Reconciling my time in Bosnia & Herzegovina (part I)

06.03.2016

Our first day in Bosnia… wow this day was hard. Our first stop coming via bus straight from Belgrade, Serbia was an Eastern Bosnian town called Srebrenica. Here, a horrible genocide took place killing thousands of Bosnian Muslims. The genocide here was atrocious and still makes me sick to my stomach to think about. I am happy I got to learn about it though, in hopes of being a part of change and acceptance in this world.

On this day, we went to the Srebrenica memorial cemetery where we truly saw just how many men and boys were unnecessarily murdered during this short period of time. Following, we toured another important memorial site: the Dutch UN base. This is where hundreds of Bosnian Muslims tried to find refuge from the Serbians. Eventually, the occupants of the Dutch UN made them leave the safety of the base, which practically walked hundreds to their death-right into the Serbian’s arms. Today, a very raw and moving memorial/museum is inside the garage of the base that honors the ones that we lost. Although the Bosnians are so humble and try to make everything uplifting, the entire experience was very very heartbreaking. The worst thing for me to recognize was that this all occurred while I was alive and that many people my age (and younger) died mercilessly because of their race and religion.

This day really made me think about how I view the contemporary issues of today.

After the museum, we went into the main “town” portion of Srebrenica. The town is still tattered-strewn with dozens of bullet holes. It is devastating to see how bad of shape some parts of Bosnia is in even all these years later (approx 10 years since the war). But the people we met there were so incredibly nice and are rebuilding their lives piece by piece as they try to come to terms with their losses.

Families come back to repair their houses in these war torn towns, but do not move back because their lives there are gone forever.

Moral of my experience… learn as much as you can so you can change the world. Listen. Take action. Reflect. Mourn. and then rebuild.

08.03.2016

A day that was completely opposite in feel….filled with Turkish delights (addicted) and the traditional Bosnian dish called Burek. Unfortunately because of my food poisoning on the way to Croatia I don’t think I could ever stomach eating Burek again, but at the time it was fun to try the traditional dish!

After enjoying downtown Sarajevo, we adventured to the site where the 1984 Winter Olympic Games were. Something cool about Sarajevo is that it is literally a canyon. There is the river and then two steep hills surrounding it and it is absolutely gorgeous. This day, we experienced the great mountains around the heart of the city. We walked the entire Bobsled track that is now covered in graffiti and is left unused. It was very cool to be there as I have never seen anything Olympic related in my life but it was sad to see how such joy was held in Bosnia only a few years before the war began.


Sarajevo


After our adventure in the mountains some dedicated tourists and I enjoyed a walking tour with Armenia whom was a very sweet Bosnian woman. She survived the war by spending time in France with her family. But afterward she did humanitarian work for Catholic services (as a Muslim). She told us about all her favorite places to get sweets in the old town of Sarajevo and we had a lovely time hearing her stories.

She also told us about some of the sad parts of modern life in Sarajevo. The youth are being influenced by the stresses of their parents, who can’t find jobs in a hard economy, so they pick-pocket and are violent toward each other. We were walking down the street and saw one young teen boy roundhouse kick another in the face. A fight broke out and then disbanded. It was really crazy.

After this, my friends and I did A LOT of shopping. I bought 5 scarves, a couple pounds of turkish delights, and other ~necessities~.

That night, we all went out to dinner at Dzenita. It was very much meat based, so I didn’t eat too much. But the conversation with friends new & old was for the books.

After dinner, the SLAs and the group went to a traditional Bosnian Hookah bar. I am not a smoker, but I think that doing something like this is part of the cultural masterpiece. The Hookah was a little disappointing and not too notable. We tried the flavors apple mint, peach, and cherry.

The cool part was that we learned to blow rings but we all felt like death afterward.

9.03.2016

Woke up, got ready and ate some more Pita and then grabbed some Bosnian coffee-which is THE BEST. It is different because you get rich black coffee (with grounds) and then you add your favorite form of sugar and drink it black. It’s phenomenal and so flavorful. My favorite part of this particular shop is that it comes with a side of rose flavored turkish delight, which I genuinely cannot get enough of.

 

After coffee, we left early at 8:30am for our greater tour of Bosnia!!!

We enjoyed snapchats new face swap feature to entertain ourselves before our car narcolepsy set in and we all passed out.

This was a BIG day & it was spectacular. I saw so many cool places I could only dream of.

WHICH you can read about in my next post….

Baci Baci e Grazie Mille!

C

 

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Cheers to Sarajevo!
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Me overlooking the city
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Remembering my time in Belgrade, Serbia

This post has taken me forever to write and I kind of regret it. But, here I go-just a tad late!

Upon beginning my study abroad in Rome, I had no intuition that I would ever go to Serbia. But, the JFRC is really cool because the SLAs (student life assistants) each plan a “study trip” for the students to choose from and sign up for. The sign up process was chaotic and stressful but that’s beside the point (good luck future JFRC-ers)!

As my friends and I sat and listened to the presentations on all the trips, I was overwhelmed by the desire to do The Balkans trip.

