For a long time I longed to visit Sarajevo, but only after my graduation at the University of Amsterdam of East European Studies in the summer of 2004 I had the opportunity to go to go. Even before I received a valuation, Kim and I bought a Peugeot J9 campervan and drove to Istanbul crisscrossing the Balkans and back taking three months for the journey. In 2005, we visited Bosnia and Herzegovina with the van again, but stayed in the West in between Drvar and Bihać. We went back to Sarajevo in the summer of 2006, when I rephotographed Kurt Hielscher's iconic photo from the Žuta Tabija. In 2007 we got our first kid and it lasted till 2015 to come back, this time with the boys and and on bicycles, but each time we stayed with a campervan on Autokamp Oaza in Ilidža.
View on Sarajevo form the Žuta Tabija, the Yellow Bastion, with the Vijećnica, the City Hall, at the Miljacka river. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.
Same view but with a still damaged Vijećnica due to the war in the '90s, 29th of July 2006. Photo: Casper Molenaar.
Not so much seem to have changed, but we know better. History screams out loud here.
And now I am longing to come back to Sarajevo again. I planned a trip that was scheduled for the 13th of March 2020, so at the eve of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but before our government took responsibility we were already self-isolating, it turned out with a good reason: later it became clear that Kim, as kidneytransplantpatient is in the high-risk group for COVID. Next to that my flight back to the Netherlands was cancelled, but that was notrelevant for me anymore. We would fully self-isolate for over two years, but stayed safe. One day, ofcourse I will try to catch up. Kurt Hielscher published 11 photos from Sarajevo in his book, out of which seven can be rephotographed, so there's still a lot to catch. However, I decide to dedicate a page on the website on Sarajevo and tell my story. I hope I will be able to enrich it with the other photos later, but you'll understand how I am longing to go back again.
Me, descending a cobblestone road in Sarajevo, July 2006. Photo: Kim van Ierssel.
Kim and our youngest strolling around Baščaršija, summer of 2015.
Coppersmiths in Baščaršija, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.
"At the market", Baščaršija, 1926. Photos: Kurt Hielscher.
Dont leave Sarajevo without eating ćevapčići at Željo's!!
2006 without the kids.
Educating the boys in 2015.
A trilogy: Begova džamija, July 2006, Sarajevska Katedrala and its interior with my family, 2015 and the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of the Nativity of the Theotokos with the "Monument to the Multicultural Man who will build the World" in 2006. Photos: Casper Molenaar.
Outside Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque, August 2015.
Vijećnica, 9th of August 2006.
After seeing the Vijećnica, the City Town Hall, going up in flames in several war documentaries, and it still being severely damaged in 2004 and again in 2006, it was very nice to see in 2015 that it was reopened and restored very well.
Kurt Hielscher made this photo on the balcony of the Vijećnica in 1926. For my planned trip in 1926, I made contact with the Vijećnica and received permission to rephotograph Kurt Hielscher's photo on the balcony. Unfortunately and due to the emerging pandemic I had to cancel my trip.
View from the Vijećnica, August 2015
The characteristic Sebilj dates back to 1753. Here a photo from 2006 and two from 2015 with Kim and our youngest and me with the oldest.
Tunnel Museum in Butmir next to the airport. The tunnel was the only way to get in and out of the city during the siege of Sarajevo. The siege lasted for 1425 days with a cost of 13.952 lives.
Temporary grave of Alija Izetbegović in the summer of 2004 a few months after his passing in Oktober 2003.
Tomb of Alija Izetbegović, 2006.
Vječna vatra, the eternal fire is a monument dedicated to the victims of the Second World War. The monument was built on the 6th of April 1946, on the first anniversary of the liberation of Sarajevo from German occupation.
Every year I try go to The Hague to commemorate the victims of Srebrenica. Unfortunately, and I really feel sorry about that, I was not able to go in the last few years. I feel sorry, because I think it is important that, as a Dutch citizen, I show the victims that we still think about them and do not forget about the genocide. It took my government till the summer of 2022 to finally have the guts to apologize officially. On other days I also commemorate others victimized during wars in the former Yugoslav countries in the '90s, but not on the 11th of July, because that day is about Srebrenica.
Exhebition on Srebrenica at Galerija 11/07/1995 in Sarajevo and the commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide in The Hague on the 11th of July 2017.
Driving into Sarajevo for the first time in 2004 (these photos are scans from negatives). And Kim on Sniper's Alley. As said, we found a nice place to stay for the van on Autokamp Oaza. Then we went by tram to the city center, and I remember my first time doing so, because I was very excited. But next to us in the tram there was a family way more excited than we were as we noticed. As we started chatting, they told us that it was the first time they came back to their city after the war from the US where they fled to and stayed during the rest of the war. I felt honored being accompanied and guided by them during the whole walk along the Ferhadija and was touched by their sincere emotions to be back while sharing all kinds of memories.
A street musician in Sarajevo in 2004.
Camping at Oaza in 2004
Checking in at Autokamp Oaza in Ilidža in 2006.
Camping at Oaza in 2015
Nearby Autokamp Oaza is Vrelo Bosne where we cycled around and where we were spontaneously invited for a beer and meat. Photos: Leo Dunderovic.
A wedding at Hotel Hercegovina in Banjska Park in the summer of 2015. This is close to the campsite as is the famous Velika Aleja to Vrelo Bosne and the Rimski Most. I know I have photos of these places too, but couldn't find them now. Anyway, I have to go back to Sarajevo and to Ilidža, because Kurt Hielscher made a photo there too.
Page113, "Peasant's house near Ilidža", 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.
Below: panoramic view on Sarajevo with the Miljacka river in the middle and the in the '90s destroyed building on the right is the 1914 built barracks for the needs of the Austro-Hungarian army, later named Jajce Kaserna.