Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – Eastern Europe chapter Bosnia has to say about Sarajevo:
“In the 1990s Sarajevo was besieged and on the edge of annihilation. Today, its restored historic centre is full of welcoming cafes and good-value lodgings, the bullet holes largely plastered over on the city’s curious architectural mixture of Ottoman, Yugoslav and Austro-Hungarian buildings.
The antique stone-flagged alleys of Ba????ščaršija give the delightful old town core a certain Turkish feel. Directly north and south, steep valley sides are fuzzed with red-roofed Bosnian houses and prickled with uncountable minarets, climbing towards green-topped mountain ridges.
Centred on what foreigners nickname Pigeon Square??, Ba????ščaršija is the heart of old Sarajevo with pedestrians padding pale stone alleys and squares between lively (if tourist-centric) coppersmith alleys, grand Ottoman mosques, caravanserai-restaurants and lots of inviting little cafes and ćevapi eateries.
Bosnia’s second Ottoman governor, Gazi-Husrevbey, funded a series of splendid 16th-century buildings of which this 1531 mosque, with its 45m minaret, forms the greatest centrepiece. The interior is beautifully proportioned and even if you can’t look inside, it’s worth walking through the courtyard with its lovely fountain and the tomb tower of Gazi-Husrevbey off to one side.
Sarajevo City Hall
Storybook neo-Moorish facades make the 1898 Vijenćica Sarajevo’s most beautiful Austro-Hungarian-era building. Seriously damaged during the 1990s siege, it finally reopened in 2014 after laborious reconstruction. Its colourfully restored multi-arched interior and stained-glass ceiling are superb.
The ticket also allows you to peruse the excellent Sarajevo 1914-1981 exhibition in the octagonal basement. This gives well-explained potted histories of the city’s various 20th-century periods, insights into fashion and music subcultures, and revelations about Franz Ferdinand’s love life.”
To gaze out across Sarajevo’s red-roofed cityscape, one of the most appealing yet accessible viewpoints is from this chunk of old rampart-bastion, now sprouting mature trees and a popular place for picnickers and canoodling lovers.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
It seems to me that the majority of people who visit the Balkans come for the beautiful scenery and historic buildings along the Adriatic coast, most of them on the hundreds of cruise ships that ply the Mediterranean during the spring, summer and fall months. While I can certainly appreciate the attraction, we don’t travel on cruise ships because we want to be free to wander and make up our own itineraries as we go.
Also, we like to see more than the tourist hot spots, and hope to avoid the worst of the crowds wherever possible. However, when we were searching for flights into the region, we decided to head straight for Dubrovnik and then travel in a circle through Montenegro and Bosnia Herzegovina before returning back to the coast to lazily drive from Split to the Istria peninsula and then on to Zagreb to end our trip.
In this way, we could see all the historic places first and then end our time away by lazing by the sea, poking into quiet little fishing villages and enjoying the quiet season once most of the cruise ships slow things down for the winter. For me, Sarajevo was an absolute must – it’s figured in so many historic events over the centuries, many of which we are old enough to remember many of the highs and lows that occurred.
I know that there’s a book entitled ‘The Cellist of Sarajevo’, a book I haven’t read, but plan to read once we are home from our travels. This is what I learned about the book from the Internet, “The whole tale behind The Cellist of Sarajevo is a fictional work based on the true story of Vedran Smajlovic who actually played Adagio in G Minor for 22 days to mark the death of each of the 22 people killed in the street queuing for bread.”
I knew we would learn a great deal about the break-up of the former Yugoslavia during our time in Sarajevo, but because I typically don’t so a lot of research about a place we’re going to visit, I didn’t know that the city had such a vibrant and beautiful old town centre, much of which dates back hundreds of years.