In October Lana and I departed Seattle for Sarajevo, Bosnia via Istanbul, Turkey flying on Turkish Airlines. In Sarajevo we met our German friend, Sacha and his Bosnian lady friend Lara. Sascha is working with the Red Cross to bring clothing and other needed supplies to Bosnian kids and their families. Still suffering from the Yugoslavian civil war the Bosnians welcome the material support from the rest of Europe especially Germany. We enjoyed Sarajevo's interesting culture which is nearly a toss up between Muslim and Christian heritages,a blend of two radically different religious concepts but co-existing peacefully and mutually supportive in many ways. It is an example of how two radically different cultures can live in peace in the same city even leveraging the differences to achieve a more complex and attractive way of living. In the US, New York, San Francisco and a few other cities have this multi-culti situation showing that it is possible to peacefully co-exist even to thrive with folks who do not share your religious beliefs. In Sarajevo, the dichotomy between the Muslim and Christian zones is so defined that there is a physical line drawn across the market square separating the Muslim and Christian sides. Nevertheless, folks from both sects can be seen shopping at each others businesses without any issues.

In order to understand why such things matter it is necessary to understand the religious and political history of the region. The Balkans which include Bosnia have been the geographical and political frontier between Asia and Europe since the beginning of European civilization starting with the Greek and Persian empires. The Balkans have been one of the flash points in conflicts between the Muslims and Christians. The Ottoman Turks invaded Bulgaria in 1352 AD and continued to move up the Balkan peninsula for the next 331 years until the Austrians stopped them at the battle of Vienna in 1683. During the period of Ottoman occupation fundamental changes occurred in the cultures of the occupied Christian states including Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia and Hungary. Montenegro, Bosnia and the modern state of Kosovo were part of Serbia during this period. The Ottomans accommodated the existence of the Christian religion in many ways allowing the inhabitants of the region to continue to practice their belief system such that the two religions co-existed as they do even today.
Here's what Lonely Planet has to say about Sarajevo:

Sarajevo - Lonely Planet

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