topics: HISTORY, downtown Sarajevo, Barcelona-Srajevo A.D.L. Club, Franz Ferdinand, Gavrilo Princip, WWI, Sarajevo sights; jump to dispatch

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Rider Notes: April 16, 1998

Food of the Day: c(h)evapi

C(h)evapi is another Sarajevan specialty. It consists of diced lamb and onions stuffed into a special pita-like bread and served with a creamy yogurt sauce. Our Sarajevan expert, Renato, assured us that our first c(h)evapi - at a little restaurant that only served c(h)evapi - was Sarajevo's finest.

Person of the Day: Amir Telibec(h)irovic(z)click to view a photograph

We met Amir Telibec(h)irovic(z), or Lunjo, as he prefers to be called, at the Barcelona-Sarajevo A.L.D. Club (our Place of the Day). Lunjo was kind enough not only to help us help Edita (the Club manager) fix her Internet problems, but also to tell us a bit about Sarajevo and his own experiences. He generously helped us record some Bosnian words, and even took us on an evening walking tour of Sarajevo in the rain. Thanks Lunjo!

Lunjo is living proof that life - and people's interests - persevered despite the war. A rock 'n' roll aficionado and drummer for a punk band when the war started in 1992, he gave up playing when the band fell apart (one of his fellow band members was killed, two others left the city) but did not give up his love of music. All during the siege, despite the danger of shelling and the shortage of electricity for amplifiers, he attended and helped stage "underground" (sometimes literally) concerts throughout Sarajevo.

Now with the war over, Lunjo has had the opportunity to show the extent of his interests and abilities. His business card says it all. First it announces his affiliation with the local student radio station, but on the back he adds that he is a "translator (interpreter), journalist, tourist guide (and former punk rocker)." He explained that he is also promoting sales of an encyclopedia of Yugoslavian rock 'n' roll. We wish him the best of luck in these and all his other endeavors.

Place of the Day: Barcelona-Sarajevo A.L.D. Clubclick to view a photograph

The Barcelona-Sarajevo A.L.D. Club , like the DIA Sarajevo Euroclub, is a center for Bosnian youths - a place where they can take part in various activities, take language classes (in this case in Spanish or English), or just hang out.

As its name suggests, the Barcelona-Sarajevo A.L.D. Club gets its funding from the city government of Barcelona, Spain. Many European cities, like Barcelona, have joined a program (A.D.L. - we never quite learned what these letters stand for) by which they try to help in the rebuilding Sarajevo or other Bosnian cities by adopting sections of the city and/or providing social services to the community. The Barcelona-Sarajevo A.L.D. Club is just one part of this wider initiative. The support from Barcelona helps provide for the center and a series of cultural events - like concerts, sporting events, and theater - throughout Sarajevo. We would like to thank Edita, the manager of the club (shown in this dark picture explaining the club to Corinne click to view a photograph), for welcoming us and teaching us more about the projects.

Group Dispatch, April 16
picture of Padraic

Because we had not been able to set up any school meetings, and because we still had a lot of dispatches to catch up with, we again worked most of the morning. However, by early afternoon, the group felt the need to take some advantage of the last day in Sarajevo.

Ethan wandered out the door first, heading for some of the sites that he had visited two years before. Anthony and Padraic followed a little later, taking a meandering tour of the city. Corinne started later still and did the same. All rendezvoused at the Barcelona-Sarajevo A.L.D. Club (our Place of the Day) where we had an appointment to show Edita and her staff our project, and to try to help them solve the problems they were having with their Internet access.

On his rediscovery trip along the streets of Sarajevo, Ethan chose a path through the decimated downtown area that he had visited two years ago. Ethan had first come to Sarajevo during the summer of 1996, just a few months after the Dayton Accords were signed and peace became a tenuous reality. At the time of his visit, the city was understandably in a shambles. Now, in 1998, he was interested in seeing what two years without fighting had accomplished, how much had changed, and whether buildings had been repaired, streets repaved, mines cleared, etc. Well, he was a bit disappointed.

While the city is generally cleaner - there are fewer piles of fallen rubble or heaps of broken cinder and building blocks, grass is cut, etc. - and there are sure signs of municipal infrastructural recovery involving the things that are easy to take for granted - street lamps, public phones, regular buses, functioning mail boxes and hydrants, etc. - there is a great deal of work to be done.

