Monday, February 28, 2011

Apartment block loris located on the frontlines in Sarajevo dividing the city

This is the apartment block loris located in Sarajevo. It was  on the frontlines directly across the street from the Serbian held stadium Grbavica. Grbavica stadium was captured along with the suburb of Grbavica and was the HQ for Serbian special forces. It was the staging area for major attacks on the city of Sarajevo and Loris was their thorn in the side.
Serbian special forces placed explosives at the base of the balconies facing the stadium one night in a daring raid and collapsed them. They were hoping in would stop the relentless sniping into the stadium and surrounding areas. It was only a partial success but left the building in shambles. The building was shelled and shot at incessantly. They fixed the front side facing the stadium but only partially the sides after the war.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sarajevo Zoo most memorable from the war was the suffering of the animals

Sarajevo Zoo is most memorable from the war was the suffering of the animals. The image of the Bear in the Zoo starving to death slowly, day by day was and remains the most memorable part about the Sarajevo zoo. It is mostly non discript and has never recovered from the war. The Zoo was on the frontlines and literally divided the Bosnians in the city and the Serbs besieging the city. The animals were left in a no mans land in the middle (contrary to the Serb media reports that the Bosnians were feeding Serbian children to the lions). The animals either starved to death, were killed by the fighting or in some cases put out of their suffering.

The Zoo is not a place I would recommend taking anyone to see in Sarajevo. Even for children the Zoo animals are few and far between. On the upside, kids really don't care, they just like to see the animals and like everything else in Bosnia, it is affordable. There are some rides and concessions as well, which offer some distraction. A children's playground holds my favorite attraction at the Zoo. A simple four sided sign on a post that says "May peace prevail on Earth" in four different languages, the fact that it is located in the playground is just a reminder that children are our future and our hope. I liked it so much I framed a picture of me with it and gave it to my wife and it sits in our living room. I share this same hope with all the people of Bosnia.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Srebrenica Bosnia it's hard to ignore the sadness that hangs in the air

If your planning a trip to eastern Bosnia to see the memorial center potocari were the victims of the Srebrenica genocide are buried (those that have been identified) then you will probably make the short journey to the town of Srebrenica. There is not much to see in Srebrenica and the whole area is sad and depressing.
Srebrenica was the scene of the worst suffering in the war in Bosnia. In 1992 the Serbs ethnically cleansed the town and pushed its inhabitants into the surrounding villages and mountains. The Bosnians led by charismatic leader Naser Oric (one time bodyguard of Serbian despot Slobodan Milosevic architect of the collapse of Yugoslavia and the rise of Serbian nationalism and the wars that followed) the Bosnian forces retook the town in summer of 1992. The town was built for about 10,000 inhabitants, because of the Serbian pogrom of mass murder and ethnic cleansing the population in Srebrenica swelled to 60,000. People were starving to death, sleeping outside and generally put under immense physical and physcological pressure to leave the enclave.
A series of raids by hungry villagers and Oric on neighboring Serbian villages (well stocked with food and supplies) was used as the excuse to eventually overrun the enclave in 1995. The Serbian authorities had set up a program of mass execution not seen in Europe since WWII. No men or boys from the age of 14-70 were allowed to live. A column of men totalling about 8,000 attempted to breakout of the enclave and make it to free government territory, less than half survived the journey. Mass killings ensued and lasted for over 6 months as stragglers surviving in the Forrest were picked up and killed as well. The victims were dumped in mass graves, then dug up and reburied to make identification impossible, a situation never seen before in the history of man.
Srebrenica was a resort town known for it's natural springs and healing powers of it's mineral rich water. Today it is just the shell of a town, a sad and depressing little place. Serbs were settled here after the war and many still stay in refugee settlements inside the city, resentful of the situation they find themselves in. Very few jobs exist in the town and it is a difficult place to live.
The drive thru Eastern Bosnia and the villages that were destroyed and its inhabitants wiped out, add a  element of sadness and darkness to the whole trip...The fact that it is often foggy and eery in this part of Bosnia only adds to the general creepiness of the whole experience. If you make the journey it will be an experience you won't forget. The whole situation of what happened and what the town is like now really leaves one feeling with a deep sense of sadness, emptiness and shame.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pocitelj a little Bosnian gem in Hercigovina offers a stunning glimpse at the past

