Travel

"Bok" from Croatia

Zagreb

10/10

 

It's the second night of what was supposed to be a one night stopover in Zagreb.  I decided to land here after two days in Belgrade and three days in Veliko Tarnovo before that.  The plan was for me to spend just enough time in Zagreb to walk around the city, check out the Museum of Broken Relationships, and then skirt on to Budapest.  I accomplished the first parts and failed on the last.  It seems that I misread the departures board at the train station and got on the wrong train.  The Budapest-bound train had left the station before I realized my mistake.  Fortunately, I was able to hop off the other train before it left.  I'm still unsure where exactly it was headed, but I do know that it certainly wasn't stopping in Budapest.  

Because of my rail pass, missing this train cost me nothing more than another day here in Zagreb.  It's a pleasant city to spend time in, so I have no complaints.  The city has attractive architecture and is easy to walk around.  It's a quiet place and I enjoyed just relaxing, it is the weekend after all.

St. Mark's Church

I will be catching the early train to Budapest tomorrow and you better believe that I will hop on the right one this time.

As I referenced above, the one thing I really wanted to see while in Zagreb was the Museum of Broken Relationships.  I checked it out this morning and it delivered as I had hoped.  Unique, funny, heartbreaking, tender, and very well curated are all words to describe this small museum housed in an old baroque palace.  It's a museum that is easy (perhaps painfully so) to connect to and I have never seen anything quite like it.

Mementos range from a basketball jersey to an old checkbook to an axe used to smash an ex's furniture.  The stories and types of relationships are as varied as the objects on display.  Some are of brief encounters or unrequited love, others detail the loss of a parent, others still are decades long marriages fallen apart.  In the course of one string of displays your feelings can be pulled a dozen directions.

Objects on display come from across the world.  The museum accepts donations of items associated with broken relationships without imposing any real parameters.  They are displayed with a basic description including the donor's location, the period of the relationship, and some description provided by the donor.  The shortest description I saw on display was for a Linksys router from a donor in San Francisco- "We tried. Not compatible."  That's a failed relationship I can understand.

The longest descriptions were several paragraphs and tended to detail relationships that were more involved than one with a piece of networking technology, like the woman who donated olive pits from the man with whom she carried on a years long emotionally draining affair.

One of the museum's exhibition rooms

"Florida lake where I skipped school with my boyfriend.  The arrow indicates where I first saw a penis in the sunshine."

The Museum of Broken Relationships is a concept that seems so odd yet universal.  It is worth visiting if in Zagreb.  I love weird museums and this is one done right.

"Здравейте" (Zdravejte) from Bulgaria

10/6

I came to Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, three days ago with one goal- visiting the Buzludzha Monument.  Opened in 1981, the monument was built by the communists to serve as their party headquarters.  With the fall of communism a decade later the building was abandoned and has sat decaying ever since.  It is just so odd on so many levels that I was completely drawn to it when I first discovered it online.

No matter what you words you describe it with, it certainly is striking.

Buzludzha is in a somewhat isolated area and getting there is a challenge, as there are no means of public transportation to the area.  As a visitor this means either going on a tour there or renting a car and driving.  Finding other guests at my hostel with an interest in going there was not hard and as a group we arranged to rent cars to get there.  Seeing as how I was one of only two people out of nine with a driver's license and of the age to actually sign for a car, I became one of the drivers by default.

Inside the Marxist UFO

Here's a confession: I never properly learned how to drive a manual transmission car.  My experience with a stick was mostly limited to the 1994 Suzuki Swift I owned with my neighbors which functioned as a glorified go kart.  This is best displayed in this video.

Turns out the rental car was a manual.  I had to figure out how to drive a stick real quick or at least figure out to how to fake the funk.  I managed to get us there and back with only two near death experiences and stalling the car just once in town.  The group survived and Buzludzha was an incredible place to explore and climb around.  It was worth the trip to Bulgaria to see.

