Hipmunk CityLove: Discovering the History in Sarajevo

Bullet holes and resin┬ároses stand out against the vibrant life in Sarajevo — a juxtaposition which leaves many visitors speechless. Here, the tragic recent history of this Bosnian capital lies entangled with the city’s colorful present, creating a place not only to explore the riches it now offers today, but also it’s past.

Although the Bosnian War today is only in history books, visitors can still learn about it first-hand, thanks to the city’s preservation of the bombed and bullet-laden buildings, the memorials and the museums which remind people of its sad ties, but also inspire hope and a living note that these atrocities cannot happen again.

Simply wandering through the heart of the city, which presents travelers with a walking history lesson in and of itself (think Austro-Hungarian architecture followed by Turkish and beyond), there is more to be found under the surface.

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Daily Wanderlust: Bullets and Bosnia

From memorials like the one in Berlin to museums in Rwanda to simply a pock-marked building telling the tales of those who were silenced … images like these haunt my mind.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the remnants of war can be found in many places. Even in the heart of Sarajevo, there are stories to be told from the war … a shuttered national library … roses marking where people were killed … and bullet-riddled buildings.

This photo was snapped just outside of the Sarajevo airport near the Tunnel Museum which, during the war, served as a place for those fighting for the city to go underground and move supplies.

Bullet riddled building in Sarajoev

Destinations

Daily Wanderlust: History in Sarajevo

Despite its tragic past, today Sarajevo stands out as one of the most magnificent and beautiful places I have ever visited. The people. The land. The history. They all stand as a testament to even the worst horrors that could befall a place, a population, can bounce back and overcome.

I spent a week in this gorgeous city, learning about its history of being surrounded┬áin the mountains which had turned deadly, its present and its future. I spoke with locals about their take on Angelina Jolie’s movie “In the Land of Blood and Honey”; I wandered through the streets of Sarajevo, eyes wide at the roses scattered about to remind people of the city’s past; and I immersed myself with as much history as possible. Including a visit to the Tunnel Museum.

This spot was used during the war to take supplies from the city under siege to the safe zone, on the other side of the airport. There were always risks involved, like electrocution from flood tunnels, shots from snipers in the hills and other attacks, and yet, people did what they could to survive.

Today, this spot is peaceful with life flourishing.

The grounds of the tunnel where supplies where funneled in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Hercegovina

Destinations

Daily Wanderlust: Sarajevo’s Olympic Stairs

What was once a glorious staircase, lined with tea shops and vendors, today sits in ruins on a Sarajevo hillside.

An entire lifetime of pain, suffering and redemption plays out on these crumbling stairs which were a part of the 1984 Olympics. They’ve witnessed the town being surrounded, the horrors of genocide, the beauty of growth.

The City of Roses, despite its tragic history, has overcome so much.

I love these stairs as much as I love Sarajevo.

Destinations

Daily Wanderlust: Sarajevo by night

I spent about a week in Sarajevo, the City of Roses. During my time in the city, I fell in love with it. I chased Angelina Jolie for a story, I took numerous walking tours and learned about the dark past and vibrant present of the city, and I explored the juxtaposition of the battle scars from the war in the 90s to today’s positive and upbeat lifestyle.

While I was there, it was Ramadan, and each night a single firework would explode to mark the end of the observance for the day.

Destinations

Escape of the Week: Juxtaposition in Sarajevo

It’s been one year since I was in Sarajevo, a city I fell in love with. The charm of the city. It’s heart-breaking past and triumph of recovery left me overcome with emotion. For a week, I wandered the city streets, crossing over the river, walking past the destroyed National Library, meandering between the European and Turkish buildings, sipping the strong coffee …

While I was there, I visited the airport where an underground tunnel funneled supplies to the Sarajevo troops fighting to maintain a hold on their city. Like the rest of the city, this part of the town was riddled with pockmarks, untold struggles from the war.

This photo is one of my favorites from Sarajevo. To me, it shows that, even with a dark past, beauty and life can flourish.

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Chasing Angelina

When I was purchasing my iTouch, the girl at the counter mentioned Angelina Jolie had been in town. She was meeting with people to film a movie about Bosnia.

For a few minutes, the girl spoke of her disapproval about the film, saying she didn’t think it was right for Jolie to make a movie about the war.

“It is too soon,” she explained. “And there are other things we would rather her make a movie about than the war.”

Noted.

I went back to SA and messaged Abby, who runs a celeb news agency, sharing the gossip I had just heard.

“Get out there!” Abby had written. “Go get the story.”

Me?

I didn’t have a clue where to start.

“Go back to the Apple store,” she instructed. “Find out where the five-star hotels are and go see if she was there. Talk to people about the movie she is filming. Find out what she did while she was here. Go!”

So, I quickly did my hair, put on my big sunglasses and donned a flowing flower maxi dress to look less Backpacker Chic, grabbed my laptop and a notebook and headed back out into the city, intent on getting the story.

Only I felt like an ass.

The only five-star hotel in town, stood before me, completely redone after the war.

I can’t do this. I can’t pretend to be some crazy fan asking to get the scoop on what Jolie did while she was there.

“Excuse me,” I said timidly, approaching the swanky front desk of the hotel. “I have a question, and it may seem kinda silly …”

“Yes,” the tall man at the desk said, glaring at me.

“Did Angelina Jolie stay here last night?”

“No.”

Dead end.

“Um … do you know where she did stay?”

“No.”

Another dead end.

“Do you know what she was doing while she was here?”

“She was meeting with people to talk about filming a movie. She was looking at tanks.”

Finally.

“Great,” I said, smiling. “Thanks so much.”

I spun on my heels and back outside, intent on finding out where she stayed and needing to get more confirmation that she was here.

I stopped at the bar across the street and talked to a guy sitting at a high top, essentially having the same conversation, except he asked me to please tell Jolie he said hello.

Right. Like I have ever, or would ever, meet her.

I went inside and asked the bartender if he could tell me where she was staying.

Nothing.

I went to another bar. And another. I asked police officers on guard.

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Then, I made my way back to the Apple store, knowing the girl would have the information I needed.

Closed. Locked. Not open until Monday.

Damn.

Defeated, I went to a cafe, ordered a Coke Light, and messaged Abby with the info I had.

“Go and talk to people about how they feel about the film,” she said. “Get whatever information you can.”

Ask them about the war? And how they feel about Angelina making a movie about it?

It didn’t feel right. I had heard from other travelers that bringing up the war isn’t something that is done. It’s not PC. And, suddenly, I needed to go up to strangers and ask them flat out how they felt about a film being made about just that.

But, I did it.

If they don’t want to talk about it, they don’t have to.

A funny thing happened that conflicted everything I had ever been told about broaching the subject — every single person I talked to was more than willing to talk about the war. In fact, they could have talked about it for hours.

Each person I spoke with offered me a seat, a drink, and chatted on and on about their city with such pride and admiration. They spoke of the war, the struggles they endured. They spoke about the beauty of the country and how much they loved where they were.

And, of course, the spoke about Angelina.

“If she wants to make a movie about the war, then it is a good thing,” one 20-something Sarajevo girl said. “It can help people to understand what we went through.”

At the end of the day I was hot, tired but filled with hope. Not for getting the story — there wasn’t one there after all — but for the people of Sarajevo and their determination to stand up together and show the world just how strong they are. And will be.

Here’s to hoping Jolie can convey that in her film.

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