Sarajevo - A City Destroyed 5 Years Before 9/11

Trip Start Aug 18, 2010
Trip End Apr 09, 2011

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Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina  ,
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Coming out of the more recent violence of the Serbian Riots, I couldn't help but be sensitized to the war-strewn ground that is Sarajevo. 

The thing to realize about Sarajevo is that it in so many ways is a perfectly modern city. In 1984 it hosted the Winter Olympics, and throughout the 80's it was a becoming a center of commerce for much of the Balkan area. 

Then, in the 1990's war occurred. Ethnic groups that had long gotten along - Croatians, Serbians, Bosnians (Catholics, Orthodox, and Muslims respectively), suddenly erupted into violence (The history there is too long for a blog entry-check out wikipedia for details.).  During the mid 1990's the country disintegrated into violence, and from 1992-1995 the city was virtually leveled by the fighting. For example - pay attention to my photo of a tunnel entrance - as it notes, this was the city gate for several years during the war, as it was the only way into the city safe from sniper fire and artillery.

In many ways the city itself is disquieting, primarily due to the feeling of...freshness to the violence that occurred here. Remember the war here ended only 5-6 years before 9/11, and where as that was one act of violence with a few thousand casualties, this was a multi-year conflict that destroyed much of a city. And to make things worse, it was caused by factions within a single area that had co-existed for years. For comparison, imagine if a major U.S. city today (say Boston) was leveled by fighting factions of Protestants and Catholics. 
If you click on my second Bosnian entry (Mostar), you will see a multistory bank building destroyed during the conflict there. In Bosnia there aren't safety lines put up by authorities, so one of the things you can do is walk directly into the destroyed buildings that still litter the landscape. This particular Bank building still had client dossiers on the floors, and in the upper levels you could find shell casings from when it was used as a sniper's nest during the war. I also visited littered remains of the 84' Olympic Bobsled track in a field that still has landmines from the war. It is suggested that you "stay on the trails." 

Behind that, of course, are still people trying to get on with their lives and some of the most beautiful countryside you will find anywhere. It's just a shame the pain people are willing to put each other through. 

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