Sarajevo City Hall, Downtown, and Brewery

I awoke to a super cold, grey, foggy, damp day. Yuck. Last thing I wanted to do was go exploring and I was so grateful I had heaps of work to do! By 12:30, I’d put in a full day of work, could call off with only one hour more to do in the evening, and the sun had come out! Talk about timing!

It was only 10C outside (brr!), so I pulled out my jeans for the first time and paired them with a long-sleeved top, fleece hoodie, and my cosy Tiek flats, my expected “fall weather” attire.

My first thought as I headed out was lunch and I wanted to try burek, “Bosnian pie.” I’d had no interest in it, but so many people told me I was nuts for not having had it and also pointed me to Buregdzinica Sac that I decided to try the experience today. I made a few wrong turns but eventually found the restaurant. The server spoke English and told me she had meat or potato, cheese, and spinach. So heads up, my vegetarian readers, there’s a burek for you!

I went with the meat and accepted sour cream, which was unfortunate since she drowned my pie. I ended up scraping it all off and only having what had soaked in. But you can’t really ever have too much sour cream, so my complaint is only that you didn’t get to see this pretty thing in all its glory. ūüôā It’s basically phyllo pastry that is assembled in a spiral and has filling mixed in.

My meat burek tasted like the  Bosnian answer to tourtière, with heaps of savoury and perfectly seasoned meat mixed in with caramelised onions. Absolutely amazing. I might not have been a fan of Bulgarian and Serbian food, but Bosnian is great!

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Then, I went back to the Baklava Shop to try their Nutella baklava and have the coffee I’d been craving all morning. The interior of the shop is so pretty. (pauses to listen to the adhan)

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Love the alarm clock collection.

Next stop was Sarajevo City Hall as I was told the interior is impressive. It was devastated during the war and was rebuilt in stages.

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Outside, there is a cable car and information on the plan to rebuild the cable car system to Trebevińá,¬†the mountain I went up yesterday. Both of my tour guides are skeptical that it will happen and my guide yesterday reminisced fondly of taking the old cable car up the mountain with her family.

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I was a bit surprised by the 5KM fee to enter city hall so I could take pictures, but figured that’s how they’re funding the reconstruction and, really, it’s a token amount. What I didn’t know is that city hall doubles as a museum and there are heaps of exhibits. So you get a lot of bang for your mark!

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Austria-Hungary built the original city hall and felt it was their duty to help with the reconstruction. I’m trying to remember why Spain got involved, which I know one of my guides told me.

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The ceiling mosaic. Wow!

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One thing that I finally get after my two tours is why Sarajevans are so open to talking about the war and hold no punches. This is because they see themselves as victims, not as an equal culprits in the aggression. So when they talk about horrible events, they are not owning up to things that they did to themselves, but are pointing the finger at things that were done to them. That is my interpretation only and should not be taken as a judgement of the validity or not of this interpretation if it is accurate. But it makes a lot of sense and further helps me understand what happened here and why the impacts are so long-lasting.

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City hall was the national library before becoming city hall again. It was the national library when it was bombed in the war. My guide yesterday said that this was an incomprehensible action by the Serbs because they were destroying their own heritage. Neno, from the walking tour, said that his grandmother still talks about seeing the ashes from all the books floating in the air.

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This picture is of two soldiers on opposite sides of the war post-war at Srebrenica, site of the massacre of 8,000 Bosniak Muslims. I wonder what thoughts are going through their heads.

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I was surprised by how much of city hall was open to visitors. Cordons and closed doors served as gentle guides telling us what areas were off limits.

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This was a thorough exhibit about the history of city hall and Sarajevo in general. City hall was completed and opened in 1896. It was built in a pseudo-Moorish style, seen as a “cultural misunderstanding… regarded as a retarded form of foreign culture.”

Pardon the glare in these, but there’s too much information to just summarise it:

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I saw video of the shelling in full colour. Tragic.

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They began to rebuild almost immediately, just as it was one of the first major buildings to be destroyed.

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There was an interesting section about the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. The building that was a café and is now a museum has not changed much!

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I was surprised that his marriage to Sophie Chotek was one of love and very controversial. She could not accompany him on official functions and their children could not inherit his title. To add a further sense of destiny to the assassination, it was the first time Sophie accompanied Franz Ferdinand on an official outing.

