Yesterday was my first full day here and, though I’ve never had problems with jet lag going forward in time before, I seem to have something of the sort here. I went to bed at 11:00 pm and woke up at 3:00 am, unable to sleep, so I downloaded The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson and read until 7:00 am, when I went back to sleep until 9:00. It’s actually quite good, and I’d recommend this one (albeit I’m only half-way through), unlike The Tusk That Did the Damage (I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone). This is my room: And this was lunch. You pay by weight here, so I’m still getting used to portion sizes and not paying too much (anyone who knows me knows I don’t eat a lot in one sitting, generally speaking). Around 11:00 I was introduced to another student, a PhD candidate from Baltimore named Maggie, and we began to explore the city because our classes/internship cycle doesn’t begin until Monday. There’s another student here already, too, but we have yet to see her. The public transportation, which is quite cheap, is also quite old, and the city is a mix of old Soviet architecture, old pre-Soviet architecture, repaired post-conflict Soviet architecture, and new post-conflict modern architecture. On every building you can see bullet holes and shrapnel scars, though some have been patched up and others have been left gaping if they haven’t imperatively damaged the structural integrity itself. Most apartment buildings that survived the conflict have trademark wooden balconies built afterwards and telling segments of different-colored stone or lime where it was patched up to be functional as a residence again. The city is dotted with churches, mosques, and minarets, and every day you hear the call to prayer from the latter or the bells chiming in the former. Because the city is so diverse, however, it’s unlike the Middle East (which I haven’t made my way to yet) where everyone stops, but you can see people filtering through the crowds toward their respective religious destination to pay homage. This is the Holiday Inn. Though it looks like another building, it has been cited by both Richard Holbrook (To End a War) and Madeleine Albright (Madame Secretary) as an indication throughout the conflict of the severity of it:
“Over the years I developed my own benchmark for determining progress in Sarajevo- the Holiday Inn. The first time I visited the Bosnian capital, in 1994, the Inn was a wreck and no one was staying there. In 1996, I was permitted to stay at the hotel, but there was a big hole in the middle of the building, half of which couldn’t be used. By 1997 the hotel had been repainted a bright yellow and all the rooms repaired. When I returned in 2000, the city was the thriving center of a bustling metropolis. Sarajevo, the Olympic City, was coming back to life.” – Madame Secretary, Madeleine Albright, Loc. 5143
It once housed the American Embassy to Sarajevo before that was moved closer to the UN, and, though “shattered and grotesque,” it was the place where relief and aid agencies gathered throughout the conflict, being largely considered the city center, then and now. Almost all diplomatic talks were held, or were announced in press conferences, at the Inn.
“January 1, 1993, Sarajevo- As this strangest New Year’s Eve reaches its end, I am in an ice-cold room at the Holiday Inn, with no water, one small electrical light that goes on and off without warning, listening to the sound of sniper fire… This Holiday Inn has to be one of the most peculiar hotels ever. Its cavernous lobby/atrium is freezing cold, dark, and dismal. The upper stories are shot to hell, with gaping holes to the outside world. The upper stories are closed to guests, since the fighting inside the Inn left them in shambles, and there is still blood all over the rooms.” To End a War, Richard Holbrooke, Loc. 1225
Though it is no longer dangerous, the remnants of the conflict are still everywhere. Above, you see what’s known as a “Sarajevo Rose.” These are concrete holes caused by mortar shells that have been filled with a red resin to commemorate places where mortar shells killed people during the siege. This is one of the larger ones, and Maggie and I just happened across it as we traipsed the city. Baklava shops are a thing, and they are amazing. The next memorial commemorates the beginning of the war in Bosnia, in 1992, though the Yugoslavian conflict had been raging since 1989. Sarajevo has an incredible coffee culture, and though this is a macchiato (I think), mostly you’re served small cups of espresso and sugar with a cup of water, which you sip slowly as you have a conversation. The above memorial commemorates a police squadron that was killed in the conflict, though I couldn’t understand the rest of the Bosnian to say when or in what context. (Here the hills tumble haphazardly into the city) And then we found the market, which was my favorite part! Historically Sarajevo was the meeting place of cultures and had four Guilds: the Copper Guild, the Gold Guild, I think the Silver Guild, and the Tailoring Guild. This area still boasts wares made using old techniques. Below is the outside of a mosque (I need to research the significance of the water they’re all drinking) and a purple coffee/hookah patio, which, if you know me, know that it was my favorite place of the day. I’m already drawing inspiration for my library. They make art out of old war materials: And just beautiful things in general. All about the elephants. This place was entirely dedicated to war materials and Itzetbegovic, the Bosniak (word for Bosnian Muslim) leader of Bosnia during the war and one of the parties to the Dayton Accords. Earlier we had purchased baklava from a shop and so we stopped for coffee again. This was beyond the best baklava I have ever had… the top left kind is hazelnut, rolled phyllo- deliciously flaky and dripping with cinnamon-ed honey. The top right kind, my personal favorite, was Nutella baklava, phyllo stuffed with hazelnuts, nutella, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a variety of other things that formed a nutella-chocolate-nutty paste that was out of this world. We probably should have saved that one for last, though, because the bottom row- chocolate pistachio in traditional phyllo layers- was not as good in comparison, though it was dripping honey to the degree that the phyllo practically melted apart. Until tomorrow! -Kris