Thursday, December 28, 2006

"Not to win, but to take part"

As said in in previous post, I went skiing last weekend. It was the first day of the season, and one of the best skiing-days I have ever had here. I went to Jahorina, a vilage in the Republika Srpska, about 20 minutes drive from my house. During the 1984 Olympics it was the 'host' of the women's alpine skiing; the mountain is 1913 meters high. The Downhill, Giant Slalom and Slalom races were held here. The winner of the downhill race was a Swiss woman, named Michela Figini. Her time was 1:13:36. I snowboarded, so I was not even close to her time. In 1984 The Netherlands won exactely zero (0)medals.

I am the guy in the bottom picture with the very, very blue hat. Yes, it was cold.


Monday, December 25, 2006

Opium of the people

Sarajevo sometimes makes the claim to be "Little Jerusalem", because of the presence of 4 big monothestic religions in it's city centre. There are a big Mosque, a Orthodox church, a Catholic cathedral and Synagoge in an area of about 200 square meters. The claim does not come out of nothing.

Notwithstanding the war, the religions live very well together. They even use eachother. A nice example:
Jewish evening services usually start at sunset. Last year, during the the evening service on Rosj Hasjana, Jewish new year, the rabbi, instead of using his watch or a Jewish calendar, used the sunset call for prayer by the Muezzin on the nearby mosque as an indicator when to start the service. In most other countries in the world this would be unthinkable.

Of all the abovementioned religions, only the Catholics celebrate something on the 24th of December. However, when I passed by the cathedral yesterday evening before the midnight mass, a big crowd of people was standing in front of the church. The better part of them were not Catholics.
One of my friends told me she had never missed a midnight mass ever. She is a Muslim. It suprised me, and I asked around, but it turned out that her attendance at on of the most sacred masses in Catholisism is not exceptional. Apparently half of the packed church is filled with non-Christians. It is considered a nice outing, the mass, and it is a social event for a lot more people than just the Catholics.

That is interesting. In the Netherlands this would not happen. There religion is defined by believe, and to a much lesser extent by the social connotation surrounding it.
Holland is a secular society. I applaud that. However, as a result society does not really know anymore how to deal with religion. It tends to confuse it with culture, and as a result cultures and religions get insulted. In respons to this, religion becomes part of the public debate. Which than again results in a discussion in which people feel forced to take a stand. End of the story is that the socializing aspects of religion- bringing people together- are lost. No more opium of the people, but opium for the people.......

Although religion is part of society in BiH, it is a topic that is preferrably not discussed at lenght, for reasons that lie in the recent history of the country. The good thing about this is that going to eachothers services is not an issue. Going to a service is a social, more than a religious thing. Here religion as such was and maybe is the devider. However, it is also regarded as the socialiser it was meant to be. Unfortunately I have not figured out how that is possible in a country, that 15 years a go fought a war that was allegedly over religion. Maybe because religion was just the PR-reason. And was the real reason Power. It always was. From the bible onwards already. No matter which one you would read.


More pictures

The Bosnian word for picture is 'slika'. I find it a nice word.
One of them is a slike of my house, one of them pictures me, Elias Fels and Francesco Caruso in Dubrovnik. The other one is quite random.

Sarajevo in pictures

Those are two pictures I like. The one in town is made by my friend Elias Fels, close to his house. The other one is made in the hills behind my house, about 4 kilometres outside of town.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Once more, but last time now: fog

News is what journalists make of it.
This morning I was watching CNN and one of the items was about the closing of airports around London. Now I do realise that London is a major hub, and that it is one of the most important airports in Europe, maybe even in the world, but to make this a CNN headline is a bit too much. As if fog in London is exceptional....

Ofcourse the above-written is sheer envy. Here the airport is closed constantly in winter, as I wrote in a different blog, but I have never seen any news reporter even trying to make headlines out of that. And rightfully so. Because who cares?

