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New Europe

Day Fifteen: Sarajevo

Bridge over the Miljacka 
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A bridge over the thin stream of the Miljacka River. The green hills beyond look pleasant now but the Serb army sat up there and shelled the city for more than three years.
Michael Palin - New EuropeWe eat tonight with Ademir, his wife Selma and friends at a traditional restaurant hung with antiques which overlooks the city. An enormous spread of Bosnian goodies including a light and subtle ravioli with yoghurt, intensely tasty little lamb and beef sausages called cevapi, pitta bread and fresh onions, potato pie, spinach pie and spit-roasted lamb. We talk of many things and there is much laughter. Bosnians pride themselves on their sense of humour. For many, jokes were an essential way of dealing with the pain of war.

Unlike the Croatians.

'In Zagreb', I'm assured, 'they don't like to laugh.'

Then two guitarists and an eighty-one-year-old accordionist serenade us, which would be a bit of an intrusion were it not for the accompanying voice of a dark-haired forty-year-old called Amira, who sings in what they call sevdalinka style, gliding softly into their rhythms, her voice poised delicately on the edge of sadness and elation.

It's beautiful and haunting. I ask her if she trained as a singer. 'No, I trained as an accountant.'

Recovering from this blow to my romantic imagination I ask Amira if she can describe the Bosnian character. Her dark eyes narrow and she replies without a pause. 'We are stubborn, passionate, impulsive. That's always our problem. But we enjoy our life.'

Whatever has happened here before, I feel very much at ease in Sarajevo.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day Fifteen: Sarajevo
  • Country/sea: Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Place: Sarajevo
  • Book page no: 42

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