Thu Oct 11, 2001 | day 31
Well this week is my half-way mark, as my Mom just pointed out to me. It seems like I have been traveling for YEARS. So many memories, so many people, so many cities...
I am writing to you all from someplace WARM!!! Isn`t that great??? It is WARM HERE!!! Ok... I am overreacting a little bit maybe. It is just so great to wear swim trunks, t-shirts and sandals at 8p at night. So long, cold and rainy Northern Europe!
If you REALLY want to know "Where In The World is Kolby", then I will give you a few hints:
- hint#1 - I was in the capitol of this country already.
- hint#2 - Right now, my feet have sand from the Adriatic Sea on them.
- hint#3 - If I went 40 miles south, I would be in Montenegro.
- hint#4 - If I went 20 miles north, I would be in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
I spent three days in Sarajevo. More time in one city since Munster, Germany and Paris, France. It is such a mysterious and special city. For me, it is hard to get past all of the damage. The tourist info center told me all of the stuff I could go to... if they were open. The agent from the center used the term "it´s not working," as in "the museum isn`t working right now." War certainly did shatter this city. The National Library is condemned and might need to be bulldozed to the ground. Because of this, and the fact that it is such a beautiful building, I spent a lot of time standing across the river from it and just looking at it. It was here in 1914 where Prince Ferninand left in his horse and carriage only to be assassinated a few hundred yards down the river - igniting World War I. I call the bridge where it happened the "grassy knoll" of Europe. But amid all of the devistation, people here continue on living. Not only that, but they are extremely friendly.
Now being over here in Europe and not in the U.S. during this war, I have a very special perspective on current events. Although the whole attack is still emotional to me, the war is one of those things that is happening somewhere else. EXACTLY like the war here in Bosnia was somewhere else when they showed highlights of it on CNN in the States back in the mid-90s.
So it might come to a shock to you (from your point of view) to hear that I spent the last three days in an area of Sarajevo that is 95% Muslim. I have to say that the people of Sarajevo (Muslim, Croats & Serbs) are some of the nicest people I have met!
Like I mentioned in my last email, the Muslim owner of the hostel invited me to stay in his guest bedroom when all of the downtown rooms were filled. I stopped at a market and asked for directions last night and ended up getting a ride to my destination from a guy named Mohammed. My journal pen ran out when I was in the hostel, so without asking, the manager ran across the street and bought me a new black pen!
At night, the city echoes with the prayer chants of the Muslims. It is unlike anything I have ever heard. It is beautiful and magical. When I walked to the tram stop at 5:30a this morning, the chants revirberated throughout the streets. That, plus the many bats of Sarajevo and the bullet-riddled buildings, will leave a memory etched in my brain for the rest of my life...
I arrived here by bus from Sarajevo at 2p today. (There aren´t any trains in this part of Europe). Coming through Western Bosnia was amazing. There is still a lot of damage here as there is in any other part of the country. The incredible mountainous landscapes are beautiful, yet still forbidden fruit to hikers. In Sarajevo, I picked up a map of the landmine sites throughout the country. On the map, mine fields are marked with a red dot. Some areas are so dense with mines that all you can see is red. There are 1,600 landmine fields (not just landmines) in the hills surrounding Sarajevo alone. And to make things worse, the Mine Action Centre (www.bhmac.org) only knows the whereabouts of 50-60% of all mine fields.
But I am glad to be out of Bosnia and its many risks. The city I am in now is paradise on earth. The old city walls, built 600 years ago, survived the battles that raged in this area as late as 1991. It was as if the militants knew the significance of this city and left it almost untouched.
Tomorrow I think I will spend another day here - walking the old city alleys, swimming in the warm waters, and thinking of all of you at home. I will pour a cup of ice tea for you. Think positive and pretend you are here with me. That will make me feel less homesick at the same time.
Miss you all,