between the lands

Jessica and Andrew’s travel journal

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Sarajevo my love…

Posted by Andrew in balkans, BOSNIA (December 19, 2007 at 1:42 am)

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For some reason, I was especially excited about going to Bosnia. I didn’t know much, but I knew they had a nasty war pretty recently.
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Well I was right about the war being nasty, and overall Bosnia didn’t disappoint. It was my favorite Balkan country for sure.
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The recent war, and the ethnic and religious divisions were easier to understand than in Lebanon, but still very confusing. In Bosnia, “Muslim” is an ethnicity, not just a religion. And when Bosnian Serbs (who aren’t Serbians, just Serbs) are telling jokes about “Bosnians’, they really mean Muslims, not just any Bosnian. Those are just a couple of examples of how people divvy themselves up round here.
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Meanwhile, on the streets, the destruction is unescapable.(as is our friends Martinz, who we ran into for the third time so far on our trip) CIMG0270 a+j+martins.jpg
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In Sarajevo, one of the most beautiful cities we’ve been in, the history is thick. CIMG5624 perfect for that.jpg This street corner is where World War I started, when the Duke Ferdinand was assassinated.
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Sarajevans are proud that they have Churches, Mosques, and Synagogues all in the same neighborhoods. I’ve even found out by reading a new magazine that some feel that Sarajevo is the “Jerusalem of Europe”
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Bosnia was also the furthest west that the Ottomans (~Turks) made it, so its the last place we saw Mosques as we headed West, and it’s a historical boundary between the two civilizations. And it’s the boundary between the Catholic and Orthodox branches of Christianity. Depending on how you see history, you could argue that it’s all gone down right here.
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We went to the town of Mostar, the ‘front line’ of the Serb invasion of the Muslim regions of Bosnia.
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This bridge(The Stari Most) is really famous—unfortunately, the real centuries-old one was destroyed in the war, but they rebuilt it almost exactly the same way, and super dare-devil guys have kept up the tradition of diving off the bridge for money that tourists give them.
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The countryside was not so shot up, but rugged in its own way.
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Learning about how Sarajevans survived being trapped in their city for several years in the 90’s, CIMG5646 tunnel goes into grnd man behind.jpgCIMG5645 a emerges from tunnel.jpgCIMG0119 tunnel inside.jpgand then checking out the tunnel they built under the airport to gets supplies into the city from the neighboring hills, we were beginning to think that the Serbs (the guys who were the biggest villains of the war) were really horrible people.

But instead of just buying the rhetoric, we decided to check out the Serb region of Bosnia and spent a few days couchsurfing in Banja Luka.
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Berengere was a great host; we didn’t get to hang out with her that much, but her friends made up for that more than 10-fold.
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One night roasting chestnuts and playing Balkan folks songs on guitar by the fire, another evening watching movies about squatters at a local activist center, we got to meet lots of interesting folks.
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And couchsurfing also got us in touch with Gospodar, who showed us around town, and Tiho, who took us on a beautiful hike up in the hills. CIMG0308 tio finds mushroom.jpgCIMG0315 mural with view.jpg Special thanks to Drazen as well, who helped us a ton when we needed to mail a package home!
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So what can we say about the “Bosnian Serbs”? Well, keeping in mind that most of the folks we hung out with were too young to have fought in the recent wars, they were really nice to us…but it also became clear through our conversations that things are still not cleared up 100%, and there are still bridges of understanding that must be established. One new Serb friend of ours wanted to marry a Muslim woman, but it just seemed too complicated so they turned their back on love—THAT’S NO GOOD!!!
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Back to the here and now. As Navidad approaches,..we’ve got a plan—were movin to California!!! (SF bay area to be exact) I’m going to be working at Making Contact, a really great radio show based in Oakland. (I’m also looking for part time/freelance work, so anyone out there got some leads, holla).
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Bottom line—the adventure continues for a little while longer. Whether we are ready or not, another cross-country drive is upon us. The planned route: from Tampa, to Atlanta, New Orleans, then somewhere in Texas, El Paso/Las Cruces/White Sands National Park, San Diego, and arriving in SF bay on new Years Eve. We making it quick this time, less than 2 weeks overall.
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To all our friends, couchsurfing and otherwise: just wait a little longer…as soon as we have a place to live then the invitations are out. Cause when we stop, it’s your turn to start travelin’
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And a little professional promotion—click here for a radio story I did on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers—a group of immigrant tomato pickers who are campaigning to get a pay raise from burger King. They are the folks who led the taco bell boycott a few years ago—and they won–they are no joke.

Aight yall, coming soon—Slovenia and the Red Hot Horse Burger!
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