One of my favorite historical figures is Gavrilo Princip. The young Yugoslav nationalist, after a fortuitous turn of events, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and sparked the greatest war the world had ever seen – World War I. World War I led to World War II, the Cold War, most of the current problems in the Middle East, and, arguably, most of the major world catastrophes of the 20th Century. Has one single act by one single person ever had such a lasting effect on world history? Not likely:
“June 28, 1914, was a beautiful sunny day in Sarajevo. Gavrilo Princip sat alone and disconsolate at a sidewalk café having coffee. He and his friends had just failed to execute their mission; to kill the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand. They had lost a chance to strike a blow for Serbian independence.
Earlier in the day, Ferdinand and his wife Sophie had arrived by train on an official visit to Sarajevo…As the open car carrying the Archduke and his wife approached, Nedjelko Cabrinovic, one of Princip’s co-conspirators, threw a bomb, but it bounced off the car and landed in the street. The bomb exploded under the car that followed, injuring two in the car and several in the crowd. While Cabrinovic was being arrested, the Archduke’s car sped off and eliminated any chance of another assassination attempt.
As Princip sipped his coffee, he must have reflected on how and why he had arrived at this moment. He believed that killing the Archduke was the key to setting events in motion that would result in Serbia asserting its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and then uniting with Bosnia…While Princip was finishing his coffee and pondering what had gone wrong, the Archduke’s car arrived at city hall…[T]hey all went inside.
The Archduke inquired about the injured and was told that they were at the hospital. Ferdinand said he wanted to visit them, but a member of his staff suggested that the trip might be dangerous. General Oskar Potiorek, the Governor of Bosnia scoffed, “Do you think Sarajevo is full of assassins?” Potiorek then suggested that it might be prudent for Sophie to remain at city hall, but she refused saying, “As long as the Archduke shows himself in public today, I will not leave him.”
It was decided that they would all go to the hospital. In what can best be described as either an ill-advised display of bravado or monumental stupidity, the motorcade took the same route they had traveled before. Along the way the Archduke’s driver took a wrong turn that put Europe on the road to war. Princip was astonished to see the royal car pass right in front of the café where he was standing. When the driver realized that he was going the wrong way, he stopped and began to back up slowly. Princip stepped forward to within five feet of the car, took out his revolver, and fired two shots.
Ferdinand was hit in the neck and Sophie was hit in the abdomen.
And World War I began. So, when I was in Bosnia i Herzegovina and Serbia last December, I certainly planned to stop by the site where Princip fired the fatal shots, and anywhere else I could find a connection with Princip. (For the full story on Princip, I recommend Tim Butcher’s book, “The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War.”)
Anyway, the plan was to fly in to Belgrade, Serbia late at night and get up first thing in the morning and drive to Sarajevo, Bosnia i Herzegovina. We grabbed the rental car at the airport and began heading to our AirBNB in New Belgrade / Novi Beograd / Нови Београд. It was late and foggy when we left the airport so we were unable to see much of the city as we drove in.
In looking for our apartment – at night, in New Belgrade, in the fog – we got a bit lost (in fact we were within a few blocks of our place, but driving around aimlessly trying to find addresses on all the high-rise apartments). We were also hungry and thirsty, and planning on grabbing a beer and some food as soon as we dropped off our stuff at the apartment. It so happens that the first establishment we saw that served beer and food was “Princip Pub,” an establishment with Mr. Princip’s face as the logo! It also turned out to be within blocks of our apartment. Needless to say, I found it pretty cool that the first place we saw was named after my favorite assassin!
We cruised around the neighborhood until we found our place.
And we eventually made our way back to Princip Pub.
Inside, Princip Pub was covered in soccer memorabilia and was full of the sounds of a live band covering popular songs. The waitress at the end of the clip has an awesome Gavrilo Princip t-shirt, but her English and my Serbian were not good enough for me to figure out where she bought it.
The next day we did grab a few early-morning shots of our neighborhood in New Belgrade before heading to Sarajevo. The tall building in the first picture has the apartment in which we stayed. It had a fantastic view of the city.