Friday, May 22, 2015

Reminders of my Youth

The oil spill in Santa Barbara is, hopefully, not nearly as bad as the one in my youth.  In 1969, the famous Santa Barbara spill occurred.
And for years, YEARS, there was tar on the sands of the beach of LA.  Seriously, after leaving the beach, you had to hose off and scrub before you could go inside.  You wouldn't have any idea of that now, the beaches and oceans all better.
See the black blobs, that was my youth.
That is what makes this so sad.

I Hope Not

Why?  Assuming this is true, why?

I mean in reading the article, it seems that they are planning on fighting ISIS anyway, so they want to start.
But why are we fighting ISIS? Why are we in a hurry to shove our people into a war to kill others and be killed?  Our war-lust created this clusterf*ck.  Do we really think running in, killing a bunch of people and running out will help anything?
And, if they want to fight, stop asking Obama.  Ask Congress to authorize the war.  Ask Congress to make this a reality.  That is the Constitution.

Bosnia Book: Jajce

After leaving Sarajevo I travelled to Jajce.
(why this see link)

You may be forgiven for not hearing of Jajce, Bosnia Herzegovina yet, but you will.  This beautiful town, perched in the Dinaric Alps, offers ample opportunity for outdoor activities year round, and a remarkable old town waiting to be discovered.  It boasts the (self proclaimed) twelfth most beautiful waterfall the world, right on the edge of the old town.  Why twelfth, no one knows.

Top, the Citadel sits on the top of the hill.  Lower left, a path leads from the Citadel down to the city below.  Lower right is the coat of arms of the last Bosnian King.
This Royal Town was the last holdout of the Bosnian Kings, finally falling to the Ottoman Empire in 1463.  Layer upon layer of history is found; from a Mithraic Temple of the Romans, through the Bosnian Kings, the Ottoman Empire, the Austria-Hungarian Empire, the creation of Yugoslavia to the Bosnian war.  What is left behind is an abundance of sights and sounds in an extremely walk able town.

The Citadel of Stjepan Tomašćević, the last Bosnia King, is perched atop the hill above old town.  It can be visited from 10:00 – 3:00 PM but one of the wonders of this still lightly visited country is the warmth of it’s people.  I arrived after 3:30 and was directed to homeowner just below the castle, who had the keys to the gate to let me in to wander.  The Royal Coat of arms, looking suspiciously like Davy Jones from the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie, stands out in relief from the Castle doorway.
Above, the ruins of the Church of St. Luke. Lower left is the Gate of Travnik (which is an old city on the road between Jajce and Sarajevo)  lower right, the road up to the main gate of the Citadel.
After wandering through the Castle, I took the slow walk down the ramparts to view the city spread out and the River Vrbas far below.  Then I wandered through old town to the Gate of Travnik, a 15th Century fortification with 17th Century addition of a Ottoman siege house.  Just through the Gate, is the path to the Jajce Waterfalls.

The Tower of St. Luke still stands above the ruins of the church of Holy Mary.  Built in the 15th century, the last Bosnian Queen was said to have brought the relics for this church with her dowry.  The walls still stand, and with  the Romanesque Tower piercing the sky.  Next to the Tower, the Museum of Jajce is housed in one of the Austrian governmental buildings.  
It is a remarkable amount of styles and features in a short stretch of road. 
The Mosque (I drove that little black VW in the far right of the picture)
Just down the path is the magnificent Esma Sultana Mosque, who’s minaret can been taken in from the same view.  The local story is that a beautiful Sultana was married to a Bosnian vizier.  The Sultana fell ill and was fortold that if she built a Mosque where “the two rivers become one” she would be cured.  She paid for the building with an dazzling (and expensive) earring and started construction immediately.  Unfortunately, the Sultana but did not live to see if completed in 1753.  The elegance and the beauty of the building is said to keep her memory alive.  It is one of the most beautiful mosques in the region.

During the Bosnian war Jajce changed hands many times, but all three major ethnic groups are moved back to the city and live peacefully side by side, the Bosnian Croats, the Bosniak (Muslims) and the Bosnian Serbs.  

