Sarajevo: Where the East Meets the West

By Lamija

Every story about Sarajevo is a story about love and romance, about sacrifice and sorrow, about heartache and despair, about anguish and joy, about loss and gain, about the past and the future. And who tells the stories better than the writers? Something that Bosnia and Herzegovina does not lack is writers.  In the box of our national treasure, there is a medal: The Nobel Prize Medal for Literature. The reason behind the medal being here is a name: Ivo Andric. Sadly, he is no longer with us, but the words he wrote are eternal and even though they are almost one hundred years old, they speak the same volume, like nothing has changed ever since then.

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Whoever lies awake at night in Sarajevo hears the voices of the Sarajevo night. The clock on the Catholic cathedral strikes the hour with weighty confidence: 2 AM. More than a minute passes (to be exact, seventy-five seconds – I counted) and only then with a rather weaker, but piercing sound does the Orthodox church announce the hour, and chime its own 2 AM. A moment after it the tower clock on the Beys’ mosque strikes the hour in a hoarse, faraway voice, and that strikes 11, the ghostly Turkish hour, by the strange calculation of distant and alien parts of the world. The Jews have no clock to sound their hour, so God alone knows what time it is for them by the Sephardic reckoning or the Ashkenazy.

Thus at night, while everyone is sleeping, division keeps vigil in the counting of the late, small hours, and separates these sleeping people who, awake, rejoice and mourn, feast and fast by four different and antagonistic calendars, and send all their prayers and wishes to one heaven in four different ecclesiastical languages. And this difference, sometimes visible and open, sometimes invisible and hidden, is always similar to hatred, and often completely identical with it. This uniquely Bosnian hatred should be studied and eradicated like some pernicious, deeply-rooted disease. [1]

Meeting new cultures is something that Sarajevo is all about and I have always found it interesting that so many nations found their home here. In the narrow city core you will get a chance to see mosques, the Cathedral of Sacred Heart, the Orthodox Cathedral and a Jewish synagogue. This unique, rich and enchanting mix of cultures you will find nowhere else in the world.

European Jerusalem. The model of coexistence for Europe because of its centuries-old multiculturality, which is due to the fact that Muslims, Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Jews have been living here together for ages. The city that connects East and West, not only as different parts of the world, but also culturally – with the East considered Ottoman and Islamic and the West seen as Austro-Hungarian and Christian.

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What is Sarajevo to me? It is not just some big city with lots of great buildings, full of people, those who live there, and the tourists that visit it. Sarajevo is my North Star, when I am lost and feeling blue, it guides me home, where I belong and where I feel the happiest. Once you visit it, you will understand the connection that never fades, no matter how far away you are. Once you are here, you will see why Sarajevo has been the only constant thing in the lives of many people and just like a song says: Sarajevo will stay, everything else will pass [2].

[1] Ivo Andric – Letter from 1920

[2] Mladen Vojicic Tifa – Sarajevo ce biti