— Jasmina, proprietor of the guest-house where I’m staying in Sarajevo, on her war experience.
I was looking for a map of Sarajevo with street names — Google Maps doesn’t have any detail at the street level for the city — and when I tried Google Image Search, I found this gem from the 1990s. You can see Serbian artillery surrounding the city, and I think the red ‘spotlights’ are supposed to be dangerous areas where snipers had gunned down people in the streets. Also, you can see the UN-controlled airport in the lower left-hand corner of the screen; apparently, the only way people in the city itself could get to this area without exposing themselves to sniper fire was by going by tunnel. Crazy.
There is a kind of human being, terrifying above all others, who resists by yielding. Let it be supposed that it is a woman. A man is pleased by her, he makes advances to her, he finds that no woman was ever more compliant. He marvels at the way she allows him to take possession of her and perhaps despises her for it. The suddenly he finds that his whole life has been conditioned to her, that he has become bodily dependent on her, that he has acquired the habit of living in a house with her, that food is not food unless he eats it with her.
It is at this point that he suddenly realizes that he has not conquered her mind, and that he is not sure if she loves him, or even likes him, or even considers him of great moment. Then it occurs to him as a possibility that she failed to resist him in the first place because simply nothing he could do seemed of the slightest importance. He may even suspect that she let him come into her life because she hated him, and wanted him to expose himself before her so that she could despise him for his weakness. This, since man is a hating rather than a loving animal, may not impossibly be the truth of the situation. There will be an agonizing period when he attempts to find out the truth. But that he will not be able to do, for it is this essence of this woman’s character not to uncover her face. He will therefore have to withdraw from the frozen waste in which he finds himself, where there is neither heat nor light nor food nor shelter, but only the fear of an unknown enemy, and he will have to endure the pain of living alone till he can love someone else; or he will have to translate himself into another person, who will be accepted by her, a process that means falsification of the soul. Whichever step he takes, the woman will grow stronger and more serene, though not so strong and serene as she will if he tries the third course of attempting to coerce her.
Twice the Slavs have played the part of this woman in the history of Europe. Once, on the simplest occasion, when the Russians let Napoleon into the core of their country, where he found himself among snow and ashes, his destiny dead. The second time it happened here in Sarajevo. The heretic Bosnian nobles surrendered their country to the Turks in exchange for freedom to keep their religion and their lands.
Hence there grew up, well within the frontiers of the Ottoman Empire, a Free City, in which the Slavs lived as they liked, according to a constitution they based on Slav law and custom, and defied all interference. It even passed a law by which the [Ottoman] Pasha of Bosnia was forbidden to stay more than a night at a time within the city walls. For that one night he was treated as an honoured guest, but the next morning he found himself escorted to the city gates. It was out of the question that the Ottoman Empire should ever make Sarajevo its seat of government… . Often the sultans and viziers must have wondered, ‘But when did we conquer these people? Alas, how can we have thought we had conquered these people? What would we do not to have conquered these people?’
Stari Most (‘old bridge’), Mostar, Bosnia. The 400 year-old bridge was destroyed by Croatian artillery during the war simply because of its symbol to Bosnian Muslims — the bridge had no strategic value. Thankfully, it’s been rebuilt, but most of Mostar has not been.
highexpectationsalive-deactivat asked: Your pictures are so great, and really artistic! Do you take them yourself?
Also, love the quotes and stories from people in the cities you meet. It really makes the places you travel to seem real and relatable and incredibly fascinating
Thanks! I do take all of them myself, though I have posted a couple of images from elsewhere on the Internet for demonstrative purposes (and I note where the picture is from when I do that).
Croatian sniper’s nest, Mostar, Bosnia. I found a bunch of old, rusted, spent rifle shells mixed in with the broken glass. The building used to be a bank.
— Rebecca West, in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, on the decay of the Austrian Empire and Ottoman Empire in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
|Montenegrin:||A lighter? You have?|
|M:||You not smoking?|
|M:||Good. Smoking, it is verrrry . . . shit. Yes, it is very shit.|