I'll enjoy climbing on its remains

Salut from Romania

10/2

 

I'm now wrapping up my fourth day in Romania.  In keeping with my modus operandi, I'm leaving the country tomorrow and heading for Bulgaria.

I've liked the little bit of Romania I have had the chance to seen.  The first two days I was here were spent in Brașov, a city in southeast Transylvania.  Transylvania is beautiful region.  It offers much more than vampires and horror.  Brașov is a charming city with a great old town.  The area's natural beauty is enhanced by the presence of the Carpathian Mountains and extensive greenery.

Bucharest has an eclectic mix of architecture that make walking the city enjoyable.  There are also quite a few nice green spaces that offer a spot to relax.  I took advantage of these several times to rest my feet after all the walking I've been doing.

Trieste: Free Territory by the Sea

Trieste and the Adriatic

9/8

The first stop in Italy for Adam and I was Trieste.  Lacking the sights (and crowds) of our later Italian stops, Trieste offered a place to relax and become familiar with Italian basics like espresso and wine.

 

Easily overlooked by travelers, Trieste has an interesting history as a city at the crossroads of cultures and empires.  The area that modern Trieste sits on has been inhabited for several thousand years.  For several centuries it was a Roman settlement.  Later rulers of the area included the Byzantines, Venetians, and Austrians.  The Austrian influence is still evident in the city’s architecture.  It first became a part of the modern Italian state following World War I.  Trieste was occupied by Nazi Germany after Fascist Italy exited World War II in 1943.  The Nazis surrendered to Allied and Yugoslav partisan forces in 1945.  With this the city and the region was transformed yet again.  The surrounding territory was divided into two occupation zones- a northern zone controlled by the Western Allies and a southern zone controlled by communist Yugoslavia.  Under a United Nations agreement, from 1947 through 1954 the Free Territory of Trieste existed as an independent entity, though its actual administration was mostly carried out by the occupiers.  In 1954 the zones were incorporated into the neighboring countries, the northern zone, with it the actual city of Trieste, to Italy and the southern zone to Yugoslav Slovenia and Croatia.  Trieste is still a major center of shipping and trade in the Adriatic Sea.

Grand Canal with Church of St Anthony in the back

The Cathedral of Saint Justus is the most significant religious building in Trieste and serves as the seat of the bishop of Trieste.  It is named for the patron saint of the city who was killed from his Christian beliefs around the beginning of the 4th century. The interior has a number of frescoes and chapels that are of interest.

Exterior of the Cathedral of St Justus

Virgin Mary Chapel

As in other European cities, Trieste has a large main square that serves as a social and civic center.  The Piazza Unità d'Italia is next to the sea and surrounded by government and commercial buildings.  Unfortunately, the mood of the square was dampened while I was there by the rainy weather.

Piazza Unità d'Italia

Salut from Moldova

9/27

I’ve reached my final stop on my tour of the western edge of the former USSR.  Traveling through Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and now Moldova has provided me with some insight into the different trajectories that countries have followed since breaking with Mother Russia.  It has been fascinating to see the large variations between the situations in each of these places.  I plan on writing more extensively on this in a future post.

 

In the meantime, my time in Ukraine was pleasant enough.  Though like just about anywhere, I could have spent longer in Odessa and Kiev, a few days seemed to be sufficient to whet my curiosity and take in the main sights.  From Odessa I crossed into Transnistria, an internationally unrecognized republic.  Between 1990 and 1992 Transnistrian separatists fought with Moldova for independence.  While de jure indendence has been lacking, the area functions as a de facto independent country with its own currency, government, and military.  It’s certainly one of the most peculiar places I have ever been.  I couchsurfed with an incredibly hospitable local university student who showed me around the capital of Tiraspol.  Spending a night in the dorms of Shevchenko Transnistria State University was definitely a unique experience for me.