When you go to Pocitelj you feel like you stepped into a time machine and landed 500 years in the past. UNESCO and the EU put a lot of money into rebuilding this little gem that is located on the road from the Croatian coast to Mostar. It really is the entrance to a beautiful land that exists just beyond it, further inland. One of my favorite Bosnian rivers runs right by it, the emerald Neretva river.
Pocitelj has a bit of a ghost town feel to it, not surprising because the town was ethnically cleansed during the war and no one has moved back. There are a couple of little shops and a restaurant in the town but that is about it.
One disturbing aspect of it is the monument to the HVO and the Croatian flag that flies above it (shown in the background of the second picture) the monument states "This town was liberated in 1993 from 1000 years of Ottoman occupation" ironic and odd since Pocitelj wasn't defended at all during the war and it's villagers were ethnically cleansed. Also the Ottomans hadn't been in Bosnia for 1000 years either.

UNESCO website offers this take on the site...

The historic urban site of Počitelj is located on the left bank of the river Neretva, on the main Mostar to Metković road, to the south of Mostar, in the territory of Čapljina Municipality.
In the middle ages, Počitelj was the administrative centre and centre of governance of Dubrava župa (county), and its westernmost point, which gave it major strategic importance.  It is supposed that the fortified town and its attendant settlements were built by Bosnia's King Stjepan Tvrtko I in 1383.
The walled town of Počitelj evolved over the period from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Architecturally, the surviving stone-built parts of the town are a fortified complex, in which two stages of evolution may be observed: mediaeval, and Ottoman.
The first documented reference to the town dates from 1444, in Charters issued by Kings Alfonso V and Friedrich III. During the period 1463-1471 the town held a Hungarian garrison.  Following a brief siege in 1471, the town fell to the Ottomans, and was to remain within the Ottoman Empire until 1878. From 1782 to 1879 it was the centre of a kadiluk (area under the jurisdiction of a kadija or qadi - judge) and from 1713 to 1835 it was the headquarters of the Počitelj military district.
The significance and appearance of the town has altered during the course of its history.  Three periods seem to be significant for the development of Počitelj:
1.   The time of the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus when the town had significant strategic importance (1463-1471),
2.   The period of development of the settlement under the Ottoman Empire with the erection of typical public buildings: mosques, mekteb (Muslim primary school), imaret (charitable kitchen), medresa (Muslim high school), hamam, Turkish baths, han (inn) and sahat-kula (clock-tower) (1471-1698). During this period military conflicts occurred in more remote areas.
3.   The period of recovery of its strategic importance after the Venetians conquered and destroyed Gabela (1698-1878).
With the establishment of Austro-Hungarian rule in BiH in 1878, Počitelj lost its strategic importance and began to deteriorate rapidly. The loss of the town's strategic role helped to safeguard the original urban architectural ensemble, so that the town has been preserved in its original form to this day.
During the 1992-96 war in BiH the entire historic urban site of Počitelj and all its various buildings suffered extensive war damage.
In 1996, Počitelj was named by World Monuments Watch as one of the world's 100 most endangered cultural heritage sites, as proposed by the University of York, United Kingdom, and the University of Sarajevo, in the light of its outstanding value.
In 2000 the Government of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina started the Programme of the permanent protection of Počitelj that comprises of: protection of cultural heritage from further deterioration, rehabilitation of damaged and destroyed buildings, returns of the refugees and displaced persons to their homes and the sustainable and long-term protection and revitalization of the Historic urban area of Počitelj. The Programm is on-going and now it is in the stage of rehabilitation of housing complexes in the upper part of Počitelj.
FORT - The fort of Počitelj was built between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, with intervals when construction was suspended. The original medieval nucleus of the fort is the oldest walled section, where two stages of construction can be identified: the older, inner town or fortress (a donjon tower with a small ward or bailey) from the late fourteenth century, with later additions, alterations and reinforcements dating from the second half of the fifteenth century. To judge from the layout of the oldest parts of the fortress it may be assumed that there was a small settlement below the fortifications, dating from an earlier or the same period as the fortifications themselves. Somewhat prior to 1698, the fortress was considerably enlarged and fortified with a stronger system of defense. The town was walled so as to form an inner bailey from the square tower, two bastions (Mehmed-paša's and Delibaša's), Dizdar's house, a granary, the fort's mosque and a "water-tower" - a cistern with an entrance and steps leading to the water, two large gateways and two small ones. During the 1992-96 war in BiH the fortress suffered no serious damage. 
