Sunday, May 30, 2010

I'm leaving on a Jetplane...

I'm heading to London on Monday morning. Going to meet up with my friend Nicole from high school and try and take in some of the sites. Then on Tuesday morning I am headed to Edmonton. Hope everyone is having a great weekend.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

When in Sarajevo...

As lame as it sounds, before we left on our trip to Sarajevo, I was expecting the Latin Bridge to be the highlight of our trip. I am a history and political buff and I somehow thought standing in the place where Franz Ferdinand was killed would be a great experience. It might very well have been had it not been for the pouring rain our first day in town. As it was, the bridge didn't do much for me. In the end, what I really enjoyed the most were the many beautiful mosques.

The Gazi-Husrevbey Mosque is the largest in the city and has a vast courtyard that is open to the public.

Unfortunately, non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the mosque, but as it was, we were allowed into the surrounding courtyard. It was a great opportunity to observe the mosque close up and catch a glimpse of Muslims preying on the mats outside the building.

The fountain from which this man drinks is located just outside the gates of the mosque and is highly symbolic of the importance of water to Muslims. Islam is a faith that was born in the harsh, dry deserts of the Middle East and as a result access to water became something of a fundamental law. To this day, even in Sarajevo which is anything but dry, it is a grave sin for any Muslim to withhold unneeded water.


After a day of exploring, we took some time to peruse some of the shops in the old city. As I mentioned before, I picked up a great book on Sarajevo and (not previously mentioned) an hilarious t-shirt.

After shopping we found we were getting a bit hungry and given that we only had one night in town, we wanted to make sure we got a taste of authenticity. When in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there are two dishes you absolutely MUST try. One of them is Burek, a traditional Bosnian cheese pie. The second and most čevapičiči (č is pronounced as the English ch) Čevapi, as they are called for short, are ground beef or lamb, formed into rounds similar to sausages. It is kind of like hamburger sausages, but they are much softer and far more tasty. Bosnian čevapi are served with onions and Kaymak (similar to clotted cream) We found Sarajevo to be full of čevapi  shops and after our long day we sat down to enjoy our very own.

More to follow...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Wounded City

I picked up a book while we were in Bosnia and Herzegovina called Sarajevo: The Wounded City. Those words speak the truth; Sarajevo bears a truly tragic past. Long before the horrifying events that shocked the world during the Yugoslav war (1992-1995) Sarajevo had the misfortune of being marched over by nearly every European and Middle Eastern Empire that ever dreamed of touching the Mediterranean. 

The city has come a long way since 1995 and many parts have been restored so as to surpass even their original beauty. That said, many scars still remain. Fired ravaged and bombed out structures are still to be found intermittently among the shining new hotels and restored historical buildings.

For a time, during the communist era, Sarajevo was a shining star and was hailed as the cultural capital of Yugoslavia. The war wiped away much of that previous glory and today the city struggles to redefine itself. Surely I am naive, coming from Canada and what to me, in all my polite, positive and optimistic mentality, is a multicultural utopia, but it seems to me that the key to Sarajevo's identity lies right beneath its nose. Centuries of turmoil have resulted in what, for Easter Europe, is an overwhelmingly diverse hodgepodge of a population. 

Here, old enemies, Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks alike, live and work amongst one another in peace. An Orthodox Cathedral, a Catholic Church, a Jewish Synagogue and a plethora of Đamija (Mosques) are all to be found within a two block radius of one another in the centre of the old city. I find myself wondering how long this peace can last. Can these extremely conservative groups comprehend and accept the notion that their diversity is what will be their 
salvation? As an insider looking out, I can see how the rich history of Sarajevo, however agonizing, when coupled with that diversity has the potential to make this city one of Europe's most prized capitals.

One of the most famous events to occur in Sarajevo was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, and his wife Sofia. 


The royal couple were killed by a young Serb on the North bank of the River Miljacka moments after crossing over the now famed Latin Bridge (above) in an open top carriage.The assassination is commonly regarded as the catalyst that ignited the First World War.

More to Follow...

Monday, May 24, 2010

We arrived amidst a hail of sniper fire...

Since I came to Croatia last summer, I have been itching to check out Sarajevo and the rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This past weekend I got my chance. For those of you who aren't familiar with the geography of the area, you are probably asking yourselves, 'what the heck is Herzegovina?' The state which we in the west commonly call Bosnia is properly referred to as Bosnia and Herzegovina (BH) The individual terms Bosnia, and Herzegovina denote geographic regions rather than political or ethnic divides. That may sound obvious, but here, in Europe's most complicated country, NOTHING is obvious.

