostar in 1890

The things changed rapidly in 1992, when began the Bosnian War. Mostar experienced its worst part of history, the town being subject to an 18 month siege, and most of the city being completely devastated. On November 9, 1993, the bridge, which crossed more than four centuries without problems, even surviving two world wars, being an enduring symbol of the region's multiculturalism, was purposefully destroyed by Bosnian Croat tank shells.

The bridge was rebuilt and inaugurated on July 23, 2004, but what seems to me very interesting and significantly is that International Stari Most Foundation, the World Bank, UNESCO, the Council of Europe Development Bank and various governments - including Italy, Croatia and Turkey - offered financial and technical support for the reconstruction process, together with the local and national governments of Mostar and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Moreover, Stari Most was reconstructed by ER-BU Construction and Trade, a Turkish company specializing in the reconstruction of Ottoman stone bridges. On 2005 the Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar was included among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

"When you spend a night in Mostar, it is not the sound that wakes you up in the morning, but the light," wrote in 1946 Ivo Andric, laureat of Nobel prize for Literature in 1961. "I know this from my own experience. It was the light that welcomed me when I arrived, it followed me from the morning to the evening, and when I left, that light forever stayed in me as the main characteristic of my memories of Mostar..."

In the second postcard, behind the bridge can be seen the Koski Mehmed Paša Mosque, completed in 1618 and almost destroyed in the recent war, but rebuilt now. The mosque, and also the minaret are open to the public. Around the corner is the Tepa Market, a busy marketplace since Ottoman times.

About the stamps
On the first postcard

The first two stamps are part of the Domestic Animals definitive series, issued on January 31, 2007, and containing 6 stamps:
• Sheep  (0.10 BAM) – it’s on the postcard
• Goat (0.20 BAM)
• Cow (0.30 BAM) – it’s on the postcard
• Donkey (0.40 BAM) – it’s on the second postcard
• Horse (0.70 BAM)
• Cat (1.00 BAM)

The last stamp have as motive Nature park - Hutovo blato, was issued on September 20, 2011, and was designed by Tamer Lučarević .

On the second postcard
The first stamp is the same on the first postcard, Nature park – Hutovo blato. The second, depicting a donkey, is part of the same Domestic Animals definitive series.

On the third postcard

The stamp depict a painting by Ismet Rizvic and was issued on May 4, 2007.

sender 1, 2: Snježana Makaš (direct swap)
sent from Tuzla (Bosnia and Herzegovina), on 20.04.2012
sender 3: Mircea Ostoia
sent from Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina), on 14.10.2013

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