Week 5: June 26-July 2

Thursday, June 26

During our afternoon coffee break, Drina told me about different summer events in the Balkans. After helping me research a few of them, we found out that I will be here during the Exit Festival. The Exit Festival takes place in Novi Sad, Serbia from Thursday to Sunday, July 10-13. The Exit Festival is held in the Petrovaradin Fortress on the Danube River. The Bosnian website said that ticket packages including camping reservations and bus tickets could be bought for 200km at a hipster cafe called The Kriterion down in the Stari Grad.

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After work I headed down to buy a ticket and after a little wandering I found the place. When I asked them about the tickets, they informed me that I had to be a Bosnian citizen to buy the ticket there and would have to get one online. Unfortunately, the online tickets did not come in the same package deal and were twice as expensive for my region. I was surprised that it was legal to sell tickets for different prices depending on the country of citizenship. I went ahead and bought a ticket and a camping reservation, reminding myself that this was still cheaper than the San Francisco summer festival Outside Lands.

Friday, June 27

After telling my coworkers about my failed expedition to The Kriterion, Amer offered to help me buy the bus tickets to and from Serbia. Zoran gave me permission to take the Thursday and Friday off that I would miss to go to the Festival.

On my tram ride home on Friday, I encountered my first GRAS officer. Although I did not understand what he said, I was able to infer from his uniform and papers that he wanted to see my tram pass. The trams in Sarajevo are run mostly on an honor system. I have only seen one gate at the end of the line in Ilidža. Before I had the monthly pass, I would buy a 1.8km ticket from the driver every time I got on the tram. Then I would validate my ticket in the device that would stamp the time and date the ticket was used. Multiple tickets can be bought at once at the GRAS offices. Once I had my monthly pass, I would just hop on the tram and grab a seat. There were signs in the trams threatening a heavy 26km fine for any passengers without valid tickets or passes. I showed him my pass, and after glancing at it he continued on his way.

Saturday, June 28

Saturday was the 100 year anniversary of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, as well as the first day of Ramadan. A poll conducted on klix.ba shows that a majority of Bosnians consider Princip to be a terrorist, but there are a fair amount that think of him as a hero or neutral.
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It was a beautiful day with clear blue skies and a warm breeze.

I started my day with a kafa at Caffe Tito, conveniently located behind the Historical Museum of BiH.
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Caffe Tito has custom labeled sugar packets.

I then went around to the front of the building.
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Even though the front of the museum is missing some tiles, it is still open.

Museum admission cost 5km and the exhibit was upstairs.
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The room was relatively small but it was packed with WW1 quotes, letters, pictures and even diary excerpts.
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Europe was ready for war, all it needed was a spark to ignite the conflict.
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About one quarter of the room was dedicated to the assassination, committed by Princip and his conspirators.
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Although it is often referred to as “the shot”, it was actually one bomb and two shots.
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The rest of the room was dedicated to the Great War. It was interesting to see information on the eastern front because in the United States we focus primarily on the western front.
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The three soldiers in the lower picture are Russian female fighters.
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These are hand-illustrated letters sent by a Private William Britton.

Most of the stories highlighted the suffering of the war, but some showcased the humanity that remained even in the most morbid situations.

A letter from the Russian front:

Lying in ditches, our home-fighters felt a strong craving for baked potatoes. The field between our trenches and the Russian ones was full of undug potatoes; a wealth of potatoes was lying under the ground on that field. Then we heard a non-commissioned officer saying to his team “Guys, how nice it would be to have some baked potatoes tonight!” As soon as he finished saying that, another soldier said: “Sir, would a bag of potatoes be enough?” And, in short, when night fell, two home-fighters crawled into the field to dig up some potatoes. But soon they were followed by three others, then five, and finally ten soldiers. Armed only with infantry – shovels, they crawled on all fours while their comrades in trenches breathlessly watched what was going to happen. They all stood ready for the onslaught – if need be – against enemy attack, to rescue their comrades in the potato field. Then, after some time, some of us noticed that a dozen people with shovels were crawling towards the field from the Russian side as well. What was going to happen now? The Russians were scrambling over towards potatoes in the ground, cautiously, carefully, quietly! So our home-fighters started digging for potatoes on one side of the field, and the Russians on the other. It can be imagined with what tension we awaited what would happen next. Our folks and the Russians were slowly approaching each other. Then we saw them politely greeting each other, and finally both our soldiers and the Russians quietly returned, with their potatoes, to their positions.

