He says that he first encountered the name, “Sarajevo”, while reading one of his father’s books about WWI and the Sarajevo Assassination. He recalls being fascinated by the photographs of Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, standing in front of Vijećnica, with men in fezzes and traditional attire next to them. He mentions that he also followed the XIV Winter Olympic Games held in Sarajevo.
Before the Olympics, he had imagined Sarajevo as some warm, Mediterranean town, full of palm trees, but still he was shocked in 2012 (which was when he found out that he would be serving here) when diplomatic colleagues sent him some photos of the record snowfall that paralyzed our city that same year.
- You can only imagine how shocked I was, Ambassador Kraak recalls with a smile. He adds by saying that, before his arrival, he had expected Sarajevo to be dominated by socialist architecture, like most of the towns in the region. He was surprised when he discovered that it’s totally different – it’s more diverse, milder and more open.
Moved by kindness of Sarajevans
Ambassador Kraak can remember his first working day here – he had just parked his car in front of the Embassy when he was approached by a man he didn’t know, who asked him where he was from. After answering the question, the stranger then offered to provide some information and assistance. The Ambassador was moved by such sincere kindness, the likes of which he hadn’t encountered anywhere in the world, not even in his own country.
It’s the kindness and hospitality shown by Sarajevans that he likes most about our city. He maintains that these are virtues that should be nurtured and adds that he and his wife, Marjet, have met a number of lovely people during their time here.
He describes Sarajevans’ mentality as laid back and he likes the fact that they always find time to chat, whether they’re in a shop or on the street….
As for some of the shortcomings of Sarajevo and Sarajevans, Ambassador Kraak would cite the carelessness of drivers when parking their cars, inadequate concern about trash and the ongoing problem with stray dogs. It’s also hard to deal with the polluted air during the winter months.
He finds the endless amounts of coffee drunk every day as quite odd, but this is something very normal for Sarajevans. The same goes for the fact that they smoke everywhere. He was also surprised by how Sarajevan women aren’t very keen to accept compliments and that people don’t typically engage in harmless flirting.
His Sarajevo ritual must include coffee at Viennese Café on Saturday mornings and during the summer he goes to play golf. After playing a few holes at Sarajevo Golf Club, he likes to enjoy the sunset from the club’s terrace garden.
Sarajevo is a more relaxed than cities in the Netherlands
The Ambassador says that Sarajevo is very different from cities in the Netherlands in that it’s more relaxed, a little chaotic and is spirited and full of life, whereas cities in his country are crowded, but orderly and very organized.
He adds by saying that a great advantage of Sarajevo is that wonderful nature is so close to the city center.
For Ambassador Kraak, the symbol of Sarajevo would be the cemeteries scattered throughout the city – those who have passed away remain a part of the lives of the living.
As for food, he loves Bosnian cuisine and he’s quite fond of kajmak, ajvar and meze.
He goes on to say that our city has many fine restaurants and he would recommend Delikatesna radnja Food, where he loves to eat steak tartare and have a glass of Vukoje’s Tribunija Chardonnay.