I fell in love with Eastern Europe three years ago, more specifically, Moldova. I was placed there in the Peace Corps and lived and traveled the region for two years. I lived with a host family, ate the traditional food and spoke the local language. As I traveled to other countries in the region, I could see similarities in the cultures: The food was the same, every cup of wine was consumed on behalf of someone’s health or soul, and many of them were frustrated with the political and economic state that their country was in. Even though I didn’t make it to Bosnia during my service, I did travel to Croatia and Slovenia, also former Yugoslav countries. I was a little apprehensive about how much I was going to learn, experience and grow from this trip to Bosnia due to it’s geographical and historic proximity to Moldova. However, I was willing to try since it did mean that I got to visit Moldova and all the wonderful things there that I left behind. I was surprised and pleased when Bosnia proved me wrong. Bosnia was, in fact, very different in its own distinct way.
Unlike Moldova, terrain is green, mountainous and stunning. The natural beauty alone is worth visiting Bosnia. We went on beautiful hikes, saw stunning waterfalls and drive through gorgeous country sides. Some of my favorite days included visiting these natural sites.
Traces of the Ottoman Empire still permeate many countries in Eastern Europe, it seemed to me that Bosnia still has many influences in their culture. The food, architecture and religion resemble that of Turkey. The Muslim culture adds such uniqueness from the rest of the region. One thing that I love about being in a Muslim country is the call to prayer. Several times per day, The Call illuminates the city with its song—a soothing energy.
That soothing energy is necessary in a society that has lived through such atrocities. Learning about the recent genocide was chilling. Moldova had a civil war in the early 90s, and actually my host dad was shot from a stray bullet, but it was a shorter war, concentrated in one area, and politically driven. Once Moldovans reached an agreement, there was peace in the country. However in Bosnia, the traces of war are everywhere and the fact that there was a mass genocide is still very prevalent in the country. It’s amazing how Bosnians are able to carry on their lives with the heaviness in their heart and in their history.
Don’t get me wrong, I am far from knowing everything there is to know about Eastern Europe, but I am grateful for the opportunity to have had the chance to get to know Bosnia more intimately. I’m also thankful for having such supportive peers and professors who allowed me to constantly compare Moldova and Bosnia. I would constantly say “This is exactly like Moldova,” or “Wow, that’s cool. This is nothing like Moldova.” I’m sure it was really annoying. This trip did reinforce the fact that I love the Eastern European region and how many of the traditions and cultures are similar, but each country has it’s own specialness and beauty that sets them apart from their neighbors.