The city of Jajce sits in an area that is only now beginning to reach its full tourist potential.  In the winter, the ski slopes are excellent, the Sarajevo Winter Olympics were held nearby and the slopes are empty compared to other Alpine destinations.  In the summer river rafting, mountain biking and mountaineering are all next-door.  Bosnia Herzegovina has introduced English as a requirement for school, so it s easy to get by with a smile and broken English.  The openness of the people means you will meet a friend almost anytime you try.

Jajce is a two hour drive from Sarajevo, or a three hour drive Split in Croatia.  It makes the perfect hub for a vacation in the region, with Mostar, Banja Luka and the sights of Central Bosnia within easy day reach.  It is one of those places I would encourage people to go for a surprising stay.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Is This a Bizarre Coincidence, or Mormon Propaganda? UPDATED

UPDATE: So my question was answered.  Apparently Brandon Flowers is a big fan of this music and sampled it because he loved it.  Not for any other reason.  Which is cool.
Let me start with the comment.  I love Brandon Flowers.  I have purchased both his solo albums and the Killer albums (his group).
But this song is either propaganda or a really bizarre choice.  I say Mormon propaganda because a few years ago Brandon Flowers did a big "I'm Mormon" campaign as part of their outreach.
It is "I Can Change", about changing who he is for a woman.  Which is great and all.  But he samples Jimmy Somerville's "Small Town Boy" which is about a young man who kicked out his home because he is gay.
"I Can Change" - Brandon Flowers

"Small Town Boy" - Bronski Beat (Jimmy Somerville)

Science: Not the Worst news


Could be worse...

Blood Moon - Blood Moon - where did I hear that recently?

The crazies have found yet another signifier that the end of times is nigh.  Verily, unto the Blood Moon... nutzos start your engines of doom.
Now this story is from Salon, but the book and nuttiness is real.  I though Salon was hilarious on this, so I quote some of the article.
“Blood moons,” which is a gussied-up way of naming your garden-variety lunar eclipse, “have preceded world-changing, shaking-type events,” says Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, a man constitutionally permitted to vote in one of the world’s most powerful legislative bodies. Legislation, accords, Security Council Resolutions, military aid packages — why consider this mere terrestrial ephemera when you can just go out into your backyard and consult the moon?
But all of that was merely prelude to the tetrad currently underway. The third blood moon fell in April, and the final prophetic moon will occur in late September. This tetrad, according to the prophecy, signals the beginning of the end of the world. Something bad happens to Israel, yada yada yada, then God turns out the lights and shutters the physical universe.
There is, if you think about it, a bizarre strain of anti-patriotism at work in how these conservative Christians denounce America and extol Israel in the prophecy: America’s lost moral compass (gays can get married some places, I guess?) has angered God, while Israel’s aggressive stance in the region pleases Him. The (quite false) narrative of existential crisis for Israel compounds God’s anger at the U.S. for our wayward path, and the fourth blood moon is the tolling of a final bell. It is pro-Israel America-hating, in a way.
The impending doom even impelled Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Rev. Billy Graham, to issue a call for a seven-day “mayday” prayer offensive, happening this week, to appeal to God, with this warning to motivate:
“Institutions will collapse. Banks will close. The Stock Market will plunge. Planes will fall out of the sky. Cars will crash on the road. Government in America at every level will disintegrate. Families will be torn apart. In the unprecedented turmoil, our nation will be vulnerable for our enemies to seize the moment and attack us. There will be mass chaos, confusion, fear, grief, despair, anger, threats, danger… judgment.”
Yikes, Anne. That sounds unpleasant.
The prophecy and its increasingly arcane calculus stand in strange relation to the coincident right-wing rejection of science. The actual, impending threat to humanity, global warming, is considered a “hoax,” an invention out of whole cloth, while the color of the moon and the spotty wisdom of goat herders from 3,000 years ago is stitched together into some kind of astro-hermeneutics, used to determine whether or not October happens.
Reading this I was amused, you know until I read that our government officials buy into this shit.  But then I realized, that's all crap.  I mean the candidates for President are all pitching their tent in the shadow of Crazy Pastor here, but none of them have stopped running because the big man is going to round us all up come September.
Now I remember where I heard about the blood moon.  In the latest Little Red Riding Hood movie, a Werewolf that bites you (but doesn't kill you) during a Blood Moon turns the bite-ee (Werebitten?, Wolfchow?) into second said Werewolf.  Which is just about as reasonable to me as Pastor Crazy Cheeks going off.
If you want your own copy to freak out over, search for this book (also available in Audio Books complete with spooky sound effects).

