Sunday, 21 June 2009


Just down the hill from the pension where we are staying is The Latin footbridge from where an assassin shot dead Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sopia in 1914, an event which popular history pinpoints as the spark for the First World War. Looking up from most parts of Sarajevo you see green hills and mountains where just 15 years ago Bosnian Serbs snipers shot at passersby and shelled their homes. The siege lasted for three years and claimed thousands of lives.
Even though my passport was stamped on Fridaz with an exit visa from Serbia and an entrance visa into Bosnia a few minutes later after crossing a bridge, the Serbian flag could still be seen flying from houses and official buildings while many signs were written using the Cyrillic alphabet, the Roman equivalent often spraypainted out. Most of the stunningly beautiful mountainous countryside we passed through on our way to Sarajevo lies in Republika Srpska, dominated by ethnic Serbs who are reluctant citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, although their political representatives now participate in the government.
Yesterday we walked past the Holiday Inn Hotel where the western media was based, in the rooms facing away from the hills, on a street known as sniper alley.
The words melting pot are overused when describing places, both in terms of history and culture, but its is hard to avoid when talking about Bosnia. At various times of day the sound of muezzuins calling prayers are broadcast from mosques scattered throughout the city while many women wear hijabs. We are close to the Turkish quarter where thick, tarry coffee and mint tea are served in cafes decked out with ornate carpets, yet a walk along the street will bring you into an area of classical central European architecture with an Orthodox and Catholic church and a synagogue.
It is a fascinating and beautiful city although the weather has broken and temperatures have plunged from the mid-30s to about 14 or 15 with persistent rain.

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