Sarajevo... more than just a war city

by - Saturday, April 27, 2013

I honestly wasn't sure what to expect of Bosnia... I mean the only thing I *really* know about the area is that my best friend's boyfriend went on a peacekeeping mission there when I was in university.  So yeah... war.  That's about all I knew.

My first impression of Sarajevo wasn't exactly the best one - I went to my hostel only to find that they'd overbooked and I didn't have a bed for the night. That, and the hostel looked like a bit of a party place.  The front desk guy called over to a couple of other places and got me a room at another hostel with the promise that the next two nights I could go back to his hostel and it would be free of charge.  But, since I liked the other hostel so much (it was quiet and I pretty much had the place to myself) I paid to stay there for three nights.  In the end the first hostel's screwup was the best thing ever.

I arranged a free walking tour the next morning, and it was just myself and an Australian couple.  We were shown around the city - it is a very long and narrow city, mainly along the river.  The city itself had three main "developments"... and older Turkish/Ottoman area, a central Austro-Hungarian area and then the new Yugoslavia area.  We learned about the history, and the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina - and how it is really divided into two areas - a Bosnian area and a Serbian area.  Where I would say that I'm Canadian, they don't associate with their country that way, their either Croat, Serb or Bosnian.  I found this sad.

While Sarajevo doesn't want to be remembered for the war, there are definite reminders.  Almost 12,000 people died, including over 1100 children just in Sarajevo alone.  They have these "roses" in the concrete... where a mortar (shot by the Serbs) struck and killed someone in Sarajevo, they filled the holes in the concrete with a reddish coloured resin.  There were about 100 throughout the city, but the tour guide said that they are in bad repair and not that many are left.

I spent most of my time in the Ottoman area... little shops, restaurants (I had the most awesome steak dinner for about $15) and mosques are all over the area.  I bought my souvenir (I try to only buy one thing per place) on the coppersmith street... buy the guy that actually made it.  I'd seen him working on the first day, and went back on the second.  He was probably my age, and the shop had been in his family for over 100 years.  He showed me some of the work that they do, and it was nice to hear his story.  And the souvenir I bought was way better than some mass-produced stamped copper piece made in Turkey!

In all, the city surprised me.  Although it suffered great tragedy only 20 years ago, the city is quite modern (I saw far less modern cities along the way!). The people were nice, and there is a definite sense that the city wants to move on.

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