7/2/15 - 7/7/15
We left Croatia and headed to Bosnia-Herzegovina, another country rife with a recent history of violence.
We started in Mostar. It's a beautiful city split into two sides by a river. One side is primarily Bosniaks, in the old town, and the other is primarily Croats; the two sides are connected by a famous bridge.
The city views the bridge as not only connecting two sides of the river but as connecting the two ethnicities and cultures. During the war in the early 90s, the two sides began to fight. The last of the bridges to be destroyed was this famous bridge. Apparently, the people felt that their multicultural city had been officially torn apart once the bridge was gone. The bridge there now is a reproduction of the old bridge. Most of the city has been rebuilt, but you can still see skeletons of buildings bombed out.
The old town is fascinating as its churches, cathedrals and mosques compete for attention in the skyline. There is a market that lines the old town main street filled with everything from silly souvenirs to gorgeous handmade crafts.
On our guided tour of the city, we got to see an old style Turkish house complete with original furnishings and some old-style clothes. As it turned out that we were thè only people on this tour, we got to try on these clothes. Such fun!
After casually wandering around Mostar's old town for a couple days, we got on a bus to Sarajevo. This capital city was even more diverse than Mostar, and more interwoven too. Bosniaks - Muslims, Croats - Catholics, and Serbs - Orthodox created mixed families and friendships.
When the infamous Siege on Sarajevo began, all ethnicities were subject to violence and destruction. On average, there were 300 bombs every day; the heaviest bombardment was 4000. Buildings still carry scars, and all around the city you can find a "Sarajevo Rose," or in other words, the spot where a bomb fell and killed more than 3 people.
One of the most poignant monuments was the fountain dedicated to the loss of the children, all 521 of them. The center of the fountain is meant to represent a mother leaning over trying to protect her child (or a sand castle left incomplete like the lives of the children making it). We heard 2 different interpretations. Along the edge of the fountain are the siblings' footprints of the children lost.
The city was surrounded and cut off from any help. The people were left without running water, electricity or gas.
Thankfully, the people of Sarajevo, like those in Dubrovnik, did not lose hope or their will to survive. The city police along with men from various professions found ways to keep the attacking army at bay for 1,425 days. A few months before the seige ended, the people had completed an underground passageway connecting the besieged city and the "free land" called the War Tunnel. It was about 4 feet high and wide and about half a mile long. The two sides dug from either end and met in the middle. Because Sarajevo didn't have resources to build, they used pieces of fallen buildings and the other side used wood from trees. This resulted in half of the tunnel built with metal and the other built with wood. The city finally had access to some outside resources including a safer way to get water (they had to dodge snipers to fill water jugs before) and a small amount of electricity. The tunnel was primarily used for military purposes, providing military gear to the men who had stepped up to protect their families - many people shared that those who fought did not do it out of pride for the city or country but to protect their families. The trek through the tunnel took around 2 hours when going into the city with goods. Their backpacks were nearly 70 pounds. Colin got the chance to try one on in the museum reproduction of the tunnel. He was supposed to pretend that he was both carrying the backpack and pushing a cart full of eggs. One needs less imagination than then other.
We then got the chance to walk the first 82 feet (25 m) of the actual tunnel. The majority of the tunnel was closed off, because it runs underneath the airport runway. They're worried about security or something silly like that...haha...no, it makes sense.
We ended our trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina on a slightly positive note by being able to see the resilience of Sarajevo's people evidenced by the tunnel.