Imperial Crypt (Kaisergruft), Vienna

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general

signThe Imperial Crypt (Kaisergruft) of the PP Capuchins, or the Capuchin Crypt (Kapuzinergruft)

There are a lot of photos for this, so please be patient and scroll through. And enjoy!

This is below the Kapunziner Church (Kapuzinerkirche), or Capuchin Church, on the side of Neue Markt in the Inner City. It’s a church and monastery run by the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, and is most famous for containing the Imperial Crypt, the final resting place for members of the House of Habsburg. The cost of €5 per adult is well worth it.

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Ferdinand Crypt (Emperor Ferdinand 1, 1793-1875)

You enter to the right of the main church entrance into a hallway with a ticket window, then to the right along a corridor and down stairs to the crypt, which is a series of interleading rooms/spaces, most with vaulted ceilings, then follow another corridor and go up to the exit on the left of the ticket window. So, it’s a sort of circular tour route, which does help with the flow of people.

Since 1633 the Imperial Crypt has been the main place of entombment for members of the House of Habsburg. The bodies of 145 Habsburg royalty and urns containing the hearts or cremated remains of 4 others are here, including 12 emperors and 18 empresses. The newest entombment was in 2011.

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Detail on a tomb

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Eleonora Maria (1653-1697), daughter of Kaiser Ferdinand 111

Each of the rooms/spaces has a different name and has tombs on either side. They are roughly in chronological order (except for the New Crypt, which seems to have a mix of dates), starting with the Founders Crypt, and moving through Leopold Crypt, Karl Crypt, Maria Theresia Crypt, Franz Crypt, Ferdinand Crypt, Tuscany Crypt, Franz Joseph Crypt, and the Crypt Chapel.

It’s best to buy the pamphlet (only 0.50 euro) that has each tomb numbered and named. It also has a Family Tree of the Houses Habsburg and Habsburg-Lothringen from the founding of the Imperial Vaults. These are the most important branches of the family. We found it very helpful, as our knowledge of Habsburg history was rather sketchy and we didnt know the significance of many of the people. It’s an unusual way to see the wealth and extent of the Habsburg Empire, and gave us a new way of trying to figure out who all the royal members of the Habsburgs were. The Habsburgs were a powerhouse for about 500 years (most say from 1440-1918) and affected almost all parts of Europe in one way or another (we learned a bit more about that in the Royal apartments tour, which I’ll cover later).

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Elisabeth Christine (1691-1750), Empress, wife of Karl VI and mother of Maria Theresia

It’s a fascinating place—although rather dark, both literally and figuratively—with so many metal sarcophagae and coffins crowded into a fairly small space. Some are flat on the ground, many others raised on feet or some sort, like lions. The first impression is of how many there are, ranging from small, to medium, to huge. The tiny ones for children look very sad and forlorn. The next impression is how ornate so many are. They are decorated with lions, skulls, curlicues, crosses, shields, angels, crests, eagles, or faces—all known as exhuberant roccoco. Some look a little musty, some have fresh flowers. Others are totally plain.

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Kaiser Karl VI (1685-1740)

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Maria Theresia Crypt

MTheresa2The biggest is for Maria Theresa (1717-1780) and her husband, Franz Stephan (1708-1765), who occupy the place of honor in the lighter domed vault, where there are 2 statues of them atop a giant, hugely decorated “bed”. Maria Theresa was able to be crowned Empress, with her husband, due to the Pragmatic Sanction and was mother of 16 children. She was generally well-esteemed and often called the “Mother of Europe”. Franz Stephan was Emperor, Grandduke of Tuscany and son of Duke Leopold of Lorraine.

When reading some of these titles, we began to get an idea of how the Habsburg network worked. A lot of the network was established through marriages to royalty in other countries and areas.

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1832-18kaiser Ferdinand Maximilian of Mexico (1832-1867)

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Elisabeth of Bayern (see info below)

 

FranzjosephThere are three sarcophagae in the Franz Joseph Crypt, the last one before the Crypt Chapel and the exit. Franz Joseph 1 (1830-1916) ascended to the throne in 1848 and governed the state from absolutism to early democracy. He must still be loved/revered, as his coffin is prominent and has flowers, small wreathes, and ribbons on and in front of it. On one side is his wife Elisabeth (1837-1898), who was murdered in Geneva. One the other side is their son, Rudolph (1858-1889), who died tragically in Mayerling.

