Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Vratnik Guest House


  Our Sarajevo lodging was on Hendek street in the Vratnik area, up the hill and east of the Yellow Bastion. Hendek is a typical narrow street that can barely hold one car-width. Many of the dwellings and stairs on the street feel as if they've been there since time began, and maybe they have. Our guest-house is either entirely new or thoroughly remodeled, clean and comfortable. The marble stairs were swept and shiny, and on two levels housed six guest apartments. 

The location of the guest-house was ideal. We walked down steep cobblestone streets to reach the Baščaršija, a centuries-old merchantile area, and from there most every site we wished to see was within walking distance. We walked between 10-12 miles a day around the city.

Vratnik is among the oldest neighborhoods in Sarajevo, at least 500 year old, and would be well worth exploring in more detail on a longer trip. It still has city walls and gates in places. It was walled in the 18th century to make it safe from foreign attacks.

Hendek street

Hendek street

our apartment; we had a bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen

kitchen, looking towards living room

living room towards kitchen!

Siege of Sarajevo: 1992-1995

Memorial plaque on the Suada and Olga Bridge. These two women were slain by snipers during a public demonstration about 5 April 1992. They were the first casualties, with thousands to follow.

A Sarajevo Rose. This pattern of a shell explosion is found all over the city, still. Most are not painted red, but they stand out in roads and sidewalks anyway.

Some neighborhoods feature memorials to those from their area who were killed during the war. Each memorial is unique. 

Shell damage remains in parts of the city.

The Olympic City became a besieged city, a war zone, a mere 8 years after the world was in awe at the doorstep.

The 1984 Olympics bobsled run, destroyed and abandoned.

--------The Sarajevo Tunnel-------

One year into the siege of Sarajevo a tunnel was burrowed under the airport runway to provide access between the besieged city and UN held territory on the other side. Supplies, troop movements, and escapees made use of the passage. A friend, Selma, escaped through this tunnel and eventually made her way to the US. She said Serb snipers were poised for action in the hills above both ends of the tunnel.

Now only a small portion of the tunnel is accessible to visitors. Selma described the cramped-ness of the tunnel. When a stretcher bearing wounded was carried through, anyone else inside had to flatten themselves against a wall.  The tunnel was a conduit for various utility lines for the city of Sarajevo. 

Entrance to tunnel.  A shell landed here killing more than a dozen people waiting to make their escape.

The museum features this model showing the path of the tunnel (white chalk mark). One entered and exited through a house on each end. The airport runway shows in this model.

In the museum are photos and models of the tunnel. 

Digging tools. No backhoes or other mechanized helps were used, in order to keep the digging under wraps.

This museum model shows a wounded soldier being transported through the tunnel

The tunnel and accompanying museum are a must-visit in Sarajevo. One gets a feel for the terrible desperation of people in the besieged city, and the risks taken  by military and civilians to keep the city alive through several years of siege.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Religion in Sarajevo

Sacred Heart Cathedral, Roman Catholic

We made a point of visiting religious buildings in Sarajevo,  Mosques are plentiful in Sarajevo, and I relished hearing the Muslim prayer call once again. Sarajevo features Roman Catholic and Serbian Orthodox churches, and synagogues as well as mosques.

Ashkenazic Synagogue, the only active synagogue left in Sarajevo

This Ashkenazic synagogue, built in 1902, was not open the day we passed by it. I'm still sorry about that. Photos of the interior show it to be a treasure of mosaics and eastern-oriented design. Besides the beauty, I enjoy soaking up the history and devotion in a house of worship. The first Jews in the city were Sephardic who were taken in after their expulsion from Spain in 1492. Ashkenazic Jews arrived about 200 years later. Today Jews in Sarajevo number in the hundreds.

We visited Gazi Husrev-beg mosque. Mosques are treasures of tradition and faith. This one was not open, yet the Imam unlocked it for us to browse as long as we wanted.

A favorite was the Serbian Orthodox Church. The mysticism of an Eastern-Rite church is alluring to me. Even if incense isn't burning during a visit, the walls are permeated with the exotic scent, making you feel as if you've stepped back centuries in time.

 iconostasis painted with icons

 three-barred cross, a symbol of an Eastern-Rite church

Bridget located The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for us. We attended on Sunday, and on walking in met a missionary from my hometown, Beaverton Oregon! I did not know him, but his aunt and uncle lived a few blocks from me for about ten years. He was thrilled to meet someone from home. He did all the translating in the meeting, Bosnian to English and vice versa.

What I loved most about attending church, besides meeting fellow church members in a far-off place, was the  music. The hymns are translated into Bosnian. The language is not unlike my Baba's native tongues--Slovak and Carpatho-Rusyn. I recognized words and was able to pronounce much in each hymn. The familiarity helped me feel at home . . .

Thursday, December 6, 2018


Sarajevo Airport

My whirlwind trip to Sarajevo was life-altering. I have not been in a place where war was so recent that every adult recalls the trauma and peril like yesterday. Bridget and I attended the opening of a museum exhibit remembering the seige of Sarajevo (1992-1995), to which a survivor and friend (Selma) contributed an interpretation. More about that another day.

Sarajevo is a city reminiscent of Damascus, of Istanbul, of the Austro-Hungarian Empire's eastern cities. The flavors are reflected in its architecture. Deep green carpets the surrounding hills and mountains, much like that of eastern Slovakia.

It is a city of cemeteries. In every direction white-pillared cemeteries carpet the hills around the city. The seige killed over 11,000 people, and the newness of so many graves is startling.

We walked past the Yellow Bastion twice daily on our way to and from the old city. The next three photographs were taken from the Bastion, located in the northeast portion of the city. Note the dense cemetery in the foreground above.

Looking southwest from the Bastion towards the modern portion of Sarajevo.
Using the orange tile roof of the prominent house, you can see the photo below is looking more to the south.

Looking southeast from the Yellow Bastion.

Cemeteries, the old above, the newer below. On the Sunday we were in Sarajevo, November 25, commemorations of National Day were held. In the cemetery below we witnessed a heavily guarded procession of dignitaries placing wreaths on the grave of the former president.

Gift shop in the old market area of the city, Baščaršija.

Baščaršija in the older city.

Dinner similar to pierogi. The choices were spinach, potato or meat filled and all were delicious.

Older ruins flanked by the new.

Logavina Street above and below, made famous by Barbara Demick's book of the same name.

A city scene in the western part of Sarjevo.

Another city scene showing some war damage on the apartment building.