Friday, January 22, 2010

Winter in Sarajevo

Today’s weather in Portland was pretty much typical for winter here – 43 and light rain most of the day. But yesterday was glorious! 58 and sunny all day. It really felt like spring.

Even with our typical temperatures, though, Portland is showing signs of spring. My tulips and daffodils are up about 1 – 2 inches already. The buds on some of my shrubs and trees are starting to swell. Portland’s spring starts early and lasts a long time, often from February to June.

In Sarajevo, though, it is mid-winter. According to my guidebook, February is the coldest month. I’m packing an extra set of long underwear.

We’ve been monitoring the weather in Sarajevo for the last few months and up until the last week, it has been pretty mild. In fact, not that different from temperatures here in Portland; daily highs have been mostly in the 40’s. About a week ago there was a change in the weather. The highs are now in the mid to lower 30’s and there have been several days of snow or snow flurries. Nighttime temperatures have recently been in the 20’s or the teens.

Sarajevo gets more snow than Portland. Not much of a surprise, since Sarajevo was the site of the 1984 Winter Olympics. The city is located in a sort of bowl surrounded by mountains. The figure skating, speed skating, ice hockey and opening ceremony venues were in Sarajevo. Other events were held on mountains surrounding the city.

One of the saddest stories attached to the Olympic venues concerns Olympic Hall Zetra. It was the venue for figure skating, speed skating and ice hockey. It also held the closing ceremonies. It was an ultramodern, angular building with a copper roof. The arena suffered substantial damage and was almost completely destroyed by shelling, bombing and fire on May 25, 1992 during the Bosnian War. The remaining areas of the structure, such as the basements, were put into service as a morgue and as storage space for medication and supplies. The wooden seats from the venue were used for material for coffins for civilians killed in the war. Although heavily damaged, the foundations were sound and the facility was rebuilt with the help of UN funding in 1999 and is in use today for sporting events.

We’re packing boots, mittens, hats and scarves and hoping for the best as we head into the worst of the Sarajevo winter.