Aldina, a girl who worked at Madja’s Guest House, picked me up from Mostar’s bus station as the sun was setting.
“Over there,” she said, pointing out the car window to a towering building with all of it’s windows blown out, “that’s the bank. During the war, Serbian snipers would sit in there and shoot people below.”
Oh my god.
That the building was even still erect was fascinating. It stood like a skeleton with nothing but fragile bones holding the history of the war together.
“It isn’t locked,” she continued. “You can go in there and look around. Just don’t go at night.”
Immediately, my plan was to visit the former bank.
The next morning, I grudgingly put on a pair of socks (hate them) and laced up my knock-off Chucks in preparation for the bank exploration.
Aldina had warned that the floor was essentially carpeted with shards of glass, and I wasn’t taking the risk of having a piece of it planted in my foot, so shoes and socks it was.
As I got ready to go, a tall English guy walked into my room. David. We began chatting and he decided to come along with me to the bank.
There are plenty of entrances to the bank from the ground level. People can walk in the main door, surrounded by pillars that must have been grand 20 years ago but now stand looking like Roman ruins ready to crumble. Or, you can walk in through gaping holes in the side of the building, what used to be floor-to-ceiling majestic glass windows.
We walked through a gaping hole.
The tiling, gone. The carpet, gone. Any hint of character, wallpaper, paint, anything … it’s all gone.
The bank is a shell. Haunted by ghosts of snipers and former workers.
Glass from windows lie scattered everywhere. Pipes and wire dangle from the ceiling. Elevator shafts are missing the doors and elevators. Windows … well, there are none.
The second floor is the most remarkable of the nearly 10-floored skeleton.
On one end, remnants of what used to be offices are visible. Printer cartridges are piled on the floor. Some wooden frames from the walls remain. Desks and chairs are strewn about. And, an entire wing is covered, littered, with documents of all types — books, binders, envelopes containing mail.
Around windows lie spent bullets. Looking out is chilling.
This is the view the snipers had of the city. Of the people who were trying to live their lives without getting fired upon on a regular basis.
To one side if the front lines where buildings still look today as they looked during the war — bombed out, shells of what they had once been. That side contains the old city, the Muslim side. The other sides have clear shots of the Croatian side of the city, the homes, the schools, the parks.
It is eery. It is creepy.
It makes me sick.
After an hour walking through the past, we decided it was time to go and hit the cool waters of the river that cuts through the city of Mostar. Time to see the infamous bridge that was destroyed in 1993, but re-built and is now a major tourist attraction (people jump into the water from its arch).
The next day, David, me and 16 other people, headed on Madja’s famous tour of the region.