Eastern Europe - Day 48 & 49 - Sarajevo

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June 20th 2009
Published: June 23rd 2009
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Yesterday we had to get up nice and early (again!) to catch a 6 hour bus to Sarajevo. I have to say that the journey on the bus was far more lovely than the train ride into Serbia. The scenery on the way into Bosnia was just beautiful. There were beautiful hills and lakes and forests. I can see why the Serbs would have wanted this countryside.

When we got to Sarajevo we checked into a delightful little pension which is run by a family and then headed straight out again to get some lunch as it was rather late in the afternoon by this point. Chris took us to a wonderful little restaurant in the older district of Sarajevo where we had a dish called Lapinja with Cevapi. This is basically grilled pork in a piece of kebab bread with cheese and onion and it was divine.

After the yummy meal we met up with our local guide Mohammad and went on a walking tour of Sarajevo. Mohammed showed us some very interesting sights around the city. He showed us the bridge where Archduke Franz Ferdinard and his wife Sophie were shot as well as the mosques, churches, covered bazaars, copper workers streets etc were located.

Today was amazing. First of all we were picked up by our local guide from yesterday Mohammed and taken on a "war tour" of Sarajevo. This included a stop at the War Tunnel of Sarajevo. This is one of the best things that I have done on this trip so far. It was amazingly interesting. Our guide Mohammed was brilliant and told us all about the history of the seige in Sarajevo and how the war started and what life was like living in Sarajevo during the war. He told us the most amazing story about how he was 10 years old and his grandmother (who was looking after him while his parents were at work) wouldn't let him play outside because it was too dangerous, and how he was a bit of a menace as a child and so in order to get to go and play outside he stole some sedatives from his mother (who worked in the hospital) and put them into his grandmother's drink and then when she fell asleep he went outside to play. Unfortunately this very day a mortar bomb fell where he was playing and the shrapnel went into his legs when it exploded and in a major quirk of fate when they took him to hospital it was his mother who was on the front desk the moment he arrived. When she saw him, with his legs all covered in blood, she promptly fainted. He is okay now of course but still has the scars on his legs. It was so amazing to meet someone like Mohammed who can tell stories like that. It really bought to life what the people of sarajevo must have experienced during the seige.

Mohamed also took us to show us the Holiday Inn hotel where all the journalists stayed during the war and sniper alley where many snipers from the Serbian Army picked off the citizens of Sarajevo as they tried to cross the streets of Sarajevo and go about their daily life. I actually sat down this afternoon and read a book (called the Cellist of Sarajevo) from cover to cover about the war and it was soo good that I finished it in one afternoon. I can highly recommend to anyone - especially if you get the chance to read it whilst in Sarajevo.

After this highly educational morning Susie and I decided (along with Stu) that we needed a coffee. So we headed off to the little place that Mohammed had shown us on the tour the day before and ordered some Bosnian Coffee. Now I don't drink coffee and apparently Bosnian coffee is some of the strongest that you will ever drink. So I was really surprised that I enjoyed it so much. It comes in a little pot along with two cubes of sugar and a piece of turkish delight. Chris (our tour guide) found us at the coffee shop so after we had finished our coffee we headed off for a wee walk around the city. First of all we stopped by the bookshop where I bought the book The Cellist of Sarajevo, and then Chris and I decided to walk up to the top of one of the hills surrounding Sarajevo where there are a couple of old forts that were destroyed during the war. This was a pretty decent walk, especially as the weather was so jolly warm. And when we got to the top of the hill it was especially warm but the view was amazing. After all the effort that was required to walk up the hill I had to stop and have a little snack of Sopska Salad in a gorgeous little restaurant perched on top of the hill. Walking down the hill we ran into Stuart and ended up having lunch with him in a little restaurant called the Spite House. The Spite House is apparently called this because when the officials wanted to build a new town hall on the spot where his house was he wouldn't let them have the land. After a while he gave in but refused compensation for his house and instead insisted on a new piece of land being given to him across the river and for them to relocate his house brick by brick so that it looked exactly the same.

After lunch we headed off for a cafe to sit down, and this is the location where I read the book of The Cellist of Sarajevo in one afternoon.

Tomorrow we head off for a day trip to Mostar.

Eastern Europe - Day 48 - Mostar

Today we got up nice and early again and headed off on the train for a nice day trip to Mostar. Unfortunately after the balmy weather of sunshine and 35 degrees of the day before, todays weather was raining and 10 degrees. This was a bit of a surprise.

The trip to Mostar was relatively short, which was good, only about 2.5 hours. Once we got there it was another 15 mintue walk from the train station in to the old town. There really isn't all that much to do in Mostar except for eat, walk around the tourist shops and wait and try and see if one of the bridge divers will jump from the bridge.

However the history of Mostar is a little more sad and sinister. There was a massive amount of violence done here during the war in the 90's when the Croats were fighting the Bosnians. Actually at the start of the war the Croats and the Muslims were fighting on the same side against the Serbs, however once they had repelled the Serbs they started fighting each other and ended up with the Croats on one side of the river and the Bosnian Muslims on the other firing shots and artillery across at each other. And unfortunately the beautiful Stari Most (Old Bridge) was destroyed in 1993, Sep 9, when a direct hit from Croat artillery collapsed the bridge into the river.

The bridge was reconstructed after the war and was officially opened again in 2004. The bridge is the biggest and most famous thing in town and of course the most famous thing to see is one of the bridge jumpers jumping off the bridge. The drop is about 30m into 4m of water. We were lucky enough that when we were down by the river one of the jumpers actually jumped. Susie and I were down there by ourselves, getting ready to go for a walk, when about 50 other tourists turned up and then suddenly the jumpers appeared. It was all very lucky with regards to the timing.

After watching the jumper Susie and I strolled off to get some exercise and ended up walking a long way out of the old town into Mostar proper. It was really interesting to see and you could tell that the people here are not very affluent at all. It was nice to see that side of life, instead of just the tourist parts of the town. We walked for about an hour and then headed back into the old town for some traditional food at a lovely little restaurant down by a little tributory of the river.

Tomorrow we leave Sarajevo and Bosnia and head into Montenegro for the Ostrag Monestry.

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24th June 2009

"I can see why the Serbs would have wanted this countryside" actually, the whole Serbia is just the same as that countryside, but you've been to northern Serbian province of Vojvodina and Belgrade only, thus can't really claim you've seen Serbia at all. and btw, you've visited two cities in Bosnia and Hercegovina that had between 20 and 30% of Serbian population till 1991. Today, Sarajevo nominally has 4% and Mostar less than 2% of Serbs. That's about your sentence. Check online data if you doubt in it.

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