 

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Crowns Prince Rudolph

FranzSophieWe also noted a special plaque, a memorial to Franz Ferdinand and Sophie, who were assassinated in Sarajevo, the event that triggered WW1. We were in Sarajevo a few days earlier and went to the museum that commemorates this event.

 

 

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Zita

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Carl Ludwig

Another notable one is for Zita (1892-1989), the last empress, brought back from exile on her death. Hers is a newer coffin in the Crypt Chapel. She was the wife of Emperor Karl 1 (1887-1922), the last Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. There is a memorial bust of him in the Crypt, but he is actually buried in Funchal on the island of Madeira. Next to Zita is Carl Ludwig (1918-2007), their son. In the corner, by the altar, is Otto (1912-2011), also their son, who was Crown Prince.

Plan to spend at least an hour here. You can’t do Vienna without seeing this crypt—it tells a big part of the story or Vienna and the Habsburgs who dominated the city and area for so long.

Carolina

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Maria Josepha(1739-1767), second wife of Joseph II

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Eating in Vienna: Augustiner Keller

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At our table

Augustiner Keller, Augustinerstrasse 1

We were staying at the Hotel Astoria Trend, on the corner of Kartner Strasse and Fuhrich Gasse, right in the heart of the Inner City: a grand old dame, with huge rooms, very nice, but very hot in the summer as there’s no A/C.

It was well positioned for many places to eat and the first night we went to Augustiner Keller on Augustinerstrasse on the other side of Albertina Platz from the State Opera, very close to the Hofburg (keller is ‘cellar’ in English). Rod and I had been here before and wanted to take Nath and Sonya. Friends who lived in Vienna for a while liked it a lot and said it was an authentic Austrian food place.

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4insideThe restaurant is in one of the last ancient monastery cellars in the historic city center, the origins going back to at least Baroque times. You can still see the splendid ancient vaulting of the cellars that has been well preserved through the centuries. It was part of the former city fortifications and only in 1924 was it changed into a restaurant. Since 1954 the Bitzinger family has run the restaurant and today the third generation is working to maintain the traditions.

It’s an atmospheric cellar, offering typical Viennese cuisine and a private draft beer called “Opernbrau”, plus music in the evening; open 11am-midnight daily. We thought it was a great place, for the setting and the atmosphere. Imagine eating in such old cellars, dim because there’s no natural light, in an alcove with a brick vaulted ceiling.

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lamb dish

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trout dish

If the weather is nice they set up some tables with umbrellas outside, which are well used, as we saw the following day. It’s very well-placed, on the tourist circuit, so I can imagine it would do very well.

We were happy to see that the lamb and fish dishes came with potatoes and cooked vegetables and salad (in the past, Rod and I have mostly found that the dishes in Vienna were very sparse with vegetables or salad).

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Him beer juice and beer

winecloseWe had a Wiener (veal) schnitzel, 2 lamb cutlets, and a trout, with bread. Sonya tried the special beer (pronounced it very good), Rod and I a rose wine, and Nath himbeer (a kind of raspberry) juice. All very nice.

Definitely recommended.

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On To Vienna: the CAT

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Nath and Sonya in the CAT

This CAT just “purrs” along

Next we moved on from Sarajevo to Vienna, via Zagrab, on Croatian Air.

Getting into Vienna downtown is really easy, because of the CAT (City Airport Train). Vienna’s CAT is an amazing service and the best city-airport link we’ve ever experienced in all our travels.

This is a train dedicated just to moving people between Vienna’s International Airport and the city center. In just 16 minutes the non-stop train whisks you from the airport to the Wein-Mitte station, or vice versa.

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Viv and Rod in the CAT

signThe system makes it really easy for people to use. When you are collecting baggage at the airport, look for the CAT ticket machines in the baggage claim area, where you can buy your ticket. The machines take credit cards or cash (euros). If you miss that opportunity, don’t worry as there are more ticket machines on the platform. As you exit into the Arrivals Hall, turn right and follow the signs down the ramp to the CAT station: the distinctive CAT letters and logo of white plane on a green background are easy to see and follow.

Trains leave the airport twice an hour at :06 and :36, from 6:06 to 23:36. They also leave from Wein-Mitte (Vienna Central) every 30 minutes at :06 and :36 (from 5:36 to 23:06)—times that are easy to remember. The train is speedy, quiet, air-conditioned, with proper luggage racks and seating downstairs and upstairs.

You must have a ticket, as a ticket collector comes by on every train.

