Travelling into Bosnia in the morning on the train, I was struck by the subtle differences to Croatia. More informal garbage dumps. Tree overhanging rivers, strung with tattered clothes and other garbage swept up in high water. Unfinished buildings.
Again I arrived without any local money but was able to change thanks to a pitying train ticket attendant. Caught a tram into town, on which an older woman chatted me up in Serbian. From what I gleamed, it sounds like she had some family (familia) in Canada, and a sister (siestre) in Syria (Syrie). On the ride to hostel I was hoping would accept me at 8 in the morning, I was struck by all the bullet pock marks in all of the buildings. The war here happened when I was just becoming a teenager, and I really still don’t know much about it. I pride myself now on trying to keep up with world events, but I must say I couldn’t have 100% for sure have told you whether Yugoslavia still existed as a country or not (it doesn’t).
Sarajevo for me was a city for which I don’t have a good description. I couldn’t get a good sense of the place- what it stands for, what’s its pride is. A city that hosted the Olympics just 26 years ago (which I find incredulous having seen the work required to have a successful Games in Vancouver) yet whose bobsled tracks were used by fighters to shoot from during the fighting in the early 90s. Where I can shop at Benetton and enjoy wifi over a cappuccino, but can’t use a credit card to buy an international train ticket. And chain smokers. Everyone is a chain smoker here.
I had other realizations while in Sarajevo (totally baring my lack of knowledge here, be kind). As the train came in to Sarajevo on Day 3, I noticed what I thought were really interesting church steeples. And then when I saw quite a few women wearing head dresses in Sarajevo, I had an epiphany that these were actually mosque minarets. So these are what the xenophobic Swiss have their undies in a bunch over. Final new knowledge from Sarajevo is for the World War junkies out there. While I knew the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was the spark to WWI, I didn’t know it happened in Sarajevo – but I can know say I stood on the corner where it happened.
In the end I spent 2 days in Sarajevo – the first was spent mostly sleeping due to my bad reaction to the night train from Zagreb, with a short walk around the old town (followed appropriately by a night of sleeplessness – I finally slept from 7am-10am); the highlight of the second was walking up and up through crowded, steep residential areas to a destructed fort with a great view of the valley. Plus some other assorted walking. I tend to walk a lot. Good thing I have a great sense of direction. I’m not joking. The only time I messed up badly was biking in Vietnam – cutting in right angles through rice paddies, I had meant to make a roughly equilateral triangle of a trip – turned out I made a hugely obtuse triangle and instead of 5km back to town, I had 17km. I blame the hazy overcast sky and no sense of sun. But otherwise, my internal compass is golden.