Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sarajevo, Oct 10-11 2010

We arrived in Sarajevo last night -- long flight from D.C., punctuated by breakfast (scrambled eggs and sausage) and dinner (cheeseburgers and fries...and baked beans). Typical of the weird, homestyle salt-heavy diet the plane crew seems to specialize in.

We arrived at around midnight local time and were taken straight to the hotel. Hard to see anything, except as we were whizzing past a bridge the driver pointed and said "That's where World War One started". Hats off to remember the Archduke.

The hotel was odd -- a reconfigured "boutique" hotel with all sorts of odd numbered rooms popping up on incorrectly numbered floors, stairs and elevators that didn't connect, Bosnian guards sleeping in arm chairs....we met at the bar for a beer and went to bed.

Except that, of course, it was only 6 p.m. so it hard to get to sleep, especially since the security command post (complete with beeping and buzzing walkie talkies and lots of loud conversation) was directly beneath my window. I closed my eyes for a while and then woke up -- the muzzein from the local mosque was sounding. Morning.

Clinton spent the morning at a "town hall" style meeting with Bosnian students, held in an old neoclassical theater that had run right through the war (apparently on the worst days the shows were presented by candlelight). The students were a mixed group of Serbs, Croats and Muslims, and most seemed pretty receptive to Clinton's message about the necessity of putting ethnic enmities aside and getting on with building the country. Unfortunately everyone except the TV crew missed Clinton on an unscheduled walk down "Marshall Tito Street" just before the town hall -- she was cheered and clapped by onlookers, who remember the Clinton Intercession that effectively pushed the war to its close.

Sarajevo looked like it had potential, although the signs of war are still around in pockmarked buildings and "Sarajevo Roses" -- wherever a shell hit and killed someone in the city, they have filled the resulting crater with red epoxy -- resulting in a rose like sculpture on the street. There are also very few mature trees in the city, as they were all chopped down for firewood during the worst of the siege.

After the town hall and a meeting with Bosnia's three (!) presidents -- one for each nationality -- Clinton went to to cut the ribbon on the new U.S. embassy in downtown Sarajevo, named after a U.S. diplomat who was killed there. She had a few more meetings, we wandered around the embassy compound, and then back to the plane and on to Belgrade.