After a day and a night in Tiraspol I have landed in Chișinău.  With Moldova being a rural country, Chișinău is the only significantly built up area that I noticed after getting out of Transnistria.  The scenery along the drive from Tiraspol to Chișinău is mostly farmland and gentle hills.  Chișinău, while not a large city by European standards, is huge compared to anything else around.  I plan to spend about two days here and then head on to Romania.

Добрий день from Ukraine

9/23

I continue to be a less than prodigious writer.  In my defense, I have been on the move a lot of late.  

I was able to get my transit visa for Belarus from the embassy in Lithuania with relatively little hassle.  On the other hand, getting in and out of the country was a little more complex.  It is often said that Belarus is a place where the USSR never really died.  From my border crossing experiences I would the border guards have attempted to keep some of the Soviet spirit alive.  It's a fairly lengthy story and deserves a post of its own.

Minsk was an interesting place to spend a day and a half.  Stalinist architecture dominates the main avenue of the city and Soviet symbols are found everywhere.  At the same time there is no shortage Western brands.  The dichotomy is fascinating.  A McDonald's can be found a block down from the still-functioning KGB building.

I'm now in Kiev, having arrived here on Monday morning.  My first day was mostly spent sleeping off the effects of the overnight bus from Minsk.  No matter how many times I take overnight buses it seems that I always end up spending the next day recovering.

I spent my second day here exploring the city.  I will continue doing the same today.

Tonight I hop on the overnight train to Odessa.  Hopefully this provides a more restful experience than a bus.  I expect it will.  Train travel, like most things, is cheap in Ukraine.  For $20 I was able to get a 1st class cabin.

I anticipate I will only spend a day or two in Odessa before I continue on to Moldova.

Labas from Lithuania

9/16

 

In the past week and a half I have made my way from Prague through to Krakow and Warsaw in Poland before landing here in Vilnius, Lithuania.  

Blazers fans probably best  know Lithuania as the homeland of Arvydas Sabonis.  Despite his Hall of Fame career, we still all wonder what would have happened had he arrived in Portland.

Beyond Sabas, there are plenty of other things that Lithuania has to offer.  I'll be getting in my share of old buildings and communist sights.

It looks like I will be heading to Belarus this weekend.  Barring disaster, I will be picking up my visa tomorrow.  I had to do quite a bit of legwork to get in for what will amount to a day and a half in Minsk.  Since my visa is only good for 48 hours I will be heading to Ukraine after Minsk.

I'd also like to give a shout out to my friend  Emily.  She was the one who alerted me to Lake Bled, so I have her to thank for that stopover on this trip.  I'm glad I listened to her advice.

Slovenia: End of the Balkans

Ljubljana

9/8

Geographically, Slovenia marks the northern edge of the Balkans.  However, having made my through the region, Slovenia feels much less Balkan and much more Central European.  Slovenia looks to north rather than south for its architectural and cultural cues.  The country’s membership in the EU and use of the euro provide further evidence of its alignment.

 

Modern Slovenia came into being in 1991 when it broke away from Yugoslavia, which it had been a member of since the post-World War I period.  Independence was achieved after a 10 day war.  Though 66 people died in the fighting, the country was spared the drawn out bloodshed that occurred in nearby Croatia and Bosnia.  Slovenia had been under Austrian rule for over 500 years before World War I.

My stay in Slovenia was brief and limited to the capital city of Ljubljana and Lake Bled.  I was not able to take in much in that short time.

Ljubljana

By the standards of the capital cities I’ve been to in Europe, Ljubljana is sleepy.  This feeling was further enhanced during my time there because the two days I spent in the city happened to be a national holiday (Assumption Day) and a Sunday.  This meant most of the city’s sights, shops, and restaurants were shut down.  However, Ljubljana is a beautiful and clean city.  Walking around empty streets provides a certain joy in this environment that left me perfectly content.  

Main post office in Ljubljana

The Ljubljanica River winds its way through the center of town.  Several bridges, each distinct, cross the narrow river.

