Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Friday, April 10, 2015
Where to start with driving in Sarajevo?
First off, it’s terrible! Like other big cities, Sarajevo has seen an explosion of cars and the tiny roads are just not equipped to handle that much influx. But if that wasn’t a problem it is also the arcane motor laws: no right turn on red, you can turn right on green at the same time those with the left turn signal from the opposite side are coming. Actually there are few left turn signals, but not many.
Yellow means go, as does green. Green flashing means the light is going to turn to red. At some intersections the green light goes for both directions and that means you can also take a left or a right, mind the oncoming traffic (um what?). Add to that pedestrians who walk everywhere and at any time on the street, completely disregarding if they have the walk sign or not and you have a recipe for a mess.
Sarajevo is a small town, it really shouldn’t take one ages to get from one part of the city to another and yet it does because of all this plus, inordinate amount of traffic lights, none of which coordinate with the other. Also, inevitably I’ll end up with the slowest driver in front of me and a NASCAR racer behind me. Aye! Day to day I see many cases of road rage, a guy jumps out to cross the street just as the light turns green, car honks at him (rightfully as it is not the pedestrian’s turn) and the pedestrian gets pissed, throwing up arms, sometimes swearing or giving the finger.
The other day I was walking home, waiting at a light for the left turn cars to finish up. The one guy goes and the second car overtakes him to take the left (very typical over here), the first car guy gets peeved and there is a lot of honking and screaming, second car guy equally upset and decides to tailgate first car and then rev up and pass him on this one-way tiny street. At that point they were too far down the street for me to see what else happened but the weirdest part of the whole thing – these were clearly elderly men, had to be in their 60’s or above.
More and more here in Sarajevo you hear about road rage cases involving guns (since the Bosnian war guns are very easy to get here). It is scary. When I can, I prefer walking, just a lot less chances for an accident or incident, no?
Tuesday, April 07, 2015
My latest dilemma is not particularly a dilemma but a quandary for this lazy person – I want to get back into writing freelance articles. I virtually stopped when the babies were born; it was too much to think about even writing, when I could barely cobble 4 fours of sleep together. Now the kids are a tiny bit bigger and I have gotten a better handle on how to do things at work, so I would like to write again. To me, living in Sarajevo, Bosnia, it’s a treasure trove for article writing but (and you knew there was a but), doing proper feature articles with interviews of people is not within the realm of possibility. I still have to take care of two toddlers and I work a full-time job.
It is my ambitious nature that is driving me to want to do this, the idea that I’m here, I can write, plentiful story ideas are all over, why shouldn’t I? No?
Perhaps it is also a bit of worrying that if I don’t write, years later I will regret that I didn’t take the opportunity.
Maybe I could pen a few short travel pieces, keep my hand in it but without too much commitment. What to do??
Friday, April 03, 2015
This picture was actually taken by the Embassy doctor about a week ago, and I commandeered it from his facebook page. I think it is a beautiful shot of early springtime in Sarajevo. This is taken in old town Sarajevo, with its narrow cobblestone streets and Ottoman influenced architecture. You can see the many wares on sale, rugs, blankets, pillows, etc.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Back when I was a much more avid blogger, I stumbled upon a wonderful blog dedicated to the London Underground. I LOVED that blog http://www.london-underground.blogspot.com/ - it was all about the London Underground and the fun and unique stories surrounding this mode of transportation. Every time I would read a post, I would feel like I was there, in London (my favorite city btw). I’d like to think I sort of became a regular (reader and commentator).
In one of the posts, one of the other regulars to the site, asked the site owner to solicit suggestions for his new baby’s name. The site owner and the regular were friends (outside of the blog I believe) and we had been privy to the impending baby’s arrival, so it felt a bit like the baby was one of us.
The comments section was full of names, from your typical to outrageous, if memory serves me correctly, the regular (Ian), wanted something out of the ordinary but not weird.
Unbelievable to me, but Ian liked my name and it was picked! See here - http://london-underground.blogspot.com/2006/03/name-baby-name-bear-results.html
The winning name he liked…Kessler!
That was in 2006, I like to think that somewhere out there in the world (probably England) there is an 8 year old girl named Kessler, that I had a hand in naming. I hope she likes her name and thinks it’s original, unique, pretty but not outlandish, all the reasons I suggested it the first place. Nothing religious behind the name, I just thought it was nice.
*and I really hope that they kept the name and didn’t decide a year after the baby’s birth, “nah, dump it.”
Friday, March 27, 2015
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).