Before I visited Bosnia, I heard that Sarajevo was once revered for its beauty. Visitors were awed, during the 1984 Winter Olympics, by Sarajevo's sumptuous valleys and alpine mountains.
When I visited the city in May, the scars of war were everywhere: I walked past bombed-out buildings and saw bullet holes in storefronts; in the hills, land mines threatened thoughtless hikers.
But the beauty of the refurbished Old City shone through. Minarets rose above the sloped rooftops, the mountain ranges rolling ever higher into the horizon.
I found new friends everywhere. Sipping a cappuccino, I could join in frank conversation with strangers about the war and the Balkans' slow recovery.
Bosnians have a dry, smart-alecky sense of humor, and they love to share their opinions. No matter whom I asked – the hawkers in the old market, teenage girls texting in the park – everybody helped with directions and asked about my travels. Sarajevans are eager for visitors, to prove that the violence of the 1990s is long past.
For this dignified survivor city, beautiful is an understatement.