Falling In Love With Sarajevo

I don’t know where to begin with telling you about Sarajevo. I took a trip to this beautiful city on a whim last month and fell in love with it. I had been wanting to go to Bosnia and Herzegovina for a while, although I can’t remember exactly what put the thought in my head in the first place. Anyhow, I had a week of annual leave left so I thought what the hell, I will just go!  I spent three days in Sarajevo and three in Mostar and left knowing I would be coming back to explore more of this beautiful country.

When I told my friends I was going to Sarajevo, most of them thought I was a bit weird for wanting to visit. I guess a lot of people still think of the horrific war that took place in the nineties, but let me tell you Sarajevo has so much to offer. Don’t get me wrong, the effects of the war are still very much visible throughout the country and there were several occasions when I was brought to tears learning about the atrocities that took place. For those of you who are unfamiliar Sarajevo was besieged during the Bosnian war for four years, which is the longest siege to take place in a capital city in modern warfare. It is hard not to notice the large number of graveyards throughout the city and there are still bullet holes and shrapnel damage visible on many of the buildings. I won’t go into the war much more in this post because it is very complicated and very sad, but I encourage you to learn about it, especially if you are lucky enough to visit this city.

 

Despite all that the people have been through in the city, they are so welcoming and love showing tourists around. Sarajevo is very different from any other city you will probably visit in Europe. Known as the Jerusalem of Europe, it is home to a variety of cultures, including Christians, Muslims and Jews and is famous for having a mosque, Catholic church, Orthodox church and synagogue all within a small distance of each other, it’s really quite an amazing thing.

The old town isn’t big at all but it is full of wonderful sites and places to explore. I spent most of my time there wandering around stopping at cafes to drink Bosnian coffee, eating Ćevapi and just people watching. It was ridiculously hot when I was there, hitting at least 35 degrees every day so there were numerous ice cream stops too! The most interesting thing I did was to go on a tour run by the hostel I stayed at (most of the hostels run something similar). This one was run buy a local man who drove us round the main sights in Sarajevo while also telling us stories from the war. The thing about the war is that because it happened so recently all the locals have stories to tell and it is obvious when speaking to them that they are still very much coming to terms with what happened. The tour lasted for over six hours and we were driven all over the city visiting such places as the Tunnel of Hope which was used during the war to get supplies into the city and the White Fortress where there are some awesome views of the entire city. We also took a drive up to the old bobsleigh track used the 1984 Winter Olympics and walked back down part of it which was pretty cool.

One of my favourite memories from my trip to Sarajevo was watching the sunset from the Yellow Fortress. It’s a has a really great view of the city and is only about a twenty minute walk from the old town. I sat there for a couple of hours taking photos of the sunset while chatting to a couple of lovely American travellers who were sat next to me. If you doing nothing else touristy in Sarajevo then please go and watch the sunset, it’s so worth it. There was quite a magical moment when the sun went down and the city suddenly filled with the sound of muslim prayer and church bells.

A Few Recommendations

Because I was travelling solo I decided to stay at the Balkan Han hostel which I would highly recommend. It was super sociable without being a noisy party hostel. On the first night one the guys who runs it took a bunch of us out to a bar to watch a band play and it was a great night, so great in fact I didn’t make it back home until 4am!!  They also run a great tour of the area.

Go for a Bosnian coffee at Cajdzinica Dzirlo-Tea House the owners are so lovely and are happy to show you how to drink it properly. Also, if coffee isn’t your thing they serve lots of different teas, just ask them for a menu.

For coffee with a view head up to Caffe Kamarija-Point of view where you can watch the sunset over the city, it’s five minutes from the Yellow Fortress.

For a delicious late night kebab head to Pirpa.

You must try Ćevapi with is the national dish in Bosnia. It is sausage served in a flatbread – simple but oh so delicious. Every restaurant serves this in Sarajevo and you with struggle to find a bad serving of it.

For an emotional insight into what happened at Srebrenica (over 8000 muslims were massacred in this genocide) head to the Gallery 11/07/95, it reduced me to tears but I definitely think it is worth going to if you are wanting a better understanding of this horrible event.

Have you been to Sarajevo before? What did you think about this beautiful city? Liked this? Read more from my travels.