"Blogging isn't journalism, it's graffiti with punctuation."

>i’m just a shot away from you & if you leave here, you leave me broken, shattered; i lie, i’m just a crosshair, i’m just a shot, then we can die

>first things first – i just got a phone call from the executive producer of the reality tv show i was in back in january/february. it is official – it will now premiere on September 4th at 10:30pm on Channel 4 and will air every thursday thereafter for 2 months!!!

somebody change my undies.

arriving in sarajevo, i decided the first thing i had to do after checking into my hostel was walk around. it’s important to see as much as possible, i think.

under the setting bosnian sun, i wandered through the old Turkish quarter, past haute-couture shops and cafés serving strong thimbles of Bosnian coffee, stumbled past men playing life-size games of chess, past old mosques and churches restored since the war, the opera house, the riverbank and the bridge corner where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, sparking the first World War in 1914 (hence the quite-appropos Franz Ferdinand song lyric above…). Past children on merry-go-rounds and old libraries gutted and collapsing.

then, after a delightful dinner of Burek, salad, and potatoes, i headed out for more in the dark…

the first thing i notice about Sarajevo is — there is not one building in the entire city that is free from bullet holes. every single structure, home, façade, or business is damaged in this way.

the second thing i notice is — that Sarajevans are not victims. they stroll the saturday-night-streets in Chanel couture and Jimmy Choo pumps and precious jewels, clubbing it, fucking it, dancing it, snorting it, drinking it, and loving it. they love life. to them, that war that ended 12 years ago is but a memory. distant…even though there are reminders of it everywhere. they are not carrying bundles in massive huddles, with kerchiefs on their heads, begging and crying and feeling sorry for themselves. they look forward. as we all do.

on the train from Zagreb to Sarajevo, i shared a compartment with these 5 Bosnian girls. they were fascinated by me and goaded me on endlessly when this total loser guy (bald, a tattoo on his neck, shirtless, in lime-green Adidas pants) came into the compartment to try and chat me up. i was mortified because, not only was he blocking the exit so i couldn’t walk away, he was so sleazy and gross (is this the type of guy i attract! mor.ti.fied!), plus the girls started giggling and encouraging him! when he pulled out his ID to show me his name (tarik), OF COURSE a condom just HAPPENED to pop out of his wallet. after he finally fucked off, the girls and i started giggling about it and in their broken english, they told me they thought i was so beautiful and that i should be in a beauty pageant. when the train stopped at Zenica, their stop, they all hugged me tightly and gave me that colourful fan the girl in the middle is holding. aww! when i found out most of them were aged 11/12, i realized that they were conceived as the war in sarajevo ended….war babies.

life size chess in the streets.

opera house bullet-riddled.

plaque marking the spot …..the shots heard round the world….

this is the corner where ferdinand and his wife sofia were assassinated. she was pregnant and princip shot her in the stomach. for decades, princip was regarded by bosnians as a hero against tyranny, and his footprints were embossed in the cement and he was regarded as a hero. but when the war with the serbs broke out in 1992, princip lost his hero status overnight (princip was a serb) and all monuments to him were ripped down and destroyed.

hard to believe this tiny corner of the planet launched the first world war. how many canadians died in that war because princip had itchy trigger fingers?

sarajevo is nestled in between these mountains…enveloped in such beauty.

children on the merry-go-rounds

cafés brimming with youthful life.

i love the way the sunlight hits the buildings in the afternoon.

looking up to the collapsing library.

mosques rise up the mountains.

’nuff said.

even this church was a sniper target. here, my fingers dive into an old bullet wound…the cross seethes.

damn straight.

here, the eternal flame ain’t so eternal. somebody light that thing!

i met some scots at my hostel (l-r, susan, alan, and emily) and we all went out for bosnian coffee, which is served in tiny cups…that waiter in the back was such a shit disturber, i loved him.

the strong black stuff…will keep you up till rapture.

drinking delish Havlat coffee. i love this photo.

during the war, bosnians suffered through snipers, mortar attacks, no electricity, no water, no food, and a completely useless NATO/UN force for nearly 4 years. in order to save themselves and their country, they secretly built an 800 metre tunnel that ran from a suburb to the airport, where they smuggled not only food and supplies, but soldiers during the night in order to fight the serbs. even the president used the tunnel at one point. it was only 1 meter in width and constantly flooded with water, but it became a symbol of bosnian resistance and courage. most of it has collapsed now, but you can still wander through 25 metres of it…here is it’s opening.

the guide that took us through the tunnel told us that even she used it when she was 11 years old in order to get food for her starving family. people sometimes carried bundles heavier than their own weight, loaded with food and supplies. because they knew not when they’d get the chance to make it to the tunnel again.

the tunnel ran under this field, and to the airport which you can see in the background. the airport was under UN control during the war, but serb barbed wire and territory blocked bosnians from crossing the field to get to the airport. they were shot down if they tried to cross the lines. if, by chance, a bosnian actually had the good fortune to make it across to the airport, the UN would turn them away and force them to go back. hence the need for a tunnel.

photos of the destruction the war caused to the city

how is that car still functioning?

before the 92-95 war, sarajevo was famous for 2 things – the site where franz ferdinand was assassinated, and the 1984 winter olympics…what you see here is the remains of the olympic bobsled track that was built for those games. heavy serb bombing and shelling destroyed most of it, and there is very little of the track left. rubble litters the mountainside. this photo really haunts me.

