Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
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I trampled a few roses before learning why the streets and sidewalks of Sarajevo were covered with red splotches. During the Bosnian War, an average of 329 mortar shells rained down on the city every day for more than 3.5 years, leaving a moonscape of craters. After the war ended in 1995, these holes were filled with red resin. With the unique sense of humor that had allowed Sarajevans to survive the longest siege in the history of modern warfare, residents of the city dubbed these floral-shaped memorials Sarajevo Roses. Once I knew the story, I trod more respectfully.

One of many Sarajevo Roses found throughout the city. These craters from mortar shells were filled with red resin after the war.

One of many Sarajevo Roses found throughout the city. These craters lest over from mortar shells were filled with red resin after the war.

The Bosnian War erupted as a result of the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. Unlike ethnically homogeneous regions such as Slovenia and Croatia, both of which had successfully seceded from Yugoslavia by 1991, Bosnia-Herzegovina was home to Catholic Croats, Orthodox Christian Serbs, and Bosnian Moslems. Bosnia’s declaration of independence in 1992 infuriated Bosnian Serbs, who preferred to maintain allegiance with neighboring Serbia. On April 6, 1992, with the support of military forces from Serbia, they began seizing areas of Bosnia predominantly occupied by ethnic Serbs. Read More

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The Una River in Bihac, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bihac is popular with tourists who are visiting Una National Park, located just a few kilometers from the city. The upper river has some spectacular waterfalls, and whitewater rafting trips are a popular activity in the park.

Click on title of post to view photo in large format: The Una River in Bihac, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bihac is popular with tourists who are visiting Una National Park, located just a few kilometers from the city. There are spectacular waterfalls along the upper course of the river, located just a few kilometers from Bihac. The river is also known for whitewater rafting trips and for Read More

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Eternal Flame in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, is a memorial to the military and civilian victims of the Second World War

Click on title of post to view photo in large format: The Eternal flame in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, is a memorial to the military and civilian victims of World War Two. The monument was dedicated in April, 1946, following the liberation of the city from Nazi occupation. The inscription reads: “With courage and the jointly spilled blood of the fighters of the Bosnian Herzegovinian, Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian Brigades of the glorious Yugoslav National Army; with the joint efforts and sacrifices of Sarajevan patriots, Serbs, Muslims and Croats on the 6th of April 1945 Sarajevo, the capital city of the People’s Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was liberated. Eternal glory and gratitude to the fallen heroes of the liberation of Sarajevo and our homeland, on the first anniversary of its liberation – a grateful SarajevoRead More

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Octagonal marble fountain in the courtyrd of Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Click on title of post to view photo in large format: Octagonal marble fountain at Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. The original fountain, built in 1530, was constructed of Bosnian stone and carried spring water from a source more than four miles away from the mosque. Severe winter weather eventually cracked the stone and it was rebuilt in the 19th century of marble from the island of Bra? in Croatia. During the Bosnian War Read More

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I’ve never written a year in review article before, but for some reason I’m driven to do so this year, and when I counted up I was shocked to see that I visited 19 countries in 2015! What’s even more amazing is that I did that in just seven months, because I stayed with my father in Illinois during the final months of his life and didn’t hit the road permanently until May 19th (I did manage to sneak away for a week earlier in the year for a long dreamed of visit to Cuba with Discover Corps).

My travels began in earnest when I flew over the pond to join Viking River’s Grand European Tour. For 15 days we cruised on rivers and canals through Holland, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and into Hungary, sailing into Budapest after dark, with its exquisite panoply of illuminated bridges, palaces, and statues spread before us. At the end of the cruise, I stayed in Budapest for several weeks before visiting friends in far Eastern Hungary, who took me on a fascinating day trip to western Ukraine.

Meeting one of the world's greatest photographers, Steve Mc Curry, at an event in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Meeting one of the world’s greatest photographers, Steve Mc Curry, at an event in Amsterdam, Netherlands

In mid-July, I embarked on a journey through the ex-Yugoslavian countries of Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Although it was never part of Yugoslavia, I included Albania, as doing so meant I would have visited every country in Eastern Europe. This had been high on my travel wish list for a long time, as it is a region that is little known and even less understood, especially for most Americans, and I felt certain it would offer up surprises. I was not disappointed. More than surprising, it was fascinating. Though the convoluted history made my head hurt, I found kind and generous people, a region that has not been ruined by tourism, and prices that were astonishingly affordable. Read More

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Statue of Pope John Paul II in front of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Click on title of post to view photo in large format: Statue of Pope John Paul II stands in front of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. The cathedral is located in the old town area of the city, literally steps from the iconic Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque, which is often pointed to as proof that Sarajevo has historically been a city where all religions and Read More