Saturday, 19 July 2014

The beauty of Sarajevo contrasts with the horror of Srebrenica

We left the beautiful rocks and forest of the Sutkksa park, drove through a Middle European landscape with small villages and farms to awards Sarajevo. The many rocky canyons also illustrate the mountainous terrain. Sarajevo is bigger than I expected and lies in a valley; we had fine views of the red roofs of the houses the old centre of the town feels Turkish in the centre, with large mosques and old caravanserais. We also went round the ottoman library. A notice outside said that this had been destroyed in the 1993-5 war by Serbian criminals and 2 million documents destroyed and it has just been rebuilt with exquisite decorations but sadly no books. I also visited the spot where Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated with an old fashioned museum but I understand the event better and learnt that there were several potential assassins.

As one walks along the main Street in Sarajevo one can turn at one point and the vista changes from being Turkish to 19c Austro-Hungarian with high stuccoed buildings, shops, boutiques and both orthodox and catholic cathedrals. I also saw the synagogue.

The afternoon was sobering because I visited the gallery 11/07/95 which is a gallery devoted to remembering the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo. The Srebrenica massacre took place in 1995 and was done in a town that the UN had designated a safe area but the Dutch peacekeepers were unable to protect the people and the Serbs separated out the men and massacred 8000 with Ratko Mladic saying this was to avenge a previous Serbian defeat. There was a very powerful film showing the events leading up to the massacre mixing film footage and comments by people who lost relatives in the massacre. The task of identifying the dead is only partially done and despite even decades of work will never be finished. The photos of the events are in black and white and are high quality and well curated and create a powerful and saddening story.

I came out feeling sombre and sat in a cafe wondering how further massacres can be prevented. In am sure there are going to be massacres in Iraq.

In the evening we were sans guide for our meal so I found a cafe in the Turkish quarter that could take 13 and suggested to everyone that we went there, it avoided the problem of a large group being unable to decide where to eat. Sarajevo is heaving with people out enjoying themselves on a Sat night, maybe even more because of Ramadan. After enjoying an excellent ice cream in the throng we sat at an open air bar drinking beer and feeling as though we were in Vienna.

It was a day of contrasts, the Ottoman versus Austro- Hungarian aspects of Sarajevo, the horror of Srebrenica and festive throng on the streets of Sarajevo.

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