Ethan's city trek began along the lovely Miljac(z)ka River. click to view a photograph Two years earlier the riverbed had been littered with refuse, the banks terribly overgrown and not completely de-mined, and the path somewhat treacherous. Some sections of the walkway running along the river's length had been right on the front line and utterly devastated. Near the Bristol Hotel, once a world class establishment, upturned cars, piled sandbags, and trenches had served as protective barriers for passing Sarajevans. In 1998, the path was peaceful and downright soothing. click to view a photograph The inclement weather had definitely chased away the lovers who often stroll along it, so it was almost completely abandoned and perhaps not at its best. But it was refreshingly calm.

Nevertheless, reminders abounded of just how close the thick of the battle had been to the city and how recent the clash had been. The Bristol is still the No Man's Land it became; some riverside schools and institutional buildings are still in ruins (although the broken and falling glass and cement have been collected and carted away), and some residential buildings are as untouched as before. One in particular click to view a photograph, into which Ethan had been able to go two years ago (but which was today blocked off), still had the two holes punched into a horribly pock-marked bullet-scored wall through which Bosnian gunners had placed their weapons. click to view a photograph The location had once been an apartment, but the walls were covered with war graffiti and piled high with protective sandbags. The rooms were a total mess.

Other nearby buildings, both residential click to view a photograph and institutional also still showed the effects of war. The State Museum in 1996 had had no window glass... only the at-that-time ubiquitous plastic sheets from UNHCR that everyone was using to cover the open windows. Now there is glass in this building originally built in 1888 and considered to be the oldest cultural and scientific institution in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It survived the war fairly well despite more than 400 direct hits. Nevertheless, its collections were mostly moved elsewhere and the building now serves as the temporary location of the Parliament.

Speaking of which, the two buildings of the Parliament and Government, right across the street from the museum and Ethan's next stop, still show the impact of war more than most other things in the area. click to view a photograph Two years ago, it had been truly difficult to walk across the plaza where on April 6, 1992 snipers had begun the attack on Sarajevo by sniping at peaceful demonstrators. The hundreds of incendiary shells that had pummeled both buildings and the complex had left gaping holes click to view a photograph and falling masonry. Exposed wires and shattered glass were just some of the hazards to passers-by who had to watch the sidewalk for obstacles, cracks and general unevenness. Now, the plaza has been cleared and all dangerous debris has been removed. The lower of the two buildings is slowly being repaired, but the tower is an imposing reminder of things passed. click to view a photograph

Right across the street from these two buildings stands the famous Holiday Inn Hotel. This hotel, the only one that remained open throughout the war, was the high ground from which the snipers shot at the peaceful demonstrators in 1992. It was not as critical a target during the war as other structures, especially since most visiting foreign journalists stayed here, but it was very badly damaged. Two years ago, its bright yellow color had been browned by neglect and the outer walls had suffered from shelling. Today, it is the brightest, shiniest and best-renovated building anywhere. click to view a photograph

Nearby, there is slow progress in the repair of the Unis Towers. The two tallest buildings in Sarajevo, there were easy targets and showed it. Today, the slow reclamation process is proceeding floor by floor as businesses move in and take the responsibility of refurbishing the space they fill. One tower is approaching completion and has the offices of UNHCR and the German Embassy among others. The other has a long way to go. click to view a photograph

Finally, Ethan turned toward the thick of the downtown area. He paused for a moment before the buildings of the municipality. click to view a photograph He was bewildered for a second by the flags waving out front until he learned from someone that Bosnia had just recently adopted a new flag (the blue and yellow one). Thus the three flags represent the symbol for the Muslim/Croat Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as the old and new flags of Bosnia. click to view a photograph

Ethan continued his walk back into the old city which everyone had visited on the first day with Renato. The lone BikeAbouter was particularly interested in getting a closer look at the old City Hall/National Library. One of the hardest hit targets in Sarajevo, it is commonly appreciated as one of the city's nicest buildings. Built in 1894, during Austro-Hungarian times (see below), it had a richly decorated exterior and main hall. On August 25, 1992, 100 years after it had been commissioned, more than 50 shells gutted it and set it on fire consuming the building and most of the 1 million books in the library. As with so much, despite the destruction, the structurally unsound rubble-littered building was used for concerts and art exhibitions. Today, a large crane and imposing scaffolding attest to the effort being made to return this symbolic structure to its former glory. click to view a photograph

Tired from his long walk, Ethan finally turned toward the Barcelona-Sarajevo A.D.L. Club where he would find the rest of the BikeAbouters.

