War, What Is It Good For?
Mostar Travel Blog› entry 56 of 94 › view all entries
Arriving in Sarajevo was a surreal moment for me. Sure I had the images of the place on television when I was growing up, yes I had studied the effects the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Gavrillo Princip in 1914 had on the area and on the world, but never did I think I would be here – that I would get to walk on the streets that history had been made on.
Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina and with 393,000 inhabitants, it is also their largest city.
Arriving into the city by bus from Budva had meant winding roads with beautiful scenery. I know I seem to be writing that a lot but the countryside was beautiful - rugged, mountainous and somehow familiar.
Sarajevo was a contrast to the countryside because it was here you could see the effects of the war (1992-95). Buildings with artillery and mortar holes in them and some completely gutted – burnt out, bombed out shells. This was quite shocking to see and trying to imagine living here during this time, experiencing it all the while have no refuge seems a concept so foreign to me – these people had no chance of running home to safety, home was part of the battlefield.
While here, I took a tour of the battlement areas including Sarajevo Tunnel (also known as the Tunnel of Hope) and Sniper Alley, but the highlight of this tour was the guide. Mustafa was 11 when the war began (15 when it finished) and the stories of his childhood were fascinating. He told me that there are still mines in the hills surrounding Sarajevo and that no one goes up there for fear of injury or death. I realised this sort of thing happened in Cambodia where the mines shifted during the rainy season so you always needed to keep to the path, I had assumed that because it was so recent that intelligence would know where the mines were and once the war ended here, it would all be cleared up – clearly my rose coloured glasses (or my Disney Goggles as I like to call them) were on.
But Sarajevo isn’t just about the war – although this was one of my reasons for visiting. It is about being in a place where the world’s religions came together. European Jerusalem is what the locals call this city. I stood on streets and by doing a 360 turn and all within eyesight I saw an Islamic Mosque, an Orthodox Cathedral, a Jewish Synagogue and a Roman Catholic Cathedral. Young children of different ethnic and religious groups walked with each other. I liked this side of Sarajevo.
After Sarajevo it was time for Mostar. For those of you who don’t know, Mostar was made famous because of the bridge (Stari Bridge) built in 1566 and made infamous because of its destruction in 1993. It suffered heavy bombardment from the Yugoslavian (Serbian) Army during the war.
Walking around this town made a good place to reflect about my time here in Bosnia. I got to chat with the local boys who were hanging out and even got to play a little bit of football with some young kids on the street. For all the war torn buildings in this town, all the heartache this area has suffered, the cemeteries that scattered the countryside, the blood that had been spilled, it appears to me, that this area of the Balkans is changing. The youth are happy, positive and eager to talk about the future.
What I’ve learned on this trip is that kids are kids no matter where in the world you are; Iran, Libya, China, Bosnia – they are all the similar and talk about the same things; sport, fashion, who is dating whom, their future. I’ve often thought the peace process would be better served if the young people took part and organised them before all they become jaded with the world and hardened. But in the meantime, the youth here are having fun, enjoying themselves and the future looks like it will be in good hands and I can say this even without the Disney Goggles on.
Zbogom from Bosnia