Bosnia Trip – Day 3European Union, Summer 2012

BiH Day 3:

Started the morning with a workout. Hotel Astra Garni has a pretty nice facility; free weights, bike treadmill. My only complaint is that the ceilings are a tad bit low which makes it quite difficult to do push press or any kind of jumping exercise. Nonetheless I am happy I have somewhere to work out.

Afterwards I shower. Alex and Batu are still sleeping so peaceful.  Despite the 28 degrees Celsius outside, the ac unit in the room keeps it cool.  Breakfast is the same as yesterday delicious. Afterwards we meet in lobby. Alex runs back to the room to get his sun glasses. He’s taking way too long. Sarah, Sam and I get in the cab with Marcel. Batu and Sarah from Dublin get into the taxi in front of us. I make a funny face at Batu. Then Karen storms by, I can tell she hates to be late. The cabs pull off.  Once again, another crazy taxi ride. I could never drive in this city.

After two  miles or so Sarah asks Marcel if Alex is in the other cab in front of us. All he sees is Sarah from Dublin and Batu in the backseat. We left Alex.

Marcel calls. “Alex! This is Marcel, are you at the hotel?” Apparently Karin called a taxi for him but he didn’t know so after a few minutes it left without him. So, he’s gonna have to call another taxi and I doubt the driver will speak English.

Today’s lesson don’t be late.

On the way to our meeting with Nansen dialogue center we pass the Olympic rings from the 1984 Winter Olympics held here in Sarajevo. We stop on a random hill. The taxi driver says something to Marcel in his Serbo- Croatian dialect but of course Marcel doesn’t understand a word, he can barely understand my American English sometimes.  After several attempts of failed communication Marcel realizes that it is futile. “Welcome to the developing world.” The taxi drivers stop, yell at each other, we must be lost. Oh well, back to the hotel is fine with me.

Fortunately Sam spots the place. The sign outside the door was too small, the same size as a nametag on an office door inside a corporate building.


Nansen Dialogue Center (small sign)

Nansen Poster


Mr. Nansen: The Norwegian Founder & Benefactor

Flags: BiH & Norway

Nansen Magnets

At Nansen Dialogue Center we talk to Mustafo Cero. He fought in the war and now works in this NGO to promote interethnic dialogue in hopes of providing a better future for his children. After a few minutes of dialogue Alex shows up. Overall I would have to say it was a good meeting. The taxi ride home was just as crazy.


Olympic Rings


Our next meeting is with Velma Saric, the director of Usopome 677, the documentary we watched last week in class.  She is very well spoken (i dont mean this in a derogatory way but emphasizing her education in such a poor country. She is a very knowledgeable, outspoken and powerful woman. Change only comes from a society with people like Velma, the ones who don’t leave (brain drain is a big issue for this area).

We get Burek for lunch which is basically a meat pie. It  basically consists of minced meat and onions rolled in thin flour tortillas and baked.


Burek (meat pie)

Our waitress speaks no English… NONE.  We couldn’t even order water (which was simply voda) without getting the help of some girls sitting at a nearby table.  It was terrible.  I vow to at least be able to order food next time I go somewhere.  This won’t matter much in Turkey because Batu is fluent and will be our personal tutor and translator.

In addition to our Burek, Batu orders Ayran which is a thin yogurt that is meant to drink along with the meat pie.



He says they have it in Turkey as well and proceeds to doctor it to his tastes.  He puts in salt in it.  Since our waitress cannot understand English and the fact that Batu wanted one Ayran and not five we each have this white drink staring us in the face.  Batu takes a huge gulp as if it were a refreshing glass or ice cold lemonade on a warm summer day.  I try to follow suit but cannot even finish one gulp without feeling as if I am going to loose everything I ate in the last two days.  I literally felt like I was drinking that thin layer of fat that forms in a pan after you cook meat and forget to wash it out.  Regardless, the entire meal only cost us 6KM which is approximately $4.

After lunch we stop at a few stores then get ready for the hike with Fikret. Karin and Sam stay at the hotel.  Our bus driver is obviously a native. He fits into the smallest spaces.  Marcel compliments his driving, “good driver,” he says.  Fikret replies, “in Sarajevo you have no choice.”  The smooth ride soon becomes a bumpy one, we’re off-roading.  Not really, the infrastructure in BiH is not as advanced as most European cities due to the lack of power in the state level.  Sights of broken asphalt and ditches are commonalities in the post-conflict nation.

The bus driver pulls up to an even narrower path than the ones he usually maneuvers his way through and stops.  When we step out the bus the tour begins.  Almost immediately we see more war torn buildings. Some look to be half demolished while others are merely piles of bricks, remnants that simply imply a building once stood there.  The pine trees at the bottom of the hill (half a mile down or so) mark the front lines from the war which means there is a very high possibility that mines are around.  Fikret informs us that the forest on either side of this narrow path is actually a live minefield.  Whew, that’s good to know.  I was scared for a second there until, wait… what? [It is really dangerous to be in a live minefield but with a tour guide as wise as Fikret, what could go wrong?] So we put our safety in the hands of Fikret and continue.


