Sarajevo is not one of the worlds most beautiful cities. It is a far cry from the coastal towns along the Adriatic, but it is one of the only places in the world that you would find the nearby Holiday Inn to be one of the local tourist attractions.
It was once known as the world’s Jerusalem, there the worlds three main religions sent their prayers upwards in harmony. It’s since seen its fair share of trouble though, and they may have been a little premature. From 1992-1997, Sarajevo suffered a siege which saw over 10,000 civilians killed, and left the city without food, or water as well as constant fear of attack from Serbian troops in the surrounding hills. What makes this especially thought provoking is that the war happpened in perfectly memorable times, for me. And whilst I was sitting at home watching the news of terrors in far away lands, other men and women my age were fighting for their lives and survival. 2,000 children were killed during the siege, enough to fill two of the schools that I was attending at the time. Everybody has a war just like that, this is mine, and I suspect many of yours..
On the few occassions the “don’t mention the war mantra falls apart, I have still had to do a double-take when people talk of it not as, “they travelled through here”, or even “we travelled through here”, but “I travelled through here”.
Anyway, as they say in Bosnia, “enough about the war already”, and amen.
The weather is stunning, the sun is beating down on my pasty white arms, and I think I’m building up a pretty good t-shirt tan, all in all. The people are amongst the most friendly, and welcoming you’ll find anywhere in the world. With a growing tourism industry, I get to take advantage of the fact that not everybody hates tourists, yet. A sad fact that has been in existence in London for some 700 years.
I realise from the lack of Rough Guides, and that the BA direct route only opened up last year, that this is not yet on this years hot list. Whilst the guide books suggestion of watching the locals chess game might not be everyones cup of tea. But I challenge you not to tense up and get sucked in by the enthusiasm of 20 people screaming at said player not to make the move that will end his fight.
We’ve also got more mosques than you can shake a stick at (120 in Old Town), a beautiful rich green valley to explore (not off the beaten track though, mine clearance is still underway), graffiti from Space Invader (well I saw one, anyway), Red Bull flavoured ice cream, churches, great food, cheap food, great cheap food, and a whole lot of bars that aren’t yet filled with the typical British Male Tour Gangs. You know who you are.
Last but not least, not one single fat person. Except the tourists. And the ones I haven’t seen.
Why would you not want to come here?
So with that, I’m leaving tomorrow for Mostar. I have a vague plan of where I am heading now. At least before the sun sets, the idea is Mostar, into Montenegro, Kotor, Bar, through Albania to Lake Ohrid in Macedonia, before heading back north to Skopje and my eventual flight home. Public transport permitting, of course. I might even stop off in Dubrovnik again, if the buses demand it.