Day 5: Friday, September 30
We rose early, sad to leave Florence, a.k.a. “Firenze,” you know – if you’re from there. Not to sound dramatic – but we all get busy – I hope this will not have been my only days here before this life ends. IT was a worldly city. Small in the overall scheme of things, but big in beauty and bustling activity, and full of life. It’s “cosmopolitan plus.” This brings me to “Euro siren.” (record scratch – what a transition!)
How have we gone 5 days without talking “Euro Siren?!?!” Anyway – there’s nothing like being greeted at least 4-6 times a day to “Eeeeee-yaaaawwww, eeeee-yaaaaawwww, eeeeee-yaaaaaawwwwww.” If the centuries-old, asphalt-free streets, glorious, stylish buildings and multiple languages weren’t a clue … Euro Siren is how you are truly reminded that you’re in Europe. Oh, and don’t think anyone in Florence pulls over for these folks, by the way. I think the attitude here is either, 1) Run, bandits, run! We’ll block for you!… OR … 2) Hey, I have to get somewhere. If they die, they die. I’m probably being a bit extreme. I’ve been traveling all day and am somewhat giddy on adrenaline. And caffeine. Caffeine from tiny little coffees.
Our second destination is officially Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. But our connection was actually northwest of Florence (and for that matter, Sarajevo), in Zurich, Switzerland. It was kind of like flying Delta from LAX to Atlanta in order to get to Minneapolis. But there’s one GREAT catch … we had a 5.5 hour layover! And apparently, this is common enough in Zurich that they produce whole write-ups akin to “What to do on your layover in Zurich.” We opted for taking the train into the city center, walking around, skipping passed slow-moving light-rail cars, CERTAIN that Jason Bourne would emerge at any moment, having pulled “the ol’ switcharoo” on some bad guys. But nope. Zurich, as busy the boulevards can boast at lunchtime, is too calm, cool, and collected for Jason Bourne. I think even Zurich’s mass of citizenry would be able to topple and smother the multi-talented killer that is Jason Bourne, insisting, “You are messing with our staid machine, man! We do things orderly and quietly here!” It’s like that. But a real thing of beauty. Check out my facebook page for plenty o’ photos of this “movie set” of a city. It’s almost TOO clean and beautiful.
After a glorious lunch at “AuGUST,” where we dined on very zesty Central European meats, we took a walk along the river that runs out to a beautiful lake that buttresses downtown. Many a sailboat adorned the very clean and clear waters, with dozens of swans keeping close to shore. I thought any second Hans Christian somebody would come read us some rhymes. We enjoyed a leisurely light-rail back to the train station, which glided us nicely back to Zurich Airport for our ride to Sarajevo. Prayers for our baggage, which has been sitting somewhere for 6 hours, whether still here or spinning the concourse baggage claim in Sarajevo all afternoon.
Well wouldn’t you know it, my bag was second on the luggage carousel. Erin’s was like 5th, and the rest of her family soon followed in the top 20 bags. Good fortune shined on us indeed. As we made our way downstairs toward “ground transportation,” keep the following in mind. Carol and Fred and Erin have built very strong, family-bond relationships with several of the young people who they worked with for Global Children’s Organization, a group that ran successful summer camps for the children of the war-torn Balkans. These young counselors are now grown up, and they love the Tanenbaums almost as much as the Tanenbaums love them. So what did Carol and Fred insist upon? … that we NOT BE MET AT THE AIRPORT. Well, not only were we met at the airport by Fedja, my Bosnian political hero and friend, but by Adi (the guy who isn’t just getting married… TOMORROW …. But who moved up his wedding knowing we were going to be in town), Adi’s Fiance, Malka, and Adi’s mother and father!! When Fred turned to Fedja and embraced him, exclaiming (mildly) “We told you not to come,” Fedja didn’t miss a beat, insisting, “We…don’t…care!!” This is the bond that will represent the next 4 days.
Fedja drove me, Carrie, and Rich to our hotel, and I sucked up all chance for poor Carrie and Rich to get better acquainted by asking about local/national politics. The streets are FILLED with election banners at present, as local (municipal) elections are this coming Sunday. He then took us to the Old City of Sarajevo to close the night, as we dined on Cevapcici, a traditional Balkan sausage sandwich, and a traditional Mediterranean salad of cucumber, tomato, onion, and feta cheese. Much more in store for tomorrow – Adi’s big Wedding Day!