Bosnia Book: And We Leave Sarajevo

Bosnia Book Contnd.  Why? link
Sarajevo from Castle Hill.  
Modern Sarajevo – And Reminders of the War
Sarajevo is now a teeming city, most of it rebuilt, expanded and attempting to forget the Siege that killed so many.  New shopping centers, rebuilt hotels and a vibrant business district lure business men and locals.  But all over town a few reminders still linger.  Without dwelling on the past, these places are worthy of a visit to see how far the city and the people have come.
The Latin Bridge, where ArchDuke Ferdinand was assassinated and World War I began.
The Latin Bridge
One of the most famous and infamous sights in all of Sarajevo is also one of the least impressive.  The Latin Bridge was the location of the assignation of Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian throne.  It was his assassination, by Serbian Gavrilo Princip, in hopes of incorporating Bosnian into greater Serbia, that was the immediate trigger to World War I.   Before the Bosnian War, the bridge was named Princip Bridge, it is now the Latin Bridge.  A small museum sits on the Old Town side that describes the day and recreates the scene.
New grave markers line the front of Ali Pasha’s Mosque.
Ali Pasha's Mosque
A wide street fronts the Ali Pasha’s Mosque, built in 1560.  Across the street is a hill park, which is peaceful and green, even in winter.  But the hill above this used to be home for snipers by the score.  Ali Pasha’s Mosque was an outpost during the Siege.  The front courtyard contains an array of new marble columns, the headstones for those killed.  It is a simple reminder of what price the population paid for their city.
A Famous Tito statue - draped in police tape

The Museum of Bosnia Herzegovina
This Museum now houses the history of the Siege of Sarajevo.  Most of the upper floor has been turned over to how people survived the Siege.  It doesn’t dwell on the killings as much as the efforts of the people of Sarajevo to cope with the lack of necessities.  The museum has invited the citizens to donated items from the time and an eclectic and heartbreaking collection of civic detritus is the result.  At the entrance of the space information about the war crimes and prosecutions greet the visitor.  It is a emotional sight.
The Library on a foggy night.  
The Sarajevo Library
At the far end of the city, the beautiful Moorish Revival Sarajevo Library stands, majestic but closed.  In an attempt to erase history, the Serbian forces fire bombed the National Library and then fired on any people that tried to extinguish the fire.  Over three million documents and volumes were destroyed, including almost all dating from the Ottoman or Austrian period.  It was an attempt to destroy the culture of Bosnia, and thereby eliminate the argument that and “independent Bosnian” should function.  It stands, day and night, as a silent reminder of the spirit of those that defended the city.
Top row: Memorabilia from Sarajevo Games including the mascot which is prevalent in the city. Lower left, the Sarajevo emblem.  Lower right, a gift from the LA Olympics to Sarajevo - the sculpture sits in front of the LA Olympic Stadium (the Coliseum) 
The Museum of the 1984 Olympics
Calling this a Museum is pushing at the limits of the definition, but the Sarajevo games were memorable to me.  Those games took place in 1984, the same year as the second Los Angeles Summer Olympics.  I attended the LA games, and knew lots of members of the team.  I also attended the Beijing Summer and Vancouver Winter Olympics, so I have a soft spot in my heart for Olympic Museums.  Ed and I visited the Venue for the Montreal Games, the Berlin Games, the Athens Games and more.  So I jumped at the chance to see the Sarajevo Olympic Museum.  
The Museum is housed in the 1984 Stadium where the Opening Ceremonies were held.  It is now home to the National Sports committees.  It was said to be open until 3:30 and I arrived at 3:15 and asked.  A nice woman – Bosnia is filled with amazingly accommodating people, took me into a large room, which was set up for a Press Event the next day (the Futbol team had qualified for the World Cup) and turned on the lights.  She asked me to be careful, and let me roam around the room.  In display case after display case were the mementos of those 1984 games.  Scattered about with them were also reminders of the Los Angeles Games of that summer.  It was a little surreal wandering through these reminders of 1984.  The Sarajevo Games were hosted by Yugoslavia, which would disintegrate less than a decade later.  I ran the gamut of emotions that I won’t try to explain, (I would just sound silly).  But for a moment, time seemed to fold in on itself, so much had happened in the 30 years since those games.  An impossible amount of history, both my personal history and this city and country I was standing in.  It was disconcerting, but I was happy.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Well, it might be because you give them $3,000,000,000.00 a Year for Defense

