Working our way further into Bosnia-Herzegovina the next appropriate stop was the capital city. Just 2.5 hours from Mostar we hopped a bus headed to Sarajevo. Located on the Mijacka River and surrounded by the Dynamic Alps the culturally diverse Sarajevo is nicked named little Jerusalem. This is highly appropriate due to the numerous Islamic, Orthodox, Jewish, and Catholic communities that make up the capital city.
Our entrance to this city could only be described as surreal. A cross-roads of culture, we were full of excitement to learn everything we could from our time here. We had about a week to explore. Our journey began as we exited the bus station. We realized that the station was located on the complete other side of town from our B&B. We could have walked, but we opted for a taxi to save time and our sanity.
Our first impressions of Sarajevo were that of any mid-sized city, with the normal hustle and bustle of activity. Fifteen short minutes later, we were at the door to our B&B – Ada Hotel (not to be confused with the hotel of the same name on the other side of town!) We were warmly welcomed and found that a full breakfast was offered each morning. The building was a cozy house just up the hill from downtown Sarajevo. It was any easy 5 minute walk downhill to Pigeon Square. The sheer number of people out and about was a surprising but welcomed contrast to Mostar.
Baščaršija (The old market)
Baščaršija holds a special place in Bosnian history. This famous Ottoman bazaar is found in the middle of Sarajevo. It is one of the most important shopping and meeting centers in town. Still used today it is considered the heart of Sarajevo. Full of shops, mosques, and best of all – open-air hookah bars! Each street is appropriately name for the trade being sold on that street. On Coppersmith street you’ll find craftsmen creating their trade out of copper.
We found a delightful open-air hookah bar right on the main drag to plant ourselves at during the afternoons. We enjoyed people watching while we relaxed our legs from walking for a few hours.
One evening we met a nice couple from New Orleans and decided to join them for dinner. Meat-eaters are in for a treat if you come to Bosnia. Cevapi is the name of a very popular local dish. They are small grilled rolls of minced beef, lamb or mixed in a half pita bread. Onions and cheese optional.
Burek is another popular local food. It is a pie with meat inside. Meat, spinach, cheese, and/or potato are stuffed into each bite. We had the best fried stuffed olives and potato salad in Sarajevo.
The potato salad was made in the literal sense, with soft potato wedges served over chopped lettuce, onion, sprinkled with olive oil and vinegar. From the largest breakfast / lunch we’ve ever eaten each morning at our B&B, to dinner on the town at night, we never went hungry.
Let’s not forget the coffee! Honestly we couldn’t leave this country without participating in the full coffee experience. We found a local coffee house with an outdoor flair to try the famed joe. Bosnian coffee known as Turkish coffee is unlike any other coffee we’ve ever experienced. The highly caffeinated brew intentionally stains the bottom of your cup with a notorious black sludge.
The ritual begins with preparation. The coffee is ground to the appropriate consistency. A handmade copper pot is filled with water. As the water comes to a boil the grounds are added to the water and vigorously stirred. If you take sugar with your coffee, you need to add that to the bottom of your cup first.
The coffee, grounds and all, are poured from the copper pot into a small ceramic cup. Remember this coffee is strong so sip slowly allowing the grounds to settle in the bottom of your cup. Swirl your cup to recaffeinate your brew as you nibble on Turkish Delight (rahatlokum), a candy.
Gazi Hüsrev-Beg Mosque
This mosque was ordered to be built by the Bosnian governor Gazi Husref-bey in 1530. Found in the middle of the old market, it has a nice courtyard and a beautiful wooden hot-springs fountain for washing.
The grounds also have mausoleums, a mekteb (Muslim Primary School), and a building for prayer calling. An older tree shades a good portion of the courtyard. It was a nice place to get out of the hot sun for a while. With the purchase of a ticket, it is possible to get a guided tour of the inside of the buildings, too.
Liberation and Izetbefović Square
This square was named to honor the Bosnian president and is sprinkled with various statues that hone the Bosnian writers.
Part of the square located just outside the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral had a fantastic full-size chess set. A few local guys were enjoying some friendly games. Surrounding the square were market stalls that had books, food, and other items. We sat for a few minutes and considered challenging someone to a game of chess.
Shot Heard Round The World
History buffs will know that Sarajevo is the site of the infamous assassination of Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand, traditionally considered as a major trigger of World War I (a series of complicated diplomatic crises prior to the assassination did not help.)
Conveniently located across the street from the famed incident is the Sarajevo Museum. Inside the one room museum held a permanent exhibit outlining the four decades of Austrian Habsburg rule of this time and how Gavrila Principe’s assassination of the Habsburg heir took place right on this corner.
Sacred Heart Cathedral
This was the third beautiful piece of architecture we ran into in a small radius around old town. Free to enter, this Catholic church houses the tomb of Croatian Josip Stadler who served as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Vrhbosna at the beginning of the 20th Century, and initiated the cathedral’s construction.
A statue in the front honors Pope John Paul II, who visited Sarajevo in 1997, soon after the Bosnian war (1992 – 1996) had ended, to send a message of peace and tolerance from Bosnia-Herzegovina’s capital city.
Bosnia-Herzegovina is full of unique charms, a blend of culture and religion, surrounded by colorful greens and scenic landscapes. It is well worth a visit, not to mention the quality of food is phenomenal. Help support their local economy by visiting this hospitable and welcoming country. You won’t be disappointed!