Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as, the Bosniak/Croat Federation that along with the Republika Srbska, makes up the country. This is a great place to visit if you like history. The city was part of the Ottoman Empire and then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before becoming part of Yugoslavia. The city hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics and was subject to the longest siege in modern history.

There is tremendous religious diversity. Orthodox and Catholic churches, Jewish synagogues and Islamic mosques all over the city give the city a unique feel. Due to the city's history of religious diversity it has been called Europe's Jerusalem.

Beščaršija is the center of the old town. It has a very Turkish feel to it with all of the minarets, cafes and bazaar.

The Yellow Bastion and White Bastion were built during Ottoman rule. They offer great views of the city.

Sarajevo was industrialized by Austria-Hungary. The Austrians didn't want to experiment in Vienna so Sarajevo was the first city in the empire to get electric lights. Sarajevo was the second city in the world, after San Francisco, to have a full-time electric tram running through the city.

Kozija Ćuprija, the Goat's Bridge, was first mentioned in 1550 and is 3 km from town. It is almost the same as Mostar's Old Bridge but I'll let you know on Thursday when I go to Mostar. This was an important caravan road that used to link Sarajevo with the Ottoman Empire. The story goes that two brothers used to keep livestock near the bridge and one day a goat dug up hidden treasure.

Across from the Latin Bridge is the spot where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by Gavrilo Princip in 1914. This was what triggered the outbreak of WWI.

The Jewish Cemetery was opened in 1630. Like many parts of the city it was heavily damaged during the siege. Serb shooters were placed here which targeted civilians on Sniper Alley for almost 4 years.

They city still has a lot of damage from the siege. The Tunnel Museum is very interesting and helps you understand what life must have been like during the Balkan War. A Sarajevo Rose is where a mortar shell detonated in the city and was later filled in with red resin. There are several monuments in the city commemorating the siege, including the children's memorial for the +1,500 children that were killed. Another unmistakable reminder is all of the city's cemeteries. It is very depressing to see that so many people were killed from 1992 - 1996. All of the white gravestones are Muslim while the dark tombstones belong to Serb or Croat Christians. Don't get me wrong, there is more to the city than the siege but it's hard to not think about all of the suffering that happened here 16 years ago.

The weather has been really nice yesterday and today. For some reason, people keep saying that there's going to be snow tomorrow. Hopefully that won't happen because I didn't pack for snow.

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