We went on another free walking tour. This time in Sarajevo. As always, the tour proved to be educational and a great way to wrap our heads around the latest city we rolled into. I say ‘educational’ because I’m fairly positive I’m learning (and hopefully retaining) way more information than I ever did in any history class. I remember seeing Sarajevo in the news a LOT when I was young, but I had no connection to it, and no understanding of not only what was going on, but why I should concern myself with the conflict. When you find yourself walking through the streets of Sarajevo and seeing all of the bullet holes in the buildings and then you’re given an explanation of the ‘Sarajevo Rose’ you feel like a fool for not being more aware with what was going on in the world when you were younger. At least that’s how I felt as I stood in front of a Sarajevo Rose on our walking tour du jour. So what is it? Wikipedia rather beautifully defines it as “a concrete scar caused by a mortar shell’s explosion that was later filled with red resin.” Our guide explained that the Sarajevo Roses are filled in as a memorial to those who were killed by a mortar shell during the Bosnian War.
Throughout the tour, we learned all about the Ottoman Empire’s influence, the start of World War I, and bits and pieces of the Bosnian War. It was a lot. So much that I kept having to ask Andrew stupid questions like: “Ok, wait, which one was World War I?” “Who was shot?” and “Who was bombing Sarajevo?” “But WHY Sarajevo?!” because my head was so full. of. history. All through the Balkans, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the fall of Yugoslavia and keeping track of who was with who and who was against who… Before the Balkans, it was trying to understand Greek Mythology. Before Greek Mythology, it was the rise and fall of religions in Turkey. Before Turkey, it was apartheid in South Africa. My list of books to read is growing longer and longer. If I can remember just a teensy bit of all of this information we’re trying to absorb on a daily basis, it’ll be a success! (Educationally, that is. Obviously it’s already a success on so many other levels.) If my memory proves unsuccessful, at least the past ten months have been cheaper than one year of tuition at my alma mater!
During our stop at this Orthodox Church, a ceremony was going on, of what we weren’t told, regardless, the chanting was beautiful to listen to.
“Who told them there were two ‘t’s’ in Kentucky?” I grumbled to Andrew as we passed by the local KFC, I mean VFC?
“Probably someone from Kentucky.” Andrew snarked.
My favorite part of the tour was arriving in the park to quite the kerfuffle over a heated game of chess. These men were not messing around. Our guide told us that legend has it if you lose the last game of the day, you have to set up the pieces at seven o’clock the next morning. He asked his uncle or father (I forget which) if this was true, but was told that “they’ve never lost… so they don’t know!”
The eternal flame (just down the street from the park above) is a memorial to those who have died in the Second World War in Bosnia. Our guide told us that one day, the flame was not so eternal (it had gone out during a storm the night before). A tourist, I think on a walking tour, asked his guide if there was still gas coming out, and then walked up to it and re-lit the flame. He also burned his arm (to what degree, I’m not sure) in the process.
We ended our tour in a park that held the Memorial to Murdered Sarajevo children during the siege of the city from 1992 to 1995. The sculpture represents a mother protecting her child. Around the base, made from melted bombshell cases, are children’s footprints, friends of those who died during the siege. Sad. That’s all I have to say. Even sadder was when our guide talked about the ‘Sarajevo Red Line.’ It was a memorial of the 11,541 killed during the Bosnian war. 11,541 empty red chairs were arranged down the street that passed in front of this sculpture dedicated to the children on April 6, 2012. Just last year. Our guide said it was a sight to see, and it was rather difficult to do the walking tour during the installation because it was simply so moving to have a visual of all that Bosnia had lost during the war.
On a much (much) lighter note, after the tour, we waited for Josh and Leanne to get into town! Our fifth country together, we were excited to see them, and share an apartment with them again! Excited, yes, but again, it was driven home how much they ‘get it’ as in this whole trip. We were all tired, and despite just arriving into a new city that afternoon (or evening) the best part of meeting up with friends who ‘get it’, was that they readily agreed to a low key movie night before passing out in an attempt to get some rest before a busy day tomorrow.