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the Balkans (part 2)

Croatia unveiled new surprises at every turn, from the stunning vista’s to the delicious food that utilized the wonderfully fresh local ingredients.  The highlight though, at least for me was Montenegro.  This is a country that is tucked between its neighbors with a population approximately equal to my neighborhood in Beijing.  The sparse population is just one of the stars of this small country.  The warmth and generosity of the people, the stunning natural beauty and the low costs all make this a place I want to spend more time in.  I only had two days here, but in this time I fell in love with this small country.  The mountains reached right to the waters edge evoking memories of the stunning fjords in Norway.  I only had a taste of this beauty but I hope to get back to discover more of it.

My third and final stop was in the city that perhaps has the most interesting history in the region, Sarajevo.  I had just enough time to hit the highlights which for me were the reminders of this cities role in the last century of World History.  In just a few hours I visited the spot where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated; the act that eventually led to the beginning of World War I, some of the venues used in the 1984 Winter Olympics, the Sarajevo Hagada (the Sarajevo Hagada is the subject of Geraldine Brooks’ fantastic People of the Book.  If you have not read it find a copy) and finally Sniper’s Alley, the road in from the airport that was too dangerous for most civilians to travel along during the war between former Yugoslav countries due to the many snipers that hid in the numerous high rise building that line the road that leads from the airport into Sarajevo’s Old City.  Beyond the history, Sarajevo is also a place of great beauty, ringed by mountains.  It would look right at home in alpine Switzerland or Austria.

This region has been home to more than its share of conflict over the years, but is a place of extreme beauty on par with anything else that Europe has to offer.  Hopefully in the coming years it will embrace it most recent history as a place of beauty and tourism instead of its near past as a place of conflict.

Images from Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina

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