Georgia Representative just completed his first trip to Israel.  He had wondrous things to say (LINK)
Let's take a small example, shall we?
Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) recently completed an 11-day trip to Israel — his first international CODEL (a congressional delegation trip) — and he loved what he saw.
“The whole time we were there, of course, we had security with us,” he said in an interview on the Family Research Council’s radio show “Washington Watch.” “But there was no restrictions on travel, we never felt threatened one bit, unless you’re threatened by the merchants in the Old City trying to get you to come in their shops! In fact, I can say that we felt safer in Israel than we would in certain parts of New York City or Chicago.”
“Yeah, or Baltimore, I would think, as well,” added host Tony Perkins.
“Exactly!” laughed Loudermilk.
I am guessing that Baltimore, New York or Chicago would be safer if you gave them $3Billion dollars with no strings to use for safety.

Eurovision - Start Your Engines

Why the box?
Eurovision begins tonight - actually today in the states, but you know what I mean.
Eurovision is that delightfully silly-ass competition of songs but country in Europe.  This year with a special appearance by Australia!
Anyway, I love the silly thang.  Today and Thursday are the semi-finals where the reduce the number of groups from crazy chaos to crazy manageable.

This year's pre-campaign favorite is  Måns Zelmerlöw from Sweden.  I can't tell if he is trying for the lay-about casual look that the Trivago Man pulls off, or if he is just lazy.
His song isn't bad and the video really does help you follow the words.

Bosnia Book Cntd: The Old Church and the Synagogue (Sarajevo)

Unassuming exterior of the Old Church
Built in 1539, on even older foundations, the Old Orthodox Church is fascinating.   It is an unassuming building on the outside, set just off a major street.  The small and (in the winter) unattractive grounds host this church that seems regal on the inside.  But it isn’t just the beauty of the site that surprised me, but the age of the structure and the fact it has housed an Orthodox Church for almost 500 years.

The Ottoman Empire was tolerant of non-Muslim inhabitants and religions for most of its rule.  To advance in the ranks of government and bureaucracy, conversion was important, but for the people day to day, the Ottoman’s were quite supportive of other religions.  This Church was built during Ottoman rule and has stayed Orthodox ever since.  The delicate interior belies the humble exterior.

Sarajevo also supplied a sanctuary for the Sephardic Jews fleeing the Inquisition.  The first Synagogue was founded in 1581.  It was destroyed by fire and rebuilt repeatedly until the famous Sephardic Synagogue of 1932 was built.  It was destroyed by the Nazi’s in 1941.

The Ashkenazi Synagogue was built in 1902, when the Ashkenazi community came to Sarajevo with the Austrian Empire.  It still stands in the Moorish Revival style popular in the early 1900s.  (A style shared with the Sarajevo Library and Civic buildings in Mostar).  The two variants of Judaism lived peacefully in Sarajevo for many years.  Sarajevo once boasted a large Jewish population of Sephardic and Ashkenazi people, until both were decimated by the holocaust.  Sarajevo’s Jewish population now numbers less than 6,000.
Top and lower left, interior of the Old (Orthodox) Church.  Lower Right, the Ashkenazi Synagogue

Monday, May 18, 2015

Flula!: Pitch Perfect 2's Perfect Villain

So, when I heard that a male German Vlogger  was a guest star in Pitch Perfect 2, I naturally assumed it was the blond beat box cutie.  But no, it was the grand-master of Das Sound Machine.
And he has a single (Booty GPS) that sounds much like DSM would.

PS- The blond german girl was scary hot.  Like scary AND hot.