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Getting into the city this way is great, as at Wein-Mitte you can connect to the excellent U-Bahn (underground) system that also links to the buses and trams, all of which can get you to almost anywhere in the city. On this trip we bought “48-hours Vienna transport tickets”, which allowed us to go anywhere in the city on U-Bahn, bus or tram. Tickets for the 48-hour pass cost 13.30 euros per person, also a really good deal.

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Our 48-hour tickets

But, what is even more useful is the service offered when returning to the airport. At Wein-Mitte CAT station, you can check into your flight: they tag your checked luggage and get it to the relevant airline and you don’t see it again until your final destination, plus you get your boarding passes. So, it’s much easier than at the airport. How cool is that?!

We didn’t use this return trip feature on this trip with Nath and Sonya, as our flights were really early (we had to order a taxi for 4am!). But, Rod and I have used it a couple of times before, and it’s great.

A single CAT ticket per person is 12 euros and a return is 19 euros (children under 15 are free). This is a great price when compared to a taxi one-way, which can cost up to 50 euros depending on traffic—especially if there are only two of you.

Definitely recommended.

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Lighter Moments in Sarajevo

Yes, there have been very dark moments in the history of Sarajevo and Bosnia, and many people are still suffering the effects of wars and conflicts. But, it’s not all doom and gloom. We had a fun time wandering around the city, sampling the food, and watching the people.

Here are a few photos that I hope try to capture that more positive side to life in the city here.

A grandfather (probably) has lunch with his granddaughter, watched over by a Dalmatian dog balloon.

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One of the bazaars in Bascarsija, the Turkish quarter in Old Town, is in a long vaulted building and was doing pretty good business as far as we could see.

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Kinda fun, but a reminder of the war and the siege of Sarajevo: souvenirs made out of bullets in amongst other typical Bosnian souvenirs.

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A relaxing place to stop for a snack. We enjoyed the park-like benches with the patterned cushions to sit on.

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Sarajevo is known for nice jewellery. Note the pendants in the hamsa shape in the top of the box. I wrote before about hamsas after we visited Israel. Please take a look here, as they are an important symbol

(https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2016/02/04/the-hamsa-and-the-evil-eye/ )

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Sladoled is icecream. Interestingly we found that Italian icecream is very popular throughout the Balkan countries we visited.

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I’m not sure if this is actually an Irish pub, but it’s certainly advertising Guinness. What fun to sit outside at those low tables and cushioned benches!

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More beautiful jewellery. I think that sign says that no video-taping is allowed.

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Outside a small grocery store we notice these large containers of nuts/beans for sale.

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Life goes on along this shopping street.

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One of the bottles of water that Nath had. We wonder why the name is 1998 Berkeley Springs.

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A fun sign we saw in a café. We’ve seen this before in US and various European countries, but were surprised to find it here, as this is a mostly Muslim area.

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The Siege of Sarajevo, the Tunnel of Hope, and Sarajevo Roses

signTunnel of Hope/Tunel Spasa

“The Place That Ended the 20th Century”

Many guided tours in Sarajevo include the Tunnel of Hope and this has become one of the most visited sights of the Bosnian capital. People can go on their own too (www.tunelspasa.com ), but I’d recommend a guided tour, which lasts about 3 hours. We did the Tunnel of Salvation Tour, offered by the Visitors’ Center every day at 2pm, and paid 20KM each (a little over US$ 11) for the driver and guide, and 10 KM each (around US$5.50) to enter the museum. The driver was pretty good—a little dogmatic about some events and their interpretation, but I’m sure that, given the circumstances he was talking about, it was understandable.

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Rod chats to the guide outside the Tunnel Museum

The museum is open to visitors every working day from 9am to 4pm.

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Map of the Siege of Sarajevo

Background to the Siege of Sarajevo

Bosnia-Herzegovina was a very diverse country in the Balkans in the former Yugoslavia, populated mainly by Muslim Bosniaks (ca 43%), Serbs (31%) and Croats (17%). Yugoslavia began to fall apart when individual countries wanted independence, starting with Slovenia in June 1991. Bosnia-Herzegovina’s president began to pursue independence too in fall 1991 and most Croats and Bosniaks supported the move. However the Bosnian Serbs resisted it and decided to create their own state, with Radovan Karadzic as president. Horrifying and terrible ethnic cleansing began and Bosnia-Herzegovina was torn apart. A supreme example was Srebrenica (previous post https://easterneuropetrip.wordpress.com/2017/11/03/sarajevo-srebrenica-exhibition/ ). The three population groups turned on each other and a bloody civil war raged for years.