Dragon Bridge

Seemingly the only attraction to be open was Ljubljana Castle.  This fortress is probably the biggest attraction in the city.  Sited on a peak in the middle of town, the castle’s watc tower offers great views of the area.    A slight damper on my experience here came in the form of rain, wind, and lightning that added the wrong type of excitement.

Coats of arms painted on a castle ceiling

The watch tower of Ljubljana Castle

The castle complex has a number of exhibits on subjects ranging from the castle’s history to medieval torture and dungeons to puppets.

Masks from the castle's exhibition on the barbarism of torture

The walk of death

Lake Bled

Lake Bled

About an hour away from Ljubljana is scenic Lake Bled.  A lone island with a church sits in the lake. Surrounding the lake are the Julian Alps.  Ferrying people from the shore to the island  are gondolas rowed manually.  A castle sits on a rocky outcrop at the lake’s edge.  It feels like a kind of invented place from a fairy tale.

Church of the Assumption on Bled Island

Bled Castle has existed in some form for over one thousand years, making it the oldest castle in the country.  Several shops and historical exhibitions are contained within it.  Since the castle sits several hundred feet above lake level accessing it requires a short, enjoyable hike.

Bled Castle

The gondolas to Bled Island, called pletnas, hold about a dozen people and take about 15 minutes each way.  As I observed, these small boats are very sensitive to shifts in weight and the rower would regularly ask passengers to adjust their seating arrangements to avoid capsizing.  Even with the rocking and threat of being dumped in the lake, the ride is pleasant and worth the €12 cost.

Lake Bled as viewed from a Pletna

Pletna on the lake

Bled Island is small and tree covered.  The most notable feature is the Church of the Assumption, which has stood there in its current form since the 17th century.

Altar at the church

Church fresco displaying the coat of arms of a benefactor

Farewell Adam

9/8

I'm back to traveling on my own once again.  Adam headed back to the States on Sunday.  We had a good three weeks together.  Ultimately our route was as follows:

-Ljubljana, Slovenia
-Trieste, Italy
-Venice, Italy
-Florence, Italy
-Fulpmes, Austria
-Munich, Germany
-Nuremberg, Germany
-Dresden, Germany
-Prague, Czech Republic

We saw and did a lot in that time.  Looking back on it, it feels like it was a lot longer considering what all we did.  I'm hoping it won't take me forever to get back into writing regularly so that I can post on all of these places.

I'm wrapping up my time in Prague today and taking the train to Krakow.

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Sarajevo

If you believe the signs around Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (BiH) capital city is where the 20th century both began and ended.  If it were not for a number of violent events, the city might be overlooked by outsiders as another small Balkan capital.   However, the city is well remembered because it was the site of the assassination that served as a catalyst for the First World War.  In the 1990s Sarajevo became the embodiment of the bloody Balkans as Serbian forces surrounded the city, laying siege for the over three years and creating scenes of horror that would be broadcast globally.  Letting those events dominate common conceptions of the city truly sells short a place that is welcoming, safe, and offers so much to see and experience.

 

"The place that ended the 20th century" - Tunnel of Hope

Some of Sarajevo's eclectic architecture

Bosnia has long been a meeting point for cultures.  This is borne out today in the country’s demographics with three main ethnic groups- Muslim Bosniaks, Orthodox Serbs, and Catholic Croat.  BiH is roughly half Bosniak, slightly more than a third Serb, with the remainder being Croat.  Sarajevo itself is a mostly Bosniak city, though Eastern Sarajevo (a formally separate city since the Bosnian War) is mostly Serb.  For several centuries BiH was controlled by the Ottoman Empire.  Though as that empire declined a new one, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, moved in to occupy BiH beginning 1878.  Austrian rule was fairly oppressive towards non-Catholics.  As a consequence, the Serb population grew restless and in 1914 Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb, killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in Sarajevo setting off events that would create the World War.

