Back in Sarajevo after a day in Banja Luka. And what a day it was. I’m not going to start writing about the Ferhadija mosque restoration in Banja Luka except to say a few things, because it’s so amazing once I start blethering I won’t be able to stop and I’d rather do it carefully and accurately in a radio story for The World. That way I can get some sleep too. But the basic story is that the mosque was destroyed in 1993 during the Bosnian war. Not just damaged in the cross-fire but intentionally destroyed (with explosives) by Bosnian Serb forces intent on the destruction of Bosnian Muslim cultural sites. Photographs of the site right after the destruction show piles of rubble. That rubble was then carted away and the remnants of the mosque were scattered in various sites including the river, a lake and a municipal garbage dump. The team of people restoring the mosque have been collecting, cleaning, scanning, numbering, categorizing and doing detective work on the fragments to figure out where they would have fit in original mosque. It’s a giant architectural puzzle. Last year they actually began to rebuild, using as much old stone as possible but also some new dug from quarries believed to be near the original sources of stone. I’m starting to go on as I promised I wouldn’t. Suffice it to say the whole endeavor is one big human drama which demands to be told. And it is still unfolding, one chisel blow at a time. Visiting the site, doing interviews, hearing the sounds of the operation, seeing the texture of the materials, was all incredibly fruitful. I hope I can do the story justice.
And I couldn’t resist this photo of our breakfast in Turbe about halfway there.
Polenta, yogurt and sheep feta (not sure if it’s technically feta but that’s what it tasted like). None of us touched the onion. This tray with three bowls is one portion by the way. You spoon the cheese and yogurt into the polenta and eat the mixture. It was yummy. One of our party wolfed his down, leaving the bowls completely empty. He said he learned to eat quickly during the war when you never knew if you’d have the chance to finish a meal. He hasn’t been able to shake the habit since.