Bosnia and Herzegovina had already surprised positively in many ways, but it remained unsure what to expect from Sarajevo. Going to the capital cities always gives us mixed emotions. They can be pretty big and boring if you don’t have any local showing you the hot spots around. Pictures in our head of Sarajevo were something about half bombed socialistic style buildings, that stood there in the loneliness and waited someone to peel off the everlasting grey and dull color from them.
Then we arrived. It was dark already and we were at the train station, guided by new found German-(probably a spy)- friend. And the place looked just like we imagined.
But then we walked towards the center, away from the trains and big roads, away from the grey building and a totally new world unfolded in front of us. More so, we weren’t even sure anymore what part of the world we were. The weird mix of Islamic mosques, Persian bazaars and Balkan food, that was welcoming us under the mild light coming from ottoman chandeliers. A place where east melts into west in a perfect harmony and makes you want to shout Salam Aleikum to by passers. The sight was just splendid and we confirmed to each other: “We might like this place”.
Sarajevo is just beautiful
Skyline heavily trimmed with peaks of mosques, catholic and orthodox churches, so no wonder it is called the Jerusalem of Europe. Not only is it the only place in the world for such religious diversity, it is also a city where the most religiously mixed marriages are concluded.
Despite its bloody history, the city has been beautifully rebuilt and only the Sarajevo Roses on the streets remind you the year long siege of the capital just 20 years ago.
The 1,5 hour Free Walking Tour we took on the second day, gave a broad introduction to the history, from the killings of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in WW I to the latest Bosnian Spring events. It also described the sad situation of the Bosnian people, where the government is not capable of executing anything due the way of its dynamics and how young people have lost faith in the country as a whole. And quoting the words of our guide: “Sarajevo has so much more to offer than the war – and we do everything to make more and more people to realize it.”
People make the place
The people around you make the memories and experiences and the destination itself amplifies the either positive or negative emotions. We stayed in a Ljubicica Hostel that was filled with nomads and travelers alike, and created an atmosphere where no one seemed to want to leave. That’s what usually happened, most of the stays in hostel were extended and there were people who had been sucked in by the place for months at a time. It is worth to mention that the personnel was just head over heels helpful and the young boy who was checking us in had a remarkable good English. His explanations of the directions weren’t quite accurate but we have to give him high5 just for the effort. As a side note, Ljubicica Hostel is definitely nothing spectacular in its facilities: rooms are pretty cramped, kitchen is small, bathrooms has hot water only when one person in the house is showering. But if you are lucky to stay in the main house (with 6 and 14 bedroom drom), then you will have the coolest people around that make up for the mess.
PS – Sarajevo does not have water after midnight till 5 AM. And by no water, I mean ANY water at all coming from faucet or from toilet.
Place that needs time to be discover
We were no exception for extending our initial stay there. We felt that there was so much more we would love to see. Highlights of our visit was most definitely a hike to the 1984 Winter Olympic Games bobsleigh track, located on Trebevic mountain; and a visit to the Srebrenica Massacre Photo Exhibition, that put the tragic events in retrospective and reminded us how quickly the world forgets and how soon the history repeats itself.
A pity was to miss the National Museum of BiH, what has remained closed for the visitors past two years already because of being under financed. On the flip side, the streets of Sarajevo offer many exhibitions by photographers and artists, that are worth to look up for.
Best time to visit the city is during Sarajevo Film Festival, that is the largest of its kind in Southeast Europe, and is one of the most awaited event of the year for the citizens. Held first in August 1995 during the siege with surprisingly 15 000 attendees, it became the symbol of peace and liberty and attracted the attention of international media. Today the nights of the festivals are filled with concerts, open-air theaters and gala events, that are visited A-class celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Brat Bitt, Bono Vox (who is also honorary citizen of Sarajevo and holds a dual nationality for BiH and Ireland) and the list goes on.
What not to miss
Food and drinks of course. Try out the Bosnian Ćevapčići, that is sold almost everywhere in town. Also plenty of the food places in center offer wide range of local food and appetizers for 3-6€ per course.
When you crave for something sweet then go for a dessert beverage salep in Cajdzinica Dzirlo-Tea House. Be ready for treated as a main guest in their family run tea house, as you let this delicious drink nourish you.
And last but not least, try their bureks. As our Slovenian host Aljaz insisted, its a must to do in every Balkan country you visit.
Few pictures of the places unseen check from our Facebook page