|Well... if you wanted newsreel highlights during the 1990s this was most certainly the place to be. Welcome to the epicentre of the Balkan War. Sarajevo is a very historically rich town with a really interesting contrast of cultures.
The orthodox seem to almost live in fear of the Muslims. They appear to be convinced that they hate them (quite understandable as they attempted to eradicate the Muslims during the war) but profess to be OK with them all the same... even though when looking for a place to stay, people would always check our identity first as to not be in the situation were they would be referring a Muslim person to a non Muslim persons hotel for fear of conflict.
The Muslims on the other hand were quite incredibly kind to us in all respects even though we were clearly not Muslim ourselves. They gave me free vegetables in the market... we met Muslim youths more then willing to talk to us about whatever was up. At the same time, there is still that sense of religious righteousness in some and they do often draw attention to the fact that they are Muslim as though that should perhaps gage how we will approach the conversation we are about to have. They also very often assume we are completely ignorant to their religion and its beliefs, but then again, maybe most North Americans are...
Our first steps around Sarajevo were met with a splendid level of corruption. We got on the metro to go to our hostel only to find the ticket validater did not work properly... when out of the blue a transit cop comes up and takes my ticket (thinking he is going to help me??) no.. of course not, he is going to ticket me.. .which through me into a bit of a rage. So, all of a sudden we have 5 transit cops around us escorting us off the metro and they are being somewhat physically imposing, grabbing my arm and trying to push well into our personal spaces talking angrily to us in Croatian. We weren't having it though. They threatened to call the cops. We told them that would be the best coarse of action. The one guy grabbed my arm sort of roughly, I told him to remove his hand if he new what was best for him, at which point they told me the fine will triple if the police arrive, at which point we told them we can sort it out down at the station, after I have called a Canadian diplomatic mission to be present on my behalf (keeping in mind they ARE robbing us... I figure hey, call the bluff... you louts have no idea who I could be either)... then a yelling match started and a big crowd gathered around and we could tell the cops were becoming uncomfortable with the situation as we were openly yelling words like corrupt, and theft, etc for everyone to hear. And then we just walked away.
It may seem foolhardy and foolish to people reading this but you have to remember the mindsets of the people trying to shake you down. They pick on the weak and just like any other bully, they understand the concept of pecking order and can be cowed like anyone else... my only worry was that the cops who showed up (who I suspected were not arriving because he called them 3 times) would be even more corrupt... but at the end of the day they do really respect Canadians here for what they did with the UN during the war... I figured it was a safe gamble to take.
Anyways, the rest of the visit was uneventful... did some sightseeing and it was fun. Ate some really great food. Burek, Cevapi, and all sorts of pies... these guys know how to serve up some 5 star fast food. I totally loved every bite of it. This was also the flash point that led to the First World War when the Hapsburgs Duke was assassinated here, another site that we took in. Other then that it was a lot of graveyards, memories of CBC war correspondents and people meeting that kept us busy here. A well enjoyable event all and all but with the whole cop thing, as exceptionally nice as the regular folk were... it left a bit of an odd taste ion my mouth.