Some impressions from a short time spent in Sarajevo.
Recently I was looking at a map of the Balcans, when my sight fell on the small spot of Sarajevo.
Sadly, in that instant the first image that came to mind was the 7pm tv news of the early 90’s. The war just on the other side of the border. I realized that more than 20 years had passed since the end of the Balcans’ war. After that, many other sad events made us forget about what happened in the former Yugoslavia.
It was enough to suddenly decide to spend the few days off I had, in Sarajevo.
I am not proud to say that as soon as I landed, the eyes began looking for the scars of the war. And, unfortunately, they could immediately spot them. Twenty years have passed, but still the signs are there. The craters of shells exploded on the roads or on buildings facade. The holes of bullets.
The narrow and low tunnel that was dug below the airport, to connect the city under siege to the outer world, can be visited. Only a short part is open to people, but it is enough to realize what should have been in those years. The War Memorial white wall, on which the names of people died during the war are engraved, and the cemetery next to it, pay homage to those who died.
The large scale canned meat monument, representing the aids that the international community sent to Sarajevo during the siege, is an ironical appreciation for the expired food the world sent to the population (the monument represents the canned meat produced in Italy by ICAR. According to the people I talked to, it was not exactly the food Italy is famous for).
There are other scars, in my opinion, not related to the last war: the architectures of the communist period. The huge gray buildings have nothing to do with the soul of Sarajevo’s town centre.
Then the eyes, finally, end up to look to the other aspects of Sarajevo. And this was a very interesting experience. Sarajevo used to be the border between east and west, Islam and Christianity. And it seems to be still now, in the best possible way. In contrast with what we are used to read on newspapers about religious tensions around our world, here it seems not to be the case at all. I think this is the best side of this town, that makes you forget all the bad news of these days.
The proof is that woman in sexy outfit are walking the same streets where other woman are wearing more observant clothes. This felt very good.
Even though always very crowded, a walk in the Baščaršija (the old city), is a good way to experience the sensation of border between two cultures.
If you start from the ottoman area, stroll along old narrow streets while listening to the fascinating sound from the minaret, you will pass in front of the Baščaršija Mosque and end up in front of the Sacred Heart Cathedral.
It was summer season, and town centre was filled up with many tourists. The area air is permeated with the smoke coming from the grills of the restaurants. It is always time for a delicious cevapi.
And that finding a refreshing Sarajevsko beer isn’t a problem at all. And this felt very very good!!
If you walk for some ten minutes following the river stream, you reach a different Sarajevo where, amidst the old ones, new buildings in a much more modern stile have been erected.
Climbing the surrounding hills gives you the chance to enjoy a beautiful sight of Sarajevo, while sipping a bosniac coffe (turkish style coffe) or a cold drink.
The days spent in Sarajevo flew by very quickly. People are nice, the general atmosphere is extremely relaxed and made the time spent here very enjoyable.
Time was too short, I wish I had more days to meet people and ask about the experience of the siege. Walking in the streets of Sarajevo, I often came to think that the person next to me did actually experienced the war directly. This thought has been with me for the whole time.
So, at the end Sarajevo is definitely worth a visit. May be also a second one, who knows…