Finding What is Not Being Sought
It’s impossible to walk through Sarajevo without being reminded of its past. From the mosques and marketplaces dating back to the 1400’s during the Ottoman Rule to the Austro-Hungarian architecture along the streets of Old Town, everywhere I look the history is literally radiating out towards me. The history nerd in me can’t even handle it. But the visible history is not just from hundreds of years ago. The scars of 20 years ago are still easily visible on the homes, businesses, and streets of the city. Walking through our neighborhood, I am reminded daily of the conflict through the bullet holes and mortar blasts that still decorate the façade of buildings. There was one architectural reminder of the war though that I had not yet seen, a Sarajevo Rose.
A Sarajevo Rose is an abrasion in the concrete of a sidewalk or a street caused from a mortar shell explosion. The impact creates a flower petal shaped arrangement in the cement. Following the war, these patterns were filled in with red resin and dubbed Sarajevo Roses. Apparently the “roses” used to be hauntingly frequent and it was hard to walk almost anywhere in the older areas of the city without coming across one. However, as the years have passed, many of the roses have been erased as streets have been repaired.
Having heard about the roses, I decided that it was my mission of Saturday to find one as we explored. However, as I dragged my roommates all over the city so I could photograph graffiti (pictures coming in time) for close to 8 hours, I never saw a single rose. Wikipedia wasn’t kidding when they said they were getting harder to find. However, on our walk back home as we were laughing, talking, and not really focusing on our surroundings, I walked right over a Rose and almost didn’t notice. Once I registered it though we snapped some photos and kept going. Pretty anti-climactic to say the least.
It reminded me of one of the most important lessons of being abroad though. You cannot go into the experience with an agenda or with something you are searching for. Vacations may work like that, but travel doesn’t. The memories that will stick with you, the lessons that will mean the most, and the moments that will take your breath away are those that you do not go searching for, they are the ones that find you. As I start my second week, I’m excited to see what unsought adventures are in store.