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The types of fences around the airport the Sarajevans had to contend with

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Shell damage on walls of current Tunnel Museum

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Map showing blockade of Sarajevo

The capital of Sarajevo (still inhabited by a united community of Sarajevans—rather than calling themselves Bosniaks, Croats or Serbs) was surrounded by Karadzic’s Bosnian Serb army in April 1992, and the siege continued for almost four years (April 5, 1992-February 29, 1996), with 11,541 people killed, of whom 1,601 were children. There was a complete communication, military and economic blockade. People were unable to get in and out of the city, and daily shellings and shootings by snipers occurred. Basic supplies like food and fuel began to run very low and weapons were needed to defend the city.

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Model of airport. The white line at the back is where the tunnel ran

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Kit for the tunnel diggers

Siege leads to the Tunnel

So, in 1993 the city government began to dig its own lifeline. Construction was under the supervision of the First Corps Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Skilled manpower, tools, and materials were limited so many volunteers were used, who dug the tunnel by hand, with shovels and picks, working 24-hours a day from both sides of the tunnel.

They took several months (March-June) to dig the nearly one-kilometer tunnel under the UN-controlled airport to link up two areas held by the city government: Sarajevo city and the free Bosnian territory on the other side of the runway. As the map shows, these two areas were joined by a narrow section, rather like an hour-glass. The airport runway ran right across this, and was way too dangerous for any Sarajevans to cross, with rings of barbed wire, sensor lights and other bright lights, plus soldiers with weapons (although many did try to cross).

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Farmhouse where tunnel began—now the museum

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Supplies coming through the tunnel

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Photos in museum

The tunnel started in a farmhouse near the airport runway on the Sarajevo City side—the house of the Kolar family, now part of the War Tunnel Museum and a Memory for Peace—and ended in the garage of another house in a neighborhood on the other side of the runway. Both entrances were closely guarded at all times.

The tunnel was big enough for people to squeeze past each other at a stoop, and after some time it had wagons that ran on rails. This was the city’s only connection with the outside world during the siege, the only way to get out of Sarejevo and the only way to bring in food, war supplies and humanitarian aid. It also brought cigarettes, alcohol and petrol, and newspapers.

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The guide explains items in the museum

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Simple explosive devices used during the siege

End of the Siege

After almost four years of fighting and a mounting number of atrocities, including a bombing of innocent civilians in a market in Sarajevo, the international community finally acted. In late summer 1995, NATO began bombing Bosnian Serb positions, forcing them to end the siege and come to the negotiating table. The Dayton Peace Accord finally ended the wars of Yugoslavia.

The Tunnel Museum

After the war, the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum was built onto the private house whose weaponsunofromcellar was the entrance to the Sarajevo Tunnel. The house and the land around the Tunnel’s entrance are owned by Bajro Kolar, a local man who runs the private museum. In a documentary about the Sarajevo War Tunnel, he explained why he turned his house into a war facility, saying “whatever we have, we gave for the defense and liberation of Sarajevo.” The main aim for the museum is for the tunnel to be a reminder of the history of the war and a hope that it will never be forgotten or need to be used again. This is a wartime tunnel turned into a museum. It’s a remnant of war, a tribute to desperation and ingenuity.

The Museum and Tunnel Today

At the museum our guide explained the Tunnel’s construction, role and use during the siege. We watched a short movie (about 20 minutes) about the war, which includes some original footage. We also saw archival materials (like a list of all combat means), war photographs, military equipment, flags, military uniforms, hand-made weapons, and some everyday items from the war. Some of the handmade weapons were made by Hazim Tahmiscija, a mechanical engineer, who could work with his right hand only.

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Handmade weapons

The highlight probably is a short walk in a section of the tunnel. About 20 meters of the tunnel is open for visitors to walk through and it certainly does give a “feel” for what it must have been like walking through the whole length, especially if it were cold and damp and especially knowing that soldiers were all around close by.

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Nath and Sonya in the tunnel

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Rod in the tunnel

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The guide also explains about the Sarajevo Roses.

Thousands of shells rained on Sarajevo during the Serbian siege, and UN forces registered an average of 330 impacts a day. On one particular day, July 22 1993, Sarajevo received 3,777 shells fired from the surrounding hills. Every single shell fired during the long siege left scars on the asphalt roads, pavements (sidewalks) or town buildings. Many of them wounded or killed one or more citizens in the besieged rose2town, while explosions left marks in concrete, similar to flowers. On some locations in town those scars were painted with red resin and became known as Sarajevo roses due to the shape. These Sarajevo roses became the symbol and the memorial of those who were killed in besieged Sarajevo and of their heroic struggle, and the red color is a reminder of the blood of Sarajevo inhabitants shed while queuing for bread and water, of children playing carefree and all those who were only trying to survive in the town without an exit. About 100 Sarajevo roses were marked but many of them disappeared when buildings or roads were rebuilt or reconstructed.

