After a 16 hour bus journey, including the last nine hours of overnight travel on a 15 passenger mini-bus, there was pretty much zero chance that I could not be extremely excited to arrive in Sarajevo. Even though I was in a semi-conscious state from lack of sleep over the bumpy roads in the middle of the night the taxi drive into the city from the bus station seemed to breath new life into my travel fatigued body. I was instantly amazed by the quality of the roads in the city, which I have since learned that many of the locals do not share my sense of amazement about, but in comparison to the roads that had dutifully kept my most desired sleep just out of reach for the entire previous night I believe that my sentiments were just. I also got an eyeful of the great diversity of buildings the city has to offer on the ride to the hostel, from shiny new shopping malls to socialist block apartments of the recent past to buildings with recently refurbished facades and those awaiting them which still bore the very visibly violent scars of an even more recent past.
After a very friendly welcome by the staff of the hostel towards a most weary traveler I managed to get some early morning sustenance and eventually made it to the glorious earth evading slumber that I desperately needed. I woke up a number of hours later and was pleased to find a message from another student from the program and made plans to meet up shortly for the next items on my list of necessities: some hot food and cold beer. After filling my stomach with some delicious pizza in the company of friends from Denver, we headed out to watch Bosnia play their second ever World Cup match against Nigeria. I was delighted to see the entire city filled with reveling fans hours before the game decked out in Bosnia gear for the game and engaged in all sorts of noise creation and merry making. Unfortunately, the result did not end up being the favored one and Bosnia was prevented from being able to exit the group stage.
The next day the rest of our group arrived and it was great to finally have us all here and beginning to get settled in our home for the summer. Everyone seemed to be equally impressed with Bosnia, our location and our experiences so far. We went to the old Ottoman part of the city for a small group dinner that night which was a delicious way to welcome the group. The diversity provided by Sarajevo’s Ottoman side and the more Austro-Hungarian influenced areas combined with the modern European capital ambiance of certain areas of the city really does give the impression that you are traveling to entirely different cities in a matter of steps. The following day we took a tour of the city and saw some important historical sites, including the bridge where Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, the newly restored city hall, and several places of worship of Catholic, Muslim and Serbian Orthodox religion. It was a very informative tour which also helped me strengthen my directional bearings within the city. All together the first days here in Sarajevo have been amazing and I think we have a great group here that will continue enjoy and learn from our time with the city, Bosnia and each other. (Below I have included some of the photos I managed to take on the city tour)