It’s been 20 years and change since I appeared on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s doorstep. I came as a young, exceptionally naïve but well-intended volunteer working with women and children in refugee camps. That was supposed to last 3 weeks. So much for suppositions.
I first ventured into Sarajevo in the spring of 1994. I had been living and working in the besieged East Bank of Mostar. When the Washington Agreement was signed in March of that year, we loaded up our lorry’s with aid and headed to Sarajevo. The only route into the city was via Igman. We had to wait for nightfall in order to avoid sniper fire. We traversed the last few downhill kilometers with our lights off, being guided by the moonlight. Thank goodness for full moons.
We were forced to unload in Butmir on the south side of airport. I crossed into the city by its only self-sustaining lifeline – the tunnel. Although I was duly warned, I managed to whack my head on the steel supports more times than one. I was sped into the city in an old Vogosca made Golf II by a staff member of the French NGO we were delivering the baby packets for. The city seemed like a ghost town that night until Vedad took me to an underground bar. I walked into a piano bar offering 12 DM LaskoPivo’s and live music. Now I know what Bono was always going on about.
Sarajevo won my heart in those first few hours. From the moment I was offered papuce by the military police as I waited to cross the tunnel to a beautiful rendition of a Frank Sinatra song and a Slovenian beer, the kindness and contrast of this city had me spellbound. Today it’s home.
After short stints in Montenegro, Albania and Kosova in the late 1990’s I returned to Sarajevo and retired from the Balkan wars. I took some time off and walked, trekked, and drove a good bit of the country that year. My good friend and human encyclopedia/compass Alen Lepirica showed me the ins and outs of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s stunning countryside. A vision was born that year. The vision was a green one. Some friends and I founded Green Visions in 2000. It was BiH’s first social business, dedicated to eco-tourism, environmental protection and sustainable community development.
Since then I have been a man of many trades. That is mainly to do with the fact that I get restless with what I’m doing every 4-5 years or so. The only thing that has never bored me is writing. I was given the opportunity to write the first English language travel guide to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2004 from the UK publisher Bradt Travel Guides. I finally got to put my degree in English Lit and Creative Writing to some use. I finished the 4th edition about a month ago. In between I have written a handful of travel guides for Thomas Cook Publishing and Buybook on Sarajevo, Tirana, Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina to name a few. My current hobby, aside from my son and building an eco-house, is my blog www.thebosniaguy.com .
I have learned over the years that it is Sarajevo and my experiences in Bosnia and Herzegovina that inspire me most. My time here has been the most rewarding, educational, reflective and frustrating of my life. I have had the unique privilege of being both an insider and an auslander in this city. Which is why I hope my new endeavor, writing for The Sarajevo Times, will give you just that – a perspective from both sides.
I have been waiting for the Sarajevo Times for some time now. I’m glad it has finally arrived. And even more pleased that I get to share some thoughts, ideas, travel tips, rants and raves with you. Your comments, suggestions and opinions are more than welcome.