For those who like their architecture monumental in scale and subject to some picturesque decay, the Partisan Cemetery provides a quiet respite from the bustle and tourist tat of the Old Town. Climbing up the curving terraces also gives lovely views over Mostar and the Neretva valley.
Although hordes of people visit Mostar and its UNESCO World Heritage-listed Stari Most, it seems that most of them simply come on bus tours and never venture outside the Old Town. Strike only a bit further afield from the shops selling cheap jewellery and key rings made from bullet casings and you quickly leave the tour groups behind. The Partisan Cemetery is a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and yet at the time of our visit the only other people there were two old men enjoying a quiet smoke. And given the size of the site, they were in no way intruding on each other’s solitude.
Walking through the grass to the entrance, you get the feeling that the remains of paving stones once formed a grand processional way. Now the gates are less Mordor, and more country park, half obscured by trees and other greenery.
The cemetery was built for Mostar’s Partisan soldiers, the communist resistance fighters who served under the command of Josip Broz Tito in World War II. It was designed by Bogdan Bogdanović, the architect of a whole host of anti-fascist memorials and monuments in the former Yugoslavia, and was opened in 1965 by Marshal Tito himself. A series of sweeping, curving paths work their way up the terraces to the top of the monument, which is crowned by a pool reflecting massive carved stone gears adorning the wall behind.