And that is how it started…

Belgrade: outspoken, adventurous, proud and audacious. It is by no means a ‘pretty’ capital, but it’s gritty exuberance makes it one of the most happening cities in Europe. While it hurtles toward a brighter future, its chaotic past unfolds behind your eyes. Socialist blocks are squeezed between art nouveau masterpieces…”
–credit to Fran and Ryan’s itinerary for this accurate description.

On Friday March 4th, myself and 19 others flew to Belgrade, Serbia to begin our trip. We were all absolutely buzzing with excitement! This truly was about to be the trip of a lifetime.

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Friends and I in front of the Republic Square in Belgrade, Serbia.

Our trip was awesome because of our amazing tour guide, Jelena (you can find her tour guide Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/Jelenas-Tours-262963950506457/?fref=ts).

As for accommodations, we had an awesome Hostel all to ourselves! The hostel is called Hostelche for any future Serbian travellers-I definitely recommend! The location is perfect & the staff are so friendly. Plus, there is free breakfast that they prepare for you!

March 4

On day one, the group and I explored the Nikola Tesla Museum (which is not related to Tesla the car). The museum is inside a brownstone type house that was donated by the family of Tesla. It is a quaint yet informative museum. The main feature being the electricity display. I found this extremely scary as I am deathly afraid of electrical shock and lightening. Nonetheless, I tried my best to enjoy it.

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This sphere holds Nikola Tesla’s ashes-a very unique urn.

We ended the busy day with coffee (a must do in any part of The Balkans) & dinner at The Three Hats restaurant in the Bohemian part of town. This restaurant was ridiculous-I don’t think we had enough food… (jokes). It was a very interesting experience as the place was absolutely packed with people. Live music blaring in the bathroom and a mysterious group of mobster men gambling behind a curtain in the back???

Note: smoking is permitted indoors in most of Eastern Europe.

The traditional food is served in this sequence: bread (literally the best bread i’ve ever had), salad (consisting of tomatoes, cucumber, and feta cheese-similar to a greek salad), a cheese and freshly sliced meat plate, and a huge platter of various cooked meats and potatoes (ranging from fries to baked).

OH and my favorite dish was some sort of bean dip. I do not know what it is or what it is called but it’s DAMN good. Put this on the bread and you’re golden.

Belgrade is known for its nightlife, so of course Jelena took us to a popping Jazz club. I had my first gin and tonic, which I didn’t expect to like as much! Aaron and I danced the night away and tried to look classy. I think we succeeded, but boy dancing is hard!

The traditional drink in Serbia is “Rakiya”which is a quince flavored brandy. This stuff is dangerous, but you must try it when in Serbia! A lot of times they make it fresh and homemade, which is always cool. Suggesting serving method for full enjoyment is chilled at 17 degrees C as an aperitif (before meal). Also, do not take shots of this-you are supposed to sip it (which I find somewhat impossible as it is very very strong).

March 5 and 6

Saturday and Sunday AM kicked off with an extremely informative walking tour provided by the amazing Jelena. A lot of our trip was focused on talking about the Serbian/Bosnian war of the late 1990s. We got to see the great and the not so great parts of this brutal history. A notable part of our tour was a visit to the Tito Museum. It talks all about the great work that Tito did to bring the diverse populations together into Yugoslavia. Whether you agree with him or not, the museum was very informative. His grave is also there inside the “house of flowers.”

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The house of Flowers where Tito’s grave is held. He is remembered fondly by members of Yugoslavia as a brave man who unified the diverse population of the Balkans area.

As a quick note:
“The Bosnian War was an international armed conflict that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995. Following a number of violent incidents in early 1992, the war is commonly viewed as having started on 6 April 1992. The war ended on 14 December 1995. The main belligerents were the forces of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and those of the self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat entities within Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic Srpska and Herzeg-Bosnia, who were led and supplied by Serbia and Croatia.” –Wikipedia

The war was part of the breakup of Yugoslavia following the death of Tito.

This war was extremely complicated and all parts of the former Yugoslavia are still recovering from it. I encourage you, if you’re interested, to go read more about it. It is a war that, I feel as an American, was completely swept under the rug. Getting to see the implications of a war like this first hand (for the first time) was incredibly eye opening for me. My opinions and values were challenged immensely. My definition of and pride to be an American was especially challenged. But I know that myself and my fellow classmates needed this. I am forever grateful to JFRC for this experience.


We ended Saturday night with dinner at Little Bay restaurant. This place was sweet! It is in the style of an old Opera house. We were musically entertained by an awesome (and really hot) pianist and an extremely talented female Opera singer. They noticed we were American and even started serenading us with Disney songs. We all were singing along. It was a very nice bonding experience that I’ll always remember.

As for Sunday night, we wined and dined at the “???” cafe (right next door to our Hostel). This place is a very famous Serbian restaurant.

This night was unforgettable. Besides the food, my favorite part was when we all stood up and went around each giving an individualized toast. The talks were all different, but in summary we each talked of how important it is to keep seeking knowledge and to keep pushing yourself to learn more and more about the hard and “embarrassing” parts of life. We each gave testaments and praises to the wonderful SLAs and Jelena for giving us this opportunity of a life time and we each expressed out gratitude for the amazing group that came along on the trip.