Sarajevo Contd: The Cathedrals of Sarajevo

I resumed my wanderings and the streets of Old Town gradually faded into the newer city.  Not the new city, the downtown business district has been rebuilt since the Siege, but the Austrian part of the town.  Expanded during the period when Bosnian was part of the Austrian Hungarian Dual Monarchy.  From the late 1800s, Bosnia was part of the Austrian Empire, and the architecture reflects this.  Twin Cathedrals attempt to reach majestically, but do not completely succeed in impressing the pedestrian.  Not that they are not lovely, but the general building height in this neighborhood matches the towers and the wedding cake architecture is just as pretty.
The square around the Cathedral of Jesus’Sacred Heart includes a number of buildings dating from the Austrian period.
The Catholic Cathedral of Jesus’ Sacred Heart was built in 1889.  It stands in the center of a square, imposing and unwelcoming.  It’s odd actually.  It should be a spiritual center, like the mosque, but it is a bit cold and unfriendly.  The impression isn’t helped, I suppose, by the museum to the Srebrenica massacre across the way.  In a town that strives to be so open an warm, the Catholic church is a little forbidding.  I revisited 2 other times, assuming that my first impression might be a reflection of my mood, or even a bad day.  I am sorry to say, it is the only church in Bosnia I never got a welcoming vibe from.
The grand Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, on the other hand, was welcoming in a way I never expected.  Having done my homework, I had cast the Serbs into the role of the villains of the piece.  (By the way, I still think that, but I reserve my judgment for the Bosnian-Serbian Military and some horrible men, most of whom have been tried as war criminals.)  But the Cathedral Church of the Nativity of Theotokos gives of the peacefulness and kindness of a family church.
If you have never been in an Orthodox Church, the lack of pews is disconcerting at first.  My mind tends to think they are half-way through preparations for a dance or supper.
Lower left, exterior of the Orthodox Cathedral Church of the Nativity of Theotokos.  Lower right, the interior skylight.  Top, the screen showing the Religious Icons typical of the Orthodox churches of the Balkans.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bosnia Book : Sarajevo Detail 1

why - link

Sarajevo: the town of Gazi Husrev-beg

I decided not to start with the recent war damage.  I started with the rebuilt old town.  A fun, if touristy, bit of the city made of coble stones and ancient markets.  The old town still has streets where craftsman create, display and sell their works.  There is a street of bronze workers, of silversmiths and others.
Sarajevo’s old town reminds one constantly that this was the epicenter of northern Ottoman influence.  Sarajevo lies on the old trade routes between Asia and Europe, and ancient rest stops have been converted into brand new markets, restaurants and clubs. 
Prominently rising above the shops of old town is the minaret of Gazi Husrev Bey’s Mosque.  Gazi Husrev Bey was the Ottoman rule of Bosnia who build much of Sarajevo.  The impact is felt throughout the city.  The Mosque was constructed in 1531.  Across from the Mosque was his home, now a museum and a beautiful brand new Islamic Library, opened only in 2013.  But all this history came later for me.
My first impression of the grandest Mosque in Bosnia was quite different.  I happened upon the Mosque at prayer time, in the early afternoon.  So as I wandered into the courtyard, I was swarmed, surrounded and then abandoned by a legion of teen-age boys.  They raced into the courtyard, and ran around the slow moving tourist (me) to the entrance.  There, they whipped off the Nikes and Addidas and crowded the entry way, slowing from race to respectful in the space of inches.
I had to laugh at myself.  The last decade in the states has made me almost pathologically wary of teenage Muslims, ready – in Western minds – to explode as a suicide bomber at any moment.  Instead I was greeted by the cite of late teenage boys in any culture.  These appeared to be from a basketball game that ran a little too long, trying to slip into prayers unnoticed.
The interior dome of Gazi Husrev-Beg’s Mosque.  Much of Arabic Islamic writing is considered art in praise of the Lord.  The lettering on the roof is amazing.
One of the joys of Islam is the openness of the Mosque.  So I followed the young men up, took off my shoes and entered Gazi Husrev Mosque.  The mummer of prayers, the beauty of the Mosque and the unmistakable scent of play (common the world over, apparently) relaxed me in an instant.  It swept away my hesitation in visiting this far away place.  I got a dirty look from the Iman and was a little taken aback, until even more late basketball players stepped around me and I realized that the reproach wasn’t aimed at me.
 The father of Sarajevo was Gazi Husrev-Beg or –Bey.  The suffix is the title of essentially Governor of the Ottoman Province.  You will see it written as –Beg primarily I the West, and often as –Bey in Bosnia itself.  In any case Gazi  Husrev-Beg was the first major leader of Ottoman Bosnia.  According to Bosnia: A Short History (Malcolm, Noel (1996)), he was born to a Bosnian Muslim father and the Turkish daughter of the Sultan.  It was Gazi Husrev-Beg who set up the layout of Sarajevo, moving the settlement from the hills down to the river.  He built Sarajevo up into the most important city of Bosnia during his reign.
Top, the tomb of Gazi Husrev-Bey next to the Mosque.  Lower pictures are the exterior and interior remains of a Stone Marketplace and Inn for traders on the Spice Route.
The city is awash in historic buildings from this period.  Just last year, in 2013, the Gazi Husrev Beg Library was rededicated.  Founded in 1537 at the site of a Madras, the Library has grown over the years into the largest Islamic Library in the Balkans and one of the largest Islamic Libraries outside of the Middle East.  The early site of the Library was in Gazi Husrev-Beg’s home, which still functions as a museum.  The new Library dedicated in 2013 is in an airy extension beside it.
He also built a marketplace where traders from the Orient and Europe could rest and barter.  The stables exist only as ruins, but the marketplace stalls have been redone into an indoor shopping zone – primarily tourist focused.
Top, the original home and now Museum of Gazi Husrev-Bey.  Lower left, the new Islamic Library, opened in 2013.  Lower right, the original bathes for the city, now converted to shopping.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Bosnia Book: Sarajevo Introduction