Fikret: Best tour guide in BiH

The first ruins we see are of a mountain hotel, one of the first places the Serbs occupied.  Along the road imprinted in the asphalt is Serb tank tracks. We stumble upon some leftover shell casings.  Despite all the rubble, destruction and negativity that this place is far from desolate.  This is the silver lining that Fikret points out, “the mines protect the forest.”

Tank Tracks

After warning us several times of the dangers of mines (which Fikret says we only have theoretical knowledge of while he has practical knowledge, having lost friends and loved ones to them) he takes us off the path to a sniper position in the rocks.  It is a simply picturesque view.



Along the path we find thyme, wild parsley,  and oregano.  We can still see the reminants of bunkers (nothing but rotten logs and sandbags now) and cans of food that I’m guessing the Serb soldiers ate while holding their positions. If no one told you that this place is where over 11,500 people lost their lives and more than 56,000 others were wounded then you would think this was just another beautiful forest.  There are flowers, crickets chirping nonstop and with the view that overlooks the city it’s hard to picture that someone would use this view to plan an attack on civilians.


More Tank Tracks

Old Food Cans




A broken tv

A butterfly landed on me when I was trying to take a picture…

After I finished with the butterfly I went back to my picture…

Another Bunker


We walked to the remains of another building that used to be a restaurant.  Fikret offers us some Bosnian candy. It’s pretty good, I’m not sure how it’s made or why it’s black but it’s good.




Next we stumble upon the bobsled and luge tracks from the 1984 Winter Games. It is overrun by weeds and some local artists have left their mark on the 1,300 meters of abandoned cement.

Glass and debris where the stands were

Then we get back in the bus and head to the Tito monument.  On the way we stop at another sniper position.


Castle Close Up

Serbian Markings

Serbian Markings Close Up

Some returned and rebuilt their homes after the war

Next we visit the Tito Monument, our last stop on the hike/bus ride. Tito was the president of the former republic of Yugoslavia in the 1960′s and 1970′s.  He is well revered in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Bosnian Muslim and Catholic Croatian entity), but no so much in the Republika Srpska (the Serbian Orthodox entity).  Unfortunately the monument now falls in the Republika Srpska so it has not been kept up very well. The deterioration of what should be considered a national monument is due to lack of shared history.  This is the main cause of seperation between the “ethnic” groups, lack of a shared history.  Serb police guard the Tito monument and do a poor job, if I am allowed to say so.

The Serbian police officers look to be simply sitting out relaxing on a nice day, not even working.  When we walk by they offer Marcel a Coke, of course he cannot refuse so he takes it.  When he goes to open the Coke it sprays and the officers are pleased with what we assume to be a prank on the foreigners.  I do not wish to tarnish the name of the Serbian people nor the Bosnian Serbs nor the Serbian police because I have not met all of them and cannot judge a population by two people,  but I can judge those two people and say they were unfit to wear their uniforms.

After the hike/bus ride back to the hotel we walk around for a bit.

Batu realizes he left his camera somewhere.  He calls Alex, who is in the room to check for it but Alex says it is not there.  We rush back to the room to check anyway and there it is, laying on Batu’s bed.  Alex was on Skype with his girlfriend Kayla who is coming to Freiburg to visit next week seeing as she participated in the European Union program Fall 2010.

Next we do some more walking around.  The girls buy jewelry and fake Gomez jerseys.  Gomez is a German soccer player, I mean footballer who apparently is the sexiest man who ever lived, according to the girls of course.  I beg to differ.

We find another local spot for dinner.  I order the Sogan Dolma, which Batu informs me is also Turkish.  It is simply onions stuffed with minced meat and onions.

Sogan Dolma

After dinner, Sam and I stop to get desserts then we join the others at the hotel.

Creme Horn

Tulumba (cheap according to Batu)

This concludes Day 3 of my BiH trip.

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  1. Cameron, I am impressed with your commentary on your trip. You bring me right along with you on your journey. Thank you for the adventure. So that drink Batu ordered was pretty vile, eh??
    Take care, Linda (Sarah’s mom)

  2. Of course it’s “Footballer,” don’t you watch Top Gear on BBC or Premier League? :-) Thanks for the pics – the luge course is rather sad, isn’t it?

  3. Wow! Another wonderful history lesson. It would have been great to have an English version of the menu, however there are probably cut backs there as well. The pictures were great and I am glad all were safe. It was good to see you met a friend:-)

    Take care,

  4. Man, I’m gonna start sounding like a butthole.

    Burek is rolled in very thin dough. It is much thinner than a tortilla. Filo sheets that you can buy in any grocery store in the U.S. are very close to it. The dough is stretched by hand, until you can basically see through it. I’ve watched my grandmother do it many times.

    Tito was the leader of the communist partisans during WW 2. They fought against the nazis and their collaborators on the territory of former Yugoslavia. He was the president of Yugoslavia from the end of WW 2 until his death in 1980. You are right though. He was/is popular in BiH. The Federation and the Republika Srpska didn’t exist as entities until the end of the war in 1995. BiH was partitioned into those two parts by the Deyton Agreement.

    On to Day 4.

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