Moja Bosna

Bosnia — a long awaited dream which finally became a reality, a few weeks back.

I went from Croatia by bus, first to Mostar and then to Sarajevo. The whole bus journey is scenic and mesmerising.

The word Bosniak mean ‘from mountain’. Bosnia is country where flat land is hardly 30%. All roads are hugging mountains and you can see houses built on hills. Either you are going up or down , at given anytime.

My bus reached Mostar after three and half hours from Dubrovnik. Usually bus journey is about three hours but three check points cost us half an hour extra.

Mostar

Mostar is relatively small city with a river flowing through the city. It divides Mostar into old and new town. Old town consist of historic ottoman houses and buildings from 17th century . Newer part is relatively new and slightly more modern. You can find all sorts of beautiful handmade jewellery , scarves, table clothes and some yummy food in eastern part. It also has beautiful ottoman style mosques , some of which are open to public. you can even get on top of minaret to get a beautiful view of the bridge and whole city in general. I went up there near sunset and was surprised to see two girls there. They were equipped for some proper photography.

taken from top of the minaret in Mostar

I was constantly called Arab there. One table cloth seller waved her table cloth and said, “take this O Arab “. She wasn’t very pleased when I refused despite of her giving me the discount

I met a guy named Irfan. I contacted him through couchsurfing. He stayed for half a day with me. We discussed historic and modern day Bosnia. Also Met a young tour guide named Noor, from Sarajevo. He was studyjng engineering in Sarajevo and working as a guide in summer.

I had lunch and dinner from the same shop in eastern part of the city near the bridge. The food in Bosnia is one of the best things and it beats Turkish good by a fair margin

Cevapci for dinner

After spending one night , I went to Sarajevo which is the capital of Bosnia. It is said that Sarajevo is where souls connect. It didn’t let me down . I Made three new friends In three days and had an amazing experience

Sarajevo

Sarajevo is two hours away from Mostar and can also be reached by train. The journey is one of the most scenic journeys, through valleys , Mountain tops,tunnels and bridges. My ears popped many Times through the journey as bus gained altitude.

After reaching Sarajevo around 10am, I went to old town to have breakfast. While i was trying to find a place ,this man who didn’t speak much English asked me to have a picture with him. I misunderstood him and said no. He insisted but I insisted as well. We didnt take any pictures. I went to inquire after I saw him with his family few minutes later . His daughter laughingly explained everything that since i look like an arab, he wanted to have a picture taken with myself.

I sat down to have breakfast shortly after . As I was contemplating while enjoying coffee , waitress told me that someone has paid my bill. It was him again. I thanked him and his family as waitress translated everything. It was such an act of generosity and touching gesture during the times when we are suffering from xenophobia. Later, I found out that Bosnians are genuinely kind , generous and caring people. They are sincere to others even if they don’t know them

Breakfast in Sarajevo - Bosnian coffee with baklava

Sarajevo is full of history. Latin bridge - where two people were murdered, which then sparked World War One. Historic ottoman mosques, hotel , warehouse, madarsaah ( aka school ) from 16th century and museum . You can find church, synagogue and mosque all on the same street , within 150 meters. The coexistence is phenomenal in Bosnia. The iconic water well in Sarajevo acts as meeting point for almost everyone including pigeons. It acts as city center even though its not a geographical center. Every inch of this city is worth visiting.

Famous water well and sunset in sarajevo from a hill.

I went to see the tunnel which once acted as life line of Sarajevo during its siege. It goes under the runway. It’s a place worth visiting. I got late from tunnel and couldnt finish the free walking tour of the city as I was really tired. Free walking tours are available every day.

Srebrenica

On day three, I went to Srebrenica for a day, which is about four hours away in the bus. Journey was a standard bus journey in bosnia i.e. Beautiful

Srebrenica is a small town in Srpska region of Bosnia which is very near to Serbian border. I went to visit the graveyard which witnessed Muslim holocaust in 1995, when about 8000 people were killed in less than a week’s time. The weather was grim and so as the place. The cemetery is five mins drive from the town.

Cemetry is based on the site of holocaust, which has battery factory and other factories near it. There was also a big hall where they kept coffins . There was no one there for most of the time when I was there

Graves and list of the people in the graves

I went in this abandoned battery factory and I was the only one there. The wind was making the tin play the music and I could hear the water drops dripping . I tried to visualise that day back in 1995 when people tried to take refuge in the factory and Dutch army unit didn’t move an inch to protect them from Serbs. Human heart can only take so much.

coffin hall on the left and battery factory on right

There were people visiting the cemetery regularly during the day but not the battery factory.

I met this Japanese guy at cemetery ,who was travelling all over Europe after finishing studies in Germany and before leaving for his homeland. We shared the taxi back to the town. Town has only three cafes an we managed to find only one. While trying to find a cafe, i stumbled upon British high commission too.

We exchanged views over lunch about our countries and culture. He was repeatedly using Palmtop like device to translate words into English from German. I have never seen that device before. He told me that it was ten years old device

We had a walk around town to observe some beautiful and some war torn houses.

Srebrenica town

He wanted to watch the prayers, so we went in the mosque. He asked me if if we have to do five a day. He told me that he was Buddhist but he doesn’t do morning prayers. His grandpa did though

I was told by Irfan not to go to Srebrenica. I thought it won’t be that depressing but I was totally wrong. if I wouldnt have a chat with my house owner that night , I would have woken up really depressed. That whole day was grim and filled with strange sadness which made my heart so so heavy. You can only find out once you visit there

I took the bus back to Dubrovnik the next morning which took me six hours. After that, I went into beautiful old town of Dubrovnik before flying back and was stunned by its beauty. I found Croats very nice ,kind and considerate to strangers.

The highlight of Bosnia was ‘everything’. From people to food and landscape and history. I fell in love with cevapci (pronounced a chi-vap-chee) and had only that during my stay in bosnia. I think nothing can beat that (apart from Indian food ). I became addicted to Bosnian coffee and Burek which is a wrap of cheese , meat or veg. But the bread is little fried. It tastes amazing. You can have all sorts of Burek in Bosnia. Bosnians are proud of saving their country yet they are humble at the same time. about 50% of them speak really good English. they also speak Croat and Bosnian.

There have been lot of Interfaith marriages there. This was the reason many Serbs chose to stay and fight for Sarajevo during the war , against Serbs. Because they realised it was the plan to divide. The division would have been really odd as it would have gone through toilets , living rooms and bed rooms because of interfaith and intercultural marriages.

It was a touching and memorable trip which has helped me grow as better human being. It also taught me that how war leaves very deep scars on the soul. I will return to Sarajevo and visit other parts of Bosnia too