Our first stop of the day was the National Museum. We thought it would be cooler than it was, but not so much. There was 2 rooms full of old Roman ruins. There was a little book in a special locked room that we couldn’t figure out what it was because there was no signs. Turns out that it is Sarajevo Haggadah (a Jewish book of rites) It was made around 1314 in Spain. We then wandered around in the botanical garden, which would have made a beautiful wedding backdrop, by the way. We wandered into the Natural History Museum (which is part of the complex and covered by the same museum ticket). I really don’t like these places, but when they are included in other tickets, I look at them because randomly there are non creepy ones. Maybe it is the ethical person in me, but all the dead carcasses around a room in glass cases just staring at you with dead eyes. *shiver* This one was only slightly less than normal creepy. But they had a bunch of random crabs and things in there rather than your typical dead mammals (which they had as well). There was also the ethnographical museum, which had really cool wooden architecture! It was set up like an old Ottoman house, complete with models in clothing, in a really informative way!
Our next stop was right next door, the History Museum. No joke, that is its name. This one was really interesting (although frigid!). It had a bit of history from olden times to Yugoslavia, but its main focus was on the siege. Throughout the day, you can’t escape the knowledge that the siege took place. There are bullet holes and destroyed buildings everywhere. One thing I kept thinking about was “why? Why would they do it? How can you justify cutting off a city for four years? How can you justify bombing schools instead of military targets? What justification can you even use? What was the point?” The siege is the longest siege of a capita city in the history of modern warfare. The Serb forces surrounded the city from 5 April 1992 to Feb 1996. The casualties are totaled at 11,154 people. (They just had a memorial for them recently.) It just took your breath away. The utter senselessness of it. There was the main museum floor and a temporary photo exhibition of photos taken during the war. Heart wrenching. I think more than anything it was the knowledge that this took place while I was alive. That the atrocities were happening when I was blissfully unaware playing as a small child in Southern California. Had I been born there instead of in the US, I might not have been alive today.
After that, Jen and I decided to venture out to the Tunnel Museum. We weren’t 100% sure we were heading in the right direction, but the map provided free of charge to the tourist told us to hop on a tram, then a bus, so that is what we did. I proceeded to leave my umbrella on the tram, but luckily it didn’t rain the rest of the time we were there! Once we were on the bus, we realized we didn’t know what to do once we got off the bus or exactly what stop to get off on. Out came the Lonely Planet pdf guide on my Evo (thanks Mama!). IT told us to ride to the end of the bus line (that should be obvious right?) cross the bridge, turn left and walk 600 meters. Which we did, even though we weren’t really sure what 600 meters was. They should say to the last house on the right! But not to difficult to find. This house was so full of bullet holes I am surprised it was still standing. When we got there, the guy who answered the door spoke a little English, and I told him I didn’t speak Bosnian, but a little Macedonian. He ushered us into the movie viewing room, underground. We sat on ammunition boxes and watched a chilling 20 minute video (at least that is how long they say it is, it went by much faster). It was news reels and home video of the siege. I tried finding something online for you to watch, but could not. After the video, the guy told us to walk through the little bit of tunnel that is still open and then go into the museum. (the tunnel was filled in to support the heavier airport traffic as planes increased.) We did. I couldn’t stand up straight unless I was in between the tracks and not where the beams of support were. And apparently it often had water in it.
The tunnel was built to supply the city with food and supplies. It was their only lifeline to the outside world. They had pipes going through of diesel, gas, electricity, and TV cables. When we went through the museum, the guy who had been showing us around, kept pointing things out. Then he said, “That helmet there was mine.” Not only does he help run this museum, but he worked in the tunnel. And made it. Every day he drove a truck from the tunnel, up into the mountains on curvy roads with no headlights to supply people up there. Every day. He pointed out the truck to us. We asked if we could take our picture with him and the truck and he was more than happy to do so. He then offered to take us back down into the city because he had to go where we were going. Of course we said yes! He pointed out various buildings and said what had happened to them during the war. It turns out he has a daughter who was 11 during the war. His family all made it through.
After he dropped us off, we went to get lunch! Jen had a kebab and I had, wait for it…burek! (By this point I was done with burek, like isn’t there anything else vegetarian in the world? Really?!!) Then we wandered around old town taking pictures and buying souvenirs. We found some of the best souvenirs of all time here- basically just hand made personalized things rather than mass produced in China things. (I wish Skopje would do more of this, I would seriously spend more money in Skopje then!) As in we bought so much that I had to go to the ATM 3 times that day! (given I wasn’t pulling out much at a time, but still it became a bit of a joke…)
|the eternal flame for WW2 victims. Yes he is lighting a cigarette on it.|