This is my one hundredth post on this blog. When I think back on the way I started out, I can’t believe what a journey it has been. I was a different person a little over three years ago, and for all the things that I was lucky enough to experience and write about since then, I am nothing but grateful. There is not a day that passes when I don’t think about one or the other experience that I have made travelling and that has shaped who I am today, and not a day that passes without saying a silent quick prayer of thanks for that.
The One Hundredth deserves to be celebrated with a truly special place, and what else could that be than a bridge. Next to Mostar’s Stari Most, this is the Bridge of Bridges to me: Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge in Višegrad, Bosnia & Hercegovina.
And what else could have inspired me to desperately want to see this beautiful and powerful piece of architecture, this work of art in itself, than literature. I mention Ivo Andrić’s monumental book Na Drini ćuprija (The Bridge on the Drina) in My Mission statement. It is a nobel prize winning novel about the small town of Višegrad, about its inhabitants and its culture, and the bridge around which the town revolves – from its construction in the 16th century to its destruction during World War I. The book encompasses four centuries of joy and pain, laughter, tears and blood. It is a collection of anecdotes and a compendium of beautifully drawn characters, a lesson in history as much as a lesson in humanity. No one who loves the book could possibly finish reading and not want to see the bridge.
I was so lucky as to come to Višegrad on a beautiful day in May three years ago, on a quiet and sunny day at that, and I sat down on the bridge an finished reading the book about the bridge. Words cannot express the elation I felt in that moment. Different parts of my world were coming together. Everything made sense. Surely it is my analytical mind that looks back on that day and notices how perfect it was more so than my actual self back then, but I do remember being completely and unconditionally happy in that moment when I sat on the Kapia and read the book. The kapia is the little balcony that you can see in the middle of the bridge, across from the stele you see rising up.
I only passed through Višegrad, I never spent the night. It is a small place that except for the bridge has not got a whole lot of amazing sights to offer. So I had my pack on me as I sat on the bridge. Walking by were two German soldiers I chatted up. They were stationed in Foča, if I remember correctly, and told me a bit about the international military supervision Bosnia & Hercegovina is still under after the wars of the 1990s. It felt weird to speak about this when all around me and inside of me there was this great sense of peace. I have another favorite book that is set there by an author who is not much older than me. He is called Saša Stanišić and the novel „How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone“. It is set in the 1990s and deals with the Balkan wars. I only read it after my trip down there, but I would like to go back to Višegrad having this second literary perspective on the town. It is, after all the sight of the Višegrad massacre in 1992 that included Bosniaks being murdered by Serb troops on the very bridge you see in these pictures. Now of course there is no talk of that in the novel by Andrić, which was published in 1945. History is yet more multi-layered than can be covered by the four centuries Andrić describes. Through all the history and all that can be learned from being in a place like the monumental Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge, however, what sticks with me more than anything else is the beauty of the ancient construction, the coolness of the stone, the color of the Drina river and the peace and quiet that filled my heart and soul on that beautiful day in May 2010.