Europe | Bosnia & Herzegovina | Sarajevo – Balkan Tours #2 – Besim (again)
Besim was very eager to please. I was a bit apprehensive about staying with an unaccredited stranger, but he seemed more worried that I would steal his stuff.
On the first morning we had breakfast. Besim produced a tray with some syrupy cake, a pot of Bosnian coffee, and a glass of water flavoured with rose petals. I was impressed. As we talked a mix tape with Santana, Moloko and a dance version of Jamming, played in the background. Besim brought up the subject of the war. He said that under Tito everybody lived together ok. Then Tito died and Tudjman and Milosovic messed everything up. For three years the Serbs laid siege to Sarajevo, and Besim had no electricity or running water. Ten thousand civilians died during this time.
The next afternoon we had coffee on the terrace, which overlooks the Ba?arija. There’s a super view of the surrounding hills. He says he dared not go out on the terrace during the siege, that from his window he could clearly see the Serbian positions on the hillside. One night three grenades landed on his roof and blew up his home. He didn’t want to say anymore. Like I said, he lives alone. Now, on the hillsides, instead of Serbs there are graveyards. Besim’s home was rebuilt with help from the Norwegian government. He is thankful and just happy the war is over. He doesn’t seem to hold any grudges. He says he is a telecommunications engineer and he works from home. He says most people lost their jobs during the war. He spends most days in a cafe near the Ba?arija, keeping an eye out for someone to fill his rooms. If he can get someone to take his bed, he sleeps in the kitchen. He smokes all the time. He doesn’t talk much or make eye contact when he does.
Besim strongly recommended I visit the source of the river Bosna, just outside the city. I wasn’t planning to, but such was his vehemence I thought I’d better go. The source is at the end of a dappled three kilometre tree lined avenue. It’s a serene place, with bubbling springs and placid pools in the shadow of darkly wooded mountains. It was picturesque enough, but I think it has a more important symbolic significance for Besim. These few scattered springs and pools combine and flow on together, giving Bosnia its name, and maybe its right to exist. And even after all the madness of the last ten years, they still do.