This Sunday I took a bus from Zagreb, Croatia to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The bus ride took around 8 hours, the majority of which was through the north of Bosnia. The lengthy bus ride revealed many truths about Bosnia and life here, while also posing many more unanswered questions.
Bosnia is a very mountainous country, and that truth played no small role in the arduous and prolonged bus ride from Zagreb. However the lack of major high-speed highways also significantly slowed down the 400km journey (~250 miles). After crossing the border from Croatia to Bosnia, the road quickly became narrow and windey as it climbed higher and higher into the hills. The mountains are not like the mountains in my home of Colorado nor the mountains of Appalachia, but reminded me more of the mountains of Hokkaido, Japan. The scenery was amazing and as we got closer to Sarajevo I started to notice fields of strawberries and roadside fruit stands selling massive watermelons. One also notices the flags and in each village denoting the main ethnic group in each village. As much of the drive crossed through the entity of Republika Srpska, many of the flags were Serbian. However I also noticed some oddities. Bosnian homes seem have some very specific tastes in yard decorations, in particular white plaster swans and mushrooms. Some even were embellished with fountains and other white plaster animals.
The second day in Sarajevo we took a walking tour of the city, venturing back and forth between the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman areas of the city and then taking a bus to the Bosnia war tunnel and the bobsled track from the 1984. We covered hundreds of years of history in about 6 hours. Walking through this green, bustling modern city, it’s hard to imagine that carnage that took place here 20 years ago. Pigeons, children, and young people walking dogs fill paths and public squares where snipers once regularly picked off scared and ragged residents. But a look at almost any of the buildings reveals bullet holes and scars from shellings. Plaques around the city eulogize the names of people killed in that area and when the attack occurred. The stories told by our tour guide provided everyone with the solemn reminder that almost every adult in this city lived through the war and their lives were deeply effected to by that war. Even the bobsled track high up on the side of Trebevic mountain tucked away in the trees was used by snipers. Today the bobsled track sits decaying in the hills, reclaimed by local graffiti artists as a canvas for spray paint as way to take back the legacy of their city.