Today marks two weeks that I have been in Bosnia and it has been an incredible experience so far. If I was back in the States, I would be celebrating the fourth of July at a BBQ with friends and family and enjoying the fireworks display, instead I spent the morning at a rally with the people of Sarajevo as we watched the beginning of Ratko Mladic’s trial. It was an interesting experience to observe and although I felt very much as an outsider during this rally, I felt privileged to have the opportunity to witness this event. The event was all in Bosnian so I couldn’t quite understand what was going on, but I definitely got the sense that people were there not because they were seeking revenge for the atrocities that occurred, but they simply wanted to see justice served.
My experience in Sarajevo has been quite a whirlwind of activity and emotions. One moment I’ll be walking along the river walk, heading to my internship, soaking everything up, then the next moment I look up and see the bullet holes in the buildings or I see the holes in the sidewalks where a mortar exploded or I walk over a Sarajevo rose, and I am quickly reminded about the war and everything that happened here just 15 years ago. That is the amazing thing about this city. It is such a beautiful and inspirational place and the people complement the city completely, with their friendliness and willingness to help, but the destruction of the war is still so pervasive. It’s difficult for me to go through so many emotions in one moment and I can’t even understand what it was like during the war. For the Bosnian people who are living their daily lives, and are still constantly reminded about what happened here and have a personal story associated with every bullet hole and every destroyed building, I can’t even imagine how much those emotions creep into their daily lives. And yet, they don’t show it. Their resiliency is like nothing I have ever experienced. I am amazed and in awe of their ability to move on and live their lives. Every Bosnian person was personally affected by the war and it changed their lives completely and yet they don’t let it play a large role in their present or their future, or at least they don’t show it.
I am also in awe of the complete and utter beauty of this country. I have taken a gazillion pictures, but they will never be able to truly convey the depth of it’s beauty. The first weekend here I went on a hike with a couple of people and was able to experience the Sarajevan countryside, which reminded me so much of Switzerland (where I grew up). The views of the city from the hillsides are truly breathtaking and beyond words. The city itself is a great mix of old and new. We are located in the old town, which I have completely fallen in love with in every sense of the word…the cobblestone streets, the smells emanating from the pekaras and the buregdzinicas, hearing the call to prayer, the maze of streets and alleys (which I continue to discover a new place everyday), and even my love/hate relationship with the ever present noise from the bar across the street. For my internship, I like to walk along the river walk and watch the architecture and atmosphere of the city slowly transform from the old town with it’s Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman architecture to the more modern side of town with it’s Soviet (and frankly pretty darn ugly) architecture. This past weekend we made a trip to Mostar and the surrounding areas. In Mostar, we went on a walking tour of the old town and saw the famous bridge that was destroyed during the war. We also visited a medieval town called Počitelj, which was amazing and had some great views. A few of us stayed behind and spent the night in Mostar. We were able to rent a car and go to the Kravice waterfalls, which were fabulous. We went swimming in the frigid water, but it was worth it because we were able to climb up the rocks right next to the waterfalls. I have some great pictures that hopefully I will be able to post soon.
I continue to fall more and more in love with the city of Sarajevo on a daily basis and I hope that this experience will be followed by many more visits to this incredible place.