Guys, don’t get me wrong. I love Beograd. Really, really and deeply. I enjoy being in Zagreb. I find Prishtina exciting. But it’s Sarajevo that does it for me like no other city I know. It’s my second home. Cause there is probably no place at least in Europe where you can meet so many friendly crazy people. Here are a two of their stories, involving a live stray dog and a not so much alive pidgeon.
Let’s call her Tamara.
Tamara is not her real name.* But that doesn’t matter, does it? It’s her story that does.
Tamara is a friend. A highly intelligent Western European woman who has been working out of Sarajevo for quite some time now.
Tamara has had her share of crazy. She’s managed to get absorbed into the city and its people like few others I know, Jim and Juliet aside.
The Live Dog
One night, Tamara walks home. Sometime in the small hours of the night.
A stray dog decides to keep her company. „It was the most adorable stray“, she says, this coming from a woman who’s normally afraid of dogs.
She’s never met the dog.
And he leads her home. Walking in front of her, he looks back, making sure she’s following him and not going into the wrong direction.
He safely takes her to her apartment building. As though he knew where she lived.**
Which isn’t the end of her story.
An Unmet Friend, Or: The Dead Pidgeon
There is also the dead pidgeon in her apartment.
The bird decides to die there. How it got there and why, of all places, it died on Tamara, who knows.
So Tamara’s wondering for days what to do with the dead pidgeon in her flat.
Having been in Sarajevo for a while, she comes up with all kinds of crazy ideas. Like using it for an art installation.
No one would raise any eyebrows over that in Sarajevo. Seriously.
The Pidgeon Gets a Funeral March
Eventually, she dismisses all of these ideas and decides the dove needs a proper funeral march.
After all, hasn’t it died alone, unbemourned by its friends?
In lieu of a pidgeon sized coffin – these are hard to get by in Sarajevo. One probably would have to go to Konjic for one of These. Which would seem a bit much. – she wraps it up nicely and respectfully in a transport bag.
While Tamara solemnly marches through the city center, the sole coffin bearer of the tragically deceased pidgeon, her thoughts wander off.
For, aren’t funerals contemplative affairs?
She thinks about her Work and what she needs to do to finish it and decides, she is hungry.
The Wake Before The Funeral
So our sole solemn coffin bearer for the tragically deceased pidgeon enters the Chess Club that offers wholesome Bosnian meals for big Bosnian stomachs with small purses.
The Transport Bag In Lieu of A Coffin enters the Club with her – for isn’t she the sole coffin bearer – and with or rather inside it, the pidgeon who so mysteriously chose to die in Tamara’s apartment.
The Chess Club, needless to say, wouldn’t even have been fond of the deceased bird had it been intended as carry on food. No „bring your own food“ policy there.
Nor, as far as I know, do they moonlight as funeral parlor, let alone for pidgeons, as tragic as their much too early demise may have been.
(They may, however, have been open to art performances involving said bird.)
Luckily for Tamara, however, solemn as though her funeral march may have been even while she was lost in thought, it is not recognized as such by the Chess Club.
Pidgeons aren’t given funeral marches every day, not even in Sarajevo.
So no one wonders about the contents of the most respectfully wrapped up Transport Bag In Lieu of A Coffin.
The Ceremony Is Tragically Cut Short
No one, that is, until Tamara, over a bowl of hearty soup, wakes up from her reveries, to find out she is celebrating the Wake before the Funeral.
Which makes her think that, as much as she may love her tragically deceased friend she never met, a dead pidgeon may not belong into a restaurant.
Unless, of course, it is intended to be served. Which we can safely rule out for this pidgeon.
Her bowl of soup almost eaten, Tamara jumps up and grabs the Transport Bag In Lieu of A Coffin, ready to cut short the ceremonies and settle for the next garbage can rather than the carefully chosen spot to permanently host the tragically deceased pidgeon,
The owner of the Chess Club thinks she wants to bail on him and tries to keep her from leaving the premises.
At this point it seems important to explain that Tamara doesn’t speak the Bosnian idiom of the Language Without Name – nor, for that matter any of its idioms.
The Owner does not speak any English.
Which renders deliberations about the dead pidgeon’s immediate future somewhat tricky.
The Unmet Friend Finds A Rather Undignified End
Using hands and feet – inasmuch as they are not occupied by the solemn task of being the pidgeon’s sole coffin bearer – Tamara convinces the Owner she will be back shortly – and tragically shortly, considering her solemn task – by leaving her laptop at the Chess Club.
Her attempts to explain the urgency of the matter by revealing the contents of Transport Bag In Lieu of A Coffin fail miserably.
The Owner just thinks she’s crazy like the rest of them. Doesn’t even break a sweat.
This failure may come as a bit of a surprise. Tamara is a natural talent at communicating nonverbally.
In this case, it may be a lucky failure. The Owner may not have been too fond of the idea of having temporarily hosted a very dead bird.
Given the gravity and urgency of the situation, Tamara’s unmet friend sadly finds its not so permanent resting place in the next garbage can, tantamount to a very shallow unmarked grave.
An undignified end, indeed.
Heartbroken, Tamara returns to the Chess Club, struggling with her guilty conscience to date.
She may find consolation in the fact that by far this is not the craziest thing anyone has ever done in Sarajevo.
Crazy is normal in this lovely city. There are no two ways about it.
You either love it or you hate it. Whatever you choose, it will not leave you unchanged, though.
Sarajevo touches you and stays a part of you. And in spite of the misere bosnienne – I find this a very consoling thought.
*Tamara, or whatever her name is in real life, will hopefully soon play a large role on this blog for a piece of work – Work for short – she’s currently finishing which will, for all I know, be a very exciting thing. A dog will be an integral part thereof, by the way.
** I think there are two possible explanations for this. Looking back, the dog may have actually picked up clues as to where Tamara would go next and went there accordingly. Dogs can be very good at this. Another one is that he may live in Tamara’s neighborhood. Even though she’s never seen him before, he may have known her from her scent and actually knew where she lived. Still, amazing.