Saturday, 15 November 2014

SARAJEVO. LIFE AFTER WAR.


Bosanski caj. Bosnian tea (Black tea, cinnamon, clove)
When we are still new to travelling, we would find ourselves admiring an old church, strange architecture or a beautiful landscape…I still do it…but it doesn´t bring the same emotions that it did at the beginning . So many waterfalls and sunsets, so many jungle trips, tons of hikes and more than 80 countries visited…
We start to take all the beauty for granted and it´s not as exciting anymore. Then we try to go off the beaten track and search for the roads less travelled. But after a while even that starts to lose its charm and feels superficial. We want to experience something that would touch our hearts and make us feel something! That´s how I felt in Sarajevo. I felt drawn to hear more, to ask many questions, to speak to everyone who would want to speak to me! It hit me massively. I was swept away by all the emotions I was capturing, not only in Sarajevo but in whole Bosnia & Herzegovina.
 It´s not just the beauty of the Old town, the bullet holes all over the city or the whole” Sarajevo under siege” thing that has struck me that much.  It´s the people that make the city so special and their way of greeting everyone who comes to visit, their pain and hardiness. Sadness and pride, wrapped in warmth and mystery are distinctive features of its inhabitants. It´s difficult to describe it but all the visitors feel it. And that yearning they have to move on and leave the war in the past is so massive but the war is inescapable and constantly tied to the reputation of the city.


The old town embraces mosques, orthodox churches, cathedrals and synagogues, all within 200 m. The only place in the world where within a block from each other you can find the four religions so strongly presented. I loved the old town and its narrowed streets, cozy cafes and restaurants. 


Not very common but you can still see women with a headscarf. 
One of the many beautiful mosques in the Old town
 
 
The trams in Sarajevo are pretty colourful in comparison with the buildings
Baščaršija

One of the cozy cafes in Baščaršija

First thing I did was to get to "Bash Charshia" and have a proper cevapcici
Punjene paprike. Bosnian stuffed peppers

It was my favourite cafe that my host took me to and kept going back there
The narrowest sidewalk in the world :)

The Siege of Sarajevo was the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. During the siege, there was nowhere safe for a Sarajevan, not at home, at school, in a hospital, from deliberate attack. Moving beyond the shelling, snipers, and shortages, they had to learn to live in fear of death and hunger, to hate their yesterday’s neigbours and friends but today’s enemies, to start fighting back. 
It was hard to be moved by the beautiful buildings and souvenirs stalls all around while the call to prayer plays in the background and you bump into one of the many graveyards that dot the land...Then you see a young souvenir seller and can´t help thinking what their family had to go through during the war, who they lost and how many cousins they have living in Switzerland and Sweden now....





Sarajevo City Hall was largely destroyed in 1992 after the Serb shelling of the city
 
Light floods through the restored stained glass in the Bosnian capital's City Hall. Opened again in 2014
One more graveyard to the right
One of many cemeteries where 10,000 victims of the siege, including at least 1500 children, were laid to rest.
The old bobsled track (Olympics 1984) used as an artillery stronghold.
Source: http://olympictalk.nbcsports.com/
I was couchsurfing in Dobrinja, where the sniper fire and shelling were part of the daily routine during the siege. Dobrinja's only safe sidewalks were the deep trenches crisscrossing the lawns between apartment buildings. Other lawns have been turned into cemeteries. 
My host’s family like many others, didn´t have what to eat, water, electricity, couldn’t go out. And when they did, they had to go through a hole in the back of the building, connected to a staircase which leaded to the back alley. Young and old, fat and skinny, anyone and everyone, had to go through that small hole, one by one, for three and a half years! 10 000 Bosniaks dead only in Sarajevo! Only because they were Muslim. I know it wasn’t easy for the Bosnian Serbs who had to fleed, many of them lost their homes and were never able to find their identity again. But what the Bosniaks suffered during the siege is just beyond description.
The Scar of the war - 20 years later and huge craters and bullet holes are still present. In Dobrinja, Sarajevo



Sarajevo tunnel
The Sarajevo Tunnel was constructed between May 1992 and November 1995, during the Siege in the midst of the  Bosnian War. It was built by the Bosnian Army in order to link the city of Sarajevo, which was entirely cut off by Serbian forces, with Bosnian-held territory on the other side of Sarajevo Airport., an area controlled by the UN. The tunnel linked the Sarajevo neighbourhoods of Dobrinja and Butmir, allowing food, war supplies, and humanitarian aid to come into the city, and people to get out. The tunnel became a major way of bypassing the international arms embargo and providing the city defenders with weaponry.

 

I spent some time with my host Semsudin and his friends. All lovely people, none of them was religious or cared what my religion was. ILike most of the young people in Bosnia, they didn´t like talking about the war. It´s a topic that has been simmering for years and they were all worn out discussing it. Also, the pain and the sadness of what had happened was still there...I could feel it it, they all lived through it and lost someone or everyone. 

Always in 3 languages...but what´s the difference?!?
Now in Bosnia there are 3 official languages – Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian. All three of them are practically the same with very small differences…but according to law everything has to be written in 3 of them. A good example is this box of cigarettes: for those who don´t know how to read Cyrllic, the Cyrillic version says exactly the same as the Latin ones, just written in Cyrillic letters. Identical. 
The division of Bosnians into ethnonational groups was the result rather than the cause of the war. Serb, Croat, and Muslim nationalist politicians sowed mistrust between people who had previously coexisted peacefully in Sarajevo. Normality dissolved and relationships were reconstructed as people didn’t know anymore who could be trusted.
Same as the country. Officially Bosnia and Herzegovina is a state with two entities - Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation as you can see on the map below.
Purple - Bosnia and Herzegovina. Pink - Serbia.
At the end of Sarajevo! Still within Bosnia and Herzegovina but the beginning of Republic of Srpska entity

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