Searching for more.
Surviving yet another bus ride, and the Serbia—Bosnia border crossing, the momentum of all that I'd learnt in Serbia powered me on. I needed to sate my newly acquired appetite to learn about the Yugoslav Wars, and I did so in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina.
One of the first things I noticed, in fact, were shrapnel holes in the walls and how happy everyone seemed, despite their living conditions. They were living in a city rebuilt from the ruin of a siege. Mortars fell on their heads every day for nearly four years, but the people endured, confining themselves as best they could to their homes. The peeling paint, broken windows, and fortified doors — it's all still there, a scar which in many ways defines this war-hardened city.
Eager to grow my wartime knowledge, I organised a tour headed by someone who actually lived in Sarajevo while it was under siege by Serbia. He was only a boy back then, but he took us through much of the city, showing us every shell-hole in the floor, every wounded structure, and some memorials and artworks too. In spots where mortar shells had scarred the city and killed its citizens, the pits and gouges were later filled with a red resin in memory of the dead. Due to their shape and colour, these grim reminders are known as Sarajevo Roses, and there are some 200 of them scattered through the streets. One memorial was a series of turnable metal cylinders bearing the names of children killed in the siege; when turned, they make sounds like clinking chains, simulating the ambience of a playground.
Back at my hostel, I met some travellers who knew of an epic spot to have some beers and watch the sunset. On our way, we passed several cemeteries, and I thought of how lucky I am to live a life where I have a camera slung over my shoulder instead of a gun.
The war felt more real in Bosnia & Herzegovina, though my visit there put things into perspective and reminded that learning accounts for much of the reason why I travel. With all that suffering coursing through my mind, I must admit that I was getting pretty excited to put it all behind me and board a yacht in Croatia.
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Written by Chad Gerber, Edited by Nick Petrou