First Impressions of Bosnia

The road was long and winding to get here as I missed my connecting flight in Chicago to get here on time due to weather. Fortunately with patience, luck, and kindness I was able to get one of the two last seats on a flight to Munich and a transfer to Lufthansa to get to Sarajevo. Once I arrived I had to deal with the airport’s baggage claim people as my baggage did not make it onto the flight that I was on. The experience was pleasant as the customer service representative apologized but there was no record in the system of my bags. She said that she would input the claim in the system and I would get updates when it was found and enroute.

Since I had no need to go to the hotel because I did not have my bags my driver took me to catch up with the rest of the group at Trebević. The hotel was beautiful as well as the scenery. I got the feeling that the local Bosnians and owners of the hotel took pride in the hotel because it was very well taken care of inside and out. The manager of the hotel gave some of us a tour and the rooms were large yet inexpensive compared to what one would expect in the U.S. In order to get to the newly opened cable cars we had to go back down through the city becuase our bus would not make the climb.

On our trip back into the city we stopped at several spots along the road to take in the view from what were former sniper’s nests and mortar firing points. From my experience serving in the military the Serbs had some very advantageous viewpoints encircling the city that came at a great cost to the Bosniaks that were under siege in Sarajevo. Ann found remnants of the war in the form of some old Serb links from one of their heavy machine guns.

Continuing our journey through the city we stopped at the Old Jewish Cemetery that was part of the front lines and had some heavy fighting occur in it. It was sad to see that many of the headstones had been either damaged or destroyed during the fighting as they had many holes and cracks due to gunfire and mortars. Most of the headstones in the lower portion were all pushed over as well. Some of these headstones were marked with graffiti that included messages similary to “A + P = Forever.” The monument to all of the Bosnian Jews that had died during the Holocaust was also heavily damaged during the war and had graffiti.

The amount of graffiti all over the city was astonishing as it seemed like nearly every surface within reach of ground level had some form of graffiti on it. Denver has some graffiti around town but not nearly to the same level as what Sarajevo has. Some of the graffiti just seems like vandalism yet other seems like art. There also is some symbolism in the graffiti as various messages and similar drawings are seen throughout the city that I have seen.

The ride up the cable car to the top of Mount Trebević was beautiful. The opportunity to see most of the city as you are pulled up higher and higher was amazing. The highlight of the day, besides finally getting to Bosnia, was definitely walking part of the way down a bobsled and luge track. Similarly to the city nearly every turn’s wall had a massive amount of graffiti. It was interesting to sit on the edge of the bobsled run as at one point it can be imagined that it represented so much pride to the people of the former Yugoslavia when the Winter Olympics were held in Sarajevo in 1984. And yet, at the same time, so much sorrow as Serb snipers used various portions of the run to shoot at men, women, and children in the city. It seems that much of Bosnia is like this for the people who were alive before and during the war. The same places have a duality of conflicting memories, good and terrible.


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