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This photo of the lady running reminds me of something I forgot to share after the walk with Neno. He mentioned that his mother went to work in full makeup and heels even though her children begged her not to as she would not be able to outrun snipers. She said that she did so because she would be beautiful if she was left wounded on the street and also because there were reporters…

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I learned yesterday, but forgot, that the peace accord was hammered out in Dayton, Ohio, of all places!

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Those exhibits were essentially in the basement. I then went back to the main level and up to the first floor.

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What am impressive building. I can understand how rebuilding it was important to Sarajevans and very likely boosted morale.

Next, I wanted to walk to New Sarajevo (across downtown down “Sniper Alley“) to photograph some of the things I saw on my tour yesterday. Sarajevo downtown is long and narrow as it is sandwiched by the mountains. There is a main thoroughfare that splits at the start of Old Town (BaŇ°ńćarŇ°ija), with traffic heading east passing south of¬†BaŇ°ńćarŇ°ija along the river and traffic from the west passing to the north. Trolley cars go around¬†BaŇ°ńćarŇ°ija in a loop. This map also happens to show the location of the brewery (pivara) across the river that I would visit later.

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There are so many churches and mosques in this city that Sarajevo is known as Little Jerusalem.

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Vicki, there are TONS of bakeries in Sarajevo. Look for signs that say “pekara”! ūüôā

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At the market I saw my first day, there is a memorial to the many dead in the war.

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Loved the market!

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Next up was the memorial to all the children killed in the war.

 

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There’s a fountain but I just discovered I forgot to take a picture of it! There were fresh flowers all around it, with heartbreaking notes.

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There was a row of these lists of names, births, and deaths. This is very much  my generation.

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I noticed this subtle bit of art on the sidewalk by the memorial.

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The iconic (former) Holiday Inn. I remember seeing pictures of it after it was shelled because its yellow façade is so memorable. It was never a direct target.

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A museum and I’m pretty sure something else even more important…

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Our guide yesterday mentioned a building owned by a media magnate and I believe this is it. I stupidly stopped to take this picture in front of the huge US Embassy, but the guard who saw me do that did not speak up, so he must have realised I was not photographing the building.

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I finally got to the building that so impressed me yesterday. Can you see the impact crater? This is just one of many.

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Here’s another.

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Without embiggening this picture, I can see at least three impact craters. How can the structure still be solid?! There’s a Costa Coffee on the ground floor, a major chain, so they must trust the building…

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There was more I wanted to photograph, but I was getting tired and still had to walk back. I’d walked 3.5KM since city hall and had to walk it back. I could have taken the trolley, of course, but there was more I wanted to photograph on the return trip.

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This is where the road splits as we come into Old Town.

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This Courtyard Marriott is brand new.

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This is the brand of coffee I bought the other day. There are billboards for it all over the city, so it must be popular. I don’t like it nearly as much as my usual brands, but it is very satisfactory, especially for the price.

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By this point, I wanted a cold beer and decided to head to the Sarajevo Brewery, which for some reason wasn’t on my tourist map. I had a vague idea of where it was, but with the streets being as nonsensically laid out as they are, I knew I could wander around in circles for hours without getting to it. A half dozen, “Molim, pivo muzej?”s and pointing to passersby got me there. That’s, “Please, beer museum?” ūüėÄ

Entrance to the beer museum is 3KM, 5KM with a beer at the attached pub, or 25KM for lunch at the pub. I went with option two.

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The museum was really tiny and was only about the history of the brewery, with no opportunity to actually visit its operations. I was rather disappointed.

Sarajevans boast about having the first café in Europe, but beer was slow to come.

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Barrels were the most popular container for beer as for equal volume compared to bottles, the price was about 30% cheaper.

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What a great painting of the brewery! Still looks like that.

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This is the main newspaper in Sarajevo. We passed its building yesterday, but I didn’t get that far on foot.

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The brewery had major operations until the start of the ’70s and then went into a steady decline. It continued with a token production during the war and was fully reconstructed and modernised after the war. There was a three-year contract with Coca-Cola to produce soft drinks, then a new contract was signed with¬†PepsiCo.