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View from one of the hills surrounding the city

The tour in general gives us a good idea of the awful conditions Sarajevans went through during one of the longest sieges in modern history. On the way to the Tunnel we drove along Sniper Alley (a main street in Sarajevo) and heard how Saravejans were targeted day and night from snipers from their hideouts.

At the end of the tour we drove up one of the hills overlooking the city for a panoramic view over the city. This was also one of the spots from which the city was shelled. There is also a Jewish Cemetery up there that we looked at briefly.

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Jewish cemetery

This is certainly a tour worth doing—informative, interesting and sobering at the same time.

 

 

Posted in Bosnia, history, interesting sights, museum, Sarajevo, war story, where to stay | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sarajevo: Srebrenica Exhibition

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The exhibition is in this building

bannerVisiting this special exhibition was another step in our quest to try and understand the extremely complex and convoluted history of this whole area: the Balkans and the former Yugoslavia. A way to get a grasp on the civil and ethnic wars, the ethnic cleansing, and the brutal massacres.

We went on July 11th not realizing, until we started reading, that it was the anniversary day of the massacre. July 11th is the official memorial day for the Srebrenica Massacre (July 11-July 22, 1995), so many important visitors came, causing traffic jams etc.

We had seen signs for this exhibit the day before and decided that we needed to visit it, so we went that morning. We paid 10 KM each to enter (about US$ 5.50), and it was well worth it, very disturbing but also educational. It also covered the Siege of Sarajevo, which was really traumatic for the city. The siege is covered more fully in the Tunnel Tour, which we did later in the day.

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These two visits really highlight how awful war is, how much people suffer, in the name of…what?

bookSrebrenica is a permanent exhibition in the Memorial Gallery 11/07/95. The exhibit is upstairs on the 3rd floor in a large building in the Old Town (interestingly, the building also houses the Hostel Inn). It seems they were not expecting so many visitors, as they really were not well equipped to handle lots of people. But still it was worthwhile and does help to give a bit more understanding about those turbulent times in the Balkans. No photography is allowed in the exhibit (understandably when you think of the topic), but we did buy the book, Srebrenica by Tarik Samarah.

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Much of the exhibition is based on the photos by Tarik Samarah, a documentary photographer who is a resident of Sarajevo. His most significant professional success is the series “Srebrenica—genocide in the heart of Europe”, this set of stark black and white photographs that document the aftermath of the Srebrenica genocide, heart-breaking, and sometimes in gory detail. Also part of the exhibition is a video presentation on The Siege of Sarajevo and a movie called “Miss Sarejevo”, which we didn’t see.

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wallcloseAt the beginning of the museum there is a long wall inscribed with the names of the victims, which we could photograph—a stark reminder of the massive scale of this atrocity. The photographs are stark, somber, sobering, and we left, feeling troubled and full of questions. The main one is why? Why did this happen and how was it possible? People in this country and particularly in the area around the town of Srebrenica are still grappling with this.

Maybe we should backtrack to a little background to this horrific event. This is an incredibly complicated part of history and it is difficult to make sense of it really, without a detailed historical background (a good discussion is here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breakup_of_Yugoslavia ).

The former Yugoslavia (meaning Land of the south Slavs) was a Socialist state created after German occupation in WW2 and a bitter civil war. It was a federation of 6 republics, with borders drawn along ethnic and historical lines: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. It brought together Serbs, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, Albanians, Slovenes and others under a comparatively relaxed Communist regime under Marshal Tito.

Tito was seen as Yugoslavia’s main unifying force. But despite this and the federal

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Entrance to exhibition

structure there was still tension between the federalists, which erupted into cycles of protests for greater individual and national rights.

Yugoslavia started to break down with the death of Tito in May 1980 and officially ceased to exist by January 1992, when it dissolved into its constituent states. In that period the rise of nationalism and ethnic tensions led to many problems and wars. Politicians fanned the embers of all the old divisions—Serbs versus Croats, Orthodox Christians versus Catholics versus Muslims, and so on (a whole topic on its own).

