Here marks the spot

Local tourist 'shepherd' Dawit in thoughtful mode

And so, at last, we embarked on our Assassination Tour, with, we were promised, the best guide in the business, fresh from his day off, and so he proved to be. Mohammed was a mine of information providing a detailed geopolitical background to the events in 1914, starting with the Balkan history in the thirteenth century, through tho long Ottoman period and the purchase of Bosnia from Turkey by Austria following the Berlin Treaty of 1878 when the European super powers carved up the world between them and sowed the seeds of the Great War.

We were fortunate to have the guide to ourselves which made it a very personal experience to follow in the steps of those parties involved in the events of 1914: the route taken by the Archduke and his pregnant commoner wife, the place where one of the seven Bosnian Serb extremists threw the grenade which failed to kill the royal party, where the other extremists were positioned on the route and of course the location where the fateful shots were fired by Gavrilo Princip when the royal driver took a wrong turn and provided, in the confusion of the moment, an ideal opportunity for assassination.

As ever, it is the little details that bring to life the events of the past: in no particular order, the building of a brewery by Austria in 1864 right next to a mosque, the lack of economic development and lack of exposure to the impact of technological development under Ottoman rule which meant that the arrival of motorised public transport and trams under Austrian rule was considered the work of Satan, or that passengers then removed their shoes on entering to 'keep it nice' for later passengers, that the Archduke was not the Austrian emperor's son but his nephew, Franz Joseph was perhaps not as mindful of the risks and danger in sending him to Sarajevo as he might have been, and so on. The Archduke himself seemed to feel himself immune from danger, even after the first grenade attack, carrying on regardless with the formalities and enjoying the adulation of the waving crowds, foolhardy in the extreme with hindsight, though as mentioned at the beginning, if the shots had failed here, it was probably only a matter of time before the tinderbox of European power politics had blown up at some other moment. Parallels with events in 2014 seem only too clear.

So in short, no further assassinations today (weapons are illegal in Bosnia) although the way some people drive, you might still think they were out to get you if you step out of line.

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