Sarajevo – My Love
My tour guide Skender, CEO and sole employee of Sarajevo Funky Tours, picked me up from the hotel lobby in Dubrovnik, for the next three days we toured through Croatia and Bosnia.
First stop was at beautiful Mostar with its famous Stari Most stone bridge. Destroyed in 1993 during the Bosnia and Herzegovina war, the bridge was rebuilt after the war and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We walked through the stone paved streets lined by unique shops, chatted with the local Muslim girls at the book store and I bought gifts to bring back home.
Next day we drove through central Bosnia along the river Neretva. On the way visiting the the caves of Pecina Vjetrenica adorned with stalactites.
We saw the exquisite Stećci tombstones from the 11th century in Radimlja, and lunched at the Zdrava Voda restaurant, famous for its spit-roasted lamb.
Skender, with his masters in corporate finance, was an intelligent and jovial company. At every stop he educated me about the local history.
We had many an enchanting exchange of opinions about Islam and Humanism. At some point he quoted a sura from the Koran,
“The rewards of deeds depend upon the intentions, and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended.”
I responded with Albus Dumbledore’s advice to Harry Potter,
“Remember Harry, it is our intentions rather than our abilities that tell us who we really are.”
We arrived in Sarajevo at my hotel Safir, which was near the fountain that led to the old town. We toured Sarajevo, the only city with a Catholic church, an Orthodox church, a synagogue and a mosque within stone’s throw that have coexisted for centuries.
I saw craters resulting from Serbian bombings that has been artistically filled up with red cement and named ‘Sarajevo Roses’. We went in the outskirts to see the Kravice waterfalls and I had a relaxing swim.
Skender’s father, Salem, took me on the Siege Tour where I saw the ‘Freedom’ tunnel that Bosnians created to go underneath the airstrip to carry their wounded and provisions to Sarajevo seized by Serbian bombings. Just 5ft high, 3ft wide and 3150ft in length, through which 20 million tons of food entered the city, and 1 million people were transported.
Salem was quite emotional and animated talking about his experiences as a young soldier fighting in the Bosnian army.
On my final day, Salem showed me the Sarajevo History Museum.
When Salem dropped me at the airport for my flight to London, he asked,
“So Sakti, why did you want to come to Sarajevo?”
and I answered,
“Salem, the plight of Sarajevo haunted me in the 90s when I saw the photos of inhuman Serbian atrocities on this beautiful multicultural city of exemplary coexistence.
I had to see how Sarajevo has stood up, survived and now blossomed into this citadel of cultural tolerance. I am so glad that I came.”
My flight from Sarajevo, via Munich, to London was delayed but I was relieved by the cool appearance of Rakesh at the gate. We spent an enchanting evening at Chez Nimi, three of us chatting till 1am in the morning.
Rakesh dropped me at Heathrow for my flight to San Francisco. We parted with his bear hug. I never seem to get enough of his loving company.