With the whole group together we toured Sarajevo and the surrounding area. It became very clear that our tour would be largely about the siege of 1250 days, 1991 to 1994. As we drove in to the city on the main road the damage to many buildings was still apparent. Indeed several buildings appear to have been totally bombed out and no restoration had begun 20 years later. Another theme was Sarajevo Film Festival which was to start on our last night in town. Yet another theme that Carol and I had was the Jewish Community of Sarajevo, before WWII and since the siege.
Taking the last first, Vlaho, our tour leader arranged a special tour for the two of us of the local Jewish sites. The community which was over 14,000 before the war is now les than 1,000. Of the 9 synagogues four remain and only one is an active synagogue. It is the Ashkanazi Synagogue and the community that prays there is Sephardi. Parse that for yourself. The old synagogue is now a Jewish museum and the “new synagogue” next door is an abandoned building. We got into another synagogue on the main street, it is now the ministry of culture building and the communists gutted it and removed all the decorations. We bought film festival T shirts there. Our guide was Jewish by birth having a Jewish mother and a Moslem father. We learned that this is quite ordinary. The mixing within Sarajevo belies the partisanship that almost destroyed the city.
It is hard to understand how Bosnia-Herzegovina will ever become a functional country. Their Constitution was imposed by the Dayton Accords and remains so all these years later. The leadership changes every year rotating among the Serbs, the Bosnian, and the Moslems. They are less able to agree on anything then our own Congress. In the midst the Srbska Republic (that is NOT a typo) is calling for a referendum to form their own country. All of this in a country with a total population of 4 million. It seems the people get along just fine, but their leadership are all hungry for individual power. In the midst of this unemployment was reported to be as high as 45%.
The film festival resulted in a sleepless night as one of the party venues was in the courtyard beneath our windows. The fireworks assured that anyone who had fallen asleep through the music would be awake again. The bus ride in the morning toward a farm stay back in Croatia was very quiet. The regional map would show why we went through Bosnia-Herzegovina to get from Croatia to Croatia. Croatia is like a quarter moon surrounding BiH for more than 180 degrees.
On our way out of Sarajevo we stopped by the Olympic Stadium and actually walked out on to the field.
One of our stops was at a stable that has been breeding and training Lippizaner horses since the 1800s.