This past weekend I took a little detour out of Bosnia and Eastern Europe to go to Belgium. At that point, I have been exclusively in the East since June 10th and thought it would be fun to visit a friend in Western Europe. The culture shock was almost immediate when I got off the plane in Brussels. From the sticker shock, to the diversity, to the soldiers in full kit patrolling the streets with assault rifles, it was a drastic change from Bosnia.
For me, the sharp contrast was really a lesson in the importance of both a functioning central government and stability are for the development of a country. It also made me wonder what Bosnia would be like today if the war here had never happened or even if the postwar period had experienced actual reconciliation instead of the ethnic divisions that exist. Bosnia has immense potential to compete with any Western country and has a natural beauty that is unrivaled. It’s a shame that the recent past and a totally inept government continue to hold it back.
Going back to the West also reminded me of what makes Eastern Europe unique. Eastern Europe has a character all its own and the cities, Sarajevo included, have a soul. In the West, there is of course easy transportation, clean streets, and a wealth of shops and restaurants to fit just about any desire. Yet, the cities lack the corky character and authentic feel that you get in Eastern Europe, and in particular, Bosnia. I really enjoyed my time in the West, but there is no place like Eastern Europe and nowhere I would rather be right now than Bosnia.