why - link
(The Sarajevo introduction looks best as the book pages. Select to increase size).

Friday, May 15, 2015

Recently in the Republican Clown Car

Recently in the Republican Candidate Clown Car...

Jeb Bush (top right) flopped an easy question that said, "Knowing what we know now, would you have invaded Iraq?"  He said yes.  Yes, ladies and germs, if we knew there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction, if we knew it would cost $2 Trillion dollars (that is $2,000,000,000,000.00), if we knew it would destroy the country - he would still do it.
He said that he hadn't heard the question right.
Still Later
He said that he hadn't processed the question right.
Even Later Still
He said he didn't deal with "hypotheticals" (although that is all the campaign is really about - otherwise we are stuck talking about you in the F-State and your "saving" of the brain dead against the wishes of the husband).
He said that to say anything - in fact even asking the question - would dishonor the troops.
Mike Huckabee announced last week.  He was going to announce earlier, but he had to disassociate himself from the quack diabetes cure that involved eating cinnamon rolls (really).
Send your $200 to
Marc Rubio (center square) said, in response to Jeb Bush's hypothetical question (see above), that Hell Ya he would have invaded Iraq knowing now there were no WMD.  Why, because ... well, I'll let him tweet why.
He's Cuban, maybe he didn't know our history

FYI "Cession" means we took it after a war.  This doesn't include all the territory from the Spanish American war we took; Puerto Rico, Philippines, Guam, various island around the world.
I am not saying we Americans don't have good intentions, but we aren't saints.  Perchance Senior Rubio should study a little real American history before the next quiz.
Carley Fiorina announced.  So far her qualifications are ruining Hewlett Packard and a failed run for Senate in California.  Burt she is a woman who appreciates when a man tells her what to do with her libido, health care and body - so she is a "real" candidate.
Ben Carsen - brilliant surgeon - announced and proved that "brilliant surgeon" doesn't mean really smart.  He defended his line that the Affordable Health Care Act is worse than slavery.  And told everyone that President Obama will probably declare martial law and cancel the 2016 election to stay in power (although how running for President works in the mind set is beyond me).  He is stunningly anti-gay; but Bobby Jindal is fighting hard for the title of Most Inflammatory Rhetoric on Homos (next - week, there is only so much room even in a clown car).
And finally, Chris Christie declared himself vindicated because one of his aids pleaded guilty to Bridge-gate.  Although it's New Jersey, so having an aid and alley take the fall is actually considered a win.  After all, Senator Bob Mendez (a Democrat, by the by) was indicted federal corruption charges without a fall guy.
In the rumor department, Jeb Bush is allegedly trying to lose weight quickly so that he and Chris Christie start looking less alike.

