Day 12: Rural Bosnia Herzegovina
We left Mostar to head back to Croatia. Today started with visiting the Radimlja cemetery just outside of Mostar. Stećci is an ancient Illerian burial site with interesting grave stones. Our local guide at the cemetery and in Stolac was Sanel. We drove to Stolac and unfortunately it was pouring rain! We could only see a few of the city’s sites. However, we were able to enjoy a delicious lunch indoors where our local guide spoke more about Stolac and its complex history.
Stolac Youth Forum
We learned about Sanel’s NGO (non-governmental organization) the Stolac Youth Forum. Sanel was one of the founders of the SYF and has passed leadership onto the young people of the city. He is still one of their advisors, however. The SYF is part of the International Summer School Youth and Heritage in Stolac. This summer school is essentially a conference of students from many countries, though the majority come from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The aim of School is to assist young people to reach a greater understanding and appreciation of the diversity and plurality in world cultures. The summer school includes two weeks of seminars, fieldwork, practical activities, and recreational evenings. Participants are provided expert introduction to and hands-on experience of traditional crafts and bodies of knowledge, architectural heritage, sustainable ways of life, and environmental practice. The school brings together young people from across the globe, providing an opportunity to contribute to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of a plural community devastated by war and create an open forum for dialogue and cultural discussion. The SYF also works to restore parts of Stolac that need rebuilding: cemeteries, mosques, and other cultural sites. I am working with Sanel to create a website just for Stolac and the SYF for Americans and Rick Steve’s participants to visit and learn more about the NGO. There is still much division in cities like Stolac, where people are separated by religion. Even today, many children are segregated by their culture and religion. They are educated differently and taught a different history of their country. Unfortunately, we had bad weather the day we visited Stolac.
The Tvrdos monastery is a Serbian-Orthodox Monastery. On the way there, we passed some areas that have signs not to cross because they are mine fields that haven’t been cleared, a distinct reminder of the area’s past. The monastery was beautiful and even featured a winery. The monastery’s monk told us about his experience during the war. He fought for the Serbs. He described himself as not being a monster the way Western media depicted Serbs during the war. He said he understands that when a government does something, it’s not representative of all its citizens’ wishes. The monastery’s monk firmly believes that Dubrovnik was not bombed, but rather the U.S. set tires on fire and put it on CNN to make it look like the Serbs doing.