i walked down the track…kids now use it for skateboarding.

this photo was an outtake, but i thought it was funny.

near the sight of the bobsled track, high in the mountains, is the site where serbs set up camp and lay siege to the city for nearly 4 years. from where they stood, they could see the entire city, and snipers could pick off people at will.

i was always told that there are rules, even in war. you don’t kill innocent civilians indescriminantly. but this wasn’t any war. this was genocide. this was a new holocaust, but it was muslims rotting away in concentration camps this time. this war introduced the term “ethnic cleansing” to the world’s vocab.

in the center of the picture, that yellow building is the infamous holiday inn…

near the sniper’s lair in the hills lay a dead snake…how appropos.

the holiday inn….this building gained infamy during the war as it was the only functioning hotel during the siege. journalist from around the world holed up in this yellow monstrosity, which was a target for snipers, as it stands at the beginning of sniper alley. journalists would literally have to make a mad dash through the front door. food and supplies were provided to the hotel via the tunnel during the war. it has since been given a facelift, and some of the staff from that time are still there.

it may look fine at first glance…

but you look up and still see some bullet wounds left untouched.

this was sniper alley. people on their way to work down this street would usually have to wait hours just to cross the street, or be shielded by the UN tanks…looking down it now, it’s a ghost street. no major businesses or homes are built here. just cranes tearing down the crumbling skeletons of the past…

this is where the government for the new federation is based…

and it too is littered with bullet holes.

look closely at this photo. see all those grey dots?…that’s a lot of plaster covering up those wounds…

i concur.

this popular café is called To Be Or Not To Be with the “or not” scratched out. the owner wanted to present a more positive message during the war.

what’s eerie about the asphalt and concrete of Sarajevo is…when you see a marking like this in the ground, you know what happened here. after 3 days, i immediately could recognize the distinctive crater…and immediately know it was left by a mortar. this particular mortar killed 9 sarajevans.

and these mortar craters are everywhere you walk.

after the war, Sarajevans filled in some of these mortar craters with red resin to mark the spot where a Sarajevan died…

they call them Sarajevo Roses.

i stood there and felt weak.

because the Sarajevo Roses grow in too many flower beds.

why is there a pizzeria called Bill Gates? there wasn’t anything microsoft-related on their menu. i seriously doubt mr gates is aware of this.

look at this massive fucking pizza they gave me. i shared it with Nir (he’s on my right). he was from israel and was totally cool.

after Microsoft-Pizza, we all went out to the bustling city centre to watch the final game of Euro 2008. on the screen there, you can see the ridiculous opening ceremony show.

l-r, me, emilay, susan, bip and rhianne from the netherlands, and alan…my side of the table was rooting for spain, their side rooted for germany


the next day, i took a day trip to the city of mostar. at a staggering 10 degrees hotter on average than sarajevo (it was 38 degrees when i arrived!! bah!), the city was so beautiful and is the biggest tourist attraction in all of bosnia. this bridge you see here is a testament to the bosnian resolve and spirit. built circa 1556, it stood for 500 years strong and beautiful, until a croat mortar shell destroyed the entire thing in 1993. in november 2004, they rebuilt it as a big fuck you.

i won’t.

the view from the bridge.

sunbathers below.

the city of mostar, ancient ottoman architecture barely survived the war.

in 2004, a decision was made to rebuild the bridge according to original 16th century building methods, and the old quarry outside mostar was duly unearthed. bridge building has changed significantly since the ottomans and since modern technology was not to interfere with the building process, serious msucle power had to be used. in 38 degree heat, you can imagine how much the construction team must have hated their job.

the original blocks that had fallend into the river in 1993 were unusable by the time they were recovered in 1996 but five rows of stone and the whoel abutment were still intact.

beautiful in it’s irregularity

38 degrees ouside…but the water was near freezing temperatures! my toe-toes froze!

holy handsome diver boy on the ledge!!! take off the speedo!!


the ottoman markets of mostar

perfect photo, if you ask me. i’m such a good photographer, give me a medal please.

this is a video i took from the mountains surrounding sarajevo, so you can see just how perfect a staging point it was for the serbian siege.


i had a dream about “mr. bigg” the other night. he was in his pink pullover sweater that he wears quite often…he looked at me and i knew i was in trouble. i don’t know why i dreamed about him, except for maybe perhaps because….tomorrow, it will be 2 years since we met. and about 2 months since i cut him out of my life.

i’m so over men.

9 responses

  1. Anonymous

    Thank you for this amazing post about my two favourite cities Sarajevo and Mostar. Being a survivor of the Bosnian war myself it’s all too familiar now when I look at these photos. Thanks again!Dee

    July 5, 2008 at 5:27 AM

  2. One of my friends escaped Sarajevo with her sister through that tunnel. It was near the end of the war when they started conscripting young girls.

    July 6, 2008 at 7:09 AM

  3. nice post about sarajevo … was just reading up on the 92-95 war and came across your blog … would like to visit sarajevo someday …

    September 23, 2009 at 8:09 AM

  4. amazing blog! I got chills, spread a few tears and even laughed as I read trought it! Respect=)

    May 1, 2010 at 3:14 PM

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