Sarajevo

Trip Start May 31, 2008
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Trip End Jun 01, 2009


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Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina  ,
Friday, April 17, 2009

We stayed at a hotel on one of the walking streets behind  the Gazi - Husrevbey Mosque in Bascarsija, the bustling Turkish Quarter.  It was run by a very friendly Australian lady who proceeded to gives us all the ins and outs of the city.

We went to the old synagogue (built in 1521!), which is a Jewish museum now.  The most striking exhibit was a tribute to the citizens of Sarajevo who helped Jews during WWII by hiding them and providing safe passage.  The Muslim and Jewish communities were quite integrated at that time.

The Tunnel Museum and tour was excellent, and gave us an insight into what life was like during the siege.  It was very difficult to get needed supplies (food, gasoline, weapons) into the city because the aggressor army had positions in the hills, basically surrounding the whole city.   An 800m tunnel was dug from the airport area to the mountains - their safe zone.  They brought everything you could think of through the tunnel, even sheep.

The Sarajevo War Museum depicted how citizens survived during the siege.  Everything, including basic living was a struggle.  Houses were transformed into makeshift gardens, rooms were shuffled so people were away from sniper attacks, trees were cut down for cooking fires, and one newspaper kept printing despite its headquarters being bombed.  Children went to school in apartment stairways, people crossed the streets behind UN tanks for protection from gunfire.  Hard to even imagine, and very sad to think about all the cities that are under siege today.  The museum really put a human face on war for me.

We drove down sniper alley and saw the Yellow Holiday Inn.  It was the safest place in the city during the siege because UN officials and journalists stayed there.  The country is essentially divided, with the north east and east sections being Serbian, and the rest Croat and Muslim.  We drove into the Serbian side.  There is a check-stop, border guards - almost like a separate country.  The Dayton Agreement laid out the configuration, and it has been in place since.  The city definitely has a feeling of being a post conflict zone.  You can see the sniper holes in so many buildings, and many buildings like the National Library have yet to be restored.

The next day, our high school history lessons continued, and we walked to the famous (or infamous, maybe) Latin bridge where Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife Sofie were assassinated, triggering WWI.  There was a museum nearby which gave a minute by minute account of the procession leading up to the assassination, clothes the killer was wearing, the bullet, and gun!

We decided to extend our stay in Sarajevo instead of trying to make it to Zagreb in a rush.  We enjoyed walking along the shop-lined streets.  Very Turkish influenced - lots of rug shops, coffee and tea sets, tobacco pipes, and so much jewelery!  Really gorgeous gold and silver rings, earrings, and necklace designs.
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