Meanwhile, on their meander, Anthony and Padraic not only passed sites significant during the siege, but locations important long before. For Padraic, a historian, the most important of these was the bridge on which on June 28, 1914, a Serbian nationalist radical, Gavrilo Princip, shot and killed both Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. The Archduke - nephew of the Austrian Emperor, Franz Josef, and heir to the throne of the large and powerful Austro-Hungarian Empire - was making an official visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina, the newest province in the Empire. One of the great powers of Europe, Austria - Hungary at that time included all or part of present day Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania and Poland. In other words, most of Eastern Europe. The Austrians had formally added Bosnia to the empire just six years before, over the objections the neighboring Serbs, who claimed much of the area as part of Serbia. The assassin, Princip, one of the many ethnic Serbs living in Bosnia, belonged to the Black Hand, a Serbian nationalist organization that advocated bringing Bosnia-Herzegovina into Serbia by violent means.

Far more than a tragic episode in a sordid dispute between the Austrians and the Serbs, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand became one of the single most important events in the history of the 20th century world. It provides another example of a point we've made numerous times throughout our voyage: events in the Mediterranean region have had a crucial impact on Western and World history, and indeed, on our lives today. To understand better the significance of this event, and the global importance of the small provincial capital of Sarajevo, let's take another trip back into history.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the weakening of the Ottoman Empire and the emergence of nationalist movements among every ethnic group in the Balkans (for example, the Greeks - see Corinne's dispatch from Greece - and the Albanians - see Padraic's dispatch from Albania) resulted in a series of conflicts from which a number of new states were formed. By 1912, Greece, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Montenegro, and finally Albania had won independence from the Ottoman Turks.

But the situation was never as simple as Balkan nationalities winning their freedom from the Ottomans. The European powers - Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Italy - had designs on the region as well.

The Russians not only wanted to support their Slavic brethren (the Serbs, Croats, Montenegrins, Bulgarians, etc.), but also hoped to increase their power and influence in the area, and particularly to gain access to the Mediterranean. The Austrians, as rulers of an empire made up of numerous ethnic groups, naturally opposed nationalist movements. But more importantly, the Austrians disliked the idea of an increasingly powerful Russia at their doorstep. So they took action - annexing Bosnia-Herzegovina - to increase their own presence in the region. The British, worried that a Russian presence in the Balkans would threaten British trade with Far East, tried to buoy up the crumbling Ottoman Empire and dampen Slavic nationalism. Italy laid claim to certain Austrian territories - areas of Croatia and Slovenia - as part of a greater Italy.

Basically, all the powers saw the Balkans as yet another territory and sphere of influence to be divvied up. It was at a time when no one gave thought to the possession of the inhabitants of the area. (Ironically the powers that helped light the spark and fan the flames of ethnic nationalism in the 19th and early 20th centuries did very little to stop the nationalist civil war that their earlier actions had helped to create. Having spent much of the previous 150 years meddling, or trying to meddle, in Balkan affairs, in the 1990s the European powers (and the United States) professed themselves unwilling to make any steps toward decisive intervention.]

The open competition for territory (not only in the Balkans but also throughout the world) resulted in frequent quarrels between the European powers, and made some sort of conflicts increasingly likely. To protect themselves in case of war and to give themselves more leverage even if no war came, most of the powers negotiated treaties and alliances with one another. The Germans, Austrians and Italians signed a pact called the Triple Alliance, while the French and Russians signed a defensive alliance (later joined by Great Britain and called the Triple Entente). This alliance system came into play with deadly effect in the aftermath of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.

Shocked by the assassination of its next emperor, Austria-Hungary tried to make sure that such a thing could not happen again. To do this they decided to end the problem of Serbian nationalism once and for all. The Austrians accused (probably correctly) the Serb government of having had a hand in the assassination, and sent the Serbs an ultimatum (as well as a list of demands) that would have undermined the sovereignty of the Serbian state. The Serbs accepted some of the demands but refused the most extreme. They felt they could do this in part because they knew that Russia would support Serbia against an Austrian attack. At the same time, the Germans pledged to back their allies, the Austrians, in whatever decision they made. This meant that if Russia and Austria went to war, Germany would join on the side of the Austrians. Of course Russia and France had also signed an agreement with one another by which they consented to support each other in case either were attacked by Germany.

