Published: June 28th 2012June 25th 2012
To get to Sarajevo from Belgrade a 7 hour 6am bus trip was in order. I had gone far too long without an early start in my entire holiday, and the several 6am-ish starts i have had in the last few days have more than made up for this.
The bus was very Balkan, with stops an unannoying every half hour or so. Then a ride on the public trolley bus to get to our Pension. Luckily the weather has been very mild in Bosnia & Herzegovina, a chilly 30 degrees most days, getting down to a freezing 15 degrees at night sometimes. Almost enough to get my cardigan back out!
Sarajevo is a stunning city to drive into, with houses perched on hills surrounding a city in the bottom. A bit reminiscent of Hobart, except at the bottom in Hobart is the ocean instead of a city. And no one shelled anything in Hobart. And Bosnians are much funnier than Tasmanians.
A quick walk around the city quickly showed that I would be spending a lot of money here. It also showed that Sarajevo was a beautiful city to spend time in. But before I could get
too comfortable, it was off to Mostar for a day trip!
Mostar is a few hours out from Sarajevo, through some spectacular scenery. I never imagined Bosnia to look like this. Mostar is most recently known by the destruction of its famous bridge during the conflict between the local Croats and Bosnians in the most recent Balkan war. It is still a city much divided,with efforts by resident students trying to bring people togethe still ongoing.
The reconstructed parts of the city are very beautiful, particularly the bridge with the vivid water underneath. The bridge is also used by a local diving club to generate some money from tourists, by offering to dive if enough mney is raised. We were lucky enough to come past behind a whole busload, caught the show for free. We were also lucky enough not to be in Mostar the day before, when it was 50 degrees.
After getting back to Sarajevo, the owner of the family run pension gave us a cooking class,where we stuffed various vegetables with meat. Strange but tasty. Much more tasty was the drinking of the wine we had purchased at various tastings. Many of you will
be surprised to learn that I was not one of the ones whho stayed up to 2am drinking the cheap table wine which was rejected earler in the night.
It was then up bright an early the next morning for trip out to the tunnel museum while learning about the siege of Sarajevo. Apparently the longest siege in modern warfare, the Serbian army surrounded the city for 3 and a half years, shelling and shooting on a daily basis. Early on the UN were given control of the airport on the basis of keeping it neutral, but this instead cut the city in half and also cut the Bosnian's supply lines. So a 800 metre tunnel was dug under the airport runway.
The supplies that did get through via humanitarian aid were often inedible - countries used the opportunity to clean out their warehouses, so things like biscuits made in the 1960s were sent, as well as a mysterious inedible tinned meat, so famous that a tongue in cheek monument has been made by a local artist, thanking the Un for its assistance.
Our guide Mohammed told us many interesting siege storied, but the best was his
own. About 10 years old when the siege started, he didn't act well to being kept inside with his grandma while his mother worked long hours as a nurse in the hospital. Fed up with not being allowed to play outside, he stole some sedatives from his mother and put them un grandma's tea. Once they had take effect he gleefully went outside his apatment block, just in time for a shell to hit close by, spraying his legs with shrapnel. He then of course started yelling for his grandma, who was out cold. Luckily a neighbour heard him, wrapped up his legs and took him to hospital, where you can guess who was working on the front desk! His mother saw the bloody towel around his legs and fainted, but luckily the wounds were only superficial and he only needed stiches - still giving him scars her has today. We then found out that his mother is a very patient woman, who waited 3 weeks until the stiches were out, then "beat the shit out of him".
The rest of my time in Sarajevo was spent buying lovely jewellery, and eating Bosnian delight and other tasty delicacies. The
turkish influence on the cuisine was a delightful change. I also had dinner at the town brewery, where our waiter looked like a Bond villain, but he had terrible jokes that just made him seem creepy. A great way to end the trip!
There are more photos below