We took the train from Budapest to Sarajevo on Wednesday....a 12 hour journey. For the most part, train travel is fantastic - quite comfy (especially if you get your own compartment, which we've been lucky enough to get) and during the day rides, the scenery is great. On this ride, however, our compartment window wouldn't open and we were DYING of heat. Sean had sweat rolling down his forehead while he tried to sleep. But, we made it, and the sweltering train ride was worth it.
Sarajevo was Kaitlin's favorite place so far (Sean's fave is still Prague). It is a city overflowing with amazing recent history, vitality, and friendly people. We were met at the airport by a hostel worker who drove us through the city to our place. Since we arrived so late at night, it was very comforting to have a ride....figuring out the tram and bus systems here is hard enough in the daylight. The driver spoke very little English, but was excited to point things out to us along the way. We checked in and headed to our room, desperate for a good night's sleep. We each took a quick (VERY COLD) shower and tried to go to sleep. The temperature in the room, however, was not much warmer than the 35 degrees it was outside, and that made sleep nearly impossible. Kaitlin slept in her jacket, hat, and gloves.
We woke up the next morning....very tired...but ready to explore Sarajevo and its story. We signed up for a tour through the hostel and squeezed into an old VW with two other guys from London and our guide. Our guide was a 26 year old who had first hand experience with the war and was eager to share information with us. We first went to the Tunnel Museum, located at someone's home, which tells visitors about an 800 meter long tunnel that was used by civilians and military to sneak supplies into the city center from Croatia. The museum was great - lots of interesting info and amazing stories. We then drove up one of the mountains to see where Serbs had first positioned themselves over the city, a position with a fantastic view of Sarajevo. The mountain is also home to the bobsled track that was built for the 1984 WInter Olympics in Sarajevo. The track is now only partly intact, with parts missing from bombs.
It is impossible to walk down any street in Sarajevo without seeing bullet holes in buildings and bomb markings on the sidewalks. The city definitely has a lot more rebuilding and repairing to do, but it is coming along. We found it incredible that people who have endured so much tragedy can be so friendly and seemingly happy. Sarajevo was the first place in our travels thus far where someone has stopped to ask if we needed help. We are both reminded of our trip to Cambodia, and how surprised we were at how joyful people there were, despite their poverty and grim past. It is always difficult at first to find similarities with people living such a foreign life, but eventually you realize that people are the same everywhere...all wanting the best for their families and wanting to be safe, happy, and healthy.
For lunch we tried the local favorite dish...called a burek. There are tiny burek stands and restaurants scattered throughout the city, and our tour guide recommended a good one. A burek is a pastry filled with cheese or meat and cheese, and is grilled in the shape of a pizza. They cut you a slice and it can be eaten with or without cream on top. Sounds more like a dessert, but its eaten as a meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We both tried the cheese one - delicious! The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around the city and trying the local brew....surprisingly good! We caught a local band playing in a bar before heading to the train station that night. Part of us wanted to stay in Sarajevo longer, but we both knew we couldn't sleep in that freezing cold room again. The night train to Croatia took about 10 hours. We were able to sleep a little, but were woken often for ticket and passport checks.