MOSQUE OF ŠIŠMAN IBRAHIM-PAŠA - or Hadži Alija's mosques is one of the finest achievements of the classical Ottoman style of single-room domed mosques in BiH. According to its chronogram, it was built in 970 AH (1562-63 AD) by Hadži Alija. The mosque occupies a prominent position in the urban fabric of the town and its natural surroundings. Other public buildings located by the mosque are the mektebs, the imaret, the medresa, the hamam, the han and the clock-tower. The mosque was blown up in 1993: the dome and minaret were demolished, and the rest of the building was badly damaged. As a part of Program of the permanent protection of Počitelj the mosque was rehabilitated and now it is returned to its original function.
MEDRESA (Muslim religious high school) OF ŠIŠMAN IBRAHIM-PAŠA - Evlija Čelebi's travel chronicle makes it clear that the medresa in Počitelj dates from before 1664. It belongs to the standard type of smaller religious school, with five classrooms and a lecture room ranged along the two sides of an inner courtyard. The classrooms are roofed with five small domes and the lecture room with one large one. During the 1992-96 war in BiH the medresa was damaged by shelling. As a part of Programme of the permanent protection of Počitelj the medresa was rehabilitated.
HAMAM (the baths) - It may be concluded from Evlija Čelebi's travel chronicle that the baths were built prior to 1664, and that they were built by craftsmen sent from Istanbul for the purpose.
The hamam is typical of smaller public baths. As a part of Programme of the permanent protection of Počitelj the hamam was rehabilitated.
HAN (inn) OF ŠIŠMAN IBRAHIM-PAŠA - was built around 1665. It was of the single-storey han type, built around a central area where horses were stabled. Little has survived of the original structure of the han: the remains of an arched gate of finely dressed cut stone with parts of the outside walls to the left and right of the entrance, parts of the outside wall opposite the entrance; some remains of the raised podium (for travelers to take rest); all of this recorded prior to 1960. The object was renovated in the 1970s to be used for catering purposes.
SAHAT-KULA - CLOCK-TOWER - Since Evlija Čelebi's travel chronicle makes no reference to the sahat-kula, it is assumed that it was erected at a date later than 1664. It is typical of clock-towers in Herzegovina, which arose under the influence of Mediterranean-Dalmatian architecture.  It is stone-built, with dressed quoins and ending in a stone pyramid. There are four pointed arches on the four sizes above the opening near the top of the tower. This type of sahat-kula is to be found in Počitelj, Mostar, and Stolac.
HOUSING - Stylistically, the residential architecture of Počitelj is a blend of Mediterranean and Oriental elements with certain local features. The influence of Mediterranean architecture is to be seen in the use of gable roofs, the pronounced stone wall structure, small, widely separated windows, and the arrangement of the rooms in fairly small, single-storey buildings. The influence of Oriental architecture is reflected in the use of hipped roofs, doksats or oriel windows, rows of close-set windows, the arrangement of rooms with a hajat (anteroom) on the ground floor and an open divanhan (sitting room) on the first floor, and the interconnected enclosed courtyard and interior living quarters. The basic building material was stone. Typical common features are round chimneys and roof cladding of irregularly shaped stone slabs. All the houses had privies in the courtyard and a hamamdžiluk (small bathroom) in the musandera (built-in carved wooden structure incorporating cupboards and occupying the entire wall of the main room). Wealthier households had a bathroom in every room. All the houses in the town were laid waste during the 1992-96 war in BiH. As a part of Programme of the permanent protection of Počitelj the mosque was rehabilitated and now it is returned to its original function.
THE GAVRANKAPETANOVIĆ HOUSE - is a group of buildings consisting of two smaller and one larger building (with the division into selamluk and haremluk) built during the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In size it is the largest and most highly evolved example of the residential architecture of Počitelj. A characteristic of the building is the use of arched windows on the west facade. By the mid twentieth century the buildings had been abandoned and were deteriorating badly, as a result of which, in order to preserve and renovate the building, a project to convert it to an artists' colony was launched in 1961 and completed in 1975. The central building was converted to accommodation for the artists. During the war the complex was set on fire and laid waste in 1993.  The most serious damage was to the haremluk, to the wooden post-and-pan construction and wooden cladding. As a part of Programme of the permanent protection of Počitelj the Gavrankapetanović housing complex was rehabilitated and now it is returned to the function of Artists' colony.

