Dec 1, 2014: Sarajevo's Roses

We’ve been back in Sarajevo, Bosnia, for a week. Not that I haven’t been enjoying travel, but it was nice to be somewhere familiar for once. Errands take less time, because we know where the things we need are, and it’s been less stressful than our first week anywhere usually is. We even managed to snag the same swanky apartment as last time. It practically feels like home.

I can’t say I’m enjoying the experience of winter, though. It’s been wet and cold, much like typical winter back home, in Victoria. Our plan had been to skip winter this year. But we realized, after my eye surgery, that we’d need to be back in Sarajevo during the less clement months for a follow-up eye appointment. Our plans for perpetual summer were foiled. We’ll live. We’ve already acquired new winter coats and I’ve found a way to wrap my scarf so as to protect my ear piercings. (Turns out metal is good at conducting heat, whether or not it’s pierced through your skin).

Sarajevo is a bit different in the winter. The crowds of tourists are gone. Cafe’s have minimized their patio seating to what can fit under their awnings and there are fewer strays about. It’s quieter, but still pleasant. Though I’m still thrown for a loop when we get directions that involve going through a place called “sniper alley,” a stretch of road going through the center of town where snipers were known for setting up during the siege of Sarajevo (1992-96).

Bullet holes still riddle many of the buildings, and shell holes from the conflict have been filled with red cement. They’re called “Sarajevo roses.” Some even have plaques nearby listing the people who died in that particular blast. It’s strange to see life carry on as usual with this violent backdrop. The conflict may be over, but it’s presence is always felt.

Maybe that’s why people smoke so much and drive a bit recklessly here. Their scale for measuring peril is a bit different. Lung cancer or car accidents aren’t nearly as scary as being shot at while you’re trying to find food or water. I have yet to find a place where smoking isn’t permitted. And the only way I can get through a cab ride is to stare out the side window and cling to my seat belt, silently willing other drivers away from our vehicle.

Despite all this, it’s nice to be someplace familiar.