One day during our time in Bosnia we made a visit to the city of Mostar, a cultural center and UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its Ottoman-era bridge. The duration of our time in Mostar was spent huddling under umbrellas and avoiding the torrential rainfall as we went on a walking tour around the “Mediterranean” city.
Our tour guide shared with us how the war impacted Mostar. She explained how Mostar has an Austro-Hungarian side and an Ottoman side. During the war, Orthodox Christians moved to the Austro-Hungarian side and Muslims moved to the Ottoman side, to the point where people swapped apartments. It sounds so ridiculous and implausible, yet it happened. When asked how things are now that the war is over, she said that although there is now freedom of mobility between both sides, things continue to be, for the most part, “ethnically” segregated.
When you hear the words Bosnia and Herzegovina, what, if anything, comes to mind? Before learning more about this country in the Balkans, when I heard its name, I drew a blank. I knew a war and genocide had recently taken place there, but that was about it. Bosnia, like many places in the world, was a country overlooked by the education system I grew up in and a mysterious place forgotten about by the Western world.
As odd as it sounds, I've always found genocide interesting and have been drawn to regions recovering from conflict, so when I heard our group would be studying and visiting Bosnia I was excited. In preparation for our excursion, we read The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway and Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War by Peter Maass.
I thought I knew what to expect going into these books, but they blew me away in the worst possible way. The Cellist is a fictional story told from the perspectives of four characters living under the siege of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia. It does a fantastic job of putting the reader in the shoes of someone daily living under war. It also wrestles with the issue of our humanity, how it can be lost during war and the journey of the characters as they reclaim it.
Can the weeks stop flying by? I've been in Budapest for almost a month now and I’m begging the clock to slow down. I’m falling in love with every aspect of life here and knowing I have to leave in December is frightening. But I thankfully don’t have to think about that quite yet! This past week I visited the lovely town of Eger, started a history class at Corvinus University and two classes with Jeff (our fabulous program director from Calvin), continued service-learning, and “graduated” from Hungarian (I've never been so proud of a B+ before)!
Another eventful week and a half in Hungary has passed by! This week I've continued to explore the city (and the delicious food here) and study Hungarian. I also started service-learning and this past weekend had a lovely day trip to Lake Balaton! Additionally this week I've wrestled with some challenging questions regarding my own privilege in being here and how to be a respectful traveler, not an exploitative tourist.