What started the war in Bosnia? Basically it was fought because Serbs and Croats living in Bosnia wanted to annex Bosnian territory for Serbia and Croatia respectively. The two worst events were the Siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica Massacre.

mapThe Srebrenica Massacre or Genocide was the July 1995 genocide of more than 8,000 (estimated 8,373) Muslim Bosniaks, mainly men and boys, in and around the town of Srebrenica, perpetrated by the Army of Republic Srpska (Bosnian Serb forces). Srebrenica is a town about 133 km (87 miles) northeast of Sarajevo. The militants overran a UN-established safe zone in Srebrenica, seized the men and boys from the women who had sought shelter in the area, led them into fields and warehouses in surrounding areas and massacred them over a few days. In addition, more than 20,000 civilians were expelled from the area, a process known as ethnic cleansing.

The attack had been planned: the week of the atrocity, Serbian forces took surrounding 20yearsignvillages, forcing thousands of refugees into the UN safe area. They also kidnapped 30 Dutch peacekeepers, as a blackmail instrument over the Dutch peacekeeping force guarding the enclave. It worked, as the peacekeepers put up little resistance. The Serb forces were also aided by the international community’s indifference up to that point.

With the support of Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic’s government in Belgrade, these Bosnian Serbs (under leadership of Radovan Karadzic) were trying to remove Bosnia’s Muslim population as part of their plan to carve a “greater Serbia” out of the ruins of Yugoslavia.

The massacre galvanized international opinion and led to US and NATO intervention. In November Milosevic and the Bosnian president signed the US-brokered Dayton Accords, which left Bosnia as a single country and created a Serb “republic” behind Bosnian Serb frontline.

So, this massive atrocity played a pivotal role in ending the conflict. The scale of it was so huge that victims are still being found in mass graves in the area and being identified. Each year, on the anniversary of the killings, the Bosnian government releases recently discovered bodies, or parts of bodies, and attempts to identify them. Family and friends attend a mass funeral.

This massacre still raises many questions: What does it take for world powers to step in and stop human-rights abusers before they can commit Srebrenica-like atrocities? When should international actors step in? And then what should they do?

We have no answers.

 

 

 

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Museum of Sarajevo 1878-1918

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citycrestMuzej Sarajeva, the Museum of Sarajevo 1878-1918

Entrance is 4 KM (Bosnian Convertible Mark), about US$ 2.25.

This small museum is on a corner, right opposite the Latin Bridge. The Latin Bridge was built in the 16th century, and was put on the map after the infamous Sarajevo Assassination. From this spot, Gavrilo Princip shot and killed the Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife Sophie, which triggered the start of World War 1.

The museum deals with the history of Sarajevo and Bosnia-Herzegovina during the Austro-Hungarian period and how the empire’s rule impacted Bosnia-Herzegovina’s society at that time.

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The Austro-Hungarian Empire 1910

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Crest on windows outside

At the Berlin Conference (13 July 1878) Austro-Hungary was granted occupational mandate over Bosnia-Herzegovina. The actual occupation only lasted until October 20, 1878, and legally the country remained under the Istanbul Sultan’s sovereignty until annexation in 1908. However, in reality it was an integral part of Austro-Hungary. Sarejevo became a European city and the country’s capital. Austro-Hungary had a large impact on many aspects of life: architectural, economic, socio-political and cultural.

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The same crest inside

One fun information board highlights many things that happened during the Austro-Hungarian period that were the first ever, either in Bosnia and Herzegovina or in the world.

*1879, the first brickyard owned by August Braun was launched in the neighborhood of Kosevo

*1880, an omnibus connecting Sarajevo and the suburb of Ilidza started operating

*1885, the first horse-traction tram started operating

*1895, the first power plant was opened and Sarejevo got street lights and an electric tram. Soon after, Bey’s Mosque became the first mosque to have electric bulbs for illumination.shield

*1901, the first street got an asphalt coating

*1904, the first driving licenses were issued to women

One of the focal exhibits is on the Sarajevo Assassination. The aim is to understand the political climate prevalent in Europe in 1914 and the reasons why the WW1 started, as well as how the Sarajevo Assassination changed the course of world history and the face of the world map back then. The Austro-Hungarian Empire basically disappeared and several nation states were created on its ashes. Bosnia and Herzegovina became one of the federal units of a new state: the South Slav State.

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Nath looks at models of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie

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Some displays in the outside windows of the museum

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Information on the Latin Bridge

The museum is small, and a bit old-fashioned, so a little disappointing. For example, none of the exhibits is interactive. For such a momentous event as the Assassination, which literally changed world history, we thought they could have done more with this. I guess Sarajevo hasn’t been a big tourist destination until recently so facilities are not so well developed yet (we felt the same about the special Srebrenica exhibition in another part of the Old Town).

