Arian’s tour, Sarajevo
Arian’s house is 309 years old with an earthquake-resistant foundation that modern technology can’t recreate. Inside his parents now run a hostel, where just over a decade ago they endured living on the frontlines of the city’s three-year-long seige.
Arian does a tour of the city for his guests, which starts at his house. Down the street he begins the story of the war, related to him by his parents: “Every street, every street, was a sniper alley, ” he said. Every building was damaged: bombed, shot, set alight. People only crossed the street at night. “The Serbs fired anti-aircraft artillery at people. AT PEOPLE.”
Landmines are still present in the area around the city, and even now occasionally Sarajevans hear explosions; hear on the news later that a child was killed.
There was no water, no electricity. Little food. In one bombing, beside the market at the Catholic cathedral, 30 people died at once. A huge Sarajevo Rose marks the spot: a hole in the concrete created by a shell blast, filled in now with red rubber.
The National Library burned for three months, and lost millions of valuable manuscripts pertaining to Bosnian history; people died trying to save them. It is just now under reconstruction.
What was once Sarajevo’s most famous and beautiful hotel also remains a shell.
Our tour guide speaks with authority, tells stories with flair, and though the history of his city is grim, somehow makes his guests laugh at every turn. He bounds from site to site, frequently turning to admonish his slower-moving students with sweeping arm movements, chanting ‘Gather children! Gather!’.
Arian is 17.
He tells the story of Franz Ferdinand, Austrian Archduke, whose assassination at the end of this bridge in 1914 resulted in World War I. Then he leads us to a nearby museum to view the assassin’s gun, trousers.
He takes us to the Old Town, to drink from the sebilij: a fountain. Those who drink from it will always fulfill their destiny and return to Sarajevo, the legend goes. When we stoop to cup the water in our hands and sip it, Arian rejoices by putting his hands in the air and yelling ‘Ha HA! Now you’re FUCKED!’
Though he seems to have no religious affiliation himself, Arian describes Sarajevo as a special place for this reason: down the street from the mosque is a cathedral, and not far from that the Orthodox church, close to a synagogue, and again a mosque, and so on. And for years all religions lived in harmony in the city, and do today, and would have always perhaps if powerful people had not stirred up perceived hatred for their own gain.