Today is an other long day. I originally planned to attend a Fall on Yugoslavia tour in the morning and do local sightseeing in the afternoon. An hour before my tour is supposed to start they ask if I’d like to go to the 2:00 PM tour and additionally attend the 10:30 AM free city walking tour. Because I realize it’s off-season and I am flexible I agree. I have extra time so I order burek and Bosnian coffee for breakfast. The burek, or Bosnian pie, has potatoes. The standard serving is large and served with yogurt. I like it but not sure I’d eat it every day. The cafe I stop at has a basketball on its sign. Since I’ve seen basketballs multiple times on signs I take the time to google the significance: during the Yugoslav era the region had many powerful basketball players.
Once I start my walking tour I realize I am very happy I joined the tour. I am learning so much about the city that I would not have otherwise learned. This afternoon is very specific to the Fall of Yugoslavia whereas this tour gives me more of an overview of the history from the ancient times, Ottoman Empire, Austrian-Hungarian times and so on.
We walk around town. In one street alone you can tell the different time periods from the architecture: Ottoman Empire, astro-Hungarian architecture, and then brutalist architecture from the Yugoslavian times (East meets West).
We learn more about what ignited WWI. We learn about how 3 main religions live here in harmony.
We learn how things are slow to progress due to the current political system. Since BiH is represented by 3 primary ethnic groups (Croats, Serbs and ethnic Bosnians) that are unwilling to fully relinquish power the government is run by three presidents or three parties who take turns being in charge. This system leads to chaos and most certainly corruption. It is stunting the progress of a beautiful country. Many have dreams of one day joining the Euro zone like some of its former Yugoslav brothers but at this point it never seems possible.
We visit the famous church in town and learn about the rose of Sarajevo that was caused by shelling during the war of the 1990’s.
We also pick up on places where signs of the war still exist. They don’t leave them unrepaired for remembrance, it is just the government just ccan’t get around to making the repairs….for a war that has been over almost 30 years.
I say goodbye to my fantastic tour guide and after the tour I have a break so I get a snack. I soon meet up for my Fall of Yugoslavia tour. I am pleased to find it is the same tour guide from this morning. We hop in a van and head out to see some sights related to the fall of Yugoslavia and the war of the early 1990’s. I’m not going to give an entire history here because it is long and complicated but within ten years after Josip Tito (former leader of Yugoslavia) died in 1980 some of the countries that formed Yugoslavia decided to declare independence, for various reasons. The initial countries to do so were Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. There was opposition to this by Yugoslav loyalists and as a result the region was full of conflict throughout the early 1990’s. I slightly remember it because I was in school at the time and I do remember the term ethnic cleansing being used frequently. It was a horrible war now that I go back to learn it as an adult.
We start at the yellow fortress where we are given a view of the city.
We visit a hospital destroyed in the war. Our guide tells us how a nearby stadium is used as a mass grave.
We visit the Tunnel of Hope and tunnel museum. This tunnel, the start on private land, allowed soldiers and supplies to travel under the airport and to/from the mountains to be undetected by the Bosnian Serb army. It was a lifeline to the Sarajevo community during the war. We got to sample the tunnel and watched very powerful footage of soldiers using the tunnels to transport supplies to the local people. My guide was a student at the time but her father was a soldier that used the tunnel. We got her unique perspective on the war.
We then visit the abandoned bobsled course from the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics, a proud moment for the locals. It was once used in the war of 1990’s and now is a place for street art and tourists to visit.
We finish with a stop at an abandoned building where we have lovely views of the city. Teenage me would have loved exploring this abandoned building in the middle of the night. I suppose this destroyed building has a different meaning to locals.
I am back in town and it is raining. I stop at a wine bar until I decide what I want for dinner. My meals the last couple days have been meat heavy and I am craving vegetables so I find a place that will serve a mixed cheese plate and grilled vegetables. Of course it is way too much food but the stomach wants what the stomach wants. I am not so much a fan of the travnik cheese (feta type) because it is a little salty for my taste but all the other cheeses served, including the blue which I never love, were very good. I eat all my cheese alternating bites with the grilled veggies to make sure I get a little nutrition while I travel.
I still haven’t tried the local brandy so I stop by a local place and try rakija. It’s just me and what I assume is the owner’s family in the bar, or at least they gave the appearance of being family. I sampled my very strong brandy in what felt like someone’s house. One sample is all I have in me so I call it quits for the night afterwards.