Self Drive Sarajevo to Dubrovnik
When I was 12 years old, a family of Bosnian refugees became our neighbors. That same summer, I was working full time building an intense tree house and happened to cut my left index finger with a hand saw. A few weeks later my parents hosted a BBQ, where I was proudly showing our family and friends the scar, when a shy teenager approached us perplexing all of us as he pointed from body part to body part signaling with a show of hands the horrors he had gone through. An unshielded experience I will never forget.
Last week I traveled to Sarajevo to support a new warehouse under construction. History was inescapable as I strolled through Old Town during the evenings. Although independent during medieval times, Bosnia and Herzegovina has more recently endured a multitude of regimes at the epicenter of east-west struggles. Four centuries of Ottoman rule, four decades of Austro-Hungarian law, and 75 years under the Kingdom and Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina is notorious for its cultural heritage inherited from bygone civilizations.
What you can’t miss as you walk around town is the destruction resulting from a November 1990 national assembly, where communist power was replaced by a coalition of three ethnically based parties. Over a three year period approximately 100,000 Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats became casualties of the Bosnian War. Burnt out homes and buildings in disrepair are a constant reminder of the violence and carnage that took place only 20 years ago.
With my departure set for Sunday and the project getting rained out Saturday, I decided to spend the drizzly day renting a car and touring the area. I got up early and drove west to Mostar and the location of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Stari most and Old-Town. Along the way, I traveled along the Neretva River, managing a glimpse of the Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge in Višegrad, before getting drenched on my quick stroll through Mostar. Plotting my next move as I tried to dry out, I decided to head for the coast and make the most of the bad weather to see the Dalmatia coast. Luckily, my late afternoon arrival from the long journey rewarded me with a glimmer of sunshine and a view of Dubrovnik, one of the most photogenic towns on the Adriatic. It was hard to pull myself away, but with my plane scheduled to leave in the early morning, after a hurried dinner and walk through the medieval city, I was forced to make a bee line over the mountains to Sarajevo.
Of course much has changed since the war and the region is now a bustling with cities full of cafes, shops, and tourists. As I drove through the winding mountains at night, I couldn’t help but remember my neighbor having to leave his home all those years ago. If anything, it became a reminder that it’s not so much about making history these days as it is to quiet it; because there are still too many streets branded with conflict and anguish that have good people afraid to walk down them.