Sarajevo, BiH

This is from a May 2004 lettet.

Suzi was not sure she wanted to go back to Sarajevo.  We had been there before the war and had pleasant memories.  I’ve been back since but Suzi has not.  It didn’t help that two weeks ago a woman we both know who had been in Sarajevo before the war and who recently went back says she cried for three days.  But I had been to Sarajevo several times in 2000.  Things were not so bad.  The war in Bosnia has been over almost nine years.

You can tell there has been a war (most poignantly by the gravestones in city parks, during the siege people couldn’t get out to the cemeteries to bury their dead) but the old town is back in business with its Turkish shop houses and Hapsburg empire buildings.  While there are still bullet holes and shrapnel damage it is a very pleasant city that is trying to bring in tourists.   Shopping in the old town offers a well-developed supply of tourist trinkets, carpets with “Sarajevo” woven into them, placemats that look like prayer rugs and enameled plates with mosques.  There is all this tourist stuff but not many tourists.  But there are NATO soldiers.  Apparently when a new crop of soldiers rotates in the sales go up.

Sarajevo has great potential for tourism.  It is as close to exotic as you can get in the center of Europe.  The old town bazaars sell more than tourist stuff, what you can get includes carpets, hammered copper work, Turkish coffee sets, silver filigree, water pipes and the like.  You can eat burek, and drink Turkish coffee.  Cross a line that is actually visible (the pavement on the walking street changes from cobblestone to inlaid marble) and you are in the Habsburg section of town, built when Bosnia was ruled by Vienna.  There you can eat Viennese pastries and drink Austrian mélange and buy Austrian Crystal.  There are still some Socialist Realist buildings to add contrast, and some of the communist monuments are still intact.  The Eternal Flame for the Partisans of World War II burns again.  I watched a small boy warming his hands over the flame.

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