The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Oh, I Love a Rainy Night[‘s and Days] . . .

Days 236-241, July 21-26, 2011

When I picture the war in Bosnia, the city of Sarajevo always came up in my head. It was the city you always heard about on the news back when the war was happening. Even considering that I was only in grade 5 when the war officially ended, I still have vague memories of hearing about something happening in Sarajevo. In a way, I was expecting the signs of war to be much more prevalent in Sarajevo than they were in Mostar. I mean, I don’t recall ever hearing about Mostar before coming to this side of the world. Surely this must mean something.

Aside from the war though, Sarajevo is engraved in my head from my grade 10 history class when we learned about the World Wars. It was in Sarajevo that Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated, thus beginning the series of events that led to World War I. The bridge where this assassination took place is still standing, even after the most recent war.

IMG_0348I took the train from Mostar through the rugged and beautiful scenery of Bosnia to Sarajevo quite early in the morning. And after navigating my way to my hostel, a brand new one that had just opened up a couple days beforehand, I took off to explore the area. I immediately took off to see the bridge where World War I started. A large plaque at the site of the assassination is the only sign that something of intense international significance happened here. The Latin Bridge, besides this, is a modest, yet strikingly beautiful, little bridge.

IMG_0373The whole city has this striking beauty to it. And unlike Mostar, most of the signs of the war have been covered up. Few reminders can be seen in this section of the city at least.

The weather in Sarajevo while I was there was  . . . shitty at best. There was not a single day where it did not pour rain out. It made attempting to explore the city a bit harder, but made the temptation to take in some movies at the film festival much stronger. And I gave in.

The Sarajevo Film Festival is considered one of the top film festivals in Europe. I didn’t even know that it was going on. Turns out I was in Sarajevo for a pretty big week. Not only the Film Festival, but the very first McDonalds in the entire country had also opened up on the very day I arrived in the city. For me, that was a ‘meh’ moment, but seeing how people lined up down the block from the entrance, in the pouring rain, made me view it as something with much more significance than just another western chain opening a franchise.

IMG_0391Back to the Film Festival though. I ended up taking in four movies: Cars 2(sue me), Land of Knowledge(documentary from Croatia), The Headless Woman(drama from Argentina), and Life in a Day(the YouTube/Ridley Scott documentary). Cars 2 was good, but I didn’t think ahead when I got the ticket for it. It’s a cartoon. There won’t be subtitles. The entire movie was dubbed in Bosnian. I had no idea what was happening but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Land of Knowledge was a very interesting documentary on the 35 day blockade that students in the Zagreb University Faculty of Philosophy set up to demand free education for all students. It was interesting to watch the ultimate direct democracy(every person in the room had a vote in all decision) go from high exuberance to exhaustion and ultimately defeat. I ended up having a good little talk with the director of the film after on the differences between Canada’s education system and Croatia’s.

IMG_0496The Headless Woman was a movie set in Sucre, Argentina about an upper class woman who hits something with her car on the way home. Throughout the movie we are not told exactly what she hit though it is implied that it was a child from the slums. It was interesting to see how the woman dealt with the guilt until her husband and brother took care to make sure any evidence that she was involved in an accident was eradicated. According to the director/writer in the Q&A session after, this was a common occurrence in Argentina in the 90s. And more often than not, the hit and run driver would get away with it as they were of the upper class. Very thought provoking.

Life in a Day was the final movie I saw. Not going to spoil anything here. Just saying this: Go See It.

Alright, back to Sarajevo.

IMG_0414I spent the majority of the days, when it wasn’t raining, wandering around the Turkish neighbourhood, wandering amongst the many shops and restaurants with the smells of the amazing food everywhere in the air. My favourite foods which I came to eat pretty much daily were burek, a kind of pasty filled with meat, spinach, cheese, or potatoe; and Ćevapčići, finger length and width rolls of spiced meat served in a pita bread. Both are absolutely amazing and can be found everywhere. For super cheap too. My mouth is still salivating.

IMG_0472No one should go to Sarajevo though without having visited the Tunnel Museum. This tiny museum, hosted in the home of the family that helped dig it, is right near the airport. It was here that, during the war, a massive, 800 meter long tunnel  was built under the airport to the free zone on the other side. This tunnel became known as the Tunnel of Life as provisions such as water and food were able to be brought into the city safely(snipers were killing people attempting to cross the airport to the Free Zone above ground). There is only about 20 meters of the tunnel left that one can walk through, but it’s enough to give a sense as to what life was like.

I still find it so hard that in my lifetime, something like this was happening. Just like Mostar, it was incredibly sobering. It made me very very glad that I had come here. To see this. To experience it all. And to see that, no matter how bad it got, there was still hope and life that managed to spring up afterwards to flourish.

And that is always a positive thing.


  1. Lots of great finds - thnx for the introduction to Sarajevo

  2. Thanks for reading! It's an amazing city. Bosnia in general is an amazing country. The people are super friendly. Thanks for the shoutout on twitter!