Less than half an hour later, a severe fire exchange started between the two positions.

Most of the text was written both in Bosnian and English.

I left the museum and headed towards the Latin Bridge, where the assassination had occurred. I took some pictures along the way
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Here is the Holiday Inn that was built for the 1984 Winter Olympics. “Designed by the celebrated Bosnian architect Ivan Straus, and built in 1982-83, it remains Sarajevo’s most aesthetically interesting building, though arguably not its most aesthetically pleasing.” During the Bosnian War, many reporters stayed at this hotel.
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I also passed the National Museum, established in 1888. Unfortunately the museum is closed because the city could no longer afford to keep it open. I was quite disappointed because I had been looking forward to seeing the Sarajevo Haggadah, which was created around 1350 in Barcelona. During the Nazi invasion, the Haggadah was smuggled out of the city and hidden in a mosque in a small Muslim town nearby, and an article in the New Yorker was written about it. During the Bosnian War it was secured in an underground bank vault.

As I was approaching the Art Institute, I noticed a crowd gathered outside.
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The group was gathered for the opening of the Making Peace event.
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There was a ceremony in front of the building recognizing the different groups that helped organize the event.
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Along the river were large posters with pictures and quotes from numerous peace-making efforts.
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The posters covered human rights issues, economic issues, and environmental protection. Each poster was in Bosnian, Serbian, and English.
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Across the river there were some impressive buildings. This one is the Sarajevo Law School which is part of the University of Sarajevo.
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This is the main post office in the Stari Grad. The inside of the building is even more impressive than the outside.
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image source
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Further down the river is a bright, modern apartment building flanking a smaller building that is much older.
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Hidden on top of another apartment building is a large statue.
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Here is the Latinski Most, where the assassination occurred. It is covered in fencing for some event that is planned for later that night.
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Tourists flocked from all ends of the earth to see “The street corner that started the 20th century.” The man on the right side of the building is Franz Ferdinand and the man on the left side is Gavrilo Princip. I even overheard a man telling the museum curator that he was from Montreal.
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In front of the museum there was a replica of the car that Franz Ferdinand and his wife had been riding in when they were shot.
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There was a man in an official looking uniform who I can only assume was an impersonator.
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The ticket for the museum was 4km. Inside there was clothing, newspaper clippings, and even full sized models of the Archduke and his wife.

After walking around all morning, I was beginning to get pretty hungry, so I stopped by Mrkva for some piping hot ćevapčići. When I sat down they brought me the tourist menu, which was in English. I ordered what I always get, but I was amused to see that the tourist menu only had the larger portions. I though this was clever and not unfair because the customers were still getting a good deal.
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The ćevapčići is cooked on a large, traditional grill. Behind the woman cooking is a long row of pita bread waiting to be filled with freshly cooked sausages. I like to eat at Mrkva because they enforce the no smoking law so there are always seats inside.
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On my way back from the Stari Grad I stopped at the open air market. It is hectic and loud but the produce is very fresh. The last time I went here I got the strawberries. Completely by chance, I ended up at the same stand as the first time and the two women winked at me with recognition.
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This time I got the cherries and they were oh-so-ripe. They were grown in Mostar, which is in the southern part of the country and about 3-4 hours away by car. They were delicious.
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In front of the park there is a small protest that has been going on for a few weeks. I was told that the protest is for better social programs and less corruption and bureaucracy in the government.

