Denver to Boston to Munich to SARAJEVO. After what seemed like the longest day of travel ever, I finally made it to Sarajevo, and the exhaustion was most definitely worth it. Here is what I have noticed/learned in my first week:
1) Everything is better in Bosnia.
But actually, everything. First of all, the food. I have not eaten anything that I would not want to eat forever. Meat, bread and cheese everywhere always and I am not hating it. And for the times when my body realizes that some fruit and veggies may be a good idea, there is a fantastic produce market 5 minutes from the hostel. Next, the dessert (AKA more food). Between cakes, Sladelade (Bosnia’s version of super delicious ice cream), gelato and Bosnian candy, this place is a dream for someone with a sweet tooth.
The architecture. Looking at Sarajevo from atop one of the many hills (which do not make going for runs any easier), the different time periods of Bosnia’s history are evident. Buildings dating back from the Austro-Hungarian Empire mix with Soviet era high rises, buildings damaged by the war and more modern buildings that have been built since 1995. Not to mention the several Catholic churches that stand amongst various mosques throughout the city. The buildings are a testament to the diversity of the country.
Coffee culture. Coffee in Bosnia is not something to be grabbed from Starbucks in a rush because you’re running late on the way to a meeting. Coffee is an occasion of its own. It is to be shared with others in an outdoor café or amongst friends and colleagues. It is to be enjoyed, not chugged as a source of energy. It is the first thing that we did on my first day interning with Wings of Hope and something that I predict will happen many more times.
First song heard in Sarajevo? Sometimes by Britney Spears. CLASSIC. Between the never ending and ever entertaining musical choices by Cheers- the neighborhood bar that serenades me to sleep every night with live covers of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rihanna and Oasis- and the music playing in restaurants, bars and on the street, I hear reminders of home as well as local music that has clear Middle Eastern and Eastern European influences.
3) Bosnia is home to the nicest and most attractive people in the world (or at least the world that I have seen thus far)
No matter the situation, every person I have encountered has been extremely welcoming, hospitable and helpful. I have had people help me on the bus, at the market, and at restaurants without ever asking.
Attractive levels: Outrageous. It’s like an entire population of models migrated to one city. And they are always dressed to impress-an impressive feat given the heat and extensive walking here.
4) I actually understand some Bosnian words
Here are the most useful and my favorite: Nema problema (no problem), Izvolite (including but not limited to a greeting, how can I help you?, here you are), kaffa (coffee), hvala (thank you), dobar dan (good day), and pekara (bakery). Even though every time I try speaking Bosnian, I get a response in English, I am determined to get better.
5) Reminders of war are both everywhere and nowhere
One of the most surprising and in a way disturbing things about Sarajevo, however, is how easily it can be forgotten what the country endured between 1992 and 1995. People are happy here and it is a gorgeous and vibrant city. Sarajevo at sunset with the call to prayer in the background may be the most relaxing thing I have ever experienced. I think that it can be summed up nicely by something a friend of Ann’s told her: “You look at Sarajevo and see the beautiful things, I look and see the things that are not there anymore.” The war clearly impacts every day of Bosnian life and culture and it is important to never forget that, as easy as it is to get caught up in the fun of the city.
My internship just began today and so far it seems like it will be a great experience, but more to come on that later. I am probably leaving out a million more things that could be included, but I have until mid-August to remember them. This trip already seems too short.