We were in Sarajevo smack in the middle of Ramadan. While native Muslims were fasting and praying, we were going on another walking tour and immersing ourselves in Sarajevo trying to learn even more about the city and its people’s history here. We decided to check out Neno’s Free Walking Tour– one that was led by one person (instead of the usual independent volunteer organization that provides this service in cities around Europe) hoping that we would learn even more or be able to fill in the blanks from our first tour in Sarajevo. Afterwards, we headed a little bit out of town to explore the Sarajevo Tunnel that was used during the siege to link Sarajevo with the Bosnian territory on the other side of the airport. It was a busy day, to say the least!
We thought we had failed making the tour on time. We were ten minutes late, and no one was to be seen at the National Theatre where we were told to meet. We lingered for twenty minutes or so while Andrew ran down the river to see if he could spot a small group walking along in a group. He came back with nothing. We gave up and started walking towards the tram to go out to the tunnel when we spotted a group on the other side of the building. Obviously the four of us aren’t the smartest… When in doubt, in the future, walk around the building instead of up and down the street. (Duh, right?)
We were able to join the tour, but we think we missed the 30 minute or so history lesson at the beginning that we were all most interested in. Leanne and I joked around wondering how we could ask Neno if he could repeat everything he had just said. We didn’t, but were delighted when the tour immediately veered in a different direction than our previous tour. One of the first stops was at the busting market that was hit with a mortar bomb in February of 1994 killing 66 and injuring 200. It was devastating to say the least. Aside from learning about this terrible incident, Neno provided pictures of what was sold in the market during the siege and claimed that the market wasn’t as pretty (nor as fresh) as it is today. He talked about the canned meat that was sold and how after the war, one woman opened a can up and set it down for her cat (or maybe it was a dog?) to eat and the poor thing sniffed at it and refused to eat it. He also told us how there wasn’t any chocolate or candy available, so he would sneak sugar into his pocket as a child and lick his fingers and dip them into his pocket for some sugar. He admitted to still having a sweet tooth and dipping sugar cubes in his coffee and popping them in his mouth nowadays. I wanted to relate my passion for mixing sugar into the foamy part of my lattes and enjoying that before drinking the coffee below.
We walked past another Sarajevo Rose, and he told another story about how someone he knew came home one evening after walking through town wearing some extra wide leg pants. When she arrived home, she discovered holes in her pants from sniper shots. My eyes grew big. Can you even imagine? He said that despite the war, and the siege especially, his mother refused to stay home and hide, saying she would go crazy if she didn’t go into town to work. She walked to/from town for 45 minutes or maybe an hour each day. And remember, the city is basically surrounded by mountains with snipers scattered around, shooting into the city day in and day out. One woman piped up;
“I’m a mother… What made your mother decide to keep you all here? Why didn’t she take everyone out?”
Neno responded that his mother always thought the war would end. It would only last a month more… She would say.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the length of the siege, it lasted three years.
After our stop around another Sarajevo Rose, we walked into Sacred Heart Cathedral, the same we saw on the other tour. Only today, a nun was taking care of some ironing in the front of the church.
Another (equally exciting) chess match was on in the park. We all lingered, again, enthralled by the intensity of the game and how interested all of the men gathered were in the game going on.
We stepped into the Cathedral Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos (The Orthodox Church) and as there wasn’t a ceremony going on, we were free to walk in a bit closer and take more pictures.
I debated titling this post “How to NOT be obnoxious on a Tour” because we were unfortunately graced with the presence of two girls who were exactly that. Annoying. You might notice them in the video above, because chances are they are in every frame. I had to get creative shooting footage without them standing in front of me. I also started getting a bit more forward, asking them if they could move out of the way. I’m pretty sure most people know how to act on a tour, but in case you’re unfamiliar with tour group etiquette, here are a few tips for you:
1. Don’t stand in front of the tour guide at every stop. There are other people on the tour, and they might want to see the tour guide’s face every once and awhile.
2. Take your picture, and move out of the way, so others on the tour can take a picture as well. If you want to take more pictures, if you want to get different angles, if you just can’t get the right perspective, then let others go first.
