On hearing that we have moved to Tuzla most Bosnians, including quite a few who live in Tuzla, ask why? Not why have we moved, but why have we moved to Tuzla. On return to a grey, drizzlefest in Tuzla I asked myself the same question. After all we could have moved anywhere in Bosnia. We could have moved to Mostar with its old town, beautiful river and easy access to Dubrovnik and the Croatian coast. We could have moved to cosmopolitan Sarajevo with its internationally renown film festival, numerous other cultural opportunities and 2 areas for wintertime weekend skiing within half an hour of the city. But no, we chose Tuzla, a town in the industrial heartland of Bosnia known for its factories. There is even a factory on the entrance to the city which is lit up luminous green at night time, just to remind us that it is there. We knew Tuzla well already, but for goodness sake there isn't even a cinema.
No, Tuzla is not the obvious place to end up when you have the pick of the country. But, when the sun shone today the boys and I took ourselves off to collect leaves in the mountain behind the city and it was glorious. The woods seemed almost magical and we all, including the dog had a wonderful time. Into the old town of Tuzla we went in search of ice cream this afternoon and remembered that the Korzo (central pedestrianised street) is not without its charm. People were relaxed, drinking coffee and enjoying what was there. We bumped into 2 people that we knew within the space of half an hour.
For all their charms Sarajevo and Mostar also have their drawbacks. The parking in Sarajevo is a nightmare (and this is from a girl born and bought up in London). Mostar is beautiful but hides an obviously destroyed cultural fabric. But most of all, we don't know anyone in Sarajevo or Mostar. In Tuzla we have friends, friends who have invited us round to make slivovica (also known as plum brandy, will put hairs on your chest in seconds), friends who go out of their way to help us with translation when we need it, friends whose parents ask us over for coffee and to play with the boys, friends who want us to come over tomorrow to celebrate the end of Ramadan. Ultimately, it is the people who make the city and the people from Tuzla are just fine. We couldn't imagine being anywhere else.
(and before I get too dewy eyed I should probably mention there are always the more practical factors as well - my research is based not far from Tuzla and Tuzla is positioning itself as an IT centre with entrepreneurial centres for IT start-ups, always useful for D and his software development company)