The rain, the park and other things
Trip Start Apr 16, 2012
34Trip End May 18, 2012
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Where I stayed
Wake to the sound of what I first mistake for pigeons scratching against the skylight before realizing it's heavy rain and as good an excuse to roll over and go back to sleep as any. Still pouring when I go down to breakfast at 7.30 and after my eggs and sausage, I nurse a cup of coffee in the lobby, catch up with mail and read two more chapters of West's visit to Sarajevo. Umbrellas bob along the streets outside the lobby windows as Sarajevo heads to work. When the rain tapers off later in the morning I walk to an outdoor cafe that adjoins a small park near the church square and read on until the chill forces a retreat to the room and a nap. I know what you're thinking -- I cannot be tamed.
In the early afternoon I'm heading west along the frothy, cocoa-brown Miljacka toward the city center, leaving the charm of the 19th-century for the glass and steel of the present, which come to think of it is some of the only architecture in Sarajevo not peppered with shrapnel wounds
pain. There isn't even a real ceiling, missing tiles and open to the rafters. Plastic trays sit on the marble floor to catch the drops of rain leaking in. I have never seen history captured in such an immediate and raw way. It is too sad to describe.
The sun is out as I retrace my steps past the Ministry, where a group of middle aged men, many in military fatigues, has erected a small tent city on the steps
And then I come to the Latin Bridge.
On the sunny afternoon of the 28th of June in 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, rode in an open car through Sarajevo to dedicate a new hospital. The heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, knew it might be dicey to visit a city where southern Slav nationalism had already accounted for a plot against his dad, but Franz was really just a pampered prat and a prime target for six assassins who lined the route. The first one, with a bomb, suffered a failure of nerve. The second tossed his at the car, but the ten-second delay caused it to explode beneath a following vehicle. The other assassins lost their chance as the crowds swarmed around the site and the Archduke's car sped away.
In one of those twists that history flings in the faces of fantasists, Franz and his frau set off to visit some of those wounded in the attack, his driver took a wrong turn and backed the car up near the Latin Bridge, exactly in front of one of the conspirators -- a 19-year-old Bosnian Serb by the name of Gavrilo Princip, who emptied his pistol into Sophie and Franz, killing both and through machinations of nations too complex to describe here, lit the fuse to the 1st World War.
I cross that bridge when I come to it.
Another stroll through the Stari Grad, this time bathed in the saturated hues of the magic hour. I browse an art gallery and chat with its owner and admire a large collage by Mersad Berber and several etchings by the gallery owner's wife who he tells me is from California. Toyed with buying one I especially liked, but decided in the end that an etching by a California artist would be an odd souvenir to take home from Sarajevo.
Dinner in a small restaurant with several framed pictures of Bill Clinton grinning beside the owner when he had lunch here in 2003. Whatever he had it must have been better than what's on my plate.The cucumber salad is a small bowl of sliced cucumbers sans dressing and the Bosnian Sampler, a plate of undistinguishable chunks of meat and stuffed dumplings floating in a puddle of watery sour cream. A vinegary wine from Croatia adds a further nasty touch. The meat pies served at the next table look more tempting, but I notice that most remain intact when the diners depart.
Finish the evening at a table outside a small bar, sipping travarica and watching Sarajevo walk by as Sinead O'Connor wails 'Nothing Compares 2 U.'