To be honest, I didn’t have high expectations for Bosnia. I thought it would be cool and unique, but not really a fun place to stay in for an extended period of time- I was so wrong. We’ve been in Sarajevo for most of this week, and I am loving it. It’s smaller than I expected, so I can pretty much find my way everywhere by myself. We’re staying in the older part of town, which is probably half souvenir shops and half ćevapčići restaurants (classic delicious Bosnian dish, pita filled with onions and meat fingers). The souvenir shops aren’t even that tacky, and sell some incredible homemade unique pieces. It’s only slightly alarming to see the decorated leftover bullet casings and model machine guns for sale along with the intricate fabrics and elaborate hookahs. Best of all, everything is SO cheap. They use km (konvertible marks), which are almost exactly half the value of the Euro, which makes converting super easy. Our first meal at a nice-ish restaurant came out to about 30km for four people- that’s 15 euros for four full meals plus drinks…you can see why I like this place.
The people are also way different than I expected- I think I was assuming they would be fairly conservative, wearing modest clothing even in the strong heat. On the contrary, the girls wear short-shorts during the day, and tight dresses with massive heels at night. I’m so impressed by their ability to navigate the cobblestones with six-inch stilettos, and I feel so under dressed in comparison. There is 57% unemployment in young people here, which means they really like to hang out and party pretty much every day of the week. I really thought this would be a fairly calm city, but I was definitely wrong.
There’s no escaping their awful history, however. Every building is absolutely riddled with bullet holes, so many its impossible to imagine the weapons that caused their destruction. You can still see craters in the ground from where bombs have landed- “Sarajevo roses” are craters which have been filled in with red, marking a place where someone was killed. It’s extremely scary and fascinating at the same time to realize that most of the people walking around over the age of 30 were directly involved in this violence.
During the days, we’ve been able to meet with quite a few people who have given us different perspectives on the situation. We’ve talked to all sorts of interest groups, from the EU and the US Embassy to the Al Jazeera news station to everyday Serb and Bosniak survivors, and everything in between. The more formal the institution, the more diplomatic and secretive they were, so in some ways it was more helpful to talk to the regular Bosnian citizens (even with their significant bias). One of my favorites was an informal discussion we had on Friday with an investigative journalist- he had extensive knowledge of the situation and the repercussions, and was able to view them objectively. He explained just how inefficient the political and legal system in Bosnia is, and after getting the opinions of so many other interest groups throughout the week, we were able to discuss possible solutions to the crisis (and concluded that it may be hopeless..) Hopefully we’re wrong, and something is figured out in the future!
On Wednesday we stayed over in Visegrad, which was absolutely gorgeous. We’ve been reading “The Bridge on the Drina” by Ivo Andric, so seeing the bridge in person was pretty powerful. The water is a sort of matte teal color that I’ve never seen anything like before, and our hotel was right on the shore. The beauty was one of the only good parts of this leg of the trip though, the rest was pretty depressing. We visited a small memorial for Bosnian Serbs in the Republika Srpska, and then a large cemetery for the victims of the Srebrenica genocide. Hearing the survivors’ stories was really hard, but I appreciate that they are able and willing to share their experiences with people like us.
We’re back in Sarajevo now for one more night, and then we’re off to Croatia tomorrow. I’m sad to say goodbye to this fascinating city, but so excited for the beaches this weekend!
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Susanna Bowers grew up in Seattle, Washington before moving to the small town of Walla Walla to attend Whitman College. She is studying economics, and is very excited to get a more global perspective through the European Union coursework and field trips. At school, she is an intern at the career center and an active member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. In her free time, you will likely find her eating thai food, listening to country music, or hanging out with friends. She has been to Europe before, but only for short stays and never to Germany. She can't wait to be able to explore new places and meet all sorts of interesting people this summer!</span></p>