Tuesday, July 08, 2008

But backing up -- the route to Montenegro:

Jablonica --This town on the way to Mostar is a great place to make a pit stop and have coffee. Or better still to eat roasted lamb. Several restaurants on the hills above the Neretva River throw lambs on a pit and they just send out waves of heavenly aroma. We ordered a kilo of lamb, bread, potatoes and salad for four of us and gorged.

Then we went to see the bridge. (See it also in this photo from the Internet). Jablonica has an imposing World War II museum but I've never ever seen it open. Apparently one must ask around in the village for who runs it, then find him, then request that he open it for a showing. We didn't do this. We relied on movie lore.

There's a 1970 Yul Brenner film "Battle of Neretva" about what happened at this location in 1943. Naturally it involves heroic Tito action.

Germans were out to annihilate Tito's Partisan army and his command and a big hospital as part of Operation Weiss. They had put all kinds of forces, like 18 divisions, however many are in a division, into the area and had trapped Tito. Or so they thought.
Outnumbered 6 to 1 and burdened by 4,500 wounded and typhus-infected comrades the Partisans were surrounded by their enemies. There was only one way out -- going over the lone bridge across the icy river. The Axis forces knowing this had a force on the other side of the river ready to slaughter the Partisans and their sick when then came across. Instead Tito spectacularly blew up the bridge.

The stunned Nazis scrambled to get up the river and back to the other side to engage the Partisans. But Tito had a surprise. Under over of night his men had put down a temporary bridge of lumber and sticks and over it as the Germans were rushing to get to him he moved out all his men and all the wounded -- and got away. No wonder he remains a hero in the Balkans.

We got into a major argument then about whether the bridge still hanging over the side into the river in Jablonica is the original bridge Tito blew up... or the movie version that Yul's crew erected to re-explode.

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