Following World Wari I, BiH joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, the state that would become Yugoslavia.  BiH was occupied by German forces during World War II and was the location of significant fighting between the occupiers and communist Partizans led by Josip Broz Tito.  Tito, one of the 20th century’s most interesting figures, would form a socialist state in Yugoslavia after the war and effectively hold together the multiethnic state for nearly 30 years until his death in 1980.  

Sarajevo was the host of the 1984 Winter Olympics.  This marked a high point for the city as the world’s focus turned to Sarajevo for an event associated with peace and cooperation rather than war and division.

Yugoslavia would start to fall apart as Slovenia, Croatia, and Macedonia declared independence in 1991.  BiH held a referendum on independence in 1992.  Over 92% of voters voted in favor the measure, though it must be noted that the vote was largely boycotted by the Serb population.  BiH formally declared independence on March 3, 1992.  Bosnian Serbs supported by Serbia refused to accept this.  The bloodiest war on European soil since World War II began as Serb forces attacked the Bosniak population.  Threeway fighting occurred among Bosnia’s ethnic groups, though the BiH military had a not insignifcant number of Serb and Croat soldiers.  Bosniak and Croat forces united as the war went on to focus on fighting the Serbs.

The conflict is remembered for its brutality and often indiscriminate nature.  Civilians were often the target of military and paramilitary forces.  All sides were responsible for atrocities, though the most notorious is the killing of 8000 Bosniaks at Srebrenica by Serb forces in 1994 under the command of General Ratko Mladic.  The longest siege of a capital city in modern history occurred in Sarajevo as Serbs dropped an average of more than 300 shells a day between 1992 and 1995.  Mass rape also became a common tool of war.  The conflict created a humanitarian crisis on a massive scale.

Memorial to the Murdered Children

The Bosnian War came to end when NATO forces intervened and began a bombing campaign against the Serbs.  This campaign was the first ever live engagement by a NATO force.  The bombing led the Serbs to accept the Dayton Agreement.  Under the terms of this agreement and the earlier Washington Agreement Serbia renounced its claims to BiH and a new political structure for BiH was put in place.  

The Bosnian War was mindbogglingly complex.  Like so many modern conflicts, the narrative depends on who you ask.  Whether it was a civil war or one of outside aggression, who bears moral responsibility, and more issues do not have clear answers.  Time has helped groups to reconcile and justice to be administered.  All of the individuals indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia have been captured and several have been convicted.  Still, progress remains to be had.  The war disrupted the lives of an entire country.  20 years since the end of the conflict can feel like a lot of time or not nearly enough.

BiH formally consists of two political entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (consisting of mostly Bosniaks and Croats) and Republika Srpska (mostly Serbs).  Each entity has significant autonomy within its borders, but the system is designed so that decisions at the national level are done by consensus.  Naturally, this leads to very little being achieved, as each group has effective veto powers.  The extremely complicated system is designed to placate each group.  At the same time it has the effect of codifying the ethnic divisions and freezing them rather than trying to advance past them.

While I mention the religious groups above, it is only to show that country is diverse rather than spiritually rigid, dogmatic, and divided.  Like its neighbors, Bosnia is markedly secular and historically the region has been extremely tolerant of different religions.  Sarajevo is noted for having had an Islamic mosque, a Catholic cathedral,  an Orthodox church, and a Jewish synagogue all within a radius of less than a  half mile.  These coexisted easily during the 19th century, well before any similar arrangement would be found elsewhere in Europe.  Tragically, the synagogue exists only as a Jewish museum these days as a legacy of the Holocaust.  Nearly all of Sarajevo’s Jewish population, nearly one quarter of the city, was eliminated during Nazi occupation.  

Sacred Heart Cathedral

Fountain at Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque

Map of the Siege

Empty building in Sarajevo

The impact sites of shells on some sidewalks were filled with red resin following the war.  These were dubbed Sarajevo Roses.  Fewer and fewer of these remain as large sections of sidewalk have been replaced.  Those that do remain stand as memorials to victims of shelling.

