Date: Sunday, November 28, 1999 12:26 PMDoug McLean World Tour 1999-2000Back Home Next
Subject: Oct. 28-29, 1999: Fall-in Sarajevo
Current Date and Location: Nov. 28, 1999 in Jarrell, Texas.
I had started typing this while visiting my friends in Dallas, Texas (Home of the Dallas Stars and the Stanley Cup! NOTE: If any of my Canuck friends want to visit the cup, you are welcome in Texas anytime...we expect to have it here for the next several years so there is plenty of time for ya'll to
plan your trips.)
Itinerary: Planning to leave for South America sometime the middle of this week...destination unknown (probably Buenos Aires to start...but maybe Santiago).
October 28, 1999
Departed Dubrovnik on the 8am bus bound for Sarajevo. Sado had confirmed a room with Taiba in Sarajevo, so my accomodations were arranged prior to my arrival...which is actually a good idea in Sarajevo...due to the large UN presence in Sarajevo (and the extensive bombing during the war...) there is a shortage of suitable hotel/hostel rooms...so housing is actually quite expensive.
The ride to Sarajevo was probably the most interesting on my trip (or maybe I was just more aware of my surroundings...). Anyway, the trees were in the middle of changing with the seasons...and the fall colors were absolutely spectacular! I have never lived in the Northeastern USA or anywhere that you have such a dramatic change of colors among the trees and countryside...this sight was quite a treat. The yellows, greens, reds, oranges, and a myriad of other colors and hues all seemed to compete for your attention on an amazing canvass of mountains and valleys that lead to Sarajevo. ...but, that is only half the story regarding a fall in Bosnia-Hercegovina...the legacy of war became more and more apparent as the
bus neared Sarajevo. Towns along the way were increasingly scarred by the bullets and bombs of war...and then we arrived in Sarajevo.
Sarajevo had undergone a siege and bombing that I can not even imagine. Without exception, EVERY building that I viewed in Sarajevo had some sort of visible war damage. Bullet holes, bombed sections, and piles of rubble were testament to the effects of the war. It took me a while to discern what one
mass of wreckage had been...it used to be a huge building...the entire exterior had been bombed and destroyed, literally the only thing left standing was the interior superstructure that had held the
elevators...everything around this most central point in the building was completely gone due to continuous shelling and bombing over the years. I kept seeing military vehicles with "SFOR" on the sides...I later learned that this was the UN Stabilization Force which consists of about 40,000
The bus arrived and I looked for a place to change money. The post office changed my money into "Convertible Marks"...due to the instability of the Bosnia-Hercegovina government and monetary unit, they had secured their currency to the German Mark (DM)...the "Convertible Mark" was valued 1-to-1 with the DM. Anyway, I then caught a taxi and went to my guest house...and met Taiba!
Taiba is a wonderful elderly lady who was truly happy to see me. She had been expecting me, and when the taxi arrived, she was on her balcony waving and smiling at me. I went up and was greeted as warmly as I would have been by an old friend. Now, Taiba did not speak much English (read: NONE) and
very little Italian...but her charm was her attempts to communicate in all the languages possible and with many gestures and smiles. At one point, she communicated that she liked Americans and that she hated the Serbs because they had killed her husband...quite a sobering reality for me to hear
I left Taiba and walked around the city. Again...hard to describe...but the effects of war were everywhere...but also, people were moving on...in buildings that in the USA would be condemned, you would see laundry hanging off the balconies that had been almost destroyed by shells...life goes on.
The UN SFOR presence is certainly noticeable, but you get the feel that the city is very safe. NOTE: I have heard that there is a Woody Harrelson movie called "Welcome to Sarajevo" that is supposed to be very good...I am looking forward to seeing it someday.
The city is trying to rebuild and there are some new buildings and things...but that being said, it is hard to get past the graves that dot the city...during the siege, too many people were being killed to bury in proper
cemetaries...graves were dug in city parks, grassy areas, and even in the former Olympic Stadium (which I did not visit)...somewhat hard to go play carefree in the park when you have to dodge gravestones...very sobering. I walked around, went to markets, and bought only my 3rd souvenir of my trip...a wool sweater (other souvenirs: Pink Palace T-shirt and a Swiss Army Knife)...it was starting to get nippy, and was heading toward Germany next...I figured it would be a good investment. I guess I was feeling a
little homesick...so when I read about a good restaurant called "Texas", I had to go. The chicken burrito was not exactly like being back at Chuy's (Mecca for Tex-Mex food in Austin, Texas!)...but it was a decent attempt and satisfied my hunger. Called it an early night and went back to Taiba's guesthouse.
October 29, 1999
I walked around the city a little bit...but then, well, to be honest...I didn't do much today except e-mail. I had read that I could go to the University of Sarajevo and use the internet. So I did exactly that...and
for 1DM, I was able to use it as long as I wanted...I sat there for probably 7 hours...you may have noticed that I sent lots of journals from Sarajevo...this is why...when you find a bargain like this...you don't pass
it up (remember I'm Scottish. ie. cheap).
Sarajevo had really affected me...I guess it was my most poingent experience regarding warfare. It is easy to destroy...and it seems that it takes forever to rebuild. I really feel for the people who live in this part of the world. It is easy to say that the former Soviet Union was bad...but for a long time, they kept a lid on this powder-keg of cultures and conflicting ideologies that was Yugoslavia. The downside to winning the cold war is that we now have to deal with the fallout of these cultures feeling their
political and military "oats" and testing their unknown political/military boundries. While the Soviet Union did oppress it's people...these free people are now killing one another. I had been in Sydney, Australia in
March while the UN was bombing the Serbians in Kosovo...and I experienced a 5,000 person demonstration against the USA in Sydney by pro-Serbian supporters...I was not convinced at the time that we were doing the right thing in this part of the world. Now, I know...we (the USA and the UN) were
saving these people from themselves in the shortrun...after visiting these areas, I believe that the UN involvement is the right thing.
I no longer think that the Serbians are the bad guys (recently they have been)...I just think that they had the most power and militaristic might...if the Croatians, Slovenians, or Bosnians had been in their shoes, I
am not sure that things would have gone differently...they all seem to be different sides of the same coin...I hope that with time, they will all learn tolerance...time will tell...
It was great to experience fall in Sarajevo...and sad to see how far Sarajevo has fallen.
I then caught the overnight bus to Zagreb, Croatia.