The Beauty of Bosnia
Trip Start Jun 08, 2005
68Trip End Ongoing
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Set into the mountains Sarajevo is abit of a stunner really, a large sprawling city (alot bigger than I anticipated) its lush green surroundings mix in well with the orange tiles of the roof's. It's really pretty and is a far cry from the brown slush and mud that we all saw on the TV 10 years ago during the war. The city is still healing though, large building shells still fill the city scape and a combination of sniper and larger bomb wounds scar virtually every original wall.
'Roses' are highlighted in the concrete, these are the spots where a bomb shell has hit, leaving behind the characteristic imprint of a 'rose'. The Bosnians have preserved the imprints by filling them with red concrete and erecting a little plaques with the names of those who died in that specific bombing. It feels abit strange sitting out having a coffee, in front of a 'rose'!
The people are very very lovely - still picking up the pieces, figuratively and literally. Theres alot of construction and rebuilding going on and everyone has their own war stories to tell. The part I find so interesting about war stories in Bosnia is the modern slant. They talk in good humor, even joke about the war in ways that you wouldn't hear survivors from other wars joke, because of the recent nature of the suffering. A real common one is that they like to take the mickey about the siege being the best way yet to combat obesity, whilst quoting the average weight loss for across the city over the 4 years. The also joke (perhaps with a touch of truth) that maybe they wouldn't have had the longest siege in history if they'd been sitting on oil - someone would have put them abit higher on the priority list. Topical issues of today that have been relevant to their own plight.
I went on a history tour around Sarajevo, which was interesting - if nothing more than to see the beautiful city. I found it quiet weird though that our tour guide was a guy not much older than myself who had fought in the front line. He chit chatted about all sorts of stuff, but most interestingly he put a real plug in for the Bosnian women. The U2 song "Miss Sarajevo" is just one familiar tribute to the women of Sarajevo, highlighting the fact that despite a full scale war going on outside the Miss Sarajevo contest continued. Aside from the obvious demands of war time for the women it was no secret that from the commencement of the war the women of Sarajevo maintained a simple pact to remain as beautiful as possible for their men. Make-up was one of the biggest black market sellers during the was. The women went quietly about bringing happiness in a pretty grim environment through maintaining pride in themselves, something that appears to have worked very well.
From Sarajevo I took what could quiet possibly be one of the most beautiful train journeys on earth to Mostar. A big call, but the 3 hour train journey was absolutely mind blowing. Huge mountains, beautiful villages and aqua green/crystal clear water filled the rivers, it really couldn't be faulted. The terrain was so steep and that in places the rain track going the opposite direction was immediately below the track we were on.
Mostar is absolutely beautiful, a picture perfect little town nestled onto a stunning river. Muslims live on the West, Croats on the East of the river, the river being a physical boundary that draws a fine line between peace and war. Its quiet safe to stroll around wherever though. No amount of description will give this place justice, its simply beautiful. The lack of tourists is nice too!
I met some great people on the way to Sarajevo - Tulia, Alexandra and Michael. All three are American (well, with the exception of Tulia who is actually Polish, family immigrated to Canada but shes doing her phD in the States). We had 24 hours of great fun which began on the train from Budapest... it took the 4 of us (an Electrical Engineer, 2 Maths Phd's and myself) 6 hours to figure out how the chairs in our sleeper cabin reclined in our carriage! What a discovery though, the entire cabin turned into one huge bed when all of the chairs reclined, so between being woken up for the two boarder crossings (Hungry/Croatia and Croation/Bosnia)the 4 of us slept soundly. I would have carried on travelling with them, all three were onward bound for Croatia but my body is requiring alittle more rest than usual at the moment, as it does from time to time, so I held back. All three are on a slightly tighter time schedule than myself, but theres a good chance we will meet up in Croatia. Tomorrow morning I am bound for Dubrovnik.