Saturday, 6 September 2008

Croatia, Bosnia & Serbia

The picture to the left was from Nin, just North of Petrcane, where after the festival we went to use the local mud baths and mess around taking stupid photos. This was the Anthony Gormley moment. Headed down the coast and took in Brac, Hvar and Korcula which are all stunning islands in the Adriatic. Lovely weather, relaxing by the beach, snorkelling, it was a World away from where I went next. I took a long coach ride to Sarajevo via Mostar. Where what I'd seen in Croatia showed no marks of the war, in Bosnia, the opposite was true.

Bullet ridden and shelled out buildings still remain in both cities and I was told by a Serbian guy whose a friend of a friend here in Belgrade, that before the war, the Bosnians were regarded as the most fun loving, happy people in the Balkans. In Sarajevo I got driven round by a guide who pointed out all the damage and landmarks from the war, in particular from when the city was under siege by Serbian forces from 92 to 95. Its fair to say he and some of the other people I met didn't seem that jolly, even now, 13 years later and with the city on the up, very much rebuilt from how it appeared in the mid 90s.

The feelings from that time still linger, and key places where damage took place such as the National library, which is still closed in need of repair, the marketplace where 68 people died in a shelling and some of the buildings down sniper alley (the main road cutting through the city) bear the most obvious scars. The Serbian I was with last night said that in his view, the Serbs and the Croats are very alike. That really its the Bosnians who have suffered the most.
Sarajevo has real beauty, particularly in the old Turkish part of the city and the countryside on the ride up to Belgrade was stunning. As beautiful as anything I've seen in New Zealand in parts.
But in a city of 600,000 over 50,000 residents were injured over the 4 years of the siege. 11,000 died. No wonder some of the people aren't that jolly.

Belgrade is a big city. Some beautiful old buildings, a lot of 70s socialist buildings too. The party scene here is reknowned. Not surprising when you can buy a beer from practically anywhere and its not uncommon to see people in cafes supping a pint at 10 in the morning!

Off to do some site seeing shortly, then off to Bucharest on the overnight train this afternoon. By all accounts the train is old school. Luckily I'm being met at the station in the Rumanian capital at 6 tomorrow. Catch you later.

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