Bridge on The Drina and Finally, Sarajevo
Now in Bosnia-Herzegovina, it was a 40-minute ride to Visegrad where a bridge sits over the Drina River. A group of demonstrators came down the street carrying Ratko Mladic placards and chanting slogans. We discovered that the long hunted, genocide suspect Mladic had finally been captured three days ago and these men were demonstrating FOR him. Mladic allegedly presided over the five-day slaughter of Muslim men and boys who were systematically executed in what was described at the U.N. war crimes tribunal as “the triumph of evil.”
The Drina River creates a natural border between Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and is the largest karst river in the Dinaric Alps. You may have heard or read, The Bridge on The Drina, a novel by Nobel prize winning author Ivo Andric that spans four centuries of Bosnian history.
The proper name of the “Drina Bridge” is Mehmed Pasa Sokolovic Bridge built at the end of the 16th century by the court architect Sinan on the orders of Grand Vizier Mehmed Pasa Sokolovic. Sinan was the Ottoman Empire’s master builder and you’ll see many of his masterpieces in Istanbul. This road over the bridge connected Bosnia with Constantinople (Istanbul), and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unfortunately, some of the worst atrocities of the Bosnian War took place on this bridge. Every day Bosniak men, women and children were killed, and their bodies thrown into the Drina River.
Vehicular traffic is prohibited on the bridge because of structural risks but that didn’t deter one motorist who came right at us while Sinisa related the bridge’s history. There is a marker in the center showing floodwater levels in 1896 when a horrendous flood completely submerged the Bridge on The Drina.
It was another two hour ride through mountains, tunnels, roadwork to Sarajevo. Finally into Sarajevo proper, we drove by a skyline filled with minarets. Sarajevo had (and has) a minaret in every neighborhood since there wasn’t a method to electrically amplify the muezzin’s call to prayer in those days; the call to prayer could only be heard within a 100-foot radius. Ergo, all neighborhoods had to have their own mosques.
Vans circled through hilly and small side streets before stopping in front of Hotel Hayat (no relation to the Hyatt Hotel chain) with four stars above the Hayat name along with three stars on another part of the building. What? Has it been downgraded? It was now 7:00p and the group could barely move after another long day. I, for one, was starving and exhausted. Sinisa said he’d show the way down into the Old Town in 10 minutes for dinner.
Hotel Hayat rooms were small and looked even smaller after a big, luxurious room at Hotel Mecanik.
Everyone threw bags in rooms and a hungry, tired group followed Sinisa down a steep, cobblestone street, across tram tracks and into the old center of Sarajevo.
Now in the oldest section, Pigeon Square, a Laurel and Hardy skit took place. Sinisa earlier said Euros could be used in Sarajevo. Now, he told us it is illegal to use Euros, and we must use Bosnian money. It was Sunday and all banks were closed. Steve and I passed a Doner Kebob stand (we love Doner Kebobs) and entered, showed the owner (who only spoke Serb) Euros and American Dollars. The man shook his head, “No.”
Back to the group who are now (video) hunting for an ATM and ATM #1 is out of order. Sinisa calls his intended dinner restaurant to find out if they accept credit cards since none of us have Bosnian money. The restaurant says, “Yes, but not on Sundays!” Did you ever? The hunt for an ATM continued until one happily chugged away, spewing out Bosnian currency to one and all.
Money in hand, we left the group, and backtracked to the Doner Kebob stand. Starving Steve insisted on buying three medium-size doners that could have fed five people. As if that wasn’t enough food, I braked to a stop in front of a bakery and bought two apple rolls, needed like a new rectum. (Actually, I do need a new rectum.) Back to the Hotel Hayat loaded with so much food, we couldn’t finish it all. No surprise there!
It took a long time to fall asleep with Doner Kebobs sloshing around in stomachs and, there was a mosque right outside our window. Sigh…prepare for the Call to prayer at 4:30a.