Bosnia Trip – Day 2European Union, Summer 2012
Bosnia Trip – Day 2:
Wake up. We take turns showering, we’re guys so I doubt this will take longer than an hour. Afterwards we meet up with the girls (there room is right next to ours) and head downstairs for breakfast. I am expecting to have the typical continental donuts, fruit and juice but to my surprise they also have eggs, rice and sausage. It was delicious.
Our first event for the day is a tour with Fikret Kahrovic. According to Ulli, the head of IES Freiburg, Fikret is the best in town. He doesn’t disappoint, a bit long but he was very knowledgeable so overall one of the best tours I’ve ever been on.
He starts off by correcting the improper comparison of Jerusalem and Sarajevo that many tourists have. ”No, Sarajevo is not little Jerusalem. Jerusalem is little Sarajevo because we have more religions here. In addition to Islam, Judaism, Orthodox and Catholic we also have Communism.” He goes on to tell us how the Balkans connect the Orient and Europe. This is how these various religions and cultures arrived here in Sarajevo. In actuality only the Illyrians are Balkan natives. This means that Bosnian, Croats and Serbs (the three main “ethnic” groups currently in dispute over BiH) are all immigrants.
Most Ottoman towns were built in the mountains themselves because the valleys were hard to defend from enemies. Sarajevo was built in the valley and named after a nearby Castle. It was set up mainly for trading between the Eastern and Western worlds. The street we live on was one of the main trading spots and was filled with shops from various cultures around the world. Now it is filled with tourists trinkets and fast food joints, the latter of which I will have to stop by later.
Next we stop at a grave yard, one of many. In many cases they ran out of places to bury the victims of the war; according to the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) there were just over 100,000 casualties among the three groups. The tomb in this graveyard are all the same, a white pillar with a round top. In the middle of this graveyard the 1st Bosnian president Izgradimo is also buried. He said before he died that he wanted to be buried with his soldiers. This graveyard is the last one to be built in Sarajevo and is directly across from the first one.
Fikret tells us that there are two flags; white with the nation’s shield and flowers is pre 1992 and the official flag is blue and yellow. He calls the latter of these two the “feta cheese” flag because it has no real roots or meaning for the country but is simply taken from the stamp on cheese that was imported from Denmark.
We continue the tour and Fikret warns us that the surrounding forest was the front line and marks where the mines start. All of the mines have not been cleared so it is not safe to walk into the forest past the trees. Funny how the pine trees mark where the mines start. There are currently only two types of victims to the mines today; fathers and sons of the families that returned to their homes who go looking for firewood or members of mining teams.
As we walk we pass quite a large number of stray cats and dogs as well as trash. Karin accidentally drops her trash and Fikret tells her not to worry. ”The trash is great for tours because when you don’t see trash you know you’re in a minefield.”
The hike is a bit tiring, not as hot as I would have expected but still a nice workout. I continue to take pictures as we walk…
Next we stop for drinks. I have a nice fresh squeezed lemonade. Whenever you order the lemonade in Sarajevo, it is pure lemon juice and they bring you the sugar to put in yourself. I never know how much to put in so its either too much or too little. After our break we continue to walk.
Fikret tells us that there are two main reasons for collapsed houses and buildings: 1. communism is the perfect system to destroy private ownership (no one cares because of lack of ownership rights) 2. the whole family was killed in war so no one took care of it.
We quickly find out that pedestrians have no rights here in Sarajevo, the opposite of Freiburg where Pedestrians are treated like gold. In Freiburg cars will stop at a crosswalk even if they have a green light. Here in Sarajevo, there are no crosswalks. The roads belong to the cars and the pedestrians are intruders.
There are over 2,000 mosques in BiH a decent amount considering the country is home to over 1.5 Million Muslims. Fikret explains to us how difficult it was for Muslims to make Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca so anyone who made the 2 year journey by horse and returned would be honored. Their last name would be changed to Hajjia to signify to others that they had made the journey.
The 1st Catholic church in Sarajevo is within 2 minutes walking distance. Since it has been blown up during the war it was reconstructed.
Just about every building in the city has plates with names of locals who lost their lives during the war. These gold plates simply look like decoration to us visitors but they are a way of remember their loved ones without the trip to a cemetery although some still do make a daily trip to the cemeteries. We notice that the tombs of mothers are much different than the regular tombs. They are decorated with roses. Each rose stands for each child that mother had. Just around the corner is the 1st mosque built in 1457; rebuilt and still in use today.
Next we visit the bridge where Gavrilo Princip shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and essentially started the 1st World War. There was an earlier assassination attempt by other members of the Black Hand that had failed. According to our knowledgeable tour guide Princip was simply eating sandwich at the cafe on the corner and the Archduke’s car pulls up to the bridge directly in front of him. Princip takes advantage of the opportunity and with two shots kills Franz Ferdinand and starts a war.
We look for something traditional for lunch. We get ćevapčići which is basically 5, 10 or 15 minced meat that looks like mini sausages inside of a pita. It usually comes with onions and kajmak (which is a cross between butter, cream cheese and sour cream). It is delicious.
Afterwards we have the first of two meetings with Ms. Samira Nuhanovic. She was supposedly the instructor for our class but due to pregnancy and other reasons could not make it to Freiburg. She is a native and very well spoken. It is amazing to me how well people outside of English speaking countries speak English.
Then we go back to the room and chill. When we get bored we decide to walk around a bit. A Turkish guy winks at me and I am a bit confused but Batu says this is simply a way of saying hello and the proper response is a head nod. The head nod I’m used to, the winking, not so much.
Later we go to a steakhouse for dinner. It is very touristy or “Posh” as Marcel would say. At the table beside us is a man and woman speaking English, it stands out because the woman has a hard southern accent. It almost makes me feel at home, at least until the waitress comes to take our orders and we ask what each thing on the menu is. The woman at the table next to us notices my hat and asks if I am from Atlanta. It turns out she is from Marietta (where I went to high school) and works for the government. Her next stop on your journey is Croatia, I wonder what the purpose of her trip is but I don’t ask. She tells me that I should order the steak, I go with the chicken ćevapčići instead.
After dinner we get ice cream but it is not nearly as good or as soft as German Eis. The two ladies at the ice cream counter were laughing. I can’t help but think it’s cuz I’m black but I know it’s probably because of my terrible accent when I try to read the Serbo-Croatian flavors.
On the way back to the room Sam spots an 8 year old on a bike smoking. This does not warrant attention from any of the adults around. He smokes as casual as if he had been smoking for years. Ironically our next stop is a water pipe cafe or hookah joint as it is often called in the U.S. Our waiter is quite rude, or just tired from a long day. He tells Sam to put her leg down off the couch despite the fact the man across from us has his leg up and foot on the seat. Maybe its a culture thing, after all this is a Muslim country. After a minute or two of observing Sam notices that all the other women are seated outside and only the men inside. Sarah, Ms. Cali girl is too chill to be bothered by the fact that she and Sam are the only females inside. I hope this does not become an issue. After an hour or so we head back to the hotel to call it a night.
This concludes the second day of my Bosnia trip.
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