Satements of authenticity and/or integrity

The historic urban site of Počitelj forms a spatially and topographically self-contained ensemble.
Počitelj was built on a rocky cliff sloping steeply down to the bank of the river Neretva. It belongs to the group of medieval geomorphologic fortified towns of small size with a single tower. The rocky slope above the river determined the outline of the fortifications, forming as it does a solid foundation for the ramparts.
The site is structured into different zones serving different purposes. The čaršija or bazaar, with its rows of small Oriental shops, a large inn and the public baths is located alongside the Neretva. Close behind the inn is the medresa and the imaret or soup-kitchen. Above the medresa is the mosque, connected with the bazaar and school through one of its entrances/exits and with the residential area through the other. The residential area is laid out like an amphitheatre on the slopes. The entire group of buildings in Počitelj is surrounded by the ramparts. The minaret and the clock-tower form two bold vertical accents in the landscape. Gornje and Donje polje or Upper and Lower Field are the gardens of Počitelj.
Unlike other towns dating back to the same period, there are no burial grounds within the town walls, nor does the mosque have a graveyard - the dead were buried outside the ramparts. The graveyard known as the Great Harem is located on the hillside outside the ramparts. The oldest epitaph on a headstone dates from AH 1211 (1796 CE).
The differentiation of the areas of the site gave rise to a concomitant differentiation of roads. The framework consists of the road that runs downhill to the river, meets the ramparts at a tangent, skirts the mosque to the south and west, runs between the school and the Gavrankapetanović house, and continues through the lower gate down to Donje polje. A side road runs from the mosque to the school, the imaret and the hamam and then through a small gate into Gornje polje. All the major public buildings other than the mosque and the clock-tower stand within the triangle formed by the principal roads.

Comparison with other similar properties

Počitelj presents one of few urban ensembles in Bosnia and Herzegovina preserved in their integrity to the present time developed through the several phases of the history, beginning with the medieval period. Its important strategic role during the 13th to 17th century gave the power of its inhabitant to build up one of the most important, and best preserved ensembles within the city walls in this region.
Počitelj can be compared with some of the world heritage sites as: Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina), City of Safranbolu (Turkey), Museum-City of Gjirokastra (Albania), Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid region (the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), etc. The layout of Pocitelj, its architecture and use of materials put it into the group of Ottoman Mediterranean types of small settlements.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Olga Sucic and Suada Dilberovic first victims of the siege of Sarajevo

This is the memorial bridge for Olga Sucic and Suada Dilberovic who were the first people killed in the Siege of Sarajevo. They were killed by Serbian snipers after a peace protest march they were participating in was fired upon by Serbian snipers located nearby. Fascists still are threatened by peaceful protests and echos of the past resonate today with the current situation in the middle east. It is harder to oppose fascism and racism than it is to close your eyes and pretend it doesn't exist.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sarajevo roses Bosnia remembers the innocent victims of the Siege

Sarajevo roses are as important as a memorial in Sarajevo as the Berlin Wall is in Berlin. The Sarajevo roses as they are known are motar impacts that killed civillians in Sarajevo during the siege. They have filled them in with red clay to memorialize the innocent victims of the indiscriminate shelling of the people in Sarajevo who died during the war. You will notice these all over the city, it is a sad chapter in the legacy of Sarajevo.
The top photo is a Sarajevo rose, the other two pictures are of motar impacts that you can see all over Sarajevo. I notice less and less of the motar impacts though everytime I am in Sarajevo, which is a good thing. I think they should save the Sarajevo roses for ever though. It is ironic calling it a rose and a bit surreal, giving the black nature of Bosnian humor and the sad truth of what happened during the war it is a great way to remember those innocents who lost their lives. Just as Berlin authorities now regret tearing down so much of the wall, I believe Sarajevo authorities would regret if they ever lost these monuments to the innocent victims of the war.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Srvo's house Turkish Ottoman culture in Sarajevo a must see for travellers

