Today we began our first full day in Bosnia. As soon as we stepped outside, it was clear we were in a different country, with tight Turkish corridors and minarets replacing the Austrian boulevards and church steeples that we had become accustomed to in Croatia. This contrast was evident given that our hotel is located in the old Ottoman portion of the city, one of the many sections of a city that has been built by several consecutive and extremely varied governments.
We started the day by meeting our guide and taking a short walk through our neighborhood. Here we saw the place where Gavrilo Principe pulled the trigger that killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the spark that started the First World War. We also learned of the controversy surrounding a nearby bridge, known during Yugoslav times as the Gavrilo Principe Bridge, but now known as The Latin Bridge due to the community near the bridge being heavily Catholic.
We then crossed the bridge and visited a synagogue, where we spoke to a member of the community who told us about the history and contemporary status of the Jewish community in Sarajevo and Bosnia. The community, once large, was decimated by the Holocaust, but still was vital during the 1990s in providing aid to the besieged city. The Jewish community took a neutral position in the conflict, allowing them to provide aid to the various communities under attack. Despite the conflicts of the 20th century, the community feels strongly tied to the nation and hopes to continue to be an integral part of Bosnia’s diverse religious landscape.
We then talked with our guide over Bosnian coffee about her views on the conflict and situation in the Balkans. Here, the conflict seemed much more of an open wound, hearing how 450,000 Bosnians still have PTSD and hearing of the contemporary political conflicts in Bosnia made us realize just how recent this conflict was. Notable also was the more positive perception of Tito and the Communists here than in Croatia
We spent the afternoon walking the city’s various districts. The city was variously built by Ottomans, Austrians, and Communists, and this is reflected in the architecture of the city and the culture of it’s streets. One part of the culture that all of us enjoyed was the food, especially our lunch, consisting of Bosnian sausages and bread.
We all learned a lot on our first day in Sarajevo, and are looking forward to tomorrow!
By Tom D., photos by Dr. Jones