Back in the USSR (Day 11)

Sunday, July 6, 2008.

As per usual, Samantha and I wake up at 9:30, knowing that neither of us has packed or showered and also knowing that we have to be downstairs at 10:00 to get on the bus at 10:30.
As per usual, the bus company runs on Bosnian time and we don’t actually get on the road until about 11:30. Before leaving, I hug Anne and tell her I will see her in Germany next September.

The drive to Sarajevo is long and hot. We stop at a waterfall for lunch, where of course, we eat pizza. (For the record, I’ve eated more pizza in Bosnia than I did when I was in Italy.) The roads are bumpy and curving and the scenery is beautiful. But we’re tired and quiet and soon almost everyone is asleep.

Pulling back into Sarajevo is odd after our week in provincal Sanski Most. The newness of the buildings here is kitchy and almost self-conscious. “Well, the war’s over and a little money is coming in,” the buildings seem to say. “How should we spend it?”

Tiny comical statues guard hotel entrances. Buildings are painted ridiculous shades of orange or pink or blue. A bright yellow house stands, overshadowing a bombed out barn next door. Toyota advertisements hang on the bleachers at a run-down soccer pitch. It’s like Sarajevo is so happy to be rid of the seige that she has no idea what to do with herself.

By European standards, Sarajevo is a little backwards and provincal. Perhaps. A little ridiculous and incongruous, she is my kind of city. You have to admire her spirit: there seems to be an echoing “Wheeeee!” coming up the valley. Sarajevo is very much an excited child on the first day of summer vacation.

A woman leans out of her balcony and I wonder if she does it just to catch some air or if she does it because she remembers the time 15 years ago when leaning out the window would have made you a perfect target for the gunners in Snipers Alley?

Sam, Liz, and I get lucky at Hotel Hecco: we’re on the third floor (there’s no elevator) but we have air conditioning! The three of us, and York – who is an honorary girl – spend some time in total chill mode after the long drive south.

Around 8:00, the whole group walks to the Habenero Cafe, apparently the only restaurant in Bosnia that doesn’t serve chevapi or pizza. The menu is expensive and the service is pretty poor (one party of 25 downstairs + our 16 Americans upstairs = total chaos). All of us are tired and practically delerious with hunger and after waiting about two and a half hours after ordering, we finally get our food. Even though most of it is colder than Mexican food should be, we fall on it like wolves. This is the most flavor any of us have had in the past week.

With full bellies, we wonder up the steep hill back to Hotel Hecco. (According to Europe on a Shoestring, this is the hotel to splurge on in Sarajevo.) It’s chic and ultra-modern and sticks out as just a bit too classy next to the bullet-riddled buildings on either side. This will be home base for the next week. We’ll be doing site visits in Sarajevo until Thursday, when we leave for Srebrenica. This week will be a nice time to recooperate from Sanski Most and to prepare for Srebrenica – which I’m guessing will feel something like a battle axe to the conscience.


One Response to “Back in the USSR (Day 11)”

  1. 1 Mom


    It was good to get updated again. Even though it has only been a couple of days since you’ve blogged, it seems like forever since I’ve heard from you. I always look forward to reading about your adventures.

    It was great to hear your voice on Saturday night. I can tell in your tone that you are really getting alot out of trip and I am so happy that it has been worthwhile for you so far. I’m sure you will remain in contact with your new friends after you get home.

    Keep the blogs coming and stay safe!

    Love you and miss you,


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