History is the autobiography of a madman.Alexander Herzen
August 6-10 2017
Taking a short train ride from Mostar to Sarajevo, I found a city that was much different, little signs of nationalism or division, instead a city that was fully integrated with different ethnic groups and religions living side by side.
Citizens often joke that the city has too much history. In just over 100 years alone, Sarajevo went from being ruled by a Monarchy; the place where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated (1914), setting into motion the events that led to WWI; invaded by Hitler and the Nazi’s during WWII; thriviing under Tito’s Communism in the 60’s and 70’s; the host city of the 1984 Winter Olympics; the breakup of Yugoslavia and democratization (1990-1992); and of course the Seige of Sarajevo that lasted for nearly 4 years from 1992 until 1996- the longest seige in history.
During the seige the city did not witness any street combat, instead snipers took positions in the hills surrounding the city, sniping and shelling citizens below for over 1,000 days. Aerial bombings were not deployed as the attacking Serbs did not want to draw attention from the media.
It became a daily routine to crouch and run across many streets. Later, when UN observers were allowed in, citizens would run beside UN armored vehicles to get across what were known as sniper alleys.
Sarajevo seems to have moved on since the war, doing a better job of covering it’s scars, while still remembering the past. Cafes and hip boutiques are popping up all over the city, with a vibrant young population ready to move forward in peace.
A city full of potential, but with a still struggling economy due to government inefficiency. For example, Bosnia & Herzegovina has 5 presidents, one for the three major religions (Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim) and one each for the Federation as a whole and for the Republic as a whole; a result of the Dayton Accord peace agreement, which many feel Bosnia was on the losing side of.
Even with the complicated history and some current economic struggles, I highly recommend anyone who has a chance to visit this great city and often ignored part of the world. I met some of the nicest people I have encountered during my travels here, and the city and country as a whole is filled with beautiful landscapes, from rivers and mountains, to lush forests and quaint rural villages.
Next up, Serbia, where I decided to hitchhike for the first time ever to get from Sarajevo to Belgrade.