Svrzo’s House is a great tourist attraction in downtown Sarajevo. It gives a glimpse into the life and culture of Sarajevo that predates the Austro-Hungarian period. The woodworking and craftsmanship that went into building the house is quite beautiful and unique. The wood ceiling in the hallways is amazing.
The individual rooms, including the bathroom with heated shower is a must see attraction from that period as well.
The design and spirit of the house is a fun way to explore the old town and to get an idea of Sarajevo life in the Ottoman period. The courtyard and exterior design is interesting as well and will help you to identify the old houses in downtown Sarajevo that date from this period of life. It is an inexpensive tour that will add a layer to the onion of life that is Sarajevo.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Downtown Sarajevo 2002 Bosnia City Hall landscapes

Anes, Edin and I downtown Sarajevo 2002. Thanks always friends for being such good travelling companions!
A great view of the city!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sarajevo trams always an adventure in Bosnia!

Sarajevo trams always an adventure in Bosnia! Depending on the day, time and just sheer luck a tram ride can be quite the adventure. Some of the trams predate the Bosnian war and look like they survived daily shelling and sniping attacks. Others were donated by the Japanese (and some others) after the war and are modern and quite nice. You can pretty much tell what your tram ride will be like before you step on it. They can be quite crowded and unsafe, this is the number one place for pickpockets in BiH.
Some of my Sarajevo friends tell me only women pay for the trams in Sarajevo, I would suggest to visitors to remember to pay the ticket costs though as they are negligable and much less that a ticket from the Policija. Even though they are not heavily policed, they are checked from time to time.
Generally though they are safe, I have never had a problem on a Sarajevo tram, I am always careful when travelling abroad and in crowds. It is always a good idea to be aware of your sorroundings no matter were you are.
The tram service in Sarajevo is generally good and covers a large portion of the city from the downtown heading out towards the airport (but doesn't run to the airport for some odd reason).
besides the taxis which are pretty cheap it is a favored form of transportation for me while in Sarajevo.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sarajevo maternity ward Shelled and destroyed in 1992

One of the worst sights in Bosnia was this one, the sight of the Sarajevo maternity ward shelled and destroyed in 1992 by the Serbian army. The maternity ward was one of the best facilities in Bosnia at the time of it's destruction. For anyone still wondering if the war was fair or civil this is all the proof you need. Anyone who attacks pregnant women and children in hospitals, there is something fundamentally wrong with them. The fact the hospital was attacked while full of pregnant women and newborn babies is beyond comprehension for people in the civilised world. Many women and newborn babies were killed when this happened, the hospital was located right on the front lines between government and rebel Serb held territory and saw some of the most vicious fighting during the war.
The maternity ward finally reopened last year after 18 years. Never forget, always remember mans inhumanity towards man and what can happen when you unleash the most uncivilised among us to do the horrible deeds that are done in wartime. Always remember the victims of the longest siege in modern history, the Siege of Sarajevo and all of her people.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lance Williams KK Bosna ASA Bosnia's Balkan Shaq will always be remembered

