Edward Tweedly

In 1978 I was traveling in what I then called Yugoslavia. I had gone down the coast to Dubrovnik, which was an impressive walled town but already discovered by the hordes. Then I was going inland.
  The square, PociteljFirst stop Pocitelj, an old Turkish market town. Still populated but not very busy now, and maintained by the government as part of their heritage, with houses to rent for tourists. Sounded a bit touristy but I was told that few tourists actually stayed there and it was well worth the visit. I got on a bus from Dubrovnik, and carefully asked the driver to let me off at Pocitelj, in case I didn't see it coming. A couple of hours later he did (and I hadn't). I dumped my bag at the side of an empty country road and watched the bus drive off, leaving me alone in the middle of nowhere with no sign of... well, anything. There was a small side road leading off, and no other option in sight, so I walked down it. Just down the road was Pocitelj: an absolutely lovely preserved Ottoman hill town, with a cobbled square, a covered Turkish bazaar, and little stone houses up the hill. An old fort on top of the hill, and a mosque with a tall, slender minaret completed the image. The tourist office on the square rented me an apartment in one of the houses for the night, and I explored the village. Tiny, twisty lanes and stairs, a view down to the river below, and the mosque overlooking all. I found that the mosque was still active, in daily use.Mosque, Pocitelj That was my first sight of the secret Muslim corner of Europe: everyone knows of Bosnia now, but I used to think, like everyone else, that until you got to Istanbul, Islam was only a visitor. Here the Ottoman empire was not so long ago: the Turks had gone, within living memory, but everything that remained belonged to their culture. The same was true in Sarajevo, up the road in the mountains. There I met a Pakistani who lived in Winnipeg, Canada, who was travelling just like me. We went for a coffee together. In Sarajevo they drank coffee the Turkish way: hot as hell, black as death, and sweet as love. We ordered a sweet pastry with it. Friendly service for me, but surly compliance for him... he explained: it was Ramadan. The Sarajevans were muslims, and they knew that he was a muslim too. They could tell just by looking at him. So they'd happily serve me food, that was my business; but they didn't approve of him eating in daylight during Ramadan. This was in Europe! Anyway, these towns soon suffered the fate of so much of Europe in the twentieth century: their buildings were flattened and their people killed or driven out, because they didn't fit somebody else's politics. Fort and covered market, PociteljSarajevo was shelled so bad to prove that it didn't really belong to the people who lived there, that it made everybody's TV screens for a long time. It is possible that some people who lived in Sarajevo then, were already living in Sarajevo when the Archduke was assassinated and World War 1 started. It is quite likely that some people in Sarajevo had fought against the Nazis when they shelled them. They must be getting quite tired of being European by now. Pocitelj was of no military or political importance, so it was not attacked early; but it was important psychologically, it seems: after most of the fighting was over, the Croat forces shot it up, and coldly destroyed the mosque, dynamiting its minaret, and they blew up the lovely old Turkish covered market, just so we couldn't enjoy it any more. It wasn't theirs, so nobody could have it.  
Pocitelj was a beautifully-preserved Ottoman Turkish town. It had to go, I suppose. I'm glad I saw it first.

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