Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sarajevo 06: Street scenes

As we drove into the downtown area of Sarajevo, one of the first things I noticed was the number of buildings whose facades were pockmarked with bullet holes. If that many rounds hit the masonry, just imagine how many must have gone through windows and doors... Some of the vistas down the narrow streets were quite lovely, nonetheless.

We went, of course, to the bridge which was the site of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, which became the excuse for the declaration of war in 1914. There's a small museum on that corner which, though small, is worth the visit.

As we walked through the old part of town, we passed by the oldest public 'facilities' in continuous operation in the region. As can be seen on the sign on the doorway, it dates to the year 1530 of the common era.

While walking along one of the major thoroughfares in the rain, we passed a street urchin sitting on the pavement. He attempt at 'music' was painful to the ears. Our guide told us he figured the boy made such noise in an attempt to extort money out of shop proprietors. ("Here, kid. Take this money and get out of here.")

Even more disturbing, as we walked along the street in the open market, which has been restored significantly since the war, were the shell craters left in the repaired streets. They are surrounded by red splotches signifying the blood of the victims -- civilians -- who died at each of those spots.

Part of downtown looks pretty similar to other European cities, in large measure the legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Other parts have a much more exotic (to this American, anyway) and middle-Eastern flavor.

As we drove along the river, we passed by a very large and impressive structure on the other bank. It looked as if it could be some sort of church, but it's actually the Apple stole. iPod rather than Granny Smith. Weird, huh?

Signs in the courtyard of the main Mosque (the "Bey Mosque") prohibited photography, much to my chagrin, so the best I could do was to take a picture of the gate to the compound directly across from the main entrance of the Mosque. The architecture reminds me of being in Spain while I was on foreign study during college, and the moorish architecture we saw in the south.

The European flavor of the city has been preserved in the rebuilt commercial section of town. The main library was bombed during the conflict, but is being restored in a project spearheaded by the Italian government, I believe.

What's with bombing a library, anyway??

I suspect it would even have been more fun had it not been raining (or had I had an umbrella, I suppose), but I'm very grateful to have had the opportunity to get to the city and walk around.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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