What a great trip so far!
I’ve been here over 24 hours and it feels like 2, despite what my fatigued body is telling me.
Yesterday we arrived at who-knows-what-time in the morning and took a well-stuffed bus to the hotel. The hotel was nothing like I expected. It’s beautiful and in the middle of town, surrounded by people, culture, and beautiful weather. We went for a late lunch and had our first bites of Burek (a savory pastry stuffed filled with cheese and spinach, meat, potatoes, or pumpkin). If the food didn’t make me feel comfortable and at ease, the ambiance did. Streets filled with open watering holes with fresh cold water; vendors selling knockoff handbags, copper coffee sets, silvers jewelry, and hidden cafes. This was all followed by a lazier evening of bottles of wine and snacks from the local general store.
This morning (whatever day it is), we got breakfast a local bakery (delicious)! Then we walked to a tour center saw an exhibit about the siege of Sarajevo. A 10-minute video left several of us close to tears if not struggling to find words to express our thoughts about the video. We then went on a small bus tour up to the mountains which overlook the city. Although a stunning view, it was a sobering view of how easily the Serbian snipers were able to attack their targets. The landscape oddly parallels the Hawaiian islands with rolling green hills and a tropical-like breeze.
Our next destination was to the site of the tunnel which Sarajevan’s used to get to the free Bosnian territory where food, medical supplies, and artillery were smuggled through. Amazingly, the tunnel was never discovered by the Serbians. Our tour guide told us that he had joined the army when he was 16 1/2 years old and he had to get written permission from both of his parents to join the army. He spoke about how he didn’t want to flee the city, he wanted to defend it. The Sarajevan’s were able to defend the city for 3 years and avoid Serbian occupation. The tunnel took 4 months to build and the city’s best engineers were recruited to build it from both sides. Interestingly, the engineers from both sides of the tunnel were only 10 centimeters off from the distance between both sides.
The bus took us back closer to our neck of the woods where we walked around and did some “light” shopping. One designer handbag and two new pairs of sunglasses later we grabbed some gelato and headed back to the hotel where our group met to process our day. It was great to sit and hear how everyone felt about what we had seen and process our reactions to what we had seen. We all felt this sent of shame in that we had intruded on someone else’s traumatic history and taking pictures of buildings with shrapnel holes, or looking at bullet shells made out of pens and finding temptation to buy them, seemed so wrong. But how else do you document what you have seen or what you have felt by what you have seen?
Our evening ended by picking up some pizza’s and walked up to a lookout point where we watched the sunset and listened to evening prayer coming from the Mosque’s. The entire city seems to be silenced by loud speakers as humming Islamic calls to pray which ha seemed to have a calming effect on our group. We sat in silence as the call continued for about a minute and then walked back down to our hotel.
Sarajevo is a beautiful city with a very recent and tragic past. The people are beautiful, kind, and welcoming. They truly love their city and the war proved that at all costs, they will defend it. Could we say the same thing about where we live?