It was a great night and a  great testament to our Balkans Journey because we all got to come together and acknowledge the highlights of our trip (so far). I will always remember how well spoken and passionate Jelena was and how full of heart my fellow classmates were as they raised their glass.

Sights of Serbia

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Thank you for reading & being patient as I try to keep my content interesting and relevant!

Days in Dubrovnik

The picture below speaks enough for the beauty of Dubrovnik. As soon as my friends and I heard that we had a couple free days after our Spring Break trip through The Balkans, we knew that the Dalmatian coast had to be our last stop. Here is a diary entry like post to document my day and a half in Dubrovnik. 

March 10-12, 2016

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We ended our days travelling with The Balkans spring break group by hopping off one bus to another. Rachel, Aaron, and I ended up having to take an overnight bus to Dubrovnik from Zagreb in order to get to our Airbnb reservation in time. The whole thing would have been fine if it wasn’t so miserable. “Why was it miserable?” you might ask. Well the entire 10 hour overnight bus ride I was on and off vomiting. What ended up happening was on the bus ride before (with all the Spring Breakers) one by one we each started throwing up and getting sick. We don’t know what it’s from, as some of us were somehow untouched by the bought of sickness (including Rachel and Aaron), but all I know is that I got the brunt of it. Being stuck on a bathroomless 10 hour Croatian bus, while profusely vomiting is not my ideal day. Nonetheless, I didn’t break because I knew that at the end of it, I would be in my dream travel destination: Dubrovnik.

Continuing on, the sights outside of the bus (from Split south) were absolutely gorgeous. The Balkans was definitely one of the most scenically beautiful places I have ever been to (and do note that I am from Oregon). We winded through dozens of ancient towns situated on gorgeous blue lakes. They were all engulfed by endless rolling mountains. It was an absolute dream.

Finally after the longest and worst night of my life we had arrived. We stayed in an amazing Airbnb owned by a kind Croatian woman named Marina. It was a gorgeous hillside family home with amazing views of the Island, Lokrum & the Adriatic sea. How the house worked was that the bottom floor was the family home, the next floor was the parent-in-law’s home, and finally the top floor was the guest house. They had a huge piece of property with no neighbors in sight. They also had two cute cats and a sweet dog. Yes, we loved the place. Upon arrival, Marina’s mother-in-law offered us fresh juice and rolls. Of course at this point I couldn’t eat anything and all I needed was a nap!

Anyways, I rallied and put myself together so I could enjoy our only full day in Dubrovnik. We walked the entire town up and down. It was very special because the Old Town is essentially just like walking in a Game of Thrones episode and I am a huge fan! Another cool part about our trip was the fact that they were filming Star Wars episode 8 while we were there! We even got to hear Rian Johnson directing! They had the buildings in the Old Town all made over to look like Star Wars. It was pretty dang cool to see.

We were really sad to find out that the Island of Lokrum was actually closed at this point of the year because we had all really wanted to go and do the hiking there. Even though we were bummed, we ended up settling for the Panoramic boat tour instead.We got to see the Old Town by boat and go all the way around the island. It was very relaxing and it somewhat made up for the fact that we couldn’t go to Lokrum. After that, we did some souvenir shopping and some more exploring.

Later, we freshened up and enjoyed a very nice and relaxing dinner at Dubravka restaurant on the far North side entrance of the Old Town. We loved the aesthetic of this place-situated right on the sea, and the prices were fair. We were recommended to go hereby both Marina (the Airbnb owner) and a local college student who we had a conversation with randomly on the street! While there, I settled for the vegetable risotto & it was delicious. Another cool fact about the restaurant, besides the awesome view, is that the establishment was founded in 1836! I truly and sincerely recommend this place if you’re dining in Dubrovnik.

After, we were all exhausted so we walked back to the apartment and subsequently passed out and slept the whole night through.

The next morning, we cleaned up and ate breakfast at the same restaurant. It is situated on an overlook of the Old Town and the sea, so at night and in the day it is absolutely gorgeous. We sat in a table in the sun. Before we ate, however, we walked down to the main beach and took some pictures and laid in the warm sun-something we hadn’t seen in a while! It was the perfect morning.

After breakfast we walked around the town again. This time we walked up the hillside (which was quite a hike) through the neighborhood part of the town. We enjoyed seeing some locals working in their gardens and picking the fresh fruit from their orange and lemon trees. Everyone in town was loving the sun. From up there, we had some amazing views of the Old Town from above. Along the way, we also did a little more souvenir shopping.

After a peaceful and happy day, it was off to the airport and onto our plane to Munich where we had a 12 hour layover. That was another adventure in itself.


Thanks for reading! You can see more of my photos from Dubrovnik by checking out my instagram that is linked above in the main header.

Ciao Ciao!!!

*please note that my Spring Break posts will be posted out of order. This post about Dubrovnik was easier to write, but I have a lot more to say for my time in Serbia and Bosnia and haven’t necessarily had the right moment to write it. In case you were wondering, my Spring Break was Serbia to Bosnia and Herzegovina to Croatia to Munich. So yes, more Spring Break posts are coming soon!!!