Postcards from Sarajevo
SARAJEVO IN SERENITY. The view from the terrace of the first-class President Hotel in old town Sarajevo. Sarajevo was founded by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century and the city grows around a Turkish-style marketplace. At its height, Sarajevo was the biggest and most important Ottoman city in the Balkans after Istanbul itself.
Joanne Rae Ramirez
Postcards from Sarajevo
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - November 19, 2019 - 12:00am

An eye opener.

That was what a recent trip to the Balkans proved to be from the most panoramic views, the most picturesque ancient fortresses, the most pristine coastal towns and the most inspiring former war-torn cities.

Apparition Hill. Southwest of Mostar is Medjugorje, where the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared in June 1981. Though not yet officially recognized as a miracle by the Catholic Church (the process is ongoing), Medjugorje receives more than a million pilgrims each year, and over 30 million since 1981. For millions, no official recognition is necessary for miracles felt by the heart.

The Balkans opened my eyes to the wonders of an underground labyrinth that was the Postojna Cave; the symmetry of a chain of 16 terraced lakes in Plitvice; the magnificence of ancient fortress cities in Croatia that look like Troy (but where was Brad Pitt a.k.a. “Achilles”?); the calm of a rock-carpeted hill in Medjugorje, where the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared to six teenagers in 1981; and finally to the awe-inspiring serenity of former war-torn Sarajevo.

Mostar bridge. This 16th-century Ottoman bridge in the city of Mostar, a few hours away from Sarajevo, was destroyed in 1993 during the CroatBosniak War. Against all odds, it reopened in 2006, a poster bridge for political will

Curated by Shan Dioquino David, president of Corporate International Travel & Tours Inc. (CITTI), the Balkans tour took off in picturesque Slovenia (Ljubljana, Bled); followed by Croatia (Zagreb, Zadar, Split, Dubrovnik) then Bosnia and Herzegovina (Medjugorje, Mostar and Sarajevo). So we had a chunk of everything, including history, while traveling in comfort and sleeping in first class, First World hotels.

#Balkanbesties: Chalene Sun, CITTI president Shan David, Juliet Cinco and Edna Estolano; Sonia Banta, the author, lawyer Yette Morales, Dorothy Cheong, Rosky de Guzman, Miren Sun, Stefan, Julian Morales, Rene Cinco, Brenda Yabyabin, Joy Silva and Bern Concepcion.

The most recent estimates suggest that around 100,000 people were killed during the homeland war in Bosnia and Herzegovina  from 1991 to 1995. Over 2.2 million people were reportedly displaced, making it the most devastating conflict in Europe since the end of World War II. In addition, an estimated 12,000 to 20,000 women were raped, most of them Bosniak.

Walking symbols of reconciliation. Our tour leader Stefan who is a Serb Christian, and Vedad, our tour guide in Sarajevo, who is Bosnian Muslim.

Were we in no man’s land in Bosnia and Herzegovina? On the contrary, after sightseeing, the group went shopping in Zara and in a nearby Turkish market in Sarajevo and had a degustation meal and wine in a restaurant on a hill, the  Hedona Wine Club which only accommodates those with reservations.

In 25 years, Sarajevo is definitely back on its feet, a template for recovery. I didn’t see any soldiers and policemen conspicuously roaming the streets, though we were asked to be wary of pickpockets which we should be wary of in most places in the world.

For this piece, I will take you to Bosnia and Herzegovina (more on Slovenia and Croatia soon), through the following postcards from Sarajevo. *

(For inquiries, call Corporate International Travel & Tours at 631-6541 or e-mail

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