However, that said, we did learn a lot and it’s still worth a visit. Plan on about 30 minutes.

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Latin Bridge (pink building is the museum)

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Music Pavilion

After visiting the museum we crossed the Latin Bridge, which is an interesting sight in its own right, to a park on the other side with a music pavilion, where we had tea and enjoyed watching kids play.

The very first bridge at this point was made of wood, and the first stone bridge was built in 1565. It was named after the Sarajevo borough Latinluk, inhabited mostly by Catholics, many of them merchants from Dubrovnik. It was near this bridge on the right bank that Gavrilo Princip positioned himself.

The Music Pavilion was built by Austro-Hungarian

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A pleasant place for tea—Sonya, Rod and Nath relax

authorities in 1911, based on the design of Josip Pospisil. It was near military barracks and it was used for military music performances, especially on holidays. It burnt down in 1941 and was reconstructed in 2004.

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Kids having fun near the tea garden

 

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Food in Sarajevo

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We walk through a typical eating alley

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Nath and Sonya at Dveri where we ate one night

Iftar

Iftar menu board

When traveling, a large part of the fun and learning is finding out about, and sampling the local foods and drinks. We were only in Sarajevo for 2 days and nights, but we did manage to sample some of the traditional specialities, and enjoyed them all.

The Old Town has a variety of restaurants and cafes, but we couldn’t get into many of them, as it was Iftar and some were specially reserved for the Iftar meal—a fact that really re-inforced our feeling that this is a city where the Ottoman influence is strong, where East meets West (Iftar is the meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan. It is often done as a community where people break their fast together).

Another example of this East-meets-West is the type of seating that some eating places have: low, bench-like tables with cushions on the seats.

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Typical meat plate

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Cheese pie (pita)

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Somun and dips

Probably one of the most popular foods throughout the Balkans, and certainly in Sarajevo, is Cevapcici. This traditional dish is rolled and seasoned meat that comes in portions of 5 or 10. It is served with Somun (a flatbread), onions, yoghurt, and sometimes Kajmak (sweet cheese spread).

Somun is the flat bread that was brought to Bosnia by the Ottomans. It’s a popular addition to meals, especially during Ramadan and you can find it in bakeries around town.

Another popular local speciality is what they call Pita. It’s a pastry made with thin phyllo dough with different fillings, such as meat, cheese, of vegetables, especially potatoes, spinach, squash and mushrooms. Long logs of the filled dough are shaped like coiled sausages and baked, often on a fire. We had some at lunch the first day, where they were called cheese pie.

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Dinner menu—see the Bosanski Lonac, second from bottom

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Bosanski Lonac

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Sonya eyes a typical coffee shop

Bosanski Lonac is also very popular. It’s a thick stew-like soup made from meat, potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, pepper and bay leaves.

Coffee (kahve) and baklava are very common after meals. As we discovered in Mostar, coffee is definitely the national drink in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In 1570 Sarajevo became the first city in Europe (after Istanbul) to have a coffee shop—100 years before Paris, Vienna or London.

In spite of this being a largely Muslim city we were easily able to get beer or wine with our meals. I guess that makes sense, as many visitors from foreign countries are starting to visit here more and more.

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Dveri was a lovely dinner place

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Fried steak

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Pork with parmesan

One dinner was at Dveri (Prote Bakovica 12), not far from our hotel. It was a very pleasant place, small with a green leafy trellis over the outside courtyard seating, and a lovely waiter. Nath had squid, Sonya a fried steak dish, and Rod and I pork with parmesan. With special house bread (somun), bottled water, a liter of red wine and a beer, the total was only around US$60. A place to return to, if we are lucky enough to ever get back here.

 

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Lunch at Zembilj

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Nath and Sonya enjoy the lunch

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Our dinner place, where we had Bosanski Lonac

Lunch the next day was at Zembilj, in the food alley next to our hotel. Very nice food, at very reasonable prices. We would definitely return here too.

Our final dinner was in the other food alley by our hotel, where we had great traditional food. Sadly, I’ve lost the receipt from that one, so we don’t remember the name, or the prices.

 

 

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An interesting sign at an Iftar restaurant! It almost seems like we must not smoke alcohol.

 

 

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Mostar: Doors and Windows

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door3Oops! I should have posted this before we moved onto Sarajevo on our travels!! But, anyway, better late than never.