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The pub was dead, but pretty cosy.

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It was rather a small beer and I wonder if I got taken as I have a hard time believing this was 2KM worth of beer (plus maybe a few sips as I think I’d tasted it by this time). This was a rather bitter lager, but tasty!

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ūüėÄ

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I cut through the market to get home and made a purchase! My travel purse has been both a blessing and a curse. I love all the pockets in it and its generous size, but the overly padded straps tend to fall down my shoulders. I also miss not having a bag that I can wear cross-body, keeping my hands free, and in which I can stuff purchases. So it was inevitable that I would end up replacing the bag on my travels and decided I’d start shopping when my sewing job on the handles started to give way, which was here in Sarajevo. Now, this isn’t really a location to look for the kind of bag I wanted so there wasn’t a huge amount of choice. But as you know, I know what I like. ūüôā

I’d seen this bag several times over the last few days and when I came upon it on the way across the market, I decided to ask about the price. I’d seen similar bags marked 30KM, which was way more than I was willing to pay. My budget was 20KM (about 15CAD). The storeowner came out of her shop almost the second I started prodding the bag and brought it down for me.

I loved the beading.

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And the colour scheme.

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She quickly showed me the pocket in the strap, which is brilliant. Shame it’s not just a tad wider so my phone could fit in it.

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A zippered top is a must. I had to pass on a bag I loved even more because it didn’t have a zipper.

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There’s also an interior pocket for things I need to keep handy. I will miss not having more pockets, but one is better than none.

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The price was 25KM. but I noticed a slight imperfection in the stitching on the front, so I wasn’t willing to stretch my budget because I will need to fix it as the whole beaded panel could unravel. The clerk showed me other bags in the same style, but I found them hideous.¬†After I passed on two or three of those, she pointed to the bag I liked, crossed out the 25 she’d written down and wrote, “20?” Yes, perfect! We were both very happy. ūüôā

I bought dinner stuff and then headed up the hill, which felt about twice as steep as it did the other days. Boy was I tired!

For dinner, I put together a quick pasta that was the best pasta and sauce combo I’ve had since I got to the Balkans! I found these fresh Bosnian noodles and tossed them with a sauce that’s meant to be used as a¬†dip that had much more complex flavours than any of the Italian jarred sauces I’ve tried.

Tomorrow was supposed to be my last day in Sarajevo, but a large work order came in, so I am staying till Saturday! This is a blessing because my next destination is expensive and will be difficult to get to, so I can travel there over a couple of days if I want to and then not feel like I have to take a private room with shared bathroom to save some money. I have to say that my last two weeks in the Balkans are growing murkier rather than clearer and that I’m no closer to knowing from where I’ll be flying to Madrid!

I think I’m done with tourism in Sarajevo because I have three solid days of work to do. I will venture out tomorrow to get groceries (and possibly a coffee if I go early enough), but the plan is to stay in all of Thursday with the hope of being able to finish early enough on Friday to hit a few museums. Somewhere in all of that, I will find time for another slice of Bosnian pie. I’d love to find the one with butternut squash!

A Walking Tour of Sarajevo

This morning, I took Neno’s free walking tour of Sarajevo. This was a really interesting tour as I got all the answers I wanted about Bosnian history. Neno remembers the war of ’92 to ’95 quite well since he was seven to eleven years old at the time and his family spent all 44 months in Sarajevo. But I’m betting ahead of myself.

The tour starts in front of the National Theatre at Susan Sontag Square. I had no trouble finding it even though it was off my map of old town. En route, I passed a few things of interest, like this clothesline. Can you imagine a city or even suburban town in Canada or the US permitting this?! For all we think we are forward thinking, we are incredibly short-sighted.

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The hills on the other side of a river looked like a Hollywood backdrop, they were so beautiful.

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Don’t they?!

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I wish I knew more about these ruins. There is a dearth of signage in Sarajevo, something Neno brought up. Part of the reason is that there are disputes about who should pay for signs.

Sarajevo comes from two Turkish words, Saraj, palace or seat of assembly, and evo, valley. As I said in another post, I find that Sarajevo’s position in a valley is unusual. It¬†definitely limits its growth.

