Banja Luka, Republika Srpska - to Belgrade, Serbia

We left Sarajevo (I've lost track of when!), went to Mostar for 2 days and had discussions with Croatian political party leaders and Nansen Dialogue Center, which promotes cooperation and dialogue and trust-building among the divided city's various religious groups: Croatian Catholics, Bosniak Muslims, and even a small minority of Serbian Orthodox.

Tuesday, we traveled from Mostar to Banja Luka (with a stop in Jajce, where we had lunch and enjoyed the amazing waterfalls).

Wednesday was a very busy day in the capital of Republika Srpska ("RS").  We received a tour of the government building and met with the Prime Minister, Zeljka Cvijanovic.  The Prime Minister prides herself (and the RS) with the fact that there are 6 women in top political leadership roles in the RS, starting with her as Prime Minister.

After hearing from the Prime Minister, we met with 3 of her top aides: EU Integration, Education, and Foreign Relations/Diplomacy.  And then off to the University of Banja Luka for a welcome from the Vice Rector, Prof. Valerija Saula, and a lecture/discussion with Prof. Darko Tanaskovic.  Prof. Darko happens also to have been my wife's mentor in the late 1980s; he is the leading academic in Serbia (and now in the RS) on Islam, Islamic movements, as well as Arabic and Turkish languages.  Prof. Darko spoke about Turkey's leading role in the Balkans; he based the talk on his book, "Neo Ottomanism", a critical look at Turkey's dominance in certain places in the Balkans (especially Bosnia).

Today, we drove from Banja Luka (leaving 7:30 am!) for a visit to Brcko District (which requires its own, full blog post another day!).  We finally arrived in Belgrade around 6:30 pm ... whew!  what a day!


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