In mid-March Randy and I joined some friends for a three day bus tour to Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. We left Tirana at 5:00am on a Friday and 18 hours later we arrived in Sarajevo. It was a very looooong trip needless to say. Before leaving Tirana we had checked Google Maps to see how long a trip it was and the estimated drive time was 8 hours. It took MUCH longer because we spent an average of 90 minutes to get through the borders of Montenegro and Bosnia. Also, the Albanian people are big coffee drinkers so every 2-3 hours we had a 30 minute coffee stop. Lastly, the bus ride was so long because many of the roads were very narrow and steep which meant the bus did not go faster that 30mph for much of the trip. 😦
Although the bus trip was super long we did enjoy getting to know the country of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The first thing we learned was that although the country is called Bosnia-Herzegovina, the people in the country think of the northern part of the country as Bosnia and the southern part as Herzegovina. In general the country is simply referred to as Bosnia.
On our way to Sarajevo we stopped in the small town of Mostar which suffered terribly during the Bosnian War. The gorgeous bridge pictured above was originally built in the 16th century but destroyed in that war. By 2004 the bridge was rebuilt with help from UNESCO. It is surrounded by charming shops and restaurants that we enjoyed strolling through.
The bus ride may have been long but we did stay at a very nice 5 star hotel for two nights which was a treat.
This red statue was outside of our hotel. It was made by a famous Chinese artist.
Dana and I went for a run and ended up at the entrance to the Tunnel of Life. The tunnel was constructed in 1993 during the Bosnian War as a link between Sarajevo (which was completely cut off from the rest of Bosnia) and an area of land held by the United Nations. The tunnel allowed food, war supplies and humanitarian aid to come into the city and allowed people a way to get out of the city.
We visited this gorgeous city park which was well taken care of, relaxing and enjoyable.
Dana found some mistletoe that had fallen from a tree. Dana’s mom was admiring it by holding it over her head. Being from the USA and holding to our tradition that when someone is standing under the mistletoe they need to be kissed, Randy swooped in and kissed Dana’s mother which took her by surprise. We all enjoyed a good laugh over the whole mistletoe experience. 🙂
This Ottoman-style “wood fountain” is at the entrance to the old bazaar and was built in the 1700’s. The old bazaar is the historical and cultural center of Sarajevo.
This is the Gaza Husrev-beg Mosque, the largest mosque in Bosnia.
To the right of the entrance, all the men line up, then kneel, then bow to the ground before entering through the main door which is pictured further up.
To the left of the main entrance are the women (often with children) who also stand, kneel and then bow. The big difference is that the women are not allowed to enter through the main entrance but must use a back door to get into the mosque.
We were fortunate to get to go into the mosque. Since I am a woman, I had to cover my hair, hence the scarf. I am holding Flat Stanley for one of the classrooms at Dudley School.
The inside of the mosque was beautiful. Do you see the lines on the red carpet? Those lines show where the men line up to pray. The woman are not allowed to pray in the main part of the mosque but must do so in room set off to the side. The picture on the right shows the ceiling, gorgeous!
Sacred Heart Cathedral, the largest Catholic church in Sarajevo.
Do you see how Christ is holding up three fingers in the statue above? The Bosnians believe that Jesus is doing this to show the unity of the Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions in Bosnia.
The Cathedral has this statue of Pope John Paul II in front of the church because he visited Sarajevo in 1997 after the Bosnian War ended. He urged peace in Bosnia many times during the war. Pope John Paul II is remembered as “a peacemaker and is respected by many Bosnians regardless of their faith”.
These red marks are made of a red resin and are called Sarajevo roses. We saw them throughout the city, primarily on sidewalks. They mark the places where Bosnians died on the streets during the Bosnian War.
Do you see the potmarks or holes on the sides of these buildings? These are left from the war that ended in the mid-90’s. During the Bosnian War an average of 330 shells a day were fired into the city of Sarajevo. On one day there were 3,777 shells fired into the city from the surrounding hills. War is a horrible, horrible, horrible thing.
I hope I am not getting too morbid with the loss of life and tragic results of the Bosnian War but I do want to share one more part of all this with you. These pictures are from a Muslim cemetery. As you can read on the markers, they are mostly for young people in their late teens or early 20’s who died during the war. As we walked around Sarajevo, the remnants of this conflict really impacted me. Sad, sad, sad!
Here is the Latin Bridge where Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated which started WWI.
This is how coffee is served in Bosnia. I have heard that it is very similar to how Turkey serves their coffee.
We figured out how to take the tram back to the hotel from the city center. Europe does such a great job with public transportation. The USA could learn something from them.
That evening at the hotel we had a buffet style dinner with our Albanian tour group. After dinner the Albanians danced to Albanian music. It was fun to watch how much they all seemed to love it!
On the day we drove back to Tirana we stopped at this beautiful waterfall park outside of Sarajevo. Also, here is a pic of our travel group from ACT. We enjoyed our time together!
Our last stop in Bosnia was Medjugorje. It is an unofficial place of Catholic pilgrimage since the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared there in 1981.
Look at the size of the area where church services are held. Wow!
The stations of the cross in an outside park-like setting.
The Risen Christ in Medjugorje. The legs near the knees constantly seep water. It is said to be miraculous and pilgrims go there just to touch the statue and wipe the water.
A picnic dinner on the ride back to Tirana.
After a very long bus ride back to Tirana, we arrived at 1:00AM. We needed to be at work 6 hours later at 7:30. 😮 Seeing Sarajevo and the surrounding sights was great however it will be a long time before Randy and I sign up for a bus tour that is as far away as Sarajevo.
I am bit behind on this blog. We were in Sarajevo last month and are currently in Greece for my 12 day spring break from school. Hopefully, I will update you soon on that trip.
Thanks for reading my blog!