Thus, in August 1914 when Austrian mobilized its troops to invade Serbia, the Russians mobilized their army, which prompted the Germans to mobilize their troops. France followed. Great Britain then entered the war on the side of the Serbs, Russians and French after the Germans invaded neutral Belgium. Soon thereafter, the Turks allied themselves to the Germans and Austrians and joined the fighting. The First World War had begun.

The First World War, or the Great War, as it was called, was an unprecedented slaughter. Between 1914 and 1918, nine million people lost their lives and millions more were wounded. No inhabitant or country of Europe was unaffected. We have seen the devastation wreaked on Bosnia-Herzegovina by a "limited war." Well, the Great War was waged on another scale altogether. It changed society, culture, and politics fundamentally.

In 1917, the costs of waging war ended Tsarist government in Russia (which eventually allowed for the rise of a new state based on the principles of communism, which completely rejected existing political and social conventions). When the war ended in November 1918, of the victors, only the United States, a late entrant, which suffered relatively little, emerged from the war stronger than before. The war destroyed Britain's capacity to maintain its empire and crippled France economically as well as politically.

Meanwhile the harsh punishments meted out to the losers planted the seeds of further conflict. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles (at which peace was formally agreed to), a resentful Germany lost territory and had to pay reparations (war damages) which undermined its capacity for economic recovery. The Austrian Empire was dismantled, creating a host of new Eastern European countries. Among these was Yugoslavia, a union of South (or "jugo") Slavic people including Croatians, Slovenians, Bosnia-Herzegovinians, Montenegrins and (later) Serbians.

The world had changed utterly. And it all started with shots fired by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo in June 1914.

Which brings us back to Princip and Sarajevo. In passing the National Museum (now closed because it is temporarily housing the Bosnian parliament), we recalled Renato's comment on Franz Ferdinand's assassin. Princip had inadvertently sparked the First World War, the result of which was the establishment of an independent state for the southern Slavic peoples, Yugoslavia. Hence, the Yugoslav authorities regarded Princip as a hero and portrayed him as such in the museum. However, when the museum finally reopens, no doubt Princip, a Serbian nationalist who killed Franz Ferdinand and his wife in hopes of advancing the idea of a greater Serbia, will not enjoy such esteem. Indeed, it is conceivable that Princip will be portrayed as a prime illustration of reckless Serbian aggression.

This change is an excellent example of how history - or our recollection of what happened and how it happened - can change with circumstance. The events of 1914 have not altered, but the war of 1991-6 will change forever the way they are remembered.

Having taken in so much history, Padraic and Anthony rejoined Ethan and Corinne at the Barcelona-Sarajevo A.D.L. Club. While Ethan and Corinne showed Lunjo (our Person of the Day) BikeAbout's Web site, Anthony and Padraic quickly solved the Club's Internet problems, and, at the same time, showed Edita BikeAbout online.

At 7 p.m., Ethan rushed off to meet a friend for dinner, but the rest of the group stayed at the Barcelona-Sarajevo A.D.L. Club to chat.

When it was time to start back toward the apartment, Lunjo accompanied them. On the way, they stopped to take a look at the statue of Tito that still stands outside of the former Yugoslav army barracks. As one of the two remaining statues of Marshall Tito in the whole of the former Yugoslavia, the statue is one of Sarajevo's real oddities. Throughout the other former Yugoslav republics, such statues were torn down when Communist rule came to an end. However, this statue remained, perhaps because no one cared (or cares) whether or not it remains. Or perhaps because some people, including the Yugo-nostalgics (see the Tech Fact of the Day), still admire the man who did the most to unite Yugoslavia after World War II and to hold it together into the 1980s.

By the time we made reached the apartment we were footsore and drenched to the skin. Fortunately, Anthony came to the rescue with his finely prepared rice-goo and poached eggs. Warmed by its gooey goodness, we dried out and turned in, eager to get an early start towards Mostar the next day.

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