Lance Williams and Aldin Kadic while both played for KK BOSNA ASA (inside Skenderija shopping centar)
Lance Williams played his college basketball in my home state of Illinios, he was a part of Pat Kennedy's rebirth of Depaul basketball and was there when Quieten Richardson, Paul McPherson, Bobby Simmons, Lance Williams and Joe Tulley (who played HS basketball with Bosnian Star Damir Krupalija) all were starring.
Lance had some tryouts with NBA summer league teams but being a 6'8" post player without great athleticism meant the NBA was a long shot. Lance ended up coming to Bosnia and loving it.He played on the recent teams that made a mini comeback from the dreadful days of the recent past. His teams starred with Nenad Markovic, Kenan Bajramovic, Nihad Dedovic (NBA prospect) and Edin Bavcic (NBA draft pick) as well as some other local players. The team experienced a mini resurgence before the team was broken up and left in shambles.
 Lance starred for  KK BOSNA ASA for four years. KK BOSNA won the European championship in 1979 (the European highest honor and comparable to winning Euroleague). KK Bosna was on par with the great teams of Yugoslavian basketball like Partizan Belgrade, Red Star Belgrade, Cibona Zagreb and Union Olympia Ljubljana. KK Bosna (the KK stands for Kosarska Kluba or basketball club) has, like the rest of Bosnia fallen on hard times after the war. This once storied franchise has been poorly managed with little oversight  and supervision and has made the team almost worthless. It has been relegated from Adriatic league and ULEB league to just the Bosnian domestic league. Even more embarrassing is Bosna was trounced against a below average French outfit in qualifying for Euro Challenge this year, a team that couldn't even make it to the top 16 in the third best European league. KK BOSNA should qualify for Euroleague and be on par with other great teams of the former Yugoslavia, instead of being embarrassed, playing in the Bosnian domestic league against a bunch of semi professional teams.
Lance has since moved on to a successful career in Turkey and a much more stable team and league. Lance was committed to Bosnia and stayed around longer than anyone would or could have expected. KK Bosna has had a terrible track record of bringing in import players of low quality, especially when compared to those brought into teams in other Yugoslav republics like Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia who have gone onto NBA careers or Euroleague and top European league careers.
KK BOSNA hasn't  been able to figure out what kind of team it wants to be and seems to be suffering from a kind of identity crisis. They claim now to be building for the future but have refused to pay and sign top young prospects from Bosnia. They have turned over the team to a bunch of guys in there early to mid 20's hardly a youth movement when you look at what other teams do with there top prospects, start giving them minutes at the age of 17-18. Even in Bosnia, Sloboda Dita Tuzla has done a much better job of developing young talent than KK BOSNA. Mirza Teletovic was a star at the age of 17 in the Bosnian league and they were able to drive up the value of both Elemedin Kikanovic and Miralem Halilovic and demand high transfer fees for average talent.
What Bosna needs are people committed to the team the way that fans and former players are with a vision and responsibility of restoring Bosna to it's glorious past, instead of it's mediocre present. Lance Williams was one of the few bright spots in that recent history, thank you Lance you are the Bosnian Shaq for sure...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Angelina Jolie Brad Pitt tour Rogatica, Foca, Gorazde Eastern Bosnia

Last year Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie went and visited some small towns in Eastern Bosnia as part of Angelina's mission to the UNHCR. They went and visited Bosnians who are still in temporary settlements, even though the war ended over 15 years ago. They went to three small Eastern Bosnian towns not far from Sarajevo and central Bosnia Rogatica, Foca and Gorazde.
Rogatica isn't a very memorable place, except it was one of the cruelest places in Eastern Bosnia during the war (it was the scene of the some of the most horrific crimes during the Bosnian war were people were killed by giant saws at the local saw mill). Eastern Bosnia is undeveloped and mountainous with nice natural beauty. It has great lush forests and some nice rivers like the Drina and some smaller ones.
Gorazde has a huge settlement of Stecaks the ancient Bosnian graves of the indigenous people of Bosnia the Bogomils. The Bogomils practiced a mixture of Christianity and traditional folklore beliefs. The Bogomils were considered heretical by the Romans and were persecuted greatly for there openness and tolerance. The openness and acceptance in Bosnia and the persecution of such by others is a long tradition in Bosnia.
Gorazde has amazing beautiful mountains but you have to be careful, this area was cut off from the rest of Bosnian government territory during the war and is still heavily mined. The areas are well marked but there are still about 750,000 landmines left in Bosnia, down from a wartime total of about 3 million.
Foca was the scene of terrible crimes both in WWII and in the Bosnian war, the locals both Bosnian and those who supported multi ethnic Bosnia were persecuted and killed. The Vilna Vlas hotel is a must avoid, as this place was a rape camp in the Bosnian war. As hard as it is to imagine, the hotel is still in use and it's previous purpose, I am sure will be denied by it's current administration. That being said Foca is a beautiful town and is home to the most open and progressive mayor in Bosnia, Zdravko Krsmanovic. If there were more people with his courage and honesty in politics in BiH, it would be a much better place. Foca has an old monastery and some other sights around it to be seen.
There are better places to visit in BiH but this little route is an easy way to see rural life in Eastern Bosnia from Sarajevo.  When you travel to Republic Srpska (the Bosnian Serb entity in BiH) they make it obvious that it is no longer "Bosnian" but "Serbian" first. The rule of law is weaker in Eastern Bosnia so getting stopped by the police and paying a bribe is more likely to occur (even though this could happen anywhere in BiH) here than other places. Remember police in Bosnia make about $100 usd a week and many can barely read or write (from my own personal experience from getting into an accident in Sarajevo) so some find no issue in getting some coffee or pivo (beer) money. My most memorable experience in Eastern Bosnia (besides visiting Srebrenica and Poticari) was seeing signs in Serbian villages stating "why has God abandoned us" Eastern Bosnia is the poorest, least developed area of Bosnia and needs the connection to Sarajevo (it's regional and geographical center more so than Banja Luka. The current administration in RS is focused on developing Western RS in the Banja Luka region and ignores mostly, the plight of those in Eastern Bosnia.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Motel Maxi best little place to stay in Sarajevo

