I’m writing tonight’s blog in Notepad because the Internet connetion here at the Swissotel in Sarajevo is so terrible. I can’t even check my email via Wi-Fi. My cell phone is working perfectly thanks to T-Mobile, but I only get 5 GB of free international data each month, so I don’t want to overdo it. But this Wi-Fi situation is upsetting. The rest of the hotel is really nice. I am super impressed with the quality of everything else, so it’s sort of crazy that I can’t get Internet access in my room. I’ll post this the next time I actually have Internet access.
We spent about half the day driving from Split, Croatia to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. We made a point to stop along the way at Mostar and see the old bridge. The bridge and the river were really beautiful. I thought about what it would be like to jump from the bridge into the river (it’s very deep and very cold), but today wasn’t the day for that sort of shenanigans. We walked across the bridge and took a few pictures before grabbing some gelato and heading back to the van. There were a bunch of school-aged kids running around here and there. Most of the boys were wearing the red Fez hats that remind me of the Turks.
Bosnia is such an interesting place. I think the Bosniaks are descendants of the Ottoman Turks who used to rule these parts, but they are also Slavs who speak Bosnian. They are usually Muslim and every city seems to have mosques everywhere. It’s sort of like Mormon churches in Utah. Everywhere. But unlike the churches in Utah, the mosques here are really pretty. Each one has a minaret and they dot the cityscape everywhere we go.
The Old Bridge in Mostar (also known as Stari Most) is supposed to represent bringing the various cultures of Bosnia together, but it’s hard to say if that’s actually happening in real life. The main groups here seem to be: Bosnian Bosniaks, who are the majority and are typically Muslim; Bosnian Croats, who are typically Catholic; and Bosnian Serbs, who are typically Orthodox Christians. The three groups have not integrated well and that has been a major factor in much of the destruction and wars in this country, particularly in Mostar.
Mostar still has many buildings that are nothing more than ruins, despite the original destruction happening about 30 years ago. It’s a good reminder of how stupid and terrible war can be.
We left Mostar and drove another couple hours to Sarajevo, which also has lots of scars from war, including bullet holes in buildings, Sarajevo Roses (bomb scars that have been filled in with red epoxy), and buildings in ruin. It’s amazing and terrible to think about a beautiful city hosting the Winter Olympics in 1984 and then being shelled almost daily just a few years later.
We are staying in one of the nicer parts of town. Our hotel is beautiful and there are several other newer high rise buildings nearby, some hosting high-tech companies including Microsoft and Oracle. We wandered through the city and got a 4+ hour tour and history lesson on what happened here. It wasn’t anything like some of our other high adventures, but it was pretty interesting nonetheless. We had the opportunity to learn a lot and ask any and all questions we had. It was really interesting to hear their perspectives on everything. They were each 32 and 33, so they don’t really remember the war itself, but many of the forces that shaped their lives were linked to changes caused by the war one way or another.
Tunnel of Hope
One of the major parts of the tour was visiting the Tunnel of Hope that used to go under the airport. Most of the original tunnel is gone, having collapsed years ago, but we were able to walk through the remaining 100 meters of the original tunnel. It’s a bit surreal to think about what it must have been like. I hope we never have to find out.
After the tour we went to Zeljo, a restaurant our tour guides recommended for some traditional local food. The restaurant serves exactly one dish: cevapi. The only thing you change with your order is how many you want. We each got 10 sausages with sweet cream and onions in a nice flatbread. It was really good, but I think 10 was probably too many for us. I think 6 would have been the sweet spot. From there we continued to wander the city, picking up various pastries and really enjoying ourselves.
We came back to the hotel fairly early, because tomorrow we are driving into the mountains very early to do another canyon. It sounds like this one may not include any rappelling, but we may ride some inflatable boogie boards down the river and do some jumping from ledges. I’m pretty exited.