Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sarajevo

Present day Sarajevo is a beautiful, multicultural and a colorful city! What you experience is life at its best. It’s hard to describe but you’ll know what we mean when you get there. It has a very special feeling, as if all of the people of Sarajevo are truly enjoying the very present moment. It’s more apparent in the evenings when people sit in café’s and restaurants. It feels like true joy we haven't experienced anywhere else so far. 


Walking along river Miljacka
By the famous wooden fountain Sebilj, in Sarajevo

We drove to Sarajevo after Pluzine in Montenegro. Crossing the border took a little more time than in other countries on this trip but we were done with the border formalities in max. 10 minutes. The scenery was beautiful although the condition of the roads varied from gravel and potholes to fresh and smooth asphalt. Traffic was decent, not too many insane over takings or other strange death-wish driving habits as in a few of the other countries in the region. Don't start driving with an empty tank as gas stations can mostly only be found in towns and cities. We followed all of the advice we got on parking the car in a trusted parking garage (in our case it was the parking of Hotel Europe) that was recommended by our hotel. I remember reading stories on how it’s not advisable to drive with Croatian plates in Bosnia but we really had no problems what so ever, so I guess it’s outdated information.


We stayed in Sarajevo for four days which was a good time to explore the city. It's not very large, therefore few days should be enough. 


On the road from Pluzine to Sarajevo


Nature in Bosnia

Tourism in Sarajevo is growing fast although it lacks consistency. You see a lot of people doing their best, really making an effort, many tourist organizations are doing incredible work to support tourism in their country but they lack support from the government which is what they really need the most. According to the World Tourism Organization, Bosnia and Herzegovina will have the third highest tourism growth rate in the world between 1995 and 2020. However, because of these active people, you get a very personalized experience and definitely feel cared after.


Take a seat in Sarajevo

So what is there to do in Sarajevo?


Sarajevo was founded by the Ottoman Empire in the 1450s and you can see and feel the rich history everywhere. It's such a fascinating place with many cultures and religions living side by side. Many other cities in the area claim the same but in Sarajevo you can truly feel the mix of different cultures and religions living together in peace. 


Ottoman street in Sarajevo

Sarajevo is still being rebuilt after the war but you have some architectural gems to explore in many parts of the city. It's quite safe to walk around at any time of the day but you might want to keep your eyes open in remote areas. 


Festina Iente bridge

History

There is so much to see in Sarajevo as it has such a rich history! The old part of the city is full of historical Ottoman architecture as well as churches. You can visit the street where the archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was shot, that gunshot is also known as the gunshot that started the 1st World War. The newer part of the city has more modern architecture, shopping centers and also more signs of the most recent war - some by purpose, others are still waiting for reconstruction, demolition or rebuilding. All over the city you will also find Sarajevo Roses, a sad reminder of the victims killed in the most recent war. 

Sarajevo Rose is a site of a mortar shell's explosion that was later filled with red resin to mark where mortar explosions resulted in one or more deaths (wikipedia).


Sebilj, Ottoman-style wooden fountain


Sarajevo Rose

We joined a free walking tour by BH Spirit City Tours and Excursions and continued with the Sarajevo Under the Siege and also Tunnel of Hope tours by the same company. This is something you really cannot miss in Sarajevo. The tours are incredibly informative and all of the people you meed during these tours have actually lived it, therefore they are the best to share the stories.

First steps in the Tunnel of Hope



Sarajevo Olympic Bobsleigh and Luge Track, now an attraction


Old Jewish Cemetery overlooking the UNITIC Business Center and  Avaz Twist Tower.


Tony with Abid Jasar, one of the brave men who built the Tunnel of Hope. Abid Jasar passed away in November 2016.


Map of Sarajevo

Food:


You will not feel hungry in Sarajevo. The food is fantastic! You must try ćevapčići which is grilled minced meat in a form of a sausage, usually served with flatbread, onion and sour cream. To eat with the locals as well as tourists, go to a restaurant called Petica on Bravadžiluk 29, in the old part of the city. Not far from here is also Buregdžinica Bosna (Bravadžiluk 11), which is well known for it's magnificent meat pies.

ćevapčići 



You will not be hungry in Sarajevo!

Shopping:

There are a few shopping centers in the city but the selection is somewhat limited. The western European and US brands are present but the value is not good. However, if you are into some less-known brands you can make some great finds, especially clothes and shoes made in Turkey are great.

In general:

As the rebuilding of Sarajevo hasn’t been as fast as the people have been hoping it was, we recommend to pick a nice hotel.

There was a certain level of curiosity to travel to a country with such a colorful recent history with the days of glory in the 80’s which quickly turned into a long, dark war. It was our first time visiting a country that underwent such a bloody war during our life time, only 20 years ago. And it all happened right here in Europe! That was not the reason for us to travel there, though. It might have been a reason not to travel there, I guess that’s how it is for many people. But we challenge you to visit Bosnia, especially Sarajevo, and open your heart to everything it can offer. 

Destruction

For me it took a day and a half to get over this strangely emotional anxiety I felt seeing all the war scars on the buildings and to see beyond all of it. I felt devastated and heartbroken. Tony took it much better immediately. I couldn’t get over the fact that about half of the people we saw around us, people our age, experienced a war only recently and had such a tragic childhood while we were living a normal life only 2500 kilometers away. It was very difficult to understand how this could happen and how it could last for such a long time. 

Sarajevo is one of the most memorable places we have visited. Even after visiting more than 50 countries and probably three times as many cities, Sarajevo is definitely number one.


Sarajevo today



No comments:

Post a Comment