Motel Maxi is the best little place to stay in all of Sarajevo in my opinion. It has expanded to some additional units since this picture was taken and has some very nice large suites at very reasonable rates. When I first started coming to Bosnia after the war I met many international officials who stayed there who worked for the IMF, UN and NGO's. Universally it was agreed that they have the best combination of price and comfort. You can find more luxury in Sarajevo and you can find cheaper prices but you won't find both.
The Staff is outstanding owned by a father son combination they have had the same small staff for 15 years now. Everyone is great and it is a safe place to stay as well. You don't have to worry about a maid or someone taking your valuables or rifling through your things when you are out of your room. I have never had a problem or heard of a problem before from others.
The staff is very friendly and competent and will make special accommodations for you whenever it is possible. I am amazed it is always the same staff time and time again. It is always nice to see them when I return and I can remember a few times staying out late and not taking my keys with me and someone waited at the Motel to make sure I got back into my room without a problem. Also when getting in late at night to the hotel from the airport has never been a problem for me.
The hotel is centrally located about 1/2 way downtown from the Airport in New Sarajevo, Hrsano on Azize Sacirbegovic street. You have a great view of the Bosmil towers and there are two shopping malls located within almost no distance at all (the robot centar is about 100 yards away and has a good pizza place in it as well as a full service grocery store and hypermarket Target style).
There is a Taxi stand always staffed within about 100 yards as well, along with a main tram stop. It's located right on the Mljacka river as well and is a quite peaceful area and very safe. The walking promenade that takes you downtown along the river is located right outside the hotel too.
Grbavica is right across the river and has some nice little places and sweet shops to stop and enjoy. You can even walk down to the Mercator Centar and do a little shopping there as well.
I am always offered places to stay in Sarajevo for free when I am there. but I feel very comfortable and happy staying with my friends at this Motel...I wrote this without any compensation or agreement from the Motel, it is a honest opinion of a great place to call home while away from home.
They do include breakfast for free and offer quality meals for an additional charge. There are some good little places to eat located very close to the motel though.

I got this info off of their website...

Address: Azize Šaćirbegović 40
Tel: +387 33 71 36 40
Fax: +387 33 71 36 51
- The price does not include accommodation fee and insurance
- Breakfast: as required
- Credit cards: Master Card, Maestro Card, Visa, Visa Electron
- Accommodation: 32 beds/13 rooms
- Room facilities: Air conditioning, TV, SAT-TV, telephone, internet, mini bar
- Motel facilities: Safety deposit boxes, lift, laundry, room-service, restaurant, cocktail lounge, conference hall, garden, panoramic view of the city, parking lot, garage
Single room 1/185 KM
Double 1/2130 KM
Triple 1/3180 KM
Suite150 KM
Suite250 KM

Monday, February 14, 2011

Travnik, stunning little town in central Bosnia is a can't miss

Travnik is one of my favorite towns in central Bosnia along with Jajce. located between Zenica and Jajce it is a gem with great natural beauty. Travnik was the Ottoman capital of Bosnia and it's Ottoman castle (pictured) is still in great condition. The view of the city and surrounding mountains is stunning from inside it's walls. There is a pit inside the fortress which is a stunning reminder of how justice was disposed of in Europe a few hundred years ago.Down underneath the fortress is a running stream that comes out of a spring in the side of the mountain and is a can't miss treasure (pictured). The town itself is in good condition and has some interesting parks and a famous mosque known as the painted mosque.
Travnik suffered heavily during the war as it and surrounding towns faced ethnic division and fighting between both the the Serbs and the Croats as well as the Bosnians. The ethnic composition of the town and some of it's character has changed forever, I am afraid. I was heartened to see a tour bus from Serbia the last time I was in the town though, so some hopes remain.
Travnik is a great place for a half a day trip or just a stop off for some pictures and sightseeing. It's not on par with some other famous towns but is a great stop off if you are travelling from Sarajevo to Jajce. Central Bosnia is really stunning with it's rolling hills, mountains and pristine rivers.