3. When the tour guide holds up a picture for everyone to see, don’t stand in front of the 8×10 laminated picture preventing all 20 others on the tour from seeing it. And if you absolutely need to have a picture of that picture, then ask for it when the tour guide is finished talking about it!
4. When the guide is talking about what life was like during the war, don’t ask him “What was that like for you?” after he just finished explaining the answer to your question. Seriously, what’s wrong with you? You have a notebook out, you’re taking notes. What on earth were you doing?
5. When someone (me) is clearly waiting for you to move so she can take a picture, MOVE! Why on earth are you standing there looking at me, with my camera in front of my face, ready to take a picture? I don’t want a picture of you! I want a picture of the beautiful building you are standing in front of and NOT even looking at!
6. And so help me if you are going to introduce yourself to others as a photographer (yea, I overheard you talking to the Australian whose yacht is “stuck” in Croatia) don’t steal my shot. I’m not talking about taking the same pictures that everyone takes on a tour of the Sarajevo Roses or the facades of churches or the men playing chess. I’m talking about when I go out of my way to practically lay down on the floor of a church and then I see you see me and then you do the same thing. If you really are a photographer, you would know that any other photographer would NOT be cool with that. And I don’t even introduce myself as a photographer, even though clearly, I take a lot of pictures.
I know, you’re probably like, ‘Woah, Liz. Calm down!’ And really, I told myself the same, until Leanne confirmed how ridiculously unaware these two girls were. I tried to linger towards the back of the group, thinking surely that would help. It didn’t. I debated pulling them aside, much like a mother would do to her own children and tell them to stop being so annoying. Instead, I rolled my eyes at myself, at my impatience, and tried to find them entertaining instead of annoying. That is, until the (same) one purposely stopped, waiting for me to move, and then started walking back to where I was standing to take the exact same picture.
“I’m a witch.” I whispered to Leanne as I caught up to them after taking the picture below. (Only I might have used a different word)
“I asked her if she was going to take the same picture I just took, and told her I didn’t like when other ‘photographers’ take the exact same shot that I took.” I explained, and Leanne said that she had worried on our safari that I was annoyed with her for doing the same. I rolled my eyes at her and explained that’s different.
“Ohmigod! We were in the same jeep! That’s totally different! It’s animals. On a safari! Of course we’re going to take the same pictures! You weren’t on a walking tour waiting behind me to see which pictures I was going to take when others weren’t around and then take the same one!” I tried to explain myself, but later realized I probably sounded like a witch regardless.
Leanne teased me for the rest of the afternoon that she was going to take the same pictures or that she was going to take a picture too, when I had my camera ready. I figured, she didn’t think I was too big of a ‘witch’ if she was able to tease me about it.
In other ‘obnoxious photo news’ this Copper Street had tons of signs up that you couldn’t take photos or else had to pay the artisan who was hammering away at the metal first. I settled on these two shots and shrugged, not interested in taking any photos of the artisans or even buying anything if you had to simply pay to take a picture!
After a quick local lunch, we made our way out of the center towards the Sarajevo Tunnel and Museum. The family who owned the house during the siege, and today runs the museum despite the government wanting to take over. It’s pretty much just like that, rolling up to a house in the country and then going around the back where you watch a short film that’s mostly a montage of bombings in the city, the building of the tunnel, and then its use during the siege.
The indoor museum consisted of different rooms full of mortar shells, army uniforms, American army food rations, and a recreation of a section of the tunnel. There was also a photo wall displaying famous actors and politicians who have visited the tunnel.
The entrance of the tunnel remains open and visitors are able to walk a short length that still remains intact. I didn’t see any information about what happened to the rest of the tunnel. I’m assuming it has been closed and/or filled in.
It was a little too short for Andrew. I couldn’t stand up straight inside, but it wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought it would be. Granted, we weren’t walking through it in the middle of a war, through rain and murky water below and exposed electrical lines above. It reminded me of being in a more advanced version of the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam.
Afterwards, we all headed to the train and bus stations to check about tickets out of Sarajevo the next day. I was continually intrigued by the visible scars on the buildings from the war. In Korea, I would always think in the back of my mind how much the older people have lived through, how much they had seen, and I wondered what it was like for them to see the change. Here, in Sarajevo, those thoughts pretty much apply to anyone over the age of 10.