From the first breath stepping off the plane in Sarajevo, I have felt at ease here in Bosnia – which feels odd given the painful history of this place. That seems to be the way of this country – full of dichotomy – breathtaking ad heartbreaking all at once. On the one hand, one of the most beautiful places you could ever imagine, but a closer look reveals bullet holes and shell damage of a brutal war that ravaged these beautiful hillsides just twenty short years ago. At one moment you are marveling at the old school charm of the cobblestone streets, and the next you stumble on a Sarajevo Rose.
Strolling through the square just feet from our hotel, you would never know that so recently people did not have the same luxury, but instead dreaded venturing from their homes for fear of snipers or shells. I feel so lucky to be here and to learn from the rich history that seems to lie around every corner. We have barely been here a day and already we have seen so much. Even just walking around the town, there is so much to take in. If forced to pick a favorite moment thus far, it would have to be our visit to the ruins of the 1984 Olympic bobsled run. Again, I felt constantly torn between the beauty of the scenery around us and the horror of the reality of what took place along the curves of that track. Our next stop, looking out over the city from the slopes of the old Jewish Cemetery, knowing that people with snipers sat on that same ground and took aim at innocent men, women and children on the streets below was equally hard to grasp.
I look forward to learning from the resilience, strength and positivity that seems to radiate from the people here. If nothing else, it has already been imprinted on me, that to survive atrocity like the Bosnian War does not have to mean you must embody it. The people here are so hospitable and warm, when everyone would understand if they felt bitter and would rather isolate that invite us in – for that I am so grateful. I am eager to explore more of this beautiful place and hope I continue to be aware of the fact that what we are witnessing has emerged from unimaginable horror that is not far in the past. From just the first day, I know this trip will be life changing. But for now, its time to taste my first Bosnian beer and reflect on the day.