 A Sarajevo Rose

A Sarajevo Rose

A view across the Sarajevo Airport runway

Though Sarajevo was surrounded during the siege, there was a lifeline to the outside world.  The Sarajevo airport, controlled by UN forces,  was a thin piece of neutral territory standing between Sarajevo and friendly Bosnian territory.  Initially this meant that individuals would risk running across the runways to transit between the two areas.  This was incredibly dangerous and a route beneath the airport was recognized as a better alternative.  An 800 meter long tunnel was constructed over several months.  From houses on either side of the airport, engineers dug out earth, built up supports, and laid down tracks for carts.  Idiosyncrasies in the tunnel construction reflected the different conditions faced by the people on either side.  The walls and support beams of exterior side are built of wood while those on the Sarajevo side of the tunnel made of metal because wood was too valuable as fuel within the city.  The tunnel is cramped.  A short section of it is open for visitors and at its tallest point my head was scraping the ceiling and I could touch either wall with my elbows.  Despite its claustrophobic construction, the Tunnel of Hope brought a flow of food, arms, and communication that was invaluable to the besieged city.  The tunnel went undetected by Serb forces for over two years from the time of its completion until the end of the conflict.

Model of the Tunnel of Hope

Front of the house on the Free Bosnia side of the Tunnel of Hope

Inside the actual tunnel

I cannot help but admire the people of Sarajevo for their resilience in the face of the siege.  For three years they faced the terror of mortars, artillery, tanks, and snipers.  Yet, they continued to live, not just in the sense of not dying, but also in the sense of embracing the struggle and recognizing the absurdity of their situation.  Less than a decade earlier the world had come together in Sarajevo for peaceful celebration competition and now the city was left isolated from the world and from that peace, the Olympic sites turned into rubble or battle positions.  Despite a daily forecast of possible death raining down upon them, the people of Sarajevo created art, they danced in clubs, they played music, they even held a Miss Besieged Sarajevo pageant in which the contestants unraveled a sign pleading, “Don’t Let Them Kill Us”.  All of these were  provocative, symbolic, and defiant gestures that yell out, “Fuck you, you will not kill me and, even more, you cannot kill my will to live!  End this war.”  I don’t know if I could embrace life in that way in those conditions, but it provides me with hope knowing that at one time a group of people were able to and for all of the pressure that could work to break their spirits they held strong.

The Bosnian Parliament building (left) and Executive Council building (right).  These were extensively damaged during the siege.

The Martyrs' Memorial Cemetery Kovači is the main burial site for Bosniak soldiers killed during the siege.

Among the most noticeable Austrian-era buildings in Sarajevo is the Vijećnica, the City Hall.  This brightly colored Moorish building was constructed in 1896 and sits along the Miljacka River.  It served as the National Library before the war and housed over two million items.  It was hit by Serb shells in 1992 and it along with the documents inside went up in flames.  This act is remembered  as a particularly bad episode in the siege as it represented an attack on culture, learning, and history.  The building was rebuilt and restored over more than 20 years, reopening only last year.  The interior is beautiful and it alone is worth paying the entry price, however admission also includes access to whatever exhibitions are on display.  When I went these were a thoroughly detailed historical perspective of the city and a collection of photographs from the war and its aftermath.

To think that anyone would target a center of knowledge for bombardment and destruction proves the senselessness that emerges in war.  The use of incendiary shells on the National Library was unjustifiable from a military perspective.  Not only did the Bosnian people suffer from the loss of blood for three years, but they saw their culture turned into ashes.

Front of the Sarajevo City Hall

City council chambers

Plaque recognizing destruction of the library

As if the city itself and the aforementioned sites were not enough to elicit your sympathy and respect for the people of Sarajevo, a trip to the Historical Museum will provide insight into Sarajevan ingenuity.  A permanent exhibit on the siege displays household items improvised from the limited goods available at the time.  

