Sarajevo feels like a patchwork quilt to me. Each corner tells a different story, and there seems to be an endless supply of stories. I felt a certain positivity amid darkness; there is a lot to experience culturally and historically. To get our bearings, we decided to take a day tour sponsored by our hostel in order to get a handle on the layout of Sarajevo as well as see some hard-to-get-to areas. We set out Saturday morning in a van, six of us led by a Bosnian native.
Before visiting Sarajevo, I didn't know as much as I should have about the Yugoslav Wars; we never got that far in history classes in school, and it's strange to think that I was alive and blissfully unaware that war was happening at the time. A lot of the problems in that area go back to religious tensions just after WWI when Yugoslavia was created as a state. In 1991, Slovenia and Croatia's declarations of independence from Yugoslavia ignited violence between themselves and Serbia. Bosnia and Herzegovina's territorial war for independence broke out in 1992 among a handful of groups, notably the Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), Bosnian Serbs, and the Herzeg-Bosnia (a Serb-Croat alliance).
Sarajevo's town center is rather spread out, and as we were driving around, we could still see partially-destroyed buildings, though our guide assured us that 99% of Sarajevo has already been rebuilt.
Now, the Tunnel Museum is in place; you can walk through a bit of the original tunnel on the Sarajevo end to see how small but well-engineered it was. We stopped there on our tour to learn more about the Serbian aggression and the story of the tunnel; there is a video to see and several informational panels to read.
|Bombs at the Tunnel Museum|
|Martyrs' Memorial Cemetery|
In town, you can visit the Martrys' Memorial Cemetery dedicated to the soldiers who gave their lives for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Graves are all marked in white on a hillside that leads up to the Yellow Fortress.
While in Sarajevo, memories came back to me of a college orchestra Christmas concert I performed in with folk singer Judy Collins. I remember sitting back and listening to a song (for which there was no flute part) called Song for Sarajevo which she wrote in 1994, specifically for the children affected by the war. It's a hauntingly beautiful piece I didn't understand fully at the time.
We hear so much about the Holocaust in school, in the media, and how such atrocities should never be repeated. But do we realize that they have since been repeated? That they're still being repeated today?
Galerija 11/07/95, a museum of photographs with an accompanying audio guide that takes you through the story of Srebrenica during the Yugoslav Wars. Srebrenica is a small town in Eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina where many Bosnian Muslims took refuge as it was under UN protection at the time. Unfortunately, it was also heavily targeted by opposing forces, and the extent of the genocide that occurred there is still being uncovered today through discoveries of mass graves hidden in the hills. The official death count is well over eight thousand. The museum artfully tells the stories of victims and their families through black-and-white photographs and videos. The last room is made up of protest propaganda which used advertisements for popular products to call attention to the situation in Sarajevo in the early nineties, like the Coca-Cola-inspired ad to the right.
|Dana and I at some fortress ruins|
|1984 Olympic Bobsleigh|
|Burek and yogurt|
|Dinner at Pod Lipom|
|Dome ceiling of the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque|
|Sacred Heart Cathedral|
Sarajevo also has a Catholic cathedral: Sacred Heart. By chance, we were able to sit in on part of their one English language Mass given on Easter.
On that same Sunday, we had two other completely unrelated sightseeing visits. One was the Avaz Twist Tower, a modern skyscraper with an elevator to a nice café on one of the top floors. There is also a viewing deck at the very top, but we were content to enjoy drinks indoors in the café complete with a rainy view of Sarajevo.
The second visit was to the Latin Bridge near the old town (pictured to the right). It maybe doesn't look like anything special, but those of you who love WWI history will recognize it as the birthplace of the war, the site of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand's assassination in 1914.
|View from Stari Most|
|Buna river in Blagaj|