There is only one way to head to Sarajevo from Mostar. It is the 7:05am train. Yes there are buses that leave at a more reasonable hour, but for 11KM each, you get on one of the best train journey’s in Europe. It only lasts a couple of hours but even Rail Europe have filmed a documentary last year saying it is so good. So we got up early, walked past a bakery, picked up a Burek for breakfast and headed to the platform. There are only two platforms in Mostar, yet we go confused. Our ticket said platform 2, but everyone who was waiting for the train went to platform 1. A fellow traveller went back to the ticket desk and got further confirmation that it was platform 2. We walked through the tunnel and when we emerged on Platform 2, everyone who went to Platform 1 was now on Platform 2? It was only after a few bites into our burek (closest equivalent to a meat pie!) that we realised everyone just walks across the tracks from platform to platform. Safety First!
The views from the train truly are spectacular so before we knew it, we had arrived into the city that holds the unfortunate record of the longest siege iof a capital city, Sarajevo. It was just 5 stops on the tram to our hostel, Travellers Home, where we dropped our bags and headed out into the city. Just up from our hostel was Sacred Heart Cathedral, which was in-between the Orthodox Church and Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque, all of which, were three minutes walk away fro the Jewish Synagogue. Proof to what we had previously heard that Bosnia is a country that has, for 1000 years lived side by side without prejudice to religions, it is only the crazed ideas of a few that has tried to segregate them as different religious ethnicities that can only end in conflict. We discovered later, that while the Siege of Sarajevo was meant to last 7 days and that while completely outnumbered, the citizens of Sarajevo defended their city for 1425 days, together and side by side. It goes to show, that if everyone just got over what religion everyone is from and just go on with living together, than maybe there wouldn’t need to be all these wars. Well that got deep!
Deeper still, the next thing we did on our first afternoon, was visit a gallery about Srebinica. It wasn’t until we walked in and saw the photos that it clicked. We remembered a mass grave was discovered and that another Genocide had happened during the Bosnia/Serb conflict. It is crazy that only 20 years ago so many people were killed, and so many missing because of (what surely should have been recognised earlier) ethnic cleansing. But hey, it didn’t, so hopefully galleries such as this can educate us that it did happen and it should never happen again (again).
We thought it time to try and lighten the mood with a walking tour of Sarajevo as normally, it is eclectic folk who do these sorts of things. Today was no different and, well, as far as eclectism goes, we had a winner. He said “Are you all hear for the Tour? Good! Lets Go!” before walking to the centre of the road, placed down a card and walked to the pavement, turned with something in his hand and yelled
“Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang. Five Shots That’s where it happened, where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated and where World War I began. Any questions? Good. Lets Go!”
Looks like we were getting deep again! He said nothing until we arrived in the Franciscan Monastry where inside, he still spoke at the highest decibel possible for man to say “Lets Talk. Why are you in Sarajevo? What are your questions?”
A question was asked and answered with, “Ha Ha, that is a question, a stupid question, but a question indeed! Anymore questions? Good. Lets Go!”
We wandered the streets where he explained the history of the city, how Yugoslavia split, how the war was ended etc etc. We admit, it was all very interesting, but the perfomce was the most entertaining. At times he would switch to the Bosnian tongue and make a student translate, exactly how he would say it, pausing after every three words and making similar facial expressions. It was very funny, but even the student was unable to keep a straight face when he called President Clinton, Monica. Classic. We wandered through the old market and towards the Cathedral where we had walked past red paint on the floor earlier, oblivious it was a Sarajevo Red Rose, which are all over the city commemorating where blasts from the Cetniks had killed citizens.
We met up with a couple of guys from the ‘Free Tour’ to watch BiH attempt their first ever win in the World Cup against Nigeria. The streets during the day were full of blue and yellow flags and jersey’s as well as the national television crew who instantly spotted someone would held all sorts of knowledge and insight into the worlds game, but instead interviewed me. Thankfully, I had been informed of two facts, it was their first World Cup and there were playing Nigeria – quality TV.
The atmosphere in the street was pretty insane, everyone cheering and jeering while flares were being lit right next to us. We thought it might turn sour when there was, as always,a bad decision, but the supporters took it in their stride and all quietly went home after the game.
The following day was spent in the hostel as we had the first illness of our year long trip. Mrs Larko was laid up in bed all day, a victim of food poisoning that can only be pointed at one thing, a salad, that’s what you get for trying to eat healthy!
We had the following morning in the city, so with Sarah feeling better, we walked along the Rdava River to a house in the hills for The Sarajevo Siege Tour that everyone in the hostel was raving about. It is run by a great guy, Arijan, who was a child of the siege and where within a recreation of bunker during the siege, he informs you of what life was like. How people survived and died and what was done to help and assist the citizens of the city. When you are in Sarajevo, this is definitely something worth doing. It is pretty full on, but definitely insightful.
We headed back towards the hotel where we discovered just enough local currency to purchase 750g worth of Turkish Delight (Bosnian Style)
Our transfer left that afternoon at 4:45pm towards Belgrade, Serbia. While we waited for it, all we could talk about was how great Bosnia. Amazing landscapes and terrific people, albeit such a turbulent history. We only hope that what has happened recently will not happen again. Unfortunately, according to the residents, they all feel it will. Hearing about their 3 person parliament, One Bosnian (Muslim), One Croatian (Catholic) and One Serbian (Orthodox) who all run the country individually in 6 month intervals, it is hard to image that the separation of country that never wanted to separated will continue on as peacefully as they all desire.