Sunday, February 10, 2019

Bosnia - No. 42 - A Week of Sad/|Happy in Sarajevo

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After reading horror stories of taxi cab ripoffs, we asked our amazing host in Belgrade to step in and make a taxi reservation for us.   What a pleasure to ride in such a nice clean vehicle with a charming driver.  We got to bus station early as we had a few questions.  We enjoyed a cup of domestic coffee in a station cafe...albeit the cigarette smoke was again difficult to handle. 

The bus ride was lovely...across the Serbian plain and then into the mountains, we slipped quite quickly off of the tollway and on to local two lane roads through many small villages.  Snow appeared as we climbed and within a few hours was several feet deep.  The bus ride was slow of course becuase of the road condition.  We stopped often to drop of and pick up passengers and had a few rest stops.  The bus was not at all fully booked and we each had two seats to ourselves.

We arrived in the far eastern side of Sarajevo and a $15 taxi ride got us to our antique artist flat on the top of a very old and historic building dating back to the last 1800s. Our host, Marko, a handsome and charming young man, met us at the front door, carried our bags up four flights of stairs, and oriented us to the apartment.  We were pretty buzzed and not at all tired from the ride and opted to get our weekly shopping done at a large shopping center only five minutes away.  A late night dinner was followed by an hour or so of Netlfix TV before settling into a comfortable king bed in a bedroom so large that the bed was The apartment was an artist loft originally...must have amazing stories in its walls...and has been updated with modern appliances while maintaining the original configuration.  Huge northern and southern facing windows let in plenty of morning light and we were pleased with our choice.  This is our style and it feels a lot like home.

Our first day out we wandered the city center (it is a really small capitol) and old town.  It was just under four miles for a nice walkabout.  We scouted out the local movie theater and did a bit more shopping.

The primary tourist activities all center around the Serbian-Bosnia war in the early nineties.  We stared out day visiting the Srebrenica Museum and the Museum of Crimes and Genocide.  It was a heart-wrenching three hours viewing exhibits, photographs, and watching videos.  So many people were killed, so many many young men...all in the name of religion and for the sake of nationalism.  It was a very sobering time that left us quiet and reflective.  
 Three religions...Green-Orthodox, Yellow-Muslim, Purple-Catholic.
 Notes from visitors from the last five years.
 Graphic photos and stories surrounding person objects.
 Picture of some of the 9,000 discovered victims...mostly young men and boys.
 An unearthed body from the many mass graves.
 600 coffins prepared for the firsr ceremonial burial.

From the museums, we joined up with a guide for a walking tour around the city focusing on the Siege of Sarajevo, from 1992-1995, where the city was cut off by the Serbian forces and held captive during the war.  It was eye-opening as we viewed countless bullet holes in the walls, destroyed buildings, and memorials.  All over the city are mortar sites that have been preserved.  The called them "Sarajevo Roses" and there are over 100...the mortar rounds killed dozens of people at a time in churches, public squares, marketplaces, and homes.  We walked "Sniper's Alley," the main street of town which runs for almost three miles, that was a no-man's land becuawse of the snipers on top of the surrounding hills picking off anyone who entered the open area.  One of the biggest problems for the near 500,000 people of the city was water...and to get to the water source one had to go through Sniper\'s Alley.  Our guide was great, open, compassionate, and informative.  We ended the three hour tour with a better awareness.  And in the middle of the worst action of the entire period was the building where we are currently living.  It was pictured in countless photos throughout the day, and in videos showing people dodging bullets and mortar attacks.  That left us speechless.

In this photo our apartment is on the fourth floor of the building to the right just over the left shoulder of the lady in the striped blouse.  This photo shows people running for cover from sniper bullets.
The Catholic cathedral.

 In front is one of the 100s of mortal marks, memorialized mass killings.  This one landed as mass was being ended and killed over 100 people
 The green market.

 Again, another "rose"
 And the memorial naming over 80 people killed as they were shopping for groceries.
 The eternal flames from WW !!... it burned the entire time during the siege.

 Memorial to the 650 children killed by gunfire during the siege.  The flat disk contains the foot and hand prints of children.

 Their names.

 Another "rose."
 Bullet holes in buildings. This one back to back with our apartment.

 A modern building built in the last few years on "sniper alley."


 A memorial to the food dropped by the European Union.  It was late, not enough, and the dates on the can were from WWII  thus making the canned meat over 40 years old.  The memorial has been constantly desecrated by locals since it was installed.
 The twin towers across from the parliament today.
What they looked like during the first major attack.  Looks familiar.
The parliament building entrance.  No guards, no road blocks, no fences.  So odd for an American to see.  The USA embassy is across the streets and surrounded by security.
Bobbie decided to return to the Srebrenica the next day to finish viewing the exhibits.  I did not have the heart and stayed home, interestingly enough writing this blog post.  In the afternoon we walked down Sniper Alley from our apartment to the National Museum hoping to find a bit more history that wasn't all about the siege.

 Famous Jewish Illuminated book.  This was a big deal.

The museum also had a ethnographic section that was very well done with room interiors, furniture, and costumes.  On our last tour day we hired a driver and guide to take us out to the Tunnel of Hope.  During the siege, the airport was a no-man's land between the city to and the area to the south that was not being bombarded.  It took them four months to build a tunnel under the runways.  This tunnel served as a secret passageway for water, food and ammo  for the rest of the siege period.  We went into the tunnel, walked a section about 50 ft. and were given a very thorough narration by our guide, Enes.  It was another one of those days when the recent past shadowed the city's history.

We spent the rest of our time talking long walks in the neighborhood, saw a Clint Eastwood movie at a really great theater cafe, and relaxed in our wonderful apartment.  Sarajevo was a good visit.  Our hope for the future is that the city can rise above the past and find many other things to be famous for and share with visitors.  The people were great, our Airbnb host was awesome, and our tour guides were terrific in what they do. 

There is promise in the eyes of the younger generation.  The city has been rebuilt and is modern while still embracing its huge cultural heritage.  |It would be nice to come back in a few years and see what has changed in positive way.

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