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Tails From the Vienna Woods

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Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Balkan-Central Europe-Southeastern Europe Holiday: Sarajevo, Times of Misfortune

The Latin Bridge. Doesn’t ring a bell? How about, “Site where Archduke Franz Ferdinand I, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire was assassinated?” As history has it, the driver of the Archduke’s vehicle had gotten lost, and stopped serendipitously to ask the assassin for directions (seriously!) The Empire then declared war on Serbia, inspiring the Central Powers and the Allies to start WWI (and, some say, WWII, the Cold War, and maybe even the Bosnian War.)   Perhaps this explains why men never stop to ask for directions?

This once-pretty building, marked with shrapnel, is near to the bridge.

Our “Times of Misfortune” tour began at the fortress atop Sarajevo. From this vantage point the Serbian forces had spectacular aim at the city below.

One of the Bosnian Muslim cemeteries with its simple white obelisk gravestones.

Most of the markers in the cemetery date between 1992 and 1995.

The Sarajevo Central Cemetery. The darker area in the middle holds predominantly the flat, gray gravestones of Orthodox Serbians, with Bosnian obelisks all around. The Olympic Stadium from the 1984 games was used as a temporary cemetery until the area could be expanded during and after the war.

Our tour also took us to the Tunnel Museum, which documents the tunnel between the Serbian/Bosnian controlled areas and the UN-controlled airport that served as the food and medical lifeline for Sarajevo. Regular Sarajevo citizens had to request permits to receive aid at the tunnel, which generally took 4-6 months to process; once the permit was received, it was a game of survival to reach the tunnel for the aid package and return home again.

A small section of the tunnel was available to walk through. The Serbian forces largely ignored the Bosnians who were leaving Sarajevo via this route–they wanted Sarajevo residents to leave.

Much of the tour was at a basic level, not really delving into personal stories and the like, which Anna Grace and I would have preferred. There was an older person in our small group, though, who posed the kinds of questions that made us scratch our heads and wonder, “Were you under a rock in the 90’s?” so it is possible the guide tailored his narrative for him. We also only drove past the “Sniper’s Alley,” which our guide generally dismissed with a wave of his hand, saying, “It is just a street.”  Still, the tour was a good overview of the war’s impact on Sarajevo, something that could not easily have been done ourselves.

The Balkan-Central Europe-Southeastern Europe Holiday: Sarajevo

Sarajevo seemed deep enough into the Balkan Peninsula to drop “Central Europe” from the title, but over breakfast our host offered her version of geopolitics, saying that Bosnia-Herzegovina was considered Southeastern Europe, so I’ll keep all the titles just in case.

Sarajevo is as elegant as Vienna and as exotic as we expect Istanbul to be. Enjoy the photos!

Baščaršija, the Old City market. The better part of our first day was spent winding down tiny lanes and into treasure-packed stores.

Old world craftsmanship and post-war entreprenuership.
Too many Lokum choices for us! We stuck with a favorite flavor, rose water.

And when we needed a break from the heat, beautiful places to enjoy a mint tea were all around.

Bey’s Mosque in the Old City Market

We were surprised to see a woman using the fountain in the mosque courtyard to rinse her fruits and vegetables.

Outside of the market, the elegance of Vienna is sprinkled along the streets…

…literally.  The trams are hand-me-downs to Sarajevo from Vienna! Nearly twenty years post war, the beautiful city of Sarajevo continues to rebuild.

In the Central Market, a marker at the site where the worst single atrocity of the war occurred.

St. Mark’s Cathedral, not spared from war damage, but careful restoration is underway.

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