Crossing the street, I stepped over patched mortar craters in the pavement. In Sarajevo, they've filled these scars with red concrete to make them memorials. They call them "Sarajevo roses." Here the roses were black like the rest of the street — but after my Mostar experience, they showed up red in my mind.
The sentiment I hear from locals when I visit the former Yugoslavia is, “I don't know how we could have been so stupid to wage that unnecessary war.” I've never met anyone here who called the war anything but a tragic mistake. The lesson I learned from their mistake is the importance of taking pluralism within your society seriously. While Bosnian sectarianism is extreme, every society has groups that could come to blows. And failing to find a way to live peacefully together — as the people of Mostar learned — means everybody loses.
That night in Mostar, as the teenagers ripped it up at their dance halls, I lay in bed sorting out my impressions. Until the wee hours, a birthday party raged in the restaurant outside my window. For hours they sang songs. At first I was annoyed. Then I realized that a Bosniak "Beach Boys" party beats a night of shelling. In two hours of sing-alongs, everyone seemed to know all the words...and I didn't recognize a single tune. In spite of all its challenges and setbacks, I have no doubt that this Bosnian culture will rage on.
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You are reading "Sarajevo Roses and Bosniak Beach Boys", an entry posted on 08 July 2009 by Rick Steves.