Looking Back at Bosnia: Part 3

(why? - LINK)
Burnt out Minarets and Homes in Jajce

I spent the rest of vacation as you do, enjoying the beach, relaxing by the pool, visiting Dubrovnik and cursing the cruise ship crowds.  But I did change my reading.  I dropped my science fiction and instead read The Fall of Yugoslavia, a fascinating book by Misha Glenny with was a remarkable even handed look the Yugoslavian wars that followed the break up of the country, but preceded the Bosnian War.  For more information about the tragic end of the country, I recommend it.  It doesn’t cover the Bosnian war, but covers the Croatian and Serbian conflict in depth.  Those two protagonists, when the war between them stopped, continued their conflict in Bosnia.  The combatants were ill served by their leaders and lead horribly astray by a propagandist, hateful news source.  It will surprise none of my friends that I thought of them as Fox News, but in reality they were far far worse.  They promoted true hatred and fear of the other side.  And since the Croatians and Serbians got their news exclusively from these sources, they began to believe the impossible.
Croatians honestly believed Serbians were killing old people and children indiscriminately.  Serbians believed that the old Croatian Fascist government was again rising.  They felt threatened with their very survival, and so they were vicious in attack.  The end of the Croatian / Serbian conflict did not end the hate.  

Inflamed by misinformation, religious righteousness and fear, the ethnically Serbian and Croatians in Bosnia turned on each other and the Muslims.  The Serbians in particular used the land of Bosnia as a continuation of their war with Croatia. 
As a province of Yugoslavia, Bosnia was a little more than 1/3 Bosniak - Muslim, 1/3 Serbian – Orthodox and a little less than 1/3 Croatian  - Catholic.  In the war that followed about 65,000 Bosniaks were killed, more than half of them civilians.  About 7,500 Croatians (1/3 civilian) and 25,000 Serbians (1/5 civilians) were killed as well.
Even now you find a surprising amount of evidence of the war.  Not just bombed out buildings and scrawled road signs.  The Serbian flag flies at the entrance of many of the towns in the Serbian section of Bosnia Herzegovina (a semi-autonomous area called the Sprska Republic).  Mosques, which were ubiquitous in BiH are still prevalent in the Croat Muslim Federation area of BiH.  But in the Sprska Republic, the burned and destroyed mosques have not been rebuilt.  It is a little creepy.

These are stećci, ancient grave markers.  This group is just outside of Mostar.

The Tug of Bosnia
Leaving Bosnia Herzegovina did not diminish my interest.  I some how felt then, and still feel now, a deep desire to understand what happened.  This isn’t ancient history; it is war and hatred and war crimes that happened within memory.  It happened without any responsible action to stop it for years.  It was made possible by the apathy of the European Union, the UN, the Americans, the Germans, NATO, in fact everyone who had the capability to end it, ignored the war and its effects.  Investigating this horrible inaction did not correlate to the wonderful people I met on that trip.  It makes no sense.  And so I returned to Bosnia.
In December of 2013 I returned to Bosnia for a week.  I traveled by myself for a week to visit, to learn to try to understand.  This time I did more preparation.  I read a lot of books. Some were good, and some were drivel.  Some of these were recent, others dating from the time of Austria-Hungary rule (a partial reading list is in the appendix).
What I learned was both heartening and heartbreaking.  Bosnia Herzegovina sits at the apex of too much history.  It is on the religious fault lines of the Catholic church, the eastern Orthodox church and the furthest spread of Ottoman Muslim culture.  Physically it sits where the Alps fade into the Balkans and where the steppes of Eastern Europe give way to the Mediterranean (via the Adriatic).  And for centuries the various people of Bosnia Herzegovina have lived together in a multicultural society.  Those centuries of peace serve as a model for the future and give one a sense of hope.  But all of that history, all of that internal peace, all the centuries of goodwill was destroyed by a propaganda spewing media (actually two different ones).  So can it survive?  Can it pull itself together and reaffirm an identity? 

The Dayton Peace Accords, pretty much a dictated peace by Bill Clinton and the Americans, have divided the country into two administrative sections.  The Sprska Republic managed by the Bosnian Serbs and the Federation of Bosnia managed by the Bosnian Croats and Bosniaks (Muslims).  There is a rotating presidency, multiple assemblies and a lot of confusion.  There was massive ethnic cleansing and even more ethnic relocation.  Many cities that were multicultural have lost one or two of the ethnic groups and sizeable amounts of population.  If they weren’t forced out or killed, then they often fled when cities changed hands.

But visiting showed that this wasn’t the entire case.  In a few spots, neighbors are returning.  The country is trying to become one.  Bosnia Herzegovina made the World Cup for 2014, and I found signs of support in every city, regardless of religion.  The team, like the country, is the true tale of the underdog.  The question is can the country, like the team, thrive.