To answer that question: me. Last week I was supposed to fly to Amsterdam, but since there was fog, I was rerouted through Belgrade. And for obvious reasons I could not fly there. And had to take a cab instead. A fortune poorer I was there. So I care. And thus wish that the closure of the Sarajevo airport was a CNN headline too. At least than there would be some effords made to purchase the right radar for foggy taking off and landing....

Brown Coal and Sauerkraut

For once I should write my blog in Dutch, because the title of this posting is better in translation than it is in English.

Brown coal and Sauerkraut - it would be a great title for a book about BiH. For me those two will be for ever synomims for winter in Sarajevo (although, admittedly, sauerkraut, or cabbage, is eaten all year long- they even put it on hamburgers. I do not think I want to eat cabbage ever again when I leave this town. Let's say it has lost its charm...).

Brown coal is still widely used as a normal source of energy here. Although known as polluting, it is still widely popular. While walking through town you do not see how dirty the coal is, but you do smell the very distinct 'fragance' of it. However, last winter i made a hike in the mountains around town. When looking down, you could see Sarajevo, covered by a thick layer of brown smog, to a large extent caused by the brown coal. When I told Nenad the Neighbour about this, he told me, much to my surprise, that it had been a completely clear blue day all day in town. So indeed, pollution is invisable. Except for on your skin. There you can see it. You get pimpels, as if you are a teenager again....

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

End of an era

Today exactely 11 years ago the first NATO-lead peacekeeping operation IFOR commenced. In my blog called "Footbal for Follies" I already wrote a bit about the history of peace-enforcing and peace-keeping in BiH.

Today is also the day that the Dutch army announces that it will seize it's operations as part of EUFOR, a successor of IFOR, in BiH. Since the Dutch army is currently with it's hands tied in what is euphemistically called a rebuilding mission in Afghanistan, it fears a sort of 'imperial overstretch' if it stays any longer in BiH.

The few times that I spoke to Dutch peacekeepers here, they were content to be here, but seemed a bit bored. Other soldiers I know spoke about a 'playstation mission' when they were talking about being here. Some of them complained about gaining weight here. I can concur that- I am gaining wait myself too.


Just before the start of winter (officially on the 21st of December) it has started snowing yesterday. Most likely I can go skiing this weekend.


Monday it is Christmas, but there is no Christmas atmosphere in Sarajevo what so ever. No trees, no cheezy songs, not even a day off on the 25th. It is the holiday season, but without the holiday. Even though my and my family do not celebrate Christma, it feels weird. apparently I am more 'housetrained' according to Christian culture than I thought I was....

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Damage done

Yesterday a report came out, in which amount of the damage of the siege of Sarajevo was calculated. Only direct damage (destroyed houses, demolioshed infrastructure etcetera) was calculated. Fourteen (14) billion Euro. For a siege of about 1400 days. That is 10,000,000 Euro per day. That is quite some damage. And it is still visable. According to a press clipping by Reuters, it will take another 30 years before the country is economically completely recovered from the war. Alltogether it is estimated that the war damage in BiH is about 200 Billion Euros.

Compared to Iraq this is peanuts. But who wants to compare one war with another? In all there resemblances they are all unique. But tangible in money....

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Cash is king

Yesterday I paid my rent. As usual I was a few days late.

I always pay in cash, and while I was waiting in line to pay, I was having a closer look at the notes of 100 km. Money is power, as they say. True. Translated into day-to-day use of the money this means that there are two different 100 km notes, both equally valuable. One has a Bosniak hero on it, the other one has a Serbian hero on it. Just like with the Euro, but slightly different- with the Euro the coins from one country at least have the same symbol on them....

I do not completely see the rational behind the two different notes, but I can imagine lenghty debates in the Bosnian mint, where one guy from Sarajevo argues that a Serb national hero should be on the 50 km note, and the Bosniak hero should be on the 100 km note, while another guy from Banja Luka opposes this, since he believes that the Serbian hero is equally valuable as a Bosniak hero, or even more valuable, and that it therefore should be the other way around etcetera etcetera.

My guess is that after days and days of debate two notes where their middle ground. Brilliant....

television tower- and Magla