Wow, is the descriptor that keeps entering my mind everywhere we go! Wow, at first seems a simple word to use when there is a city laid out in front of me as majestic as Sarajevo appears to this old coal miners eyes. In my mind’s eye I had fabricated dark, shadowy, cloudy images of strife. I had prepared for this journey by reading, watching videos, searching my distant memories of television reporting from the 1980’s and 1990’s to shape my expectations. I had envisioned a somber bleak place where there was struggle and strife. I perceived a still deliberate and pointed focus on efforts to rebuild from the siege. I had this vision despite the reality there have been two decades since the peace was struck at in Dayton Ohio. Nothing could be further from the truth than these faulty conceptions which my mind had conjured of the city of Sarajevo!
My somber vision was shattered with the first ride in the bus from the airport to the Hotel Kovaci. I could feel the energy of the city as we darted through the streets and alley ways. The bustling swarm of motor vehicle traffic, the city’s many markets and café’s teeming with commotion, and the pedestrian’s moving swiftly with purposeful stride throughout the city in a gracious concoction of life. In just the first hours I was touched by all of the beautiful architecture which has been influenced by the numerous empires which have laid claim to this stunning this space. Their influence has melded the landscape into this grand hub of life. In the first hours my gaze had captured Church spires adorned with crosses, Minarets of the mosques, and the Star of David on a synagogue coexisting within the same cognition. Wow, what diversity!
There are dark truths of the past which slip in through this lively ruckus about me and pry their way in to my conscious thoughts. The high-rise 20th century apartment buildings still wear the scars of the war. There are pock marks left in the brick walls from bullets and artillery shells. There is exposed rebar behind blemishes in the concrete left behind by the mortar rounds and bombing. Several of the outer walls above windows remain blackened by the long since extinguished blazes which charred the façade of many buildings. The humble plainness of the buildings which have been reoccupied stand in contrast to the occasional skeletal remains of structures which were too damaged for repairs to make sense. Wow, these sites seem to be hidden in plain site from the vivacious energy of the city. It provides the impression the citizenry has never stopped living life and has forged ahead to make a new day!
The memories, distant memories I have of the 1984 Winter Olympics drift in through the clouds of time and find me standing at the top of what remains of the luge and bobsled venue from that grand affair. Sarajevo, the gem of Yugoslavia as it was presented to the world as a winter sports mecca for the those games. This remembrance transitions me to this ethereal concrete carcass of the bobsled run. The moss stained concrete seating back dropped by overgrowth forest. The banks of the turns weathered by time and emblazoned with graffiti to make a conflicted sight. Wow, to blend memories with realities.
The resiliency of the city, the tenacious fortitude of the people, and the glorious city scape leave me wanting more, to explore more, to behold more, and to share more. I feel as though the next few stops on my adventure will guide me in to a new conception of the world. Just as Sarajevo has stolen my heart and Srebrenica may change my soul. I am ready to experience Srebrenica and explore its tragic history and hear is hope for a better just future through the fresh eyes of the young at heart social worker I am today.