Yesterday began with a peaceful house museum of a well-off Bosnian family from the 18th and 19th centuries. As the welcoming caretaker emphasized, they were neither nobles nor Turkish; it was important to her to emphasize that they were regular Bosnians, who were well educated.
One sign was particularly interesting; it noted that in this room the head of the house would discuss plans for making Bosnia more autonomous within the Ottoman Empire. The house revealed details of every day life for someone of this class: the sleeping rooms, the dining areas, and the “privy“ among others.
I then took a walking tour with Insider City Tours. My guide was a very friendly interior design student who hopes to study in Amsterdam. He enthusiastically emphasized the friendliness of the Sarajevan people and the beauty of the buildings. A major theme of his was how much other cultures have brought the Bosnians, including the Ottoman and Austro Hungarian Empires. I got a strong sense that he was less interested in nationalism and much more in cosmopolitanism, even if it came with empires. For example, when I noted that the City Hall was somewhat orientalist in its design, he reinterpreted that comment to mean that the Austro-Hungarians were seeking to acknowledge the local culture as well as bring their own.
He distinctly deemphasized wars, including the most recent one.When I asked him about one of the Sarajevo “roses”, (red infill indicating where shelling had killed large numbers) he told me about it, but then commented that he wished people would focus more on the multi ethnic nature of Sarajevo and on its future. As one example he said every year Bosnians made great films, but the movies that got the recognition were always about the war.
He encouraged me to go inside the various churches and mosques, as well as to head up the mountain on the cable car and to go inside City Hall. The cable car was built just four years ago and gives a dramatic view of the city. Also, not to overemphasize the war, but it does show you what the devastating positions of the Bosnian Serb artillery.
Upon returning, I went into City Hall, and I am so glad I did! Not only are the architectural details gorgeous, but it gives you a real sense of the Austro-Hungarians in their time.