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While I was reading the posters at the Peace Event, I saw a flyer for a concert later that night. Činčila, an experimental funk band, was opening for Hornsman Coyote, a Serbian reggae artist.
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Hornsman plays the trombone quite well. image source

The concert was held in the Skenderija, which was just down the street from my apartment. The only information I could find on the event was a facebook page run by the booking agency. The posters and event page said that the show started at 8pm. After asking a group of young people for directions, I bought my ticket for 15km. They told me the show wouldn’t start for at least another 40 minutes. I took the time to walk along the water. On the other side of the Art Institute from the posters was a Cartooning for Peace display.
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The cartoons were mostly political satire, pointing out the hypocrisy behind most of the conflicts today. image source

I made it back to the concert venue around 9pm but it was still relatively empty. After waiting a little longer, I could hear the bands doing their soundchecks and I headed into the building. The concert room was adorable, it was smaller than most of my lecture halls. There were about eight rows of cement amphitheater seating curled around a small dance area in front of the stage. The venue has a capacity of about 250 people. The young audience slowly trickled in. The crowd was an interesting mix of people and I saw my very first dreadlock mullet. While we waited for the bands they played reggae music over the speakers. I found it quite ironic that they were blasting “Don’t let the white man keep us down” to a room full of white people. At about 10:15pm the opening band started playing. Činčila was not a bad band but their music did not fit the reggae vibe that I was expecting. They were funky, but had too much energy for the chill atmosphere. The guitar player was wearing a tan shapeless dress and both him and the bassist had mardi gras bird masks on. The lead singer was wearing sweatpants and a lavender bathrobe along with a large handmade eagle mask.

People continued to wander in until it was time for Hornsman Coyote to play. In total, there were about 100 people present but the room didn’t look empty. Hornsman Coyote played the trombone and sang while his DJ played the background beats. He even brought his Croatian backup singer on stage who looked just as reggae as he did. The music was on point and the small crowd was up and dancing the whole time. When he was done playing I headed out, beating the crowd but missing the encore. I got home around 2am and went straight to bed.

Sunday, June 29

I was starting to get sick on Sunday from interacting with so many new people over the past month, so I spent most of the day sleeping.

Monday, June 30

After work on Monday, I was relaxing in my room when I heard a knock on my door through my headphones. Paras had brought a friend home. Caglar was a Turkish student that had come to Sarajevo to visit one of the Bosnian [IAESTE](www.iaeste.org/) members after interning with her abroad. He brought a bottle of liquor with him and we sat in Paras and Jalaj’s room drinking and talking. The three of us residents had work in the morning so we did not drink too much. At about 10pm we headed down to the MacDonalds in the Stari Grad for a late night meal. After eating we dropped Caglar off at his hostel and headed home.

Tuesday, July 1

I left work after lunch on Tuesday and headed down to the Stari Grad to buy a new tram pass for the month of July. The June pass is valid for the first week of July to give all of the riders a chance to get the new ones.
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The decorations, colors, and series letter change each month to deter counterfeiters. One interesting thing that I have seen many times on the trams is that sometimes, when a two seat row is empty, passengers will sit on the aisle seat, even if the tram is almost full. The window seat will either remain empty as the tram continues to fill, or another passenger will have to squeeze by the seated person. Whenever I have ridden public transportation in the United States and Canada, it is expected that the window seat be taken first to avoid any unnecessary human interaction.

One of my favorite tram traditions is what I like to call The Changing of the Guards, but in reality, its just when the drivers switch. Every time I experience it, I find it quite amusing. There is one GRAS office on the tracks along my commute, Sometimes, the tram will stop there, the driver will open the door, grab his or her things and run out, leaving a tram full of people sitting in the middle of the tracks, alone. The riders that are getting off at the stop across the street, take this opportunity to leave, but the rest of us wait patiently for another driver to come running out of the building, hop on the tram and continue on our way. Sometimes, they fake us out and the driver only stops to drop off the collected money before returning to finish the shift. Other times, the driver will get off at certain stations to buy a bundle of tickets, and while he or she is there, maybe a newspaper and a pack of cigarettes.

Wednesday, July 2

After work on Wednesday, Amer accompanied me to the main bus station in Sarajevo behind the US Embassy and University of Sarajevo. There were lines to buy tickets, but luckily the information desk was open. After asking the woman a series of questions, Amer explained to me what he had learned. To travel to Serbia, I would need to leave from the other bus station in East Sarajevo that specialized in Republika Srpska and Serbia travel. Istočno Sarajevo (East Sarajevo) is the capital city of the Republika Srpska and is just south of the Novi Grad. Unfortunately, this bus station is not on the tram line so I would have to find another way to get there, like the trolley bus. The other tickets I was hoping to buy, for Mostar, had to be purchased the day of because buses left hourly for that destination. I made it home in time for my planned skype call.

 
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