We have come to know Bosnia quite well over the past week or so. Sarajevo has been our camp out for about 5 days, which is the longest in all of our trip. We wanted to really get a feel for the city, experience the emotional climate, feel the pulsing, push some puzzle pieces together.
We have visited all the museums and tours we could get our hands on. It is an odd and eerie experience taking a tour of a city ravaged by war in my lifetime. I have fumbled around, staring at faces, hands and cracked fingernails. Stared into soft, doe eyes, heavy lidded and tired; I have seen the glittering hardness and curiosity. I see the green hills overlooking Sarajevo, once home to Serbian extremists and their snipers. The bombed and gutted buildings stand as testimony to that. The hills are now dotted with hundreds of plain white gravestones, crooked and tumbling down the hills. Mosques poke their black spires out of the colourful clusters of homes here, there and everywhere. The famous pudding brown and yellow Holiday Inn, home to journalists covering the war over the years, still stands, renovated, of course. Most of the war ravaged buildings have been repaired, and gleaming structures have replaced their skeletons. The National Library, perhaps the greatest loss to the city, still stands in ruin, a harrowing reminder of the war, of the losses. Three million books were lost, and the lives of 9 people on the day it was bombed. Those that died were attempting to rescue some precious literary gems, pieces from the Ottoman Empire, works worth the lives of these people, it seems. Buildings can be rebuilt, but the history and the ancient fingered pages will forever remain as ash.
Amazingly, the Jewish Haggadah, not a part of the library, managed to survive three wars, and even escaped the greedy hands of the Nazis. The Haggadah is a Jewish religious text that sets out the order of the Passover Seder. Reading the Haggadah is a fulfillment of the scriptural commandment to each Jew to “tell your son” about the Jewish liberation from slavery in Egypt described in the Book of Exodus. This particular Haggadah is housed in the museum under high security. It is apparently the oldest Haggadah to still exist, coming from Barcelona in 1350. It is worth an estimated $700 million (in 1991), hence the high security.
Sarajevo also is home to a beautiful Jewish museum in an old Synagogue. It is the most beautiful Jewish museum we have visited. Cold and eerily quiet, with artifacts and clothing from 1900-1955. A woman’s labour camp uniform from the Holocaust hangs, allowing one to finger the rusty buttons and see the threadbare fabric up close. And of course, amidst the Jewish museum is one of the oldest Orthodox churches, and countless mosques, which seem to compete with each other during the call to prayer, I swear.
We have dined at Park Prinčeva, overlooking the glistening city of Sarajevo, where Bono and Bill Clinton have also wet their palettes. We have successfully gorged ourselves on turkish delight, and actually, the thought of it kind of sickens me. I am sure it will wear off as soon as we’re air bound, and I will find myself craving the familiar feeling of the gooey, glossy cubes between my gums. Bosnians make delightful gelato too, it’s fluffy, kind of like Cool Whip, but without the plastic taste! I for one, have been awakened by the muezzin and wild dogs far too many times. I will miss the sounds of copper being pounded, and football games broadcasted into the streets.
Tomorrow is fly day and we are ready. I suppose on a whirlwind trip like this, the memories and photos will keep feeding us for years to come. It is hard to take it all in and digest it. With all the cabbage salad, bread, sopška salad (super salty, soft, white cheese, tomatoes, and cucumbers) and pizza, my energy is waning. The smoke is driving me insane too, what with every mother, child, grandma and grandpa lighting up in every place imaginable at every time possible. It is archaic, and weird and widespread all over Europe. Something I will never understand. My chest is aching from it all. But alas, it has been fun, it has been unthinkable and intoxicating and marvelous. A grand adventure, a tiny vacation (thank you Croatia) and many moments of awe inspiring wonder. Picture and more stories to follow from fresh, clean, smoke free Vancouver.
So with the one word all these countries seem to have in common, I say ciao.