Behind the surface of the streetscape unfolds a city with warm and generous people…by Dustin Giel

sarAfter two visits to Sarajevo in previous years and a road trip through the Balkans last year, I knew that I wanted to live in Sarajevo. At the same time, I experienced a great lack of knowledge in Holland about the overall situation in Bosnia when I told people in my country that I was going to move to Sarajevo for my study and an internship. Majority of of people, especially the elderly, were surprised and questioned whether it was safe to live here and thought that the city still looks devastated. This could either say something about the general knowledge of the people or something about the image that Bosnia / Sarajevo still has among some people in Holland. I certainly do not want to generalize in any case but I felt that the majority of people still have the images in their minds about Sarajevo that were broadcasted on television 20 years ago. But I have always been fascinated by the events that happened in Bosnia and also about the role of Dutchbat in Srebrenica for some reason. This has always been very prominent in the Dutch media landscape as far as I can remember.

Anyway, let’s go back to the city of Sarajevo. I believe that the beauty of Sarajevo is inter alia created by its geographical location in the valley and thus completely surrounded by mountains with their green slopes. I have always been attracted by mountain scenery which might be remarkable considering my background as being Dutch and the absence of mountains in Holland. The panoramic views of the city from the top of the mountains create the image of a living painting. This makes living in Sarajevo simply special to me compared to my hometown in Holland.

While living here since two months, this feeling became even stronger with the knowledge in the back of my mind regarding the historical events that took place in Sarajevo. Long before I moved to Sarajevo, I read numerous books and stories about the war in Bosnia. I can sometimes feel these books coming alive when I am walking through the city and when my eyes catch the surrounding scenery. The scenery of the city starts to play with my thoughts of how it must have been during the war. However, the fact is that I can only make a very humble attempt to imagine of how it must have been as I have never been confronted with these kinds of circumstances. The marks of the war are still clearly visible throughout the city which, at the same time, defines the character and uniqueness of the city for me. But  evidently, Sarajevo is so much more than solely the visible marks within the streetscape. Behind the surface of the streetscape unfolds a city with warm and generous people who are often willing to help, tasteful traditional Bosnian food, green parks throughout the city where little children still enjoy their time playing outside, families that enjoy quality time on Wilson’s promenade, the beauty and serenity of the surrounding mountains, people that will grab every possible opportunity or event to celebrate and the great respect for the elderly in society. Another interesting aspect for me is the love for its national music and artists. Despite that there are certain categories like folk music, turbofolk music and the popular ex-Yugoslavian bands, the domestic music scene is, as it seems to me, greatly appreciated and international music is rarely played in nightlife clubs or pubs. In general, Dutch music in Holland is not really appreciated or solely supported by small groups of people and nightlife clubs predominantly play international music. I attended Dino Merlin’s concert in Sarajevo at Kosevo Stadium in June earlier this year and the majority of people, young and old, knew the lyrics of practically all songs by heart. From my personal Dutch point of view, I admire the overall traditions and values that are rooted in Bosnian society and social life.

The paradox as described in the latter paragraph makes living in Sarajevo very enriching and interesting for me. I am aware that there is not any city in the world without downsides but all in all I can say that Sarajevo is bringing the best out of me.

Written by Dustin Giel

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