Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Sarajevo - You are my witness

That title is the title to the haunting, disturbing and worryingly real exhibition called 11/07/95. The gallery bears witness to the massacre at Srebenica 20 years ago. Welcome to Sarajevo!

Actually I hadn't been sure what to expect of Sarajevo and next time someone asks me ' Why do you travel?' I will say 'Sarajevo'. I have leant so much and discovered a lot about a place I knew very little of, which is why I travel. Sometimes it results in me thinking, 'Hum, I'm glad I don't live here', but in this case I've been impressed.

I guess I first heard of Sarajevo in 1984 - the Winter Olympics. And yet only 8 years later e Olympic City was in the middle of a four year siege where the Bosnian Serb forces surrounded and tried to starve out the 100,000 people who lived there. I won't go into details here but today I went on an excellent tour of the city which took in the 1,000 meter tunnel built under the (UN controlled) airport, which brought in vital supplies during the siege. 

Sarajevo, a long thin city tradically surrounded by hills. 

it took four months to dig out a 1,000 metre long tunnel. 

Plus, of course, Sarajevo saw the assassination which sparked WWI. It was weird to actually stand on the corner wher Princip killed the Arch Duke Franze Ferdinand. And no Tracy, there wasn't a Hungary Ostrich in sight.

This was the place wher Princip, very fortunately, came across the arch Duke and his wife, Sophie. He fired two shots and killed them both.
Apparently one of these was the gun used to 'spark' WWI.

The Arch Duke was returning from the town hall. Built in the 1880s it survived WWI I and WWII. Then it housed the National Papers and Library of the Bosnian Government. Bosnian Serb forces fire bombed it in 1993. 

The other thing I learned was that Bosnia is sort of divided and the northern part is called the Republic of Srpska, practically a self autonomously Seb controlled area, with its capital Banja Luka. I enter Bosnia here and was, at the time,  a little surprised to see no ' Welcome to Bosnia' signs at the border. I guess that's because the don't really want to be associated with Bosnia so I was welcomed into the Republic of Srpska, not Bosnia. In many ways it seems like an uneasy truce.

My first night in Bosnia was camping (£3, including showers and wifi !) in Jajce. Near these amazing watermills.

Anyway, Bosnia and Sarajevo have been interesting, illuminating, thought provoking. ( Every time my guide today spoke about the Sarajevo siege of the 90s I couldn't help hearing 'Damascus today' and wondering what we should be doing to stop it.)

But there are many positives to take from Sarajevo. It is only 20 years and things are getting better. Yes, mankind does seem to spiral into the hell that is a Civil War far to easily, but we also come out the other side quite quickly as well. As I walked around Sarajevo I looked at people my age and thought, to misquote the famous UK WWI Propaganda poser ' What did you do in the war?' And I looked at those under 20 and wandered what they made of it all. Bosnia seems a very secular ( although I didn't think that at 6 am today with the call to prayer,) country with a great mix of people. With good guidance there is hope.

So here's a photo of the Sarajevo tram system

And one of Heidi and the campsite.

I 'm going to have another beer, then bed and then Montenegro tomorrow. Probably down to the coast because 30 degrees just isn't warm enough!!

Ha Ha. I was just about post this and a Brit has turned up on a Czech registered bike he's 'rented' for a week in Croatia. He tried to put his tent up, which he bought in a hurry at a supermarket, and it's a child's beech tent, just two sided and no floor! See, I'm not  the only muppet on the road. 

So, one more beer and I'll sing myself to sleep with The Cranberries 'Sarejevoo oo oo'. 

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