You can’t go to Bosnia and Herzegovina and not see Sarajevo. This thought was running through our heads since the very beginning of our trip. It was one of the sure things on our quite spontaneous map, one of the must sees. Another place that does not connote to well.. How many times have we heard about the war in Sarajevo, about bombs and death? We were kids then but we remember – words, images, alarming news. Apart from the war in the 90s, Sarajevo reminds me of the history lessons – how many times did we have to learn about the event that started World War I – the assassination of the Austrian throne successor done by a Serb nationalist in Sarajevo. No other connotations found…
We reached Sarajevo after a long trip from Mostar through Jajce and surrounding areas. In the evening, we wandered for a bit, looking for our apartment, had a mediocre dinner since we couldn’t find anything better and then we went to recharge. We left sightseeing for another day. As in any large city, you can spend a long time in Sarajevo (300 thousand inhabitants), discover all the corners, enjoy all the tiny alleys. Due to bad weather, we only spent one day in Sarajevo. What can you do in Sarajevo in one day?
We start our day in the Old Town and spend most of the morning walking through the tiny alleys. The city is very lively, the streets are loud and crowded, you quickly note that you’re in the capital. Smiles, peace, running children – just ordinary life. Just sometimes, you hold your breath when you see the marks left by the bullets, memorial panels or a statue that commemorates the children who died when Sarajevo was under siege by Bosniak Serbs in 1992-1995. You look at the people walking around Sarajevo and wonder what they must have gone through then? Who had they lost? Is their child’s name written on the memorial panel? The war took about 10 500 people. Many buildings were destroyed and the city inhabitants lived in fear for many months, no electricity, no running water, between one shootout and another.
Today you’re in Sarajevo, a city of contrasts. On one hand it makes you wonder about the atrocities and on the other it makes you wanna come and stay thanks to the oriental breeze. Seems like perfect place for a student exchange programme location. A city full of cafes, confectioneries, little restaurants hidden on the Sarači street where you feel a bit like on the streets of Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Especially when you get into the Gazi Husrev-beg bezistan marketplace hall, Gazi Husrev- beg mosque or an old religious Muslim school Saraybosna Medresa built in 1537. Gazi Husrev-beg mosque was built in 1530-1537 and designed by a chief Ottoman Empire architect who was inspired by Istanbul architecture. As you can see, the impression that we’re partly in Istanbul wasn’t that unfounded!
Then we pass Morića Han and reach the square – the centre of the city – Baščaršija , a city bazaar with many years of tradition. Large stalls made of stone still serve their purpose, so look around if you’re willing to buy souvenirs or presents for yourself. And if you happen to have an old bun on hand, feed the pigeons gathered around Sebilj, one of the landmarks of Sarajevo.Sebilj is an unusual well which reportedly is what’s left from one of the first waterworks in Europe.
We continue our walk… around us, we see beautiful, colourful pottery, Aladdin trousers in all possible colours and „cevabdzinice” (specialising in little cevapi cutlets) or „buregdzinice” (specialising in burek, which I already wrote about here) every few metres. We pass occupied tables and head towards Milijacka river.
One of the things you notice by the river is a city hall from 1895. After World War II, the building housed the National Library which was bombarded during the war in 1992. On the other side of the river, check out a tiny building – Inat Kuća – the so calledSpiteful House. It’s called spiteful because it was moved twice. First in 16th century when it was “in the way” during the erection of the mosque and the owner didn’t even want to think about tearing it down. He agreed to move the house to the other side of the river. The house and the family who lived in it where quite lucky. 200 years later the history repeated itself – the authorities decided to build the town hall on the parcel where the house stood. This time, one of the descendants didn’t let the house be demolished and the house returned to its original location, by the Hadž mosque. That’s where you will find it now, with a restaurant inside – reportedly quite good! We get off the beaten track and climb the hill behind Inat Kuća so we can reach a Muslim cemetery. We walk the empty streets, admire the views, feel the vibe of the sleepy streets, so close to the lively Stari Grad.
After a big, however not so Balkan, breakfast (waffles at Waffle Bar ;)), we choose the place to have dinner from a list we got from a person who knows the Balkans like no other, lived in Sarajevo and systematically returns to the city. Due to our current whereabouts, we decide to go to Barhana restaurant. In order to get there, you need to turn into one of the tiny alleys leading from Saraci. Best ask somebody, as the place is easy to miss. Try stuffed peppers or courgettes for lunch. They’re absolutely delicious! And if you’re already tired of Balkan cuisine, the menu includes lasagne, pasta or pizza – a place recommended for a lunch with kids 🙂
It’s worth visiting Gallery 11/07/95 by Sacred Heart Cathedral on Ferhadija street which is an extension of Saraci and a main footpath of the city. The gallery was opened in 2012 in order to keep the memory of the massacre in Srebrenica alive. In 1995, Serbs killed more than 8000 Muslim men and boys aged 12-77. Srebrenica was the biggest genocide in Europe since World War II. The exhibition is astonishing with suggestive pictures from Tuzla and Srebrenica combined with movies showing the events of the 90s, interactive maps of the tragic events, and audible reports coming from people who survived the war in Bosnia – better take some handkerchiefs with you. Think about the fact that it all happened just 20 years ago and at that time, Srebrenica was considered a UN protectedsafe zone. Not an easy thing. Despite that, or rather because of that, it’s an exhibition everyone should see.
Despite the sad ending of our tour of Sarajevo, I already know that from now on, I will have different connotations with the place. When I think about Sarajevo right now, I see colourful stalls at Baščaršija, lively streets of the old town and those sleepy ones a bit further, I see mosques and the “small” Grand Bazaar, I see a different version of Istanbul, pigeons and a ton of Balkan food. I see a place to be. Check it out when you’re around!
PS. I rarely recommend places I haven’t been to, but I’ll make an exception here. I got fantastic recommendations on where to eat in Sarajevo, but as we have been there for one day only, we also visited just one place. The recommendations came from a person who knows Sarajevo by heart 😉 I’ll give you their exact words, we haven’t checked it out, maybe you’ll have more time? Here you are: “To relax on a cool, oriental backyard, for coffee/salad/’Morića han’ soup on Bascarsija. Three places with a beautiful view of the city from above – it’s worth going there (with a taxi for instance): “Kibe” – a beautiful, traditional hut with an amazing view from the windows, ‘Park princeva’ – on the other side of the river with a glass terrace over the city and ‘Bijela tablja’ – by the ruins of the stronghold, in the best observational spot in the city, especially at night. When it comes to local culinary curiosities – ‘Mala kuhinja’ – friendly cooks cook 2-3 meals (not necessary regional) every day.” From the recommendations we got, DOM was the place that intrigued us the most. Located in a reportedly interestingly designed Ciglane neighbourhood, on the first level, by the train-lift, that takes the passengers up and down. The owner is known for best ustipci. The place is out of this world – when you look down you’ll see a luxurious landscape with a piano and a fountain. Look up and you’ll see a burned down block with balconies bombarded and falling apart. We really wanted to go there, maybe you’ll have more luck here ? 🙂
*The entry was written in cooperation with HTC. All pictures were taken with HTC One(M8).