A cultural crossing…

So far, my favorite place in Sarajevo is a specific spot when you turn left out of our hostel and walk through the air-conditioned street, up to the main street leading to Baščaršija, turn right and walk towards the fountain. Once you get there, there are various things that may go unnoticed by first glance, as it is often simply walked by. However at this point in the city you are able to look one way and see the remnants of the Ottoman Empire and if you look the other way you can see a drastically different picture designed by the Austro Hungarian era. To me, the Ottoman Empire effect captures the essence of Baščaršija as a central center of the city. It brings constantly reminds the city of the cultural landscape that was present in the 15th century, with Baščaršija as the upcoming cultural and economic hub as it remains to be to this day. By walking this direction you will continue to see many traditional restaurants and small shops, and eventually you will end up in Pigeon Square, which is another topic of its own. However, if you happen to go the other direction, you will enter the very European-esque Austro-Hungarian area of town (well at least I have heard it is European- esque, I do not know this by experience since this is my first time in Europe, however either way its pretty cool!) So when you go this way, I have noticed a few things. First, the architecture rises to very tall buildings more similar to typical western architecture that I have learned about in some class (no, I do not mean ‘modern’ western architecture.) Second, the restaurants branch out to explore other foods that are far and few in Baščaršija, such as McDonalds, an Irish pub, and Michéle’s. Third, this area has more businesses such as tourism agencies, popular/international clothing stores, and the like rather than the typical small traditional stores mostly found in Baščaršija. Needless to say, you can see a drastic difference simply by looking one direction or the other, and each cultural hub holds its own appeal, depending on what mood you are in. Another point of focus at this crossing is the fountain. Many people know about the fountains of Sarajevo…and legend has it, if you drink from it you will one day return to Sarajevo. I am not sure if this applies to all fountains, but I’m pretty sure that it holds true at this intersection, how could it not? It adds further to this special point in the city. Another reason this point holds significance for me is as follows. When I was receiving a history lesson from a Bosnian friend a few days ago, he discussed some possible seeds of the strong sense of nationalism present among several Serbian leaders. He mentioned that it was rooted in the beginning of the Austro-Hungarian rule essentially following the Treaty of Berlin. I cannot remember exact details of this reasoning, but it was something along the lines of a need to create a single powerful nation in which everyone is entitled to the same rights. He mentioned that this idea was disliked among the orthodox Serbian population and catholic Croat populations, as the policy attempted to establish a separate Bosnia and Herzegovina entity. Sorry about the brief history lesson, but to me this point in the city represents more than just two cultural hubs, it also creates an idea of where the deep rooted separations so prevalent today may begin. This version may have its flaws, but it highlights a few aspects of history that are necessary to better understand this highly versatile and complex country. So…. basically everyone should go see this point, drink from the fountain, eat something from the pekara, and contemplate all the history and meaning gathered in this simple street juncture. 

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