Monday 23 August 2010

Pawn to King 4

The picture to the right is my favourite picture of this trip. The concentration, the wisdom and the sheer humaity.

There is something curiously attractive, fascinating and civilised about street games between adults - in this instance street chess. This one appeals for me as a chess player of course, but nonetheless I do find it interesting how quickly a crowd gathers around street games like this.

Somehow the slightly lame layout of a small hopscotch in my own local Kilburn doesn't quite match up and yet it feels like the best we can attempt...

The other factor, when I passed by today, was the excitement amongst the older male regulars as a young woman took up the challenge to play. I used to play a lot (but haven't of late) and playing on a large street-board like this is very different to a table-top game, but I and these hardened regulars were impressed with the speed and the effectiveness of her game. She was playing to a formula, but with flair and style and a confidence that took them all by surprise.

At the end of her third win she retired leaving the older men a story to talk through over their bosnia coffee for days to come. Sigh - we could learn so much from such mediterranean mellow.

Don't just top-up your water bottle...

On virtually every street corner here there is a mosque - many of them open and live...

And so the tourists mill around in the courtyard - most tourists are either from the former Yugoslavian states or as far as I can tell from Italy. But my observational rule of thumb is that the Europeans/Italians (presumably mainly Catholic) don't go in... (they like the courtyard 'cause they can top up their water bottle in the cleansing fountain. :-)

So I'm going into these mosques - where it is much cooler :-) but also totally empty. I'm left with a desire to go out and usher the tourists in as the beauty, the art, the architecture is just superb quality, colour and design.

Many of the mosques date from the peak of the Ottoman culture (mid to late 16th century) and are small (communal). But this roundel dome (from Mostar) is not unusual, though at the better end of the beauty scale - but I can't help but think that in terms of the western tourist there is something interesting going on. The Orthodox and Catholic churches and cathedrals are busy with tourists and yet the mosques have only busy courtyards...

A small issue and not the whole picture I'm sure, but in terms of east-meets-west it feels a bit like west meets christianity but only looks on at the muslim traditions... That said, the synagogues were even quieter!

Sunday 22 August 2010

Europe's Jerusalem

It didn't take me too long to track down the local synagogue - but in a country where religion is such an issue historically at least, it's something of a surprise to find this has at least one tourist map called "Sarajevo - the european Jerusalem" (meaning all the faiths are here).

Sure enough on every street corner there is a mosque and then varying shades of catholic or orthodox christianity - few sign of methodist missionaries here!

But regular readers will not be surprised to learn that I tracked down the Jewish Museum and the Ashkenazi synagogue _ I've been past the historic (oldest?) jewish cemetery but haven't been back yet with the camera...

The Jewish community here is down to just 600 but before WWII was at over 12,000... and the museum reflects the cultural panoply of that community. But in practising terms, I understand the old synagogue is just a museum used annually and this Askenazi synagogue is the only operational place of worship for Sarajevo's jewish community.

Too young, just too young...

I'm not sure there is much to say other than these pictures but suffice to say it is the dominant feature of the places I have been here in Bosnia Herzegovina - graveyard upon graveyard. These are not old and well maintained - these are recent, specific and relate to the 1992-1995 war. This series were taken in Mostar.

Friday 20 August 2010

When the war is over...

I'm not sure what I was expecting here in Sarejevo, Bosnia, but this is not it.

The weather is just stunning - but beyond that the city is also amazingly cosmopolitan and welcoming.

The bridges - and it feels like there are loads - are charming, quaint, not over busy.

And if you like architecture then churches, mosques, synagogues, austro hungarian, moslem inspired - it's all here.

The streets are patently not paved with gold but they have a marble sheen that is well - intoxicating in this weather.

But then there is the grim real bit with the range of mountain around the bowl in which Sarajevo sits - wooded and dominant they and the many shimmiering graveyards around show the horror to everyone of what happened when this city was put under seige...

For me, it's more political tourism and I'm loving it... and as a place to be in it is way beyond my expectations.

More to follow... for now, more Bosnian coffee.

Thursday 12 August 2010

Eeeek, the weeks just shoot by...

Okay, okay it's been far too long since I sat down to do a set and run of updates.

It's not for the lack of content and local stuff, but rather the lack of discipline in writing the blog.

But today was aexciting in that I went to an appointment to the Museum of London to view the medieval seals of the Priory of St John the Baptist, Kilburn. There are four what appear to be late victorian copies - in varying forms of repair - and between them I reckon we can form a complete view of the seal as was.

What I nw have to do it track down the original seals and preferably the documents they are or are not attached to... tips and leads appreciated but I'm assuming that the British Library and Kew Records Office are my next stop - possibly Metropolitan Archives too...