Having visited Srebrenica, I really want to see another side of the Republika Srpska (RS). The next day I rent a car and drive to Višegrad.

Part 4: The Bridge on the Drina – Visegrad, Republika Srpska

The town in the south of the RS is only a few kilometres off the Serbian border. Like Srebrenica, it had a Muslim/Bosniak majority before the war and is nowadays mainly inhabited by Orthodox/Bosnian Serbs. There are stories about expulsion and rape camps in the town and mass killings of Muslims on the Drina Bridge. But despite this Višegrad is still a kind of a magical place for me because Nobel Prize winner Ivo Andrić’s novel on the town's history, The Bridge on the Drina, was what made me fall in love with Bosnia and Herzegovina before even travelling here.

The actual bridge on the Drina was, like her little sister in Mostar, built by the Ottoman occupants and has always been a symbol for the connection between East and West, Orient and Occident. I reach my destination right after a thunderstorm. When the sun breaks out of the clouds the bridge over the green water is strikingly beautiful.

However, the town offers the same deserted pictures as Srebrenica: due to the heat the streets are empty. The tourist office closed

Photo: Julia Schulte
Orthodox Chruch in Višegrad.

at 4 pm. Only up the hill, some people are standing around in front of the Orthodox church. The priest, a friendly man who came here from Serbia after the war, asks his teenage son, who speaks a little English, to show me around. Before we go, I am allowed to visit the church - and the cemetery. Again, most graves date from the early nineties, but this time the black, rectangular tombstones also show photos of the deceased. It is hard to look at the young men, portrayed posing in uniform and sunglasses on an army tank, or with weapons in their hands.

Downtown I am shown a seemingly more promising project: hidden behind a hoarding, a couple of medieval looking houses are under construction. On a land tongue between the Drina and the Rzav river a new town centre is being built - and it is called Andrićgrad (Andrićtown) in honour of the great writer.

Published in Imagine Europe
Wednesday, 11 July 2012 06:34

From Visegrad summer school

Seeing as any story needs a hero, let's begin with the intriguing Czech girl (Alexandra is her name) who asked me if I was going to write anything about this event for E&M. Visegrad Summer School is a two-week intensive workshop for young Eastern Europeans in Villa Decius - a beautiful 16th century architectural gem that is a residence of the leading Kraków cultural foundation/NGO.

Besides Poles there are Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Ukrainians, Georgians, Russians, Slovenians, Romanians and last (but definitely not least) one lone Armenian girl who is great at discussing the fascinating cultural heritage of that ancient European state, or the current shortcomings of the Eastern Partnership initiative in the Caucasus region.

Even though it's just been one day, I've already fallen in love with the atmosphere. The main aim of the VSS is to integrate the young people of the region and give them a unique chance to share ideas, work together intensively and try to launch some future projects. Hence, you can only imagine what an exciting opportunity the Visegrad Summer School provides for anyone interested in Eastern Europe. Beyond the typical summer school workshops (which, here, are attended by ministers, ambassadors and policy makers of the region) the best thing is that you meet all these fascinating people from Eastern Europe. We investigated the diverse meanings of (to paraphrase Czesław Miłosz) "our native" part of the Old Continent.

Published in Under Eastern Eyes
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