Monday, November 30, 2009

100th Post! Bosnia Photo-Roll

One of the absolute highlights from the few months we spent in the Balkans was Bosnia. My mom definitely had a hissy fit when about two days before we left I mentioned going to Bosnia, she was already uneasy with the idea that we didn't have a real itinerary, places lined up to stay, etc. and Bosnia was over the top; of course as it turns out, Bosnia is one of the most charming, rewarding, and definitely beautiful places I have ever been.

We came into Sarajevo on an overnight bus from Serbia. The days right before we left for Bosnia, we were at a music festival called EXIT at fortress in Serbia. That's a whole separate post of it's own, but it was freaking nuts. The festival went from 8pm or so to 8am, 4 consecutive nights.

So I was pretty much catatonic from exhaustion for the bus ride in, but I'm pretty sure at some point we were on a dirt road, I definitely lost track of my passport at the border but somehow got it back quite sometime after we had left the border - yeah, not a good idea, but I couldn't keep my eyes open long enough to keep track of it - and I think the bus driver actually pulled over at one point and yelled at the girls right in front of us for being annoying. But even completely exhausted I was able to recognize coming into Sarajevo at dawn, a fog resting over the city which sits in a valley between these incredible, lush mountain landscapes, was probably the most beautiful thing I have seen. The city completely blew me away; Sarajevo is like a big village and you immediately feel comfortable.

Sorry for the poor picture quality, but you get the idea, a big village.

The country was nothing like I imagined. For starters it's mostly a mountainous region...which makes sense now considering they had the 1984 winter olympics there, duh. And the evidence of recent wars is still extremely visible, so MANY building facades are riddled with bullet holes and artillery damage, shelled structures dot the area, sidewalks busted, but the place has an incredible positive energy. People flood the streets, like every evening is a block party and you just chill with your neighbors, cafes are always full, people take walks. Seriously, it really makes you wonder how a city that has suffered so much is a place of such warmth and vitality?

The city center is in a valley and then it cascades up the surrounding hills, like a city full of cottages. Anyway, this is definitely getting longer than I intended, but I LOVED Bosnia, especially Sarajevo (you know it's like a Balkan hotspot, a fashion, cultural center for that part of the world). People we would meet along the way often asked where we would recommend visiting and I always said Bosnia. Same goes for you too! It's not some run-down, scary war torn place - though I will say I definitely learned a few things first hand about war - but full of rich history, culture, incredible mountains and nature, and an all around good time. So if you're in the area, might want to stop on by.

Some pictures to fill you in on what you're missing:

Pretty amazingly good and fresh produce in the area

Cafes are everywhere, and they're more of the come for a drink type - beverage only. So people go to drink cafes like twice a day, on their work breaks. And everyone sits on the same side of the table that faces the street so you can watch the passing people, instead of sitting across from each other. I definitely got into the multiple time per day cafe break.

This is pretty much a testament to Sarajevo and what you can expect. The sidewalk was destroyed during the war, from tanks here I think, and they are slowly repairing all the damage to the infrastructure, but it's a pretty huge task, so instead of just leaving it they have painted the hearts on the damage.

Socialist style housing blocks, built since the war. Pretty standard all over Eastern Europe.

Crazy man jumping off the Stari Most (Old Bridge) in Mostar. The bridge to Bosnia is kind of like the Eiffel Tower to France, like a national symbol or something. The original was built in the 1500s or so, but it was destroyed during the they rebuilt it exactly the same. FYI that water is FREEZING, it's snow run-off, but it was soooo hot outside that it was sort of numbingly nice.

Did I mention they have emerald water?

Old Town artisans workshop in the Turkish quarter, an ancient trading place, all hand-made. I bought one of those tea sets in the background and carried it around by hand for like 2 weeks so it wouldn't break.

There are a number of these cemeteries for people who died during the war. It's definitely a hallowing experience walking through these. I don't even want to tell you how many of these obelisks are for children and people under the age of 25. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the 4 year siege, most of them citizens not soldiers.

Artillery damage on a sidewalk. After the war they filled these with red cement, and now they call them a Sarajevo Rose.

Serbian forces surrounded Sarajevo and the city was cut-off for four years, left without water, food, medicine, power, you name it. Bosnian forces built this tunnel and used it to cross occupied lands. Some people left through the tunnel, but mostly people used it to go out and get supplies for their families and then return. It's not very tall, I couldn't stand up straight.

A few weeks after we got back, a Bosnian co-worker of Melissa's came and looked through all our pictures of Bosnia (I ended up giving them all to her and my postcards, she had to leave all hers behind when they fled). She told us about how she and her son escaped during the war, but her husband had to stay behind in Sarajevo and their apartment got bombed but he still lived there, in a building with a hole in it and no heat in a snowy, cold climate. And that's the thing about Bosnia, everyone has a story like that, but somehow the city is still so incredibly positive. Like I said all the time you wonder how a city that has suffered soo much is what it is today? It seriously is an incredible place. Oh yeah and this is my 100th blog post!! I suppose that makes me an official blogger.


Camille Lewis said...

wow Sarajevo looks incredible! So full of culture and history. Thanks for the post kim!

Oh by the way, had Chipotle yesterday and thought of you.

becca said...

so so pretty. i want to go there.

thanks camille, now all i want to do is eat chipotle.

Kimberly Paul said...

LOVE chipotle.

I'm pretty sure i'm going to be like 35 and randomly at chipotle and think of you camille, we're those kind of friends.

PS I'm with becca now all want is chipotle.