Friday, July 06, 2012

Climbing Sarajevo

It takes about two weeks each time I return to Sarajevo to get used to them.

The hills, The same geological feature that makes this such a breath-taking city also takes my breath away literally,. This is particularly  so after a stint in the states, where I rarely walk much less tackle hills like these.

Sarajevans of all ages, in contrast, take their hills in stride. Indeed, rock climbing up sheer cliffs is a popular pastime in this city. There is nothing as demoralizing as huffing and puffing up a hill being lapped by a 72-year-old in a kerchief carrying a plastic bag of groceries in each hand.

Young men – many chain-smoking  which you think might slow them down – sprint up the verticals and I am amazed by the fashionably dressed young women who seem to easily mince up hills in stiletto heels I could not manage on flat ground.

I always seem to be the only one on the verge of heart failure.

The hills are a particular challenge in winter. Instead of regular plowing and shoveling, mostly people here rely on walking in the  wobbly paths tramped down by earlier walkers. The only thing worse than hills are icy, snowy hills.  The sidewalks are lined with iron bannisters you grip to keep from slipping.

I have used those bars to haul myself up a few hills lately.  Steep climbs when the temps are in the 90s also stink.

I am so daunted by these daily upward trudges that I plot out my day to make sure I am not climbing more than once a day.  I forgot my laptop charger at home the other day and wanted to cry. I have worked extra hours more than once because it just seemed easier to keep working than to mountain climb.  At one point when I had a pet in the city and guests would ask what they could bring for dinner, I'd always tell them "cat litter."  Let them lug up those 5-pound bags.

I write this today to mark the happy occasion yesterday afternoon of my first effortless climb of this visit.  I appear to be acclimated.

 This is Logovina Street where we lived for years. I have a stronger heart and legs because of this ass-kicking  hill. I still shudder when I walk by it today.

 I still think Sarajevo looks like lands from fairy tale books I read my kids. But living on the side of a mountain except for goats has poses physical challenges.

 And this is my vote for the steepest and most daunting climb in the city, from the popular Inat Kuca restaurant by the river straight up to the cemetery and residential areas where views are stunning but oxygen is short.

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