A new view: Rightly or wrongly, the war in Bosnia has very much colored the way I view certain Bosnian cities. For example, when I read the name "Visegrad" -historic town on the Drina and home of the famous bridge on the river Drina; is not the first image that comes to my mind. It is "Visegrad"-sight of some of the worst atrocities and ethnic cleansing of the war that first comes into my mind. I don't think that is unusual, after all, I'm sure when people hear "New York City", the World Trade Center is the first image that comes to their mind. And certainly, the massacre sites & concentration camps are very much a part of Bosnia's history, and they must absolutely be remembered and memorialized and talked about; but Bosnian cities are so much more than just an itinerary of massacre sites; there is obviously so much culture, art, natural beauty, and complex history as well.
Although this book is no "Lonely Planet", in fact as a tour book, is is mediocre to poor; it was interesting to read about Bosnian cities that I associate primarily with ethnic cleansing and atrocities, in a whole different light.
It also reinforced the fact that sooner rather than later, I would love to visit Bosnia and other Balkan countries. No matter how many books I read, I always feel pathetic "touring vicariously" through the Balkans-I want the real thing!
The last post on this book, I focused on Oor's generalization of the Muslim culture/heritage in Bosnia as "exotic." My problem isn't that he pointed out to the more traditional aspects of rural Bosnian life. In fact, I find that very important and noteworthy. My problem is that he seems to paint all of Bosnian-Muslim culture and heritage with the same generic brush.
Furthermore, despite mentioning Bosnia's religious and cultural diversity in the introduction, he doesn't really seem to show it in the book.
When discussing Bosnian towns for example, almost all of the focus is on the Ottoman heritage and Muslim culture/heritage; which Oor frequently calls “exotic.” Bosnia’s Catholic, Jewish and Orthodox heritage hardly get any mention, except in relationship to the Ottoman period. For example, he mentions one Catholic Church that was turned into a Mosque during the Ottoman rule.
I just wish he could have provided a more naunced view of the republic, and actually show more examples of Bosnia's religous diversity.
Banja Luka: Banja Luka is the perfect place to start. For one, it is the first city listed in the book. Two, according to the author "It is also a perfect base from which to tour Bosnia, one of Yugoslavia's most startlingly unusual republics by reason of the remarkable vestiges it still displays of the Turkish occupation."
In fact, the only event, place, "thing to do", of interest that the book describes are the four historic Mosques in Banja Luka. I was surprised how little time the author spends on the town, although obviously, Banja Luka is a more important town now than it was 2 decades ago.
There is also mention of how it not surprising that Banja Luka has a lot of green trees or parks, because green is the color of Islam.
Jajce: This chapter has my favorite picture of the entire book, a picture of the waterfall at Jajce; it is really breathtaking. He also mentions village tourism, which reminded me of ecotourism today. Bosnia is a very beautiful country and I think that showcasing the country’s outdoor potential will really help boost Bosnia’s economy. I know there have already been strides in marketing Bosnia’s natural beauty as a tourist attraction; and the picture of Jajce just reminded me of this.
There is also a mention that Bosnian music "is slightly Oriental which increases the feelings of strageness."
Mostar: The bridge at Mostar, naturally receives most of the attention in this chapter. In fact, it pretty much gets all of the attention in this chapter. There is mention of a Partisan cemetery as well.
Sarajevo: Apparently, the 100 year old Austrian buildings might surprise those of us expecting the town to look something straight out of an Oriental legend! That is pretty much the only mention Bosnia’s Austro-Hungarian heritage gets in the book. One focus of this chapter is on the Begova Dzamija; and there is a gorgeous photograph of the Mosque to accompany the description.
Most of the chapter on Sarajevo is dedicated to perhaps the most famous event that occurred in that city, the assassination of the Arch Duke Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie. Sophie is described as being “morganitic.” I couldn’t find any definition of “morganitic” but, I did find one for “morganatic”, which means marriage between a person of royal birth and a partner of lower rank.
The market place in Sarajevo also gets a mention, as does the surrounding mountain areas, which are described as a perfect place to ski and engage in other winter sports. (All, in all though, places to engage in winter sports, camping, the outdoors are given scant attention throughout the entire book, which is disapointing considering how much of the country is perfect for those who enjoy outdoor adventures).
Visegrad: Naturally the Drina River dominates this chapter; as does the famous bridge on the river Drina.
All in all as a tour guide the book is seriously lacking. It has the makings of a tour guide, there's info about currancy and how to travel to Yugoslavia, and major hotels/hostels you can stay in. But, there is no description of the hotels (just a listing after each chapter) and-I found this very surprising, no description restaurants, cafes, bars, discos etc. Which seems to be a requirement for any halfway decent tour book.
The book's biggest achievements are the photos, as I've mentioned in the above review.