It’s about 6 or 7 hours bus ride from Sarajevo to Dubrovnik, Croatia.  I include this travel note here because it has a few thing related to Bosnia. It’s sort of a merry-go-’round, can’t really understand Sarajevo without understanding Bosnia, can’t understand Bosnia without understanding its neighbors and its people…

J. and I  followed a guided group of tourists to listen for free. I was a little bit embarrassed, so I tried to be inconspicuous and kept a distance from them. When I got close, I pretended that I was window-shopping. But shameless J. who was more into historical information, museums, and guided trips, saw no problem of blending in with the PAID group and becoming one of them. He explained: "The street is free; I can walk and stand wherever I want." "I agree, but this is more of a principal matter," I replied. Warning to the readers: Don’t be fooled by my last statement as there is nothing principal about me; I was simply embarrassed.

The tour guide was a pretty woman in white summer dress and round beach hat. She spoke English fairly well and was quite articulate narrating the history of Dubrovnik until near the end when she got caught up by a harmless political-provoking question: "What was that civilian conflict which happened here?" A tourist asked.
"No, it was not a civilian conflict. It was a Serbian war." She quickly corrected him.
The group erupted with laughter.

Suddenly, I forgot my freeloader’s status and inched closer to listen to the conversation.
"It was not a religious war either." She continued. "It was strictly for economic reason. Croatia broke away from Yugoslavia, and Serbia declared war because it wanted to control the Dalmatian coast." Then, she pointed to buildings which bombed from oversea, in Montenegro territory by the Serbia and Montenegro army.

"Wow, this woman is a madly nationalist." J. commented.
"What the hell do you mean?" I angrily asked.
"She did not tell the truth. Croatians murdered many innocent Serbs too."
"But Serbia started it." I retorted.
"If you want to argue about who started first, it will never end. For example, one can say that Croatia started because it broke away from the country-implied Yugoslavia."

"But if the central government in Serbia led better or was not too greedy (*), nobody would even think about breaking away right?" I said. " Look at Czech and Slovakia; you guys broke without a single gun shot. What does it mean? It means that the same event can spawn many different responses and actions depending pretty much on the people involved. If you have leaders like the Dalai Lama (*) or Gandhi (*), wars and massacres would NOT have happened. Too bad for this region having bastard like Milosevic and those radical Bosnian Serbs."

"Let see it this way. As the president of Yugoslavia, Milosevic was responsible to keep the country together." J. still calmly explained.

"If you say so then why DIDN’TS the president of Czechoslovakia bomb Slovakia? There are many ways to keep the country together. You can always negotiate. If negotiation fails and these people want to leave the union, then perhaps it said something about your character as a leader of a nation. You simple don’t have the respect and support, then you should let them go peacefully." My voice began to rise and speed up. "Milosevic, being a power-greedy and ill-intent nationalist bastard that he is, he waged the wars and murdered thousands of people. Look at Gandhi and his non-violent approach in his quest which earned him a Nobel Prize, to liberate India from English rule. If he had induced the Indians into killing the English oppressors, I bet you, the world would not have condemned his action.

"Stop screaming at me! Can we just talk?"
"No. I’m not screaming. I just have to make a point. And we cannot talk." I said.

I admit that I got myself all worked up every single time J. and I talked about the Aggression 1992-1995, and he tried to find some sort of defense for Serbia. I have singled out Serbia as the responsible party for this malicious act and in turn had severely negative images of Serbia and its people, the right-wing nationalists.

J. never lived through any war in which his close family relatives died. He kept bringing up his great-grandfather who was a soldier during WWII, how German Nazi murdered Czech, and how Russia fucked up Czechoslovakia during Communism regime, and still he doesn’t hate the Germans and Russians, and how people should move on, blah blah like that. However, he does not KNOW his great-grandfather, thus his death concerns him little if at all. WWII happened a long time ago, and he did not live through WWII, thus the pain and misery experienced by Czech only caused fleeting and at-the-moment rage when one talked about that. These experiences would never surmount to the level I call PERSONAL as felt by the Bosniaks, many of whom can be as young as 15 years old, who witnessed their fathers and uncles being slaughtered by Serbian nationalist/cetnik. This trauma have long and serious affect, and in many cases ruining their lives.

Phew, we stopped talking and proceeded to a book store to glance at some information about the city. I picked up a travel book about Dubrovnik which mentioned the Aggression. It was funny and fishy as the book mentioned Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, even Macedonia, everything BUT Bosnia, the KEY figure during this war. I turned to J. and said, "Maybe these people (Croatians) have something to hide. They did not mention Bosnia because they might have to bring up the fact that they betrayed the coalition with the Bosniak army and murdered their former allies in the process. I start not liking it (Dubrovnik) here."

J. kept asking for permission to eat that delicious Dalmatian seafood dish. After many "no" from me, we resolved to find a cheaper alternative. I suddenly remember Warsaw, an expensive touristy city where Tomek took us to a really cheap, self-service restaurant. We didn’t even have to walk for long as we accidentally stroll past a "Self-Service" restaurant which offered already-made food and a salad bar. I ordered a small plate of seafood rice risotto for only 24KN and a salad plate for 13KN. Of course, the food is good but in no way comparable to the delicious kind people talked about when they talked about Dalmatian cuisine, oh my those seafood plates. What can I say? I was a backpacking traveler on a shoestring and not on a luxurious vacation.

— We sat in front of this restaurant while contemplating about whether to eat there —

While checking out the restaurants, I saw a menu offering Cevapi with a specific description: "Original recipe from Sarajevo." This discovery made me think that perhaps the people from Sarajevo might be right when boasting they serve the best cevapi. I tempted to try but over here, they insanely charged for a cevapi plate. A regular 10-piece plate cost 35KN/5 euros compared to 5KM/2.5 euros served in the best cevapi houses, Zeljo.

— Cevapi menu —

…to be continue…

(*) Belgrade was the capital of the ex-Yugoslavia, so foreign aid and funding to Yugoslavia concentrated in the capital. Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia decided to break up partly because of this reason. By greedy, I mean that if the politicians and whoever with deciding power in Belgrade were not greedy and distribute the money fairly, breakup might not have happened. However, there are other deeper reasons.
(*) The Dalai Lama is the unofficial highest religious leader among Buddhists. He fled from Tibet during his young adult years followed hunt from the Communist Chinese government who for years tries to censor and minimize his unswaying influence over the Tibetans. Try to google "Dalai Lama" from search engines in China, you will come up EMPTY.
(*) Gandhi is the spiritual leader of India, whose fast and peaceful protests have brought freedom to India from British rule.