By Karlie Marrazzo
This is the second post in a two part series on Bosnia. Click here to read part one.
Without hesitation, we hopped in our beat up VW and headed down the only highway to Sarajevo. The landscape was sublime – arid mountains rising up on either side of us, sparkling rivers running beside us, the sun shining in the bright blue sky, and hardly any other traffic to speak of. I spent half the time admiring it, and the other half reading the Sarajevo section of my guidebook, figuring out what we should see in such a short period of time.
As we entered Sarajevo from the west, we drove down the infamous Sniper Alley. Along either side are buildings that were heavily damaged during the war, and, due to the struggles of the government and economy in Bosnia, have not been repaired at all. A dilapidated retirement home with the front torn off covered in graffiti and bullet holes, grey communist-era apartment blocks completely covered in bullet holes, the Holiday Inn which housed foreign journalists. I could rattle off a list of the sights we saw, but I feel empty doing that. As I wrote in my journal the next day from Dubrovnik, I said to myself that I didn’t think my words could do it any justice. So much has happened in Sarajevo. I had never been to a place thus far in my travel career that was still so covered in war wounds, still trying to recover almost 20 years after the end of the war, and still with such a long road ahead. The city was such an unexpected surprise. Such a beautiful place, bustling with life, still shining even though parts of it are very run down. The culture is so fascinating; I wish we had given ourselves more time there and I can’t wait to go back someday. I want to see the museums and the memorials and the monuments. I want to eat delicious burek and admire the minarets piercing the sky next to Orthodox and Catholic churches.
Since we only had a few hours, we weren’t able to do a lot other than walk around and soak up as much as we could, but we did visit the very spot where Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated by 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip and visit the small museum there. How to describe standing in that spot, to look out onto the street and see what he saw and to imagine the chaos? Unbelievable. I also made a point to search out at least one of the few remaining Sarajevo Roses, impact craters from mortar shells filled with red resin shortly following the war. These are quickly disappearing as the asphalt is being replaced. If you’re looking for them, I saw one in front of the Sacred Heart Cathedral in the old town.
Overwhelmed with the sights, the emotions and all of the thoughts running through our minds, we started back to Mostar for the evening. As we made one more pass down Sniper Alley, we stopped at a red light. A little girl, no more than seven years old, was going from car to car with a squeegee and a bucket in her hands. The moment passed as quickly as it came and we drove off into the setting sun, leaving Sarajevo behind us.