Friday, March 27, 2015

Visegrad and Prijedor


I follow the Sarajevo Times on Twitter, it’s the only English newspaper in town. In the past few months they have had two articles on two towns in Bosnia, Visegrad and Prijedor. One was a piece on visiting Visegrad, which no doubt is a beautiful city, but with a very grisly background. During the 1990’s Bosnian war, Visegrad was one of the first sites of the war atrocities, Muslim Bosnian families burned alive, rapes, people being shot and thrown over the famous bridge in Visegrad. They say the river ran stuffed with the bodies of the victims (victims who in many cases are still not found or identified). It was a blood bath. And the saddest part and the major reason I don’t want to go, is that the perpetrators still live there. The town sits silently, never offering an apology and major politicians in the town refuse to acknowledge what happened there. I can’t ever imagine wanting to go to that town for tourism. Everywhere I turned, I would be wondering, “were you one of the people who did these things?”, “Is this where the atrocities occurred?”  I try to compare this to other towns where horrors happened, like in Germany or Poland from WWII and I think the difference, at least in my mind, is that not only has time passed and vital players in the evil are gone but there has been some acknowledgement to the crimes. I mean, how can I go traipsing around, spending money, and taking smiling photos as if nothing happened? When the town won't even recognize correctly what ensued. For me, it is too creepy and wrong to the victims and survivors.

If Visegrad is bad, Prijedor is even worse! After Srebrenica, people say Prijedor was the second biggest genocide in Bosnia, during the war. Bosniaks in that region were the first victims, completely unaware of what was to transpire. There are mass graves all over that part of the country, they just discovered a new one last summer. I remember reading the news story about the discovery and how the International Missing Person’s Commission (IMPC) said that the grave could have been unearthed earlier but that people living nearby didn’t say anything despite knowing of its existence. What the heck?! Why would I want to visit a place where people might not have pulled the trigger but are comfortable with living for over 16 years with unidentified dead bodies close? It just reeks of a Stephen King novel to me, something like Children of the Corn, everyone conspiring to keep this dirty secret hidden. The politicians of Prijedor continue to push ethnic politics and deny any wrongdoing against Bosniaks. They put up memorials to the guys who committed the ethnic cleansing and fuss over creating memorials to the victims.  This is also the region where two of the worse concentration camps existed. There continues to be ethnic tensions and violence against returnee’s who survived the war and want to come back to their ancestral homes in that region.  All of this adds up to a very unfriendly picture, not something I would be jumping at to go visit. It makes me think of how I would have been treated (as a child of Indian immigrants) traveling to Mississippi in the 1960’s.


While they can try to whitewash their history, I am not fooled and I hope that until there is admittance to the horrific truths, these towns remain in seclusion. 

(map of a number of big massacre sites, except Sarajevo, please note this map isn't exhaustive, many big killing locations are missing from here). 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Kids in Bosnia

One of the biggest things I'll miss about Sarajevo and Bosnia in general, how wonderful the people are here with children.

Sarajevo is definitely a good place for a family with little ones. There are at least 5 indoor playground locations here as well as an indoor water/pool complex. Kids are accepted everywhere and if you're out in public and your kid starts crying, locals will ALWAYS try to help, talking to the baby, even wanting to hold the baby. A good example of how kind and caring they are with little ones here is my weekly trip to the local farmer’s market. My 3-year old comes with me every time and without fail, she gets some free food (and this from vendors who can neigh afford to give). 

We are so spoiled here that it always comes as a culture shock when we go back to America and no one coo's or ahh's at our little one's and people seem to get visibly upset when they cry. I don't know of any other country with such accomodating people to children, its wonderful! 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Sevdalinka Music




There are many things about Bosnia that I love, but one of them is NOT sevdalinka music.  Sevdalinka is the traditional folk music of the region, specifically Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It is characterized by sad, melancholy tunes, almost always with an accordion in the background.  I just can't find anything appealing about it, its depressing and uninspiring. I am not opposed to sad songs, I love WestLife's song, "I Cry," and its about a breakup, but its done in a way that is pleasant to the ears. Sevdalinka music is not pleasant to my ears. Perhaps its that blasted accordion but I just find Sevdalinka songs terrible, making me want to cringe, to me more singing in melody but no harmony. Here in Sarajevo, whenever I get into a cab or go into a store that is playing Sevdalinka, I shudder. I appreciate the cultural history behind this genre of music, I just don't want to listen to it.

You can hear a clip of Sevdalinka above and decide for yourself.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina







These are images from our trip back in December 2014 to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mostar is a city about 2 hours from Sarajevo, in the Herzegovina part of the country. Its wine country, very pretty and scenic. The city, alas, has a very bloody history from the recent war and it still holds deep scars, very much split on ethnic lines (Croats or Bosniaks). The pictures are taken from the famous bridge of Mostar, perhaps one of the best examples of Ottoman architecture. Unfortunately the bridge is a replica of the original, as the original was blown apart during the 1990's Bosnian war.  Very pretty with green aqua water below, I've heard its just breathtaking in the summer.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Dangerous Places for Americans

I had something else on my mind to write about last night but this morning, I opened my in-box and saw an article in my online Conde Nast Traveler e-subscription that got my blood boiling. The article was called, 10 "Dangerous" Places That are Actually Safe to Visit. It listed various locations that have had reputations for being on the seedier side with large crime rates, like Detroit or Santa Domingo. But what upset me was that they included Iran in the article.

To list Iran as a safe place to travel for an American is not only ridiculous but irresponsible. It is like saying North Korea or Syria are safe places as well. These are countries with no diplomatic ties with America and a history of randomly arresting and imprisoning American citizens on flimsy or made up charges. If an American goes to these places you run the real risk of sitting in a foreign jail cell for months or years. In the past, Americans most often have gotten arrested for suspicion of espionage. This means those countries can say "oh you were looking at XYZ monument wrong" and arrest you.

What really bothers me is that Americans who ignore the State Department's Travel Warnings about going to these places, get themselves in trouble and then expect America to come and rescue them. Idiots.

There is no Marine Force one that will swoop in and take you away! When it states that America has no diplomatic relations with a country, there is a reason why. Former President's Clinton or Carter or Bush are not going to go in and hold talks to get your out.

Like those people who go sailing when they know bad weather is approaching and then SOS for the Coast Guard to come get them, citizens who go these countries, when you willfully ignored the warning why should we save your hide now? You were all bravado in going in but when the going gets tough, its "HELP."  I say if you go there and get in trouble, tough crap, sit it out. Maybe then you'll learn your lesson and teach others not to be so arrogant (oh it won't happen to me).

As if dumb people need an excuse but this Conde Nast article just encourages more blockheads to do stupid things.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Blogging anew

Ages since I've written a blog post - most everyone I know has disappeared from the blogging world, we now connect via Facebook or Twitter. Yet I miss the blog, I miss the ability to write a lengthy post on whatever it is I'm dealing with at the moment. I shall try to do better and start blogging again, if just to get my hand back into writing. I have noticed since having my two little munchkins I don't write all that much (gee you think?) I suppose a large part of that is because whenever I do a moment of free time I use it to either clean up or sleep :)  Fingers crossed to me trying this again with better luck.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Should I still blog?

Hello all!

I've been wondering...should I still blog? Its become harder and harder to get to this site and most of my friends no longer blog or check blogs. Yet on the flip side as we are heading to Bosnia, I think I should keep up the blog as a sort of travelog, like I did when I was in Copenhagen. Of course that is assuming I would have some time in Bosnia to write (maybe at work??).

What do you think?