Sarajevo, Bosna i Hercegovina
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
December 20th 2022
Along the meandering road that curled threw the Eastern Bosnian mountain range, hurtling between two ridges along a continuous untouched gorge towards the capital, I was forced to close my eyes and entertain myself with thoughts as nausea slowly took over. During this, I mulled over something that had been bugging me about the balkans since I arrived. My constrained British-educated brain is screaming out to pin down the slavic character and categorise them into nicely identifiable stereotypes, but be it caused by culture, religion, geographical position, or history, I find it frustratingly difficult to do so.
Undeniably, there is a quality of kindness you can find here that simply cannot exist in the West, a rough and raw type of comradery that has become eroded back at home by rules, regulations and formality. Sure, on average driving safety and courtesy is beyond atrocious and indoor smoking is still allowed in restaurants and cafes (in Serbia and Bosnia at least), but I am constantly touched by the little welcoming favours of strangers. I've had three meals paid for me by someone without any prior suggestion, and had numerous free drinks including in Serbia's equivalent of Starbucks, where the waiter simply told me my drink was "on the house" as a goodbye present. This no-strings-attached cordiality is tough to find nowadays.
My inner struggle unsatisfied, I arrived in the capital Sarajevo after sunset and walked around briefly before going to my hostel. Yet again my preconceptions were wrong, as the grand commerciality soon shone through as well as everything associated, including clean, new streets, and dozens of huge glass shopping malls. Who knew.
Along my walk along the shallow Miljacka river, I casually crossed the location that hosted an event that most historians label as the start of World War I and the most important defining point of modern history: the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. I tried to take a photo of the location and a band of guys walked past smiling and yelling, on the exact spot the assassin stood. Utterly strange.
Location of the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Most of the stray cats are black and white