Vagabonding Field Report: Yugoslavia may be gone, but the Yugo remains in Bosnia and Herzegovina
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
People still drive the Yugo here – commonly known as the worst car in history. I learned a few Yugo jokes while here: How do you instantly double the value of a Yugo? Fill up the fuel tank. Why are there rear-window heaters in the Yugo? To warm your hands while you push it.
Describe a typical day:
I got up early in Sarajevo to take the train to the scenic town of Mostar. I missed the train because it left at a different time than they originally told me. This kind of miscommunication is of course expected when travelling and I simply took the bus instead. I arrived a little over two hours later and began exploring Mostar’s rich and tragic history from the Bosnian War. I sat along the picturesque river to eat ćevapi, drink Sarajevsko beer and admire the beautiful scenery of the Old Bridge. I reflected for a while how blessed I was to be able to travel to such amazing places (it was probably the Sarajevsko talking at that point). After a full day of exploring Mostar, I get on the train – receiving the right departure time – and travel back to Sarajevo. I sat next to a NATO soldier on the train and had a great talk with him about the current political situation and the region. I get to Sarajevo at night and go out for dinner and sample the nightlife.
Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:
I spent the day with a guy who was a child during the Bosnian War. He told me many stories about what life was like during those times. For over three years, he was almost never allowed to leave the basement and would often go several days without food as he heard constant explosions and gun shots outside of his home. He now studies political science and had a very unique perspective as someone who has both lived through the conflict and studied it.
What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
I liked the rich culture – it was a unique blend of Turkish, Mediterranean and European. The food was delicious, the people were friendly and the scenery was amazing.
I disliked the sad and recent history. While it was interesting from an educational and historical perspective, it was sad because most of the people there actually lived through it and it was very present. You could see bombed out shells of buildings and bullet holes on nearly every corner. In Sarajevo, the “Sarajevo rose” – where they filled mortar holes with red paint where 3 or more people died – could be seen on many of the streets.
Describe a challenge you faced:
There were no challenges – it was a very smooth and pleasant trip! Boring answer, I know.
What new lesson did you learn?
As seen time and time again, when people are able to work and improve their quality of life, they rarely fight. It’s when conditions are tough that citizens are susceptible to brainwashing from power hungry politicians that highlight ethnic differences and assign blame. Once Yugoslavia began to implode and the economy collapsed, radical political leaders fueled ultra-nationalism and ignited a brutal civil war here in order to grab power and land, conducting ethnic cleansing genocides in the process.