Adventure seems to be pray on you in the most unassuming of ways. One minute you’re feigning adulthood and signing a lease on an assuringly ideal apartment, and the next thing you know you’re signed on to spend 7 weeks trouncing around Bosnia Herzegovina with 11 other graduate students. Careful not to blink, you might miss something.
The prelude to arriving in the city of Sarajevo was the 7 hour bus ride from Zagreb. The contrast between the Croatian/Bosnian border as far as landscape and structures was like night and day. War left its mark on the Bosnian side, and its in your face.
Handing over passports to fully clad border patrol infused a slight panic, especially since they weren’t immediately returned. However, the reassuring smiles and chuckles of Bosnian’s aboard settled any worries we had about reaching our destination as Passport-less yielding Americans. Welcome to Bosnia, where you likely have no idea what’s going on, so it’s best just to go with it.
Sarajevo, what a city.
By far the most profound image after being in the city are the buildings peppered with bullet holes- the leftover blasts in the concrete where grenades scarred the streets. These ‘Sarajevo Roses’ are painted red and linger as a reminder. The past terrors hang to this city, like shoes hanging from a telephone wire. As an outsider, used to rustic hipster architecture, flashy lights and overrated ‘coolness’, it is by far and away the most striking thing I notice about Sarajevo so far.
The first several days have been flush with wanderings, tastings, naps, shopping, drinking and observing. The adventure has only just begun, and I already feel as if I have seen so much. The first group outing consisted of a tour of the tunnel that during the war proved to be a lifeline of the 4-year siege trapping the city. The entrance to the tunnel is so far the only place in Sarajevo where I have seen ‘war tourism’. After the tunnel, we drove to the infamous 1984 Winter Olympic Bob Sled route. It’s hard to describe the exact type of pride that Sarajevo boasts as host of these games. Nationalism is a characteristic of every culture, and mine no exception, yet it shows itself in the quirkiest of ways. For Sarajevo, which during the time of the games was under Communist Yugoslavia, regards the privilege of hosting with the utmost pride. The Bob Sled, which has since acted as both a sniper stronghold during the war, and now a canvas for all kind of colorful graffiti, is an iconic symbol of this country’s strength.
For my internship role, I will be working with Green Visions in their pursuit of sustainable tourism in Bosnia. Coincidentally, their office is hosted in one of the buildings originally constructed for the athletes during the games. As most communist buildings, they serve a ‘practical over pretty’ purpose. So far I am so excited to be working with this incredible organization, and am thrilled for what the summer has to offer. As a group, we have already partaken in one of their wonderful tours to Lukomir- Bosnia’s most remote village located in the mountains. The 6 mile winding trek through the mountains was an epic grind. Arriving at the top where the village is tucked on the canyon side was absolutely worth it- as was the homemade Potato and Cheese Burek, fresh cow yogurt, and Bosanski kafa that we graciously gobbled and digested in the warm sun. The 24 or so native families that still herd sheep, sell trinkets to passing tourists, and brave the harsh conditions of the Dinaric Mountains are unassumingly incredible.
My impressions of this diverse, beautiful city are full of admiration, humility and curiosity. The convergence of religions, climates, foods and people make for an incredibly powerful combination. I am so very excited to explore and make the most of the time I have here. I am eager to use my photography as an outlet for storytelling, and learn from the diverse and talented cohort that is here with me.