Northern Bosnian Perception

After spending a good amount of time in Sarajevo and other rather habituated parts of Bosnia, a couple of us traveled outside of the city and went north this weekend. We went to the medieval fortressed Jajce, and spent some time in what I suppose Bosnians would classify as the country. And, as was not terribly surprising, they have a rather negative viewpoint on the people of Sarajevo.

My experience with Eastern Europe has been that people in cities have a negative viewpoint (often calling them peasants) of those who live the smaller towns. Not surprisingly, this creates a negative image of those who live in the city for those who live in the country. Many people throughout the weekend would make comments on how I was living in Sarajevo, how ‘real people live in Jajce’ (or whatever city was mentioned). I suppose this is no different than the viewpoint I sometimes find that I have of small town America, even though I am from there, and it reminds me of how detrimental that can be to my own viewpoints of meeting new people.

Even more interesting for me right now is this, after spending time in the tunnel museum of Sarajevo, I feel that I am more appreciative of the Siege and understand why people here are so concerned about the ethnic tensions. Sometimes even I feel the tensions between the ethnic groups when I am walking through the market or even on the bus. Yet when I was in Jajce, it was clear that these tensions are not a prevalent to the people. The town square has a major mosque right next to a water fountain that was a memorial to Church members who had lost their lives during WWII. Right across from the mosque was a liquor store. I believe this town is a great example of how Bosnia is the cultural bouillabaisse of the former Yugoslavia.

It was the people, however, who were the greatest mix. We spent hours at a local pub that night with a group of men who had lived their entire lives in Jajce. They had known each other for years and were Bosniak, Croatian, and Serbian and that they were friends before and after the war. For them, it was never their problem, never their war. It is hard to believe that a country can be so different from one location to another.

They also were the first people I have met who didn’t want Bosnia to be a part of the EU. They seemed to think that they weren’t European that they felt that they were able to relate better to being Communists than they ever would be able to be European. They are used to their fellow former Yugoslavians, but Europeans still baffle them. I am wondering if they feel abandoned during the war (most likely) or if they think that Europeans could never accept them.

Yet they were extremely friendly and talkative. They told us about their own experiences, while trying to get us to drink more pivo, and then they paid for our tab (they were baffled by people who would work for no money and said ‘Students don’t have money). It seems that no expense need be spared for good company. That is a perception that I can’t help but admire.

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