>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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
they call them Sarajevo Roses.
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.
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.
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.