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Here’s the National Theatre:

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I was surprised to see Cyrillic. Neno would later explain to me that there is a part of Sarajevo, where the airport and East bus station are located, that is called Republika Srpska. It is a Serbian part of BiH and almost autonomous (think of Quebec in Canada, an example Neno brought up, not just my interpretation!). They favour the Cyrillic script while the rest of BiH favours the Latin script.

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Neno started with a really comprehensive history of BiH. Surprisingly, it was a much easier narrative to follow than that of Bulgaria! In a nutshell:

The Ottoman Empire ruled here for  500 years, from the end of the 14th century to the end of the 19th century.

Austria-Hungary then came in for 40 years, which is when Sarajevo was modernized. Streets were widened, structures like the National Theatre were built, tram cars came in, street lighting was installed, etc.

After WWI was the first Yugoslavia, which was considered a period of stagnation. The capital was Belgrade and Sarajevo was neglected. There are no examples of Art Deco buildings in Sarajevo like you can see in Belgrade because there was barely any construction during the ’20s and ’30s.

After WWII came the second Yugoslavia, under the dictator Tito. Older Bosnians today think fondly of the ’60s and ’70s, remembering them as being more prosperous times. Tito died in 1980 and things went downhill over the next decade and a half, with the member states of Yugoslavia declaring independence one after the other.

The Siege of Sarajevo, “the longest siege of a capital history in the history of modern warfare” was started by the leadership of¬†Republika Srpska, the Serbs, one of many ethnic groups in the area. They were vanquished by the Bosnians and Croats. The siege lasted 44 months, almost four years.

Neno comes¬†from a mixed marriage, a Bosniak (Muslim) mother and a Serb (Orthodox) father. His father insisted on staying because Sarjevo was his home and, besides, there was no way the war would last more than a week… The family lives in “Communist blocks” about three kilometres from downtown on the eighth floor, so they rode out the war living in the basement of the building with their neighbours. Notice the tense I used at the start of that last sentence. It was not a typo. Neno still lives in the building in which he rode out the Sarajevo Siege.

He promised to tell us about how they got food and water later in the tour, so I will hold off on that, but said that they kept warm and cooked using firewood, essentially cutting down all the trees in their neighbourhood, then moving onto the furniture and books. He went to a makeshift school in the basement and his mother still put on a full face of makeup and nice clothes every day to go to work. Life went on.

Our first stop was one of the “Sarajevo roses.” These are spots where mortar shells hit and which have been preserved by residents who feel that such little memorials are more significant than any statue. Neno poured¬†water on it to make it stand out more. We are right by the National Theatre here. People died here.

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Looking up to the hill where the bombings originated. It’s where the bobsled track from the ’84 Olympics is located. Which reminds me that Neno said that from his experience, people know Sarajevo for the Olympics, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, and the Siege. I was rather ashamed that I did not know about the Olympics!

 

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A very powerful message on this sign…

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This is the older and largest Orthodox church in Sarjevo. It was recently renovated thanks to money that came from Greece (before its economic collapse).

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This statue was a gift from Italy after the war. The man is naked, so there was a lot of fuss made about it, similar to The Victor in Belgrade. Shortly after the statue was installed, someone put red pants on it!

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People play with this massive chess set every day, rain or shine.

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Here is the only synagogue in all of BiH. It was originally built by Sephardic (Spanish) Jews and then Ashkenazi (German) Jews joined it later. BiH has a very small Jewish population, only 700 people, and the synagogue is barely used. The last wedding in it was 60 years ago!

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Next to it is the “ugliest building in Sarajevo,” an unusual piece of Communist architecture dating to the time of the Olympics. It is called the Parrot! Amusingly, rent in this monstrosity is a bit more than in the lovely Austro-Hungarian flats across the river¬†because the view is better on this side.

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Now, we get to the good stuff that made me so happy I took a tour. As it turned out, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia was NOT on the Latin bridge, but right at the corner of what is now the museum and what was then a café. Neno explained how it all went down and I could not help but think of the assassination of JFK.

The Archduke, in an open motorcade,  came down the road in the direction of this museum towards city hall. Members of the Serbian Black Hand group were positioned in two places to assassinate him. The first group left off a hand grenade that injured people, but did not kill the Archduke. The driver sped off and the second group did not get its chance.

