Wednesday, September 27, 2006

National Geographic special on Mostar Bridge

I just finished watching the National Geographic channel special on the reconstruction of the bridge in Mostar, Bosnia. The show started with the horrible footage of the bridge collapsing after being bombed, its centuries-old huge stone blocks falling into the river below. The initial goal was to use the original blocks to reconstruct the bridge, but the ravages of war and the strong river current rendered the blocks unusable. The blocks did provide useful information in the construction of the bridge, type of limestone used, assembly (including iron rods), and type of mortar used.

The reconstruction process was not without controversy, as stone masons (and the construction company) from Turkey were used. You may recall that the Ottoman Empire had control of the Balkans for hundereds of years. In Mostar, the Turks conquered the Catholics living there. Prior to the war, it was not uncommon for intermarriages between religions to occur (such as Catholic Croats and Muslims, or Orthodox Serbs), but that all changed with the war. Such tensions were brought to the construction process as well.

It was fascinating to see how the combination of high-tech (such as making a computer 3-d model of the bridge) and centuries old traditional techniques were combined to recreate a bridge that looks much like the original one. Once again, the bridge of Mostar connects the town, both physically and emotionally.

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