Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. May 2019

Situated at the intersection of three major streets in Sarajevo, the City Hall is a monument to the multiculturalism of Bosnia. Built between 1892 and 1894, in the pseudo-Moorish style. The building has been used for various municipal purposes since its construction, including as a city court and parliament house, in 1948 it became the National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the war on August 25-26, 1992, the building was hit by heavy artillery and incendiary bombs. The hall was set ablaze and the entire library was lost, about two million books, articles, and magazines were irretrievably destroyed.

The photos of the destroyed building, (are photos of photos which accounts for the poor quality), are from a display telling the story of the destruction and refurbishment of the building. The fire caused severe damage to the structural and decorative elements of the building. The reconstruction started in 1996 and continued until 2014, and was undertaken according to the original documentation, it took architects and builders 18 years to find documents and photos on the building’s 19th-century construction. The re-painting of 2,000 square metres of arabesques on walls and ceilings took a year. The reconstructed City Hall was officially opened on May 9, 2014, on Day of Europe and the Day of Victory over Fascism.

There is a exhibition in the hall which states, ‘Sarajevo is unique for its meeting of cultures and civilisations, for having a mosque, a cathedral, an Orthodox Church and a synagogue within 500 meters, and for its hospitable people…..it is most known for an assassination at the beginning of the 20th century, the 1984 Winter Olympics and for the longest siege in modern history. However before and after these dates Sarajevo lived and grew as every other city in the world. We want to show exactly what many people don’t know about our town with this exhibition – life!. Life and things that happened here….. There is a wide variety of images depicting family life and I’ve selected a sample here.

I walked through this square several times and every time a chess game was being played, and taken very seriously by the men playing and by the men watching, who were giving advice on the game. In the same square is a sculpture, The Monument to Multiculturalism, or Multicultural Man, by Italian artist Francesco Perilli. A human figure depicts a universal man, faceless, without hair or a specific costume or anything else that could identify race, ethnic group or national costume. Canada, China, USA and South Africa all have the same sculpture.

The Vječna Vatra, Eternal Flame, is a memorial to those who liberated Sarajevo during World War II and was first unveiled during a commemorative event held on April 6, 1946, for the first anniversary of the liberation of Sarajevo. The monument is comprised of tiles that are inscribed with text in the colors of the flag of former Yugoslavia, blue, white and red, and there is a copper receptacle in the shape of a wreath of bay leaves which contains an open flame that is always burning. The flame symbolizes that Sarajevo’s liberators and the coat of arms of former Yugoslavia, will be forever remembered.

The importance given to the ritual of drinking coffee in Bosnia and Herzegovina is reflected in the many different names there are for each coffee, depending on the situation: razgalica -first morning coffee; dočekuša -welcoming; razgovoruša-starting a conversation; and sikteruša- a sign that the socializing has come to an end. Bosnian coffee is served in a copper džezva, on a round tray with a little ceramic cup, a pot full of sugar cubes and rahat lokum, Bosnian sweets, similar to Turkish delight. It is drunk slowly with ćejf – savoring every moment spent sipping. It is strong and delicious, and the perfect way to sit and people watch or when one needs a rest from exploring this beautiful and welcoming city.

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