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ToraTravels: Shenanigans in Sarajevo with wild dogs, nice food and a lack of purpose

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After a visit to Prague and Milan, I find myself in the formerly war-torn Yugoslavia, hoping to find human drama and a good round of fresh ideas. What I found instead were dogs, Turkish food, American tourists and cheap cappuccinos. Going with a more structured format this time!

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Bling bling

Bosnia was part of the Turkish (Ottoman) empire for hundreds of years, lying on the frontier lands of Christian Europe. Itís a very green and mountainous country, with small cities and a lot of small villages strewn all over.
Bosnia was part of the socialist republic of Yugoslavia that emerged after WW2, together with five other small countries whose people have a history of making life miserable for hundreds of years, but it was the most successful communist state until growing ethnic tensions and recession in the 1990s caused the union to fall apart and spiralled into a horrible civil war.

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A typical downtown view. Nearby was an area called 'sniper alley', a large stretch of road flanked by buildings on all sides. As you can guess, a lot of people got sniped there.

The Bosnian front of the conflict was a mostly one-sided slaughter of Bosnians by Bosnian Serbs. Tens of thousands of Bosnians and Croats were locked up, raped, tortured and murdered by the Serbs until the Croatian army kicked their asses in 1995, in the awesomely named Operation Storm. Especially notorious was the massacre at Srebrenica, in which a poorly equipped UN force failed to prevent a slaughter of 7000 Bosnian men and boys by Serbs.

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Since then, Croatia and Slovenia have done pretty well for themselves and joined the EU while the other countries are poorer than they were in the 1980s and still havenít really gotten over the war. Unemployment is pretty high and infrastructure isnít that great here. Trains going to the other side of the country (like 4 hours away) run once a day. Prices are pretty low compared to most of Europe. Overall, Sarajevo seems like a more fun and interesting capital than Ljubljana in Slovenia and Zagreb in Croatia.

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Graffiti is more prevalent in Eastern Europe than in the west and Sarajevo is not an exception. Every wall here is covered in tags. This is a great thing in a city full of grey ugly concrete slabs of building. Havenít seen too much impressive stuff around and most tags are simple one-line scribbles, but thereís some colorful ones out there, with here and there some complex wildstyle tags. Nothing that really stands out.

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Food here is pretty good. Because Bosnia was under Ottoman rule for so long, a lot of the cuisine is similar that of Turkey. I got this dish called Ďcevapcicií which consists of these little pieces of deliciously juicy, yet chewy meat in a nice piece of flat bread with some chopped onions on the side. Itís a bit simple and I think it couldíve profited from some extra veggies in there, but itís still great.

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The sweets here are, typical for Turkish food, extremely sweet. Iím not a big fan, as they taste mostly sugary whereas I like my sweets to have fruity and nutty flavours. Pastries called 'burek' are big here. They're cheap and delicious.

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Also had these aloe vera fruity drinks. Didnít really taste much aloe vera in it. The candies sold in the shops look too sugary and sweet. Most of the chocolate is of the troutty bland milk variety.

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The City:
Sarajevo in particular was besieged for years by the Bosnian Serbs. They were supported by military hardware from Serbia (since Serbia possessed most of the former Yugoslavian Armyís assets) and basically shelled the city for four years straight. Some of the scars of the wars are still visible. Many buildings still have bullet holes in the walls. On some of the spots where artillery shells killed people, they filled up the holes with a red resin - they call them the ĎRosesí of Sarajevo. Overall, the city looks pretty normal. There arenít really any war ruins left.

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Wild dogs are pretty common in Russia and China, but Iíve never seen as many as in this country. Theyíre all over the place. As I was walking through a residential area I ran into this pack of puppies sleeping together. As I approached they started barking away. Then I look over to the road and a pack of adult wild dogs is getting into some turf beef with a pet labrador on a walk with its owner.

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People here seem less sour and depressed than is typical for many post-communist Slavic countries. Adidas tracksuits are rampant as well as tight jeans/leggings and high heels. Itís mostly a muslim country, but they have synagogues and both Catholic as well as Orthodox churches. People have compared the city with Jerusalem because of all the different religions co-existing here, even if theyíre at war every once in a while. Unlike the middle east (or muslim neighbourhoods in western cities), most people are dressed normally. Head scarves and burqas are not common here.

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The people seem friendly and from what I hear theyíre pretty helpful when it comes to sharing and whatnot. Maybe itís because they suffered through the war and learned people have to help each other out.

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Canít really say more than that because I didnít get to know any locals. This is a personal flaw of mine that I need to do something about. I just feel so smurfing tired of making an effort with new people right now. Hopefully Iíll be okay soon. Iíll be living in Romania with a friend in may, which will hopefully help me get more sociable again. I didn't write a single article in the last three weeks I've been travelling. That ain't good.

Updated 05-01-2014 at 11:38 PM by kotora

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  1. Pumpkin's Avatar
    You take some excellent pictures!
  2. Shorty's Avatar
    I have a friend from Bosnia!

    That last photo is lovely. Please don't ever stop making these posts!
  3. fire_of_avalon's Avatar
    Please send me that green glass lantern in your first photo.