First Impressions of Sarajevo

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Along the bus ride from Split, the lush green mountains and vivid blue water of the Bosnia and Herzegovina countryside were unexpectedly stunning.

Just over 300,000 people live in Sarajevo. It is a city that swells with history and tragedy: Muslims, Catholics, Orthodox, and Jews living in peace for centuries, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand on the Latin Bridge leading to the First World War, the lesions of the recent Bosnian War.

Exploring the city, from monuments and public water fountains to minarets, to the Vrelo Bosne and Olympic villages, the city feels traditional and modern. In the old city, the winding streets of Baščaršija house tinsmiths and colorful carpets made from natural dyes. Ottoman architecture stuns at the Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque, and the second oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe overlooks the city.

It is also easy to see how Sarajevo would be vulnerable to a siege, nestled in a valley. Recent wounds from the Bosnian War are apparent on buildings and in bright white tombstones tucked throughout the city. Yet the city sweeps you up in the belief of possibilities, in its richness, and the energy and messiness of survival. It shares valuable and powerful lessons with us.

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