I'd never heard of a hotel that requires customers to pay cash until our trip to Mostar, Bosnia. Lesson learned. As we neared our departure morning, the question became: What to do with roughly $1,800 American. Do I carry it with me at all times? Do I hide it under the mattress? Do I spread it out in different places? We figured out a way to hide our money, and we paid our debts before leaving Mostar. And we also came to the conclusion that compared with the stories we heard there, paying cash for a hotel stay was low on the list.
Not that we didn't have good nights out and plenty to keep us entertained, but the Mostar trip was by far the most serious one we'd undertaken.
That little town came under fire from the Serbians on one hill and the Croatians on another hill during the war that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. The Bosnians we spoke with related how they were thankful the U.S. and NATO came to their rescue. They also mentioned we came a little late.
By then their famed bridge had been shot down into the river below.
This is the bridge that jumpers and divers had flown off since the Ottomans built it in the 16th century. During the war, to keep the tradition alive, some men would go out on the little piece of bridge that hadn't been knocked down and dive into the water under sniper fire. Twenty-three men who were competitive divers before the war died defending their bridge and the town.
So, yeah. We can pay the hotel bill in cash.
The attraction of the rebuilt bridge, and the tourism it generates, fuels Mostar's economy. There's still war damage all over town, but the mood was surprisingly normal for a place that was under attack just two decades ago.
It felt most normal to be in Bosnia on the occasions when we’d see those who live there bridge-jumping and diving.
To conclude: The event jumpers leaped off the bridge as fireworks were shot from it. Many who watched knew the symbolism. Explosions were coming from the bridge and no longer directed toward it. And, as always, the jumpers jumped.