Sarajevo and Mostar, Bosnia-Herzogovina. Where East meets West. Both show the scars of war and warmth of humanity October 10-29, 2017.

On Tuesday, October 10th,  Kaye and I boarded a bus from Split, Croatia that took us to Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzogovina.   We had been to Mostar, B-H earlier with Doug on a day trip from Dubrovnik and gotten a feel of the effect the 1992-96 Balkan war had on some of the cities and people of the former Yugoslavia.

Sarajevo, prior to 1992, was best know as the location where the spark that ignited World War I occurred with the assassination of  Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie, in 1914.  It’s also known for hosting  the 1984 Winter Olympics.

In April of 1992 the siege of Sarajevo began and became the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare- check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Sarajevo  for the history of the war.

The city of Sarajevo is where East meets West.  It has been controlled by the Ottoman Empire who introduced Islam, the Austro-Hungarian Empire that favored Catholicism and Slavic influences that promoted Orthodox Christianity.  There is also a  Jewish influence but it was greatly diminished by Nazi occupation in World War II.  All 3 religions are represented throughout Sarajevo .  Also, the Yugoslavian socialist regime of Tito is very evident throughout the Balkan countries.

You can still see many of the  physical scars left by the 1992-96 siege. You have to talk with the inhabitants to get a feel of the personal tragedies.  We took several tours during our stay in the Balkans.  The tour guides were usually male and in an age range of mid-20’s to early 30’s which puts them anywhere from 2-9 years old when the war broke out.  They were all affected and you could hear it in their stories.  Everything from ‘my father was missing for 2 years after the war’,  to ‘my father’s body was found in a mass grave’ to    ’70 % of my family was killed during the war’.  They all want to help rebuild their countries, whether it is Croatia or Bosnia-Herzogovina.  Tourism provides jobs and a way for them to tell their stories.

The photos here are mostly of Sarajevo, the surrounding countryside and of Mostar.  I’ll put together photos of Dubrovnik , Split and Kotor,  Montenegro in a later blog post.

We stayed in an AirBnB close to the Miljacka River and just a  few blocks from the old town.  We visited many of the sites that were affected by the war and got a better understanding of how complicated it was.

The people were warm, friendly and the young people were willing to talk about the war and how it affected them and their families.  The generation that fought the war were reluctant to talk except to shake their heads.  Depending upon who you talk to, it is referred to as a ‘war for independence’ or a ‘war of aggression’.  Either way,  you can still feel the animosity and mistrust between Bosnians, Croats and Serbs.

Things we did while in and around Sarajevo:

  •  Day tour with Dino explaining the 1992-96 war and the ’84 Olympic site
  • Tour of Lokrum- a small village (under 20 people) in the mountains near Sarajevo.  A mostly Muslim village that is difficult to get to in good weather and when there is snow it’s almost impossible to reach.
  •  A walking tour of Sarajevo where we met Cindy and Gary from Davenport, Iowa .
  • Visited the War Childhood Museum- a moving museum of remembrances by children during the 4 year Sarajevo siege.
  • Had a wonderful lunch with Yakup from Turkey at a local Turkish restaurant.
  • Several trips to the local pool for a swim.
  • Visited the Sarajevo Brewery- a source of water during the siege and a fine tap room.

Mostar, Bosnia-Herzogovina-On September 25,  Kaye, Doug and I took a day trip from Dubrovnik, Croatia to Mostar.  In order to do that,  you have to cross international borders 6 times, each time producing your passport. During the busy summer tourist season it can take as long as 6 hours to cross borders.  Fortunately for us,  it wasn’t tourist season. We saw a jump from the bridge which is a fund raiser for orphaned kids.

 

The day trip to Mostar also included a stop at Kravice Falls a Bosnia-Herzogovina National Park.

 

 

Sarajevo,  where East meets West.

 

One of the most moving scenes of the Srebrenica genocide against the innocent Bosniak population is the scene when father Ramo calls his son, Nermin, to surrender and that Serbian soldiers allegedly won’t do ‘nothing’. Ramo and his son Nermin are found by exhumation team in a mass grave near Srebrenica in 2008.

 

We took a drive with Dino, our tour guide for a couple of days, to the small rural village of Lukomir.  It was about an hour drive over rough, rocky roads to a village that has about 20 full time inhabitants.  Mostly sheep herders and farmers with a little bit of tourism, Lukomir boasts the highest elevation of a village in Bosnia-Herzogovina.  Also seemed to be a popular mountain bike destination.