Mural displayed in front of the museum

Items on display at the exhibition on the siege

Museum display demonstrating typical living conditions during the siege

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie visited Bosnia in June of 1914 to observe military drills.  Following the exercises they planned a brief stop in Sarajevo.  The Black Hand, a secret group aiming to create a large South Slavic state (Yugoslavia), plotted to assassinate the couple.  Six assassins participated in the event.  As the royal couple drove along the Miljacka River on June 28, 1914, a bomb was thrown towards their vehicle.  It missed and injured passengers in a car following behind the royal vehicle.  The visit continued as planned following this first attempt on the archduke’s life.  The Archduke attended a reception at the city hall and then headed back along the river.  Confusion about the return route led the motorcade to stop directly in front of assassin Gavrilo Princip.  Princip quickly shot Sophie in the stomach and Franz Ferdinand in the neck.  Both died quickly from their wounds.  Princip was apprehended immediately.  He and his co-conspirators were tried in Sarajevo.  Being 19 years old at the time of the assassination, Princip was too young to receive the death penalty under Austro-Hungarian law.  He received the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  He died in prison from tuberculosis before the war that he is associated with had ended.

Austria-Hungary responded to the assassination by issuing a set of demands to Serbia which were rejected when Russia signaled its support to Serbia.  Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia a month later.  Russia mobilized its military which led to a German declaration of war on Russia.  In the months that followed declarations of war piled on as all of the Great Powers of Europe joined one bloc or the other.

 

The Latin Bridge (Gavrilo Princip Bridge): Franz Ferdinand was assassinated here, providing the catalyst for World War I

Historical marker at the assassination site.  Prior to Bosnian independence a monument celebrating Gavrilo Princip also stood nearby.  The assassin was viewed as a hero by Serbs.

The building at the assassination corner is the Museum Sarajevo 1878-1918.  This small museum takes up only one room, but covers the period of Austrian rule in Sarajevo.  Here you can see clothing, documents, and ephemera from the period.  A display of Franz Ferdinand and Sophia as they appeared on the day of their deaths stands out.

Old Town Sarajevo is a collection of Ottoman-era construction.  You can easily spend hours getting lost in the markets, alleys, and religious buildings of the area. 

Street view

The madrasa provided for by the endowment of Gazi Huzrev-beg, an early Orroman governor of the area, serves as a museum documenting the legacy of the endowment.

Courtyard of the madrasa

Entrance door to Gazi Huzrev-beg Mosque

My reward for visiting the brewery

The Sarajevesko Brewery produces Bosnia’s most widely consumed beers.  As fan of beer I made it a point to visit the brewery’s small museum and tavern.  The museum takes up a small room, but covers the history of beer in Sarajevo and displays items such as old labels and awards from festivals.  The ticket also includes a beer at the next door tavern.  The tavern itself is attractive with its wood floors, bar, and paneling.  You can choose between a pilsner style beer and a dark lager.  Seeing as how just about every beer I had had to this point in my travels was some take on a pilsner I gladly opted for the dark lager.  I was not disappointed.  Though it is hard to say how it would stack up against a quality dunkel from the US or Germany, I would say that this was one of the best beers I consumed in a month of traveling.  

Sarajevska Pivara

The brewery's beer museum

It is impossible to visit Sarajevo and not think about those violent events of the 20th century, however one must remember that we now live in the 21st century.  Sarajevo is not a place of misery.  The people stand out as amicable, helpful, and beautiful.  They live in the present.  While my life differs from Sarajevans my age, our lives do not feel so foreign that it feels as if we occupy two different planets.  I do not think I would have felt that way 20 years ago.

Street scene in Sarajevo

Sarajevo city and hills

The US Embassy in Sarajevo resembles a penitentiary more than a place for the conduct of diplomatic business.