Anyway, let's get back to the trip. As you might expect, we arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina amidst a hail of sniper fire...well, of course not, but we can't allow Hillary to be the only one making these claims.

I was immediately struck by the beauty of the lush green fields and rolling hills and had the sensation of having been transported to British Columbia's Fraser Valley. I could have sworn that I was somewhere just outside Abbotsford. 


Our drive in and out of BH took us through Herzegovina which ranges from hilly to mountainous. Though many farms are to be spotted throughout the region, very few large scale agricultural operations are anywhere to be found. For much of the country's
history, agriculture has been based on small, privately owned ventures

You'll have to excuse some of these photos of the countryside, as they were taken from the car while speeding past at 100km/h.

It's only about a 4 hour drive from Split to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina's capital, but by the time we arrived I was totally bagged. I hadn't slept much the night before and the grey weather wasn't doing anything to liven me up. We checked ourselves into the Art Hotel beside the Ferhadija Mosque in the old town. Our hotel room looked directly out on the Gazi Husrefbegov Bezistan, which is a covered market building that dates back to the 1540s. 

The market is probably the best spot in Sarajevo to pick up souvenirs, but there is a wide array of practical items including head and neck scarves, sunglasses and various household items. Amongst the fridge magnets, flags, and mugs that fill the shelves of every other tourist shop in Europe, I found myself struck by the presence of a disproportionate amount of Olympic Memorabilia. I remarked to Vedran that I thought Sarajevo might be the only city in the world to be hawking Olympic items more than 25 years after the fact. Vedran told me, half jokingly, that it's because nothing good has happened in Sarajevo since 1984. Unfortunately, that is not far from the truth.

More to follow...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hello Post-Facebook World

I have started Lord knows how many blogs in the past and never wound up getting more than a handful of entries posted before becoming discouraged or getting permanently sidetracked. As they say, however, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. So here we go.

I am optimistic about my chances of successfully maintaining this blog, mainly because I have committed myself to quitting Facebook on May 31. Without my morning, afternoon, evening and in between visits to the site, I suspect I will have more time to devote to writing and other long forgotten hobbies. But that said, even now, two weeks before I must say goodbye to my much loathed distraction, I find myself pining for my feed and all of the dull, meaningless and overwhelmingly transparent status updates of needy "friends" and colleagues. I think I am going to miss the illusion of somehow thinking that I'm involved in other peoples lives just because I follow them on Facebook. Perhaps what I am going to miss even more is the security provided my the inverse illusion. There is comfort in knowing that other people, some of whom I care for and many of whom I do not, are taking the same hollow interest in my life. Perhaps by maintaining this blog and committing more effort to actually letting people know the details of what's going on in my world, so many miles away from them, I will be able to replace that emotionless, empty comfort of Facebook with something more genuine and meaningful that will be capable of providing the satisfaction that Facebook has always lacked.

This all hinges, of course, on convincing family and friends (many of whom will now be questioning which of the above categories of being cared for that they fall into) to follow me on Blogger. That is the most important thing, hands down. The one thing with which I can credit Facebook is putting me in contact with many members of my extended family. I am elated to have started getting to know my many cousins with whom I have never had any sort of relationship and all of whom I have met no more than two or three times in my life. I am not a person who makes friends easily and I suffer from the same disinterest and barefaced apathy for socializing as both my parents, but I do still care for people. More than that, I still have the same need as everyone else to feel cared for by those whose friendships and family connections I treasure.

A couple of weeks ago, before I decided to get my own butt off Facebook, my Mom came to the conclusion that she was spending far too much time on the site as well. She took much more dramatic action than I and proceeded to cancel her internet connection. She decided that she wanted to go back to her old life of amusing herself in her own garden rather than on Farmville. I applauded her, but in the end, her decision to leave Facebook and the internet had no bearing on my own decision to do the same. My reasons for leaving Facebook are solely related to Facebook's blatant disregard for the privacy of its users. Having said that, however, when I discovered that my Mom was no longer going to be following my status updates and harassing me to post photos, a little part of me died inside; I felt a little less cared for. How ridiculous is that?

I survived before Facebook and I know I will continue to survive, and likely flourish, in a post-Facebook life. I will strive to continue caring for the budding relationships I have begun to cultivate with my cousins and other family members, and continue to protect, support and maintain all of my long standing friendships with those individuals for whom I care most deeply. I'm starting to feel pretty good about this whole quitting Facebook thing!!

For those of you who have taken the time to read, thank you. It would be great if you bookmark me and keep checking back. Vedran and I are going to Sarajevo this weekend. So hopefully when we come back I will have some interesting things to share and undoubtedly many photos too.