The Archduke had his meeting and insisted on canceling lunch so that he could go to the hospital to visit the wounded. However, he forgot to inform the driver of this. So on the way back towards the hospital, the driver started to turn right here at the museum, which, again, was a caf√©… where Black Hand member¬†Gavrilo Princip was despondently pondering the failed coup. The car stopped and the assassin was able to kill the Archduke and his wife, which was the triggering factor for World War I. There is a definite sense of fate/destiny in the tale.

Because Princip was two weeks shy of his 20th birthday, the age of majority, he was only sentenced to 20 years in prison, rather than death as were the ones who made the initial attempt. He died four years later of tuberculosis.

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We then moved on to the oldest mosque in Sarajevo, also recently refurbished, this time with money from Turkey. There are about 200 mosques in Sarajevo and the vast majority of Sarajevans identify as Muslim, although not all are practicing.

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We acquired a mascot¬†on our walk. Can you see the plastic tag on the dog’s ear? This dog is a stray and that tag indicates that s/he was sterilised. The stray dog issue dates from the war and they are dealing with it through sterilisation. This dog was incredibly sweet and just about everyone on the tour adopted it!

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Here’s that oldest mosque again:

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And here is the largest Roman-Catholic church in Sarajevo, with a Franciscan monastery next to it. All are welcome to worship here. Neno identifies as agnostic and says that he comes here on Christmas Eve with his Muslim friends to enjoy the service!

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Across from the church is a beer brewery.

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This beer brewery¬†¬†was critical during the war as it sits over a large spring of good drinking water. This is where Sarajevans got their water during the war. Food came from the UN, which had a protected landing strip at the airport. Neno said his parents never had to pay for food, but it was very basic and they couldn’t afford anything on the black market. He recalls that some months after the war, his mother traded her gold earrings for the first chocolate he’d had in years and that it was the best chocolate of his life. The lesson he learned there was to appreciate the little things as they can be the most precious.

There is a pub next to the brewery and I will make a point to have a pint there!

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Continuing on, he pointed out buildings that still have shrapnel damage.

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We went on to the oldest Muslim cemetery in the city.

It’s kind of hard to see in this picture, but the slope of that parking lot was enough that I was seriously concerned about that van tipping over!

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This is an ancient Ottoman road that led to Constantinople/Istanbul!

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This is the oldest road in Sarajevo:

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The Muslim graves show the head and feet, with the head pointing towards Mecca.

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Here’s city hall:

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This is the Spite House. Eminent domain of sorts of practised to get the land on which sits the city hall. One owner said that he didn’t just want money, he wanted his house moved brick by brick across the river. It was and is now a restaurant!

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Our tour ended here and Neno gave us a map of eateries to try out in Old Town. I headed off in search of a bathroom and then lunch! A bathroom was surprisingly easy to find and cost 1KM to use. I was going into one of these stalls when the attendant yelled out, “No!” to me and then made a motion of “go around the corner.”

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Where I found this. Personally, I would have preferred to squat and have toilet paper… ūüôā

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I found one of Neno’s recommendations for ńáevapńćińái, Bosnia’s answer to the kebapche. I was the only tourist, no one spoke English, and the menu was entirely in Bosnian so I’m going to take his word that this was an authentic eatery! I pointed to the five-piece (kom)¬†ńáevapńćińái and asked for water. Unlike last night, when I got a bottle of water, I was brought tap water here (which was fine!).

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Lunch underwhelmed me even though it was really tasty. I love the bread and the little sausages were actually more flavourful than kebache, but I could have used a little sauce, even if it was just ketchup. It was a cheap filling lunch after a long walk, but not something I’d want to eat regularly. I thought that ¬†maybe I forgot to ask for something to go with the¬†ńáevapńćińái, but as I wandered around after and saw heaps of people eating it, I saw that that wasn’t the case. This is just how you eat it.

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It was a little late in the afternoon for coffee, but I was in the mood. So after wandering around for a bit, I sat down at a cafe and ordered Bosnian coffee with a piece of hazelnut baklava. They had tons of different kinds, from Nutella and