As we wandered around Mostar, one of the things that really struck us was the variety of doors and windows, many reflecting the Ottoman influence. Many are quite intricately decorated, and lots are in brightly-colored walls. These are yet another sign that we are in a place that’s between the East and the West, between European and Arabian influences.

Very interesting.door2

Here is a small selection of what we saw.

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shutters

 

 

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On To Sarajevo

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View of Sarajevo from our hotel room

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Cheese pie

The day we left Mostar, we’d arranged for Ermin to drive us to Sarajevo, a drive of a couple of hours. It’s a beautiful drive, past green mountains, and along the Neretva River part of the way, with lakes and dams.

He dropped us off right at our hotel—the Hotel Divan on the edge of the old town—so it was extremely convenient. Thanks again to Ermin, and Alma, for being so helpful in Bosnia.

We had lunch in a randomly-chosen place close to our hotel—what they call cheese pies, and a meat plate (called cevapcici), both very nice—and then just wandered around in the old town, trying to get a feel for this city. We only had the afternoon to do this, as the next day we went to the special Srebrenica memorial exhibit, and on the Tunnel tour.

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Cevapcici with type of flatbread

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Latin Bridge and Museum Sarajevo 

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In Old Town

We did get a taste of the city, and realized that we could easily return, that there is so much more to see and learn here. We also made a point of visiting the small Museum Sarajevo 1878-1918, which covers the Austro-Hungarian period and the (in)famous assassination.

Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, is a place steeped in history, from the Illyrians, Romans and Slavs, through the medieval Bosnian Kingdom, to the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires, and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

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Us having tea in Mejdan Park over the Latin Bridge

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Lovely building in Old Town

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Ali-Pasha’s Mosque

Over the past 100 years Sarajevo was part of 6 different countries and witnessed major political events, such as the Sarajevo Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 (which sparked WW1), the First and Second World Wars, XIV Winter Olympic Games (February 1984), and the longest-running siege in modern history in 1992-1996 (in fact, April 5, 1992-February 29, 1996, for a total of 3 years, 10 months, 3 weeks and 3 days). So, it has been a hot spot, and contested a number of times. In some places you can still see the scars of the recent wars. To us, this seemed very immediate, as it was a war that happened in our time. Can a war occur in this region again? Sadly, yes I think so.

So, different cultures and traditions have mingled here for centuries, giving rise to a unique cultural mix. For several hundred years the borders of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires—which represented the two poles of the world at that time, East and West—met in Bosnia-Herzegovina. This made the country and its capital a crossroads for different worlds, where Europe and the Orient met in the heart of the Balkans.

We had always thought that Vienna was a melting pot city—which it is of course—but Sarejevo is so much more obviously a melting pot now.

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On the pedestrian street: “Sarajevo Meeting of Cultures”

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Cathedral of Jesus Sacred Heart

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Nath and Sonya wander in a bazaar

Because of this, Sarajevo is a rare city where, in just a 10-minute walk in the Old City, for example, you can see places of worship for the world’s most important monotheistic religions. There are Orthodox and Catholic churches, synagogues, and mosques. You can see former caravanserai, and Ottoman bazaar-style covered arcades, next to modern coffee shops.

The city, with a population of about half a million, lies in a valley, with the River Miljacka running through it. There are many bridges crossing the river, the most famous being the Latin Bridge, where the assassination took place. The valley is surrounded by the Dinaric Alps, so forested hills and mountains are never very far away.

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Sebilj, the fountain

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Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque

The old part of town is called Bascarsija, the foundations laid in 1462. At its heart is Sebilj, a pseudo-Moorish fountain, from which radiate out narrow pedestrian streets, many still cobblestoned. This area is also sometimes called the Turkish quarter and for hundreds of years it had been the heart of the city’s industrial, trade, handicrafts and economic activities. Nowadays that has changed and it is mainly geared to tourists and souvenirs, but is still charming and gives a glimpse into the Ottoman past.

It was fun to wander around the Old City, as we saw mosques and minarets, and people

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Courtyard “food court”

milling around in the courtyard of the main mosque, the Ottoman-era Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque. We passed Christian churches, people in coffee shops, people in all kinds of clothes (from total cover, to scantily dressed in short shorts), and saw a large leafy courtyard that was an old caravanserai and is now a kind of modern food court. It’s both familiar and very different to what we’ve seen and know from our previous travels, so is very exciting. We want to know more, so I guess we’ll have to try and return.

 

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