Sarajevo: To be or ... to be.

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October 8th 2009
Published: October 8th 2009
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We really enjoyed Sarajevo as a fascinating mix of ancient and modern issues, architectural and cultural sights and a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Our impressions were probably also helped by the continuation of warm sunny weather: everyone was enjoying the opportunity to stay out and enjoy a beer and/ or barbecued meats, while mullahs chant from the minarets.

Many stories to tell but there were two highlights. Those who have read "The Story of the Book" will know of the Sarajevo Haggerdah and at least in that fictional account, how this Jewish book was passed down generations and travelled from C15th Iberia to the library in Sarajevo. We got to see this remarkable book - albeit at a distance because of security - and to learn a bit more about it in the context of Bosnian national identity. The other highlight was dropping in unannounced to a meeting of the Rotary Club of Sarajevo International Delta. This primarily international group meets at a hunter's restaurant decorated with bear's heads and stuffed grouse and manages Rotary business around World Bank development programs and "democratisation" initiatives. Very stimulating evening.

Lowlights were a near miss with a pick pocket - full credit to a random English tourist who spotted the attempted theft and scared him off. Note that I refrained from calling him a Pommie out of gratitude. Also was the realisation that this young nation has some major issues including the burden of 4 million items of unexploded ordinance still in the landscape. On average one skilled minesweeper is killed for every 2000 interactions with these items - do the maths, this is a real problem! Most mines were state-of-the-art and set without records. It will take 50 years to clear.

Also cause for reflection were the Sarajevo Roses which were splashes of red concrete around the city footpaths and specifically to fill mortar craters. Amazingly NATO tanks patrolled Sarajevo as recently as 5 years ago and yet it is now being overrun by tourists and touts: go figure. The title of this entry come from the name of the bar that we thought really typifies the Sarajevo spirit. "To Be or Not to Be" with the "Not to" crossed out: not surviving was not an option for Sarajevan's during the 90's war.

As to the photos... Leigh we thought you would like the Halva. Note also the decor in the memorable Zlat cafe.

Next stop Mostar and by 7am train.

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