Mustapicked A Good Vacation!

The adventures of Amey and Musty's trip to the Balkans and Italy in September '06...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Our Final Day in Sarajevo

First off, thanks so much to all of you who commented... it really warms our spirits to "hear" some voices and news from home!!! Also, no pics today as this spot doesn't have the proper equipment. We'll try to get right on that!

Yesterday we had a really maximized travel day... so full of such diverse experiences that it felt like at least two days rolled into one. We woke up nice and early and drove a little ways down to the southern part of Sarajevo. Sarajevo has a population of about 605,000... so it's a bit big to just walk around. We were just cruising around in the car looking for something interesting to explore besides the tourist center, when we saw a huge, great market. The market was an outdoor vending market featuring absolutely everything - fruit, veggies, beans, clothes, soap, snacks, liquor, shoes, stovepipes... really bustling with life and activity and a cheery sense of commerce. Markets are so amazing... It's interesting to think about how this fundamental act of commerce and trade also contributes to so many human and intimate interactions. At all the markets we've been to on this trip, we've shared so many smiles, laughs, questions... We always leave with more vitality and enthusiasm than we started with.

After the market, we walked back to the car, past ACRES of cemetaries. Gravestone after gravestone reads xxxx-1993 or -1994 ... in all we read that about 10,500 people from Sarajevo were killed during the 3.5 year siege. All across Bosnia i Herzegovina and Croatia there are cemetaries full of new grave markers, but the numbers in Sarajevo really stunned me into speechlessness.

Next to the cemetaries is the Olympic sports stadium, from when Sarajevo hosted the 1984 winter olympics. We happened to park next to the public tennis courts, so we had a great time watching the little Sarajevan kiddos getting tennis lessons. We'll be looking for them on the pro circuit in 10 years or so!

After that excursion, we went over to the National Museum, which is still largely closed, but hosts a very nice and compelling collection of ancient artifacts from the Bosnia i Herzegovina area... Illyrian, Roman, Medieval... including some really nice pieces of ancient art work. In the same complex was a sweet botanical garden, and Natural History Museum hosting an incredible collection of taxidermied animals and birds and insects of the Balkan Pennisula.

Next door to that was the History Museum, which hosts an amazingly compelling, important, beautiful, and heartbreaking exhibit about the siege of Sarajevo in the early90's. For 3 and a half years, Serbian troups surrounded the city and held the citizens captive... they went largely without food, water, or electricity for that entire time. 10,500 were killed and 50,000 were injured. Staggering numbers. Musty and I both found that the extent of the tragedy is so immense and so grotesque and so so so sad that it becomes very hard to separate the people and the city from the tragedy. It seems to me that it would be nice to have a reason to be here long enough to get over that shock, and just begin to experience the people and the city without having that be on the forefront of one's mind. The museum was very profoundly moving and effective... a combination of documents, photographs, text, and artifacts that citizens of the city donated. I still can't shake it... it had a huge impact, as it should. I'm so sorry for the people of this city (and all these cities and countries) that they have suffered so much. And I am also so amazed that we see them laughing and living and being so friendly and so gracious... We have both had the impression that the people here are very kind and gentle... An amazing number of them speak nearly fluent English too, which helps our cause since my Croatian language skills are only limping along under the most dire of circumstances.

After that sober exhibit... we needed a breath of fresh air, so we headed out into the countryside to investigate the purported Pyramid at Visoko. If you don't know about this story... it's so fun. Some guy claims that a mountain in this little town is actually a pyramid, the largest in the world. There is significant scepticism, and I must say... we both headed in really wanting to believe it... but unfortunately, seeing was not believing. Mostly it just looked like excavated rock strata to us! Anyhow, they're making some tourist income out of it, and I commend them for that. BiH is hard up, and it's a beautiful place that deserves a lot more love and attention than it gets!

We were poking around trying to locate a path up to the "pyramid", when a little girl named Selma discovered us and became our self-appointed guide, along with her two little friends. She marched us up the steep hill at a rapid fire rate that nearly killed us both... chattering away in Bosnian (aka Croatian). She deftly waved off the grown men lurking to lure tourists, telling them that they were too late and she had already claimed us! She gave us a detailed and completely unintelligable lecture on the finer points of the pyramid's structure, entireley in Bosnian, and we were quite delighted. We paid her a bit, and she and her friends went scampering happily back down the mountain. Mind you, this was no little climb! The kids in this town are going to be serious athletes if the pyramid situation continues.

Pyramid or no, Visoko was a beautiful, quiet little town with a river and riverside restaurants and little shops... a sweet and peaceful place to explore and get out of the city for a while.

In the evening we headed back to Sarajevo, and spent the night wandering around the beautiful old bazaar, glittering with jewelry shops, bronze and metal workers, trinket shops, and restaurants. It's really a beautiful nightlife here....

hope that wasn't too long and boring - but we really wanted to share it with you all!


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