Sarajevo - Bosnia & Herzegovina's jewel

Posted on: 09 December 2009 by Mark O'haire

How can people that has suffered so much produce a city of such vitality? This is a question you’ll ask yourself time and time again as you explore Sarajevo.

In Sarajevo's city centre, holes in the road filled with red cement mark sites where civilians were murdered by Serbian criminals. These 'Sarajevo Roses' are among the few reminders of the war that raged here from 1992-95. Today Sarajevo is a bustling, glittering city full of "coffee freaks and party animals", according to a local.

In the 1990s this was a city and people on the edge of annihilation, but today it has become a favourite traveller destination.

Sarajevo is a living museum of history. And boy, is there a lot of it! Mosques, churches, cathedrals and fine municipal buildings built by the Ottoman Turks and Austria-Hungarians; a bridge where world history took a fateful turn; and the Tunnel Museum, the yellow Holiday Inn, and the artillery-scarred Library as reminders of recent tragedy.

Sarajevo has charm: rattly old trams circle a city centre containing the Baščaršija bazaar, an ancient trading place with artisans’ workshops, coffee drinking dens, restaurants, cosy bars and endless souvenir choices. Further west the Ottoman traces disappear and the city takes on its other guise of a proud Austro-Hungarian colonial capital.

There’s a big-village atmosphere here making you immediately feel comfortable and part of what’s going on from the outset; it’s that elusive sense of belonging somewhere. So expect your travel plans to become mańana as a couple of days slip into a week or more.

You don’t need to invest much energy in appreciating Sarajevo; it’s a city that’s easily covered on foot, and it has good public transport. Being a very open city there’s a lot to see, and sitting down at a café in Baščaršija gives you a ringside seat on a rich theatre of life.

Headline attraction

The warren of narrow streets off Bascarsija is Sarajevo's Turkish Quarter, filled with coffee shops, restaurants, and a bazaar selling Turkish artefacts. Coffee here comes in a copper pot and is served with Turkish delight.

Best of the rest

The spine of the city, Ferhadija Street, runs from the Turkish Quarter to Austro-Hungarian Sarajevo. Look for the Eternal Flame that marks the unity of Serbs, Croats and Muslims during World War II.

Chow down

Head to the Turkish Quarter to sample traditional food such as cevapcici (minced lamb or beef) and burek (pastry stuffed with meat or cheese). To Be Or Not To Be or Bosanska Kuca are good places to try.

Get the camera out

During the siege of Sarajevo, a 700m tunnel was dug to transport food, ammunition and manpower from the outskirts to the city centre. In their house by the city airport, which disguised one end of the tunnel, the Kolar family have set up a unique museum.

Try the local tipple

Grab a Sarajevsko pivo at the Sarajevo Brewery or City Pub, a boisterous bar with live music. For dancing try '90s throwback club Sloga, or the imaginatively named Bar And Club. Beware Slijivovica, a local 45 per cent proof spirit.

Out of town

Explore the nearby hills and visit Jajce Castle and the ruins of a medieval village before getting the best view in town at the Park Princeva restaurant. The risk of unexploded mines means you should stick to the roads unless you are with a guide, but the slopes used for the 1984 Winter Olympics are safe to ski.

A bit of history

The most famous of the Ottoman bridges crossing the Milijacka river is Latinska Cuprija. It was here, on June 28, 1914, that Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were gunned down by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip – an assassination that sparked the outbreak of World War I.

For more images of Sarajevo, please visit Alan Grant's spectacular gallery here -

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