To prepare for our tour of Bosnia and Herzegovina, we asked our travel agents for a reading list. At the top, was a book I’d never heard of: The Bridge on the Drina, written by the Yugoslav writer Ivo Andrić and published in 1945. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1961 and although his works became internationally recognised, The Bridge on the Drina remains his best-known work.
Whilst I read a lighter tome, The Cellist of Sarajevo, Roy got stuck in and persevered with Ivo. The story revolves around the Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge in Višegrad, which spans the Drina River. The story spans four centuries and covers the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian occupations with an emphasis on the lives of the local inhabitants, especially Serbs and Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks). It was hard going, but as we were visiting Višegrad, he felt the read was worthwhile.
Shortly after crossing the border between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, we arrived at the “stone city” of Višegrad. We walked into the area known as Andrićgrad, past a statue of two leaders shaking hands although we’ve failed to find who they were. An arch led to the main square, Trg Nicole Tesla, surrounded by stone buildings. This included a cinema, named Dolly Bell, where Rocket Man was showing. Mosaics on either side of the cinema entrance, were said to be controversial. One showed the assassins of Archduke Ferdinand: Gavrilo Princip and his eight accomplices. The second featured the film director Kusturica, Milorad Dodik (president of the Republika of Srpska) and other men engaged in a tug of war – Novak Djokovic was depicted in the background. There were cafes and restaurants and the Ivo Andric Memorial Classroom, with a bronze statue of him in front. This whole area is being renovated and targeted to become one of the country’s tourist attractions helped by its links with the Serbian “Sargan Eight Railway and Drvengrad”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/197751-review-drvengrad-and-sargan-eight-railway.
From here we had good views of the Drina, which was incredibly green, and the bridge, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. From a distance we could appreciate the width at nearly 180m and the 11 arches. We then drove closer and walked across the pedestrian only marble bridge, where we could feel the strength and depth of the fast-flowing river. We paused at the engraved centre stone of the bridge, known as the kapia, with its seating as this was used as a meeting place.
Having seen the bridge for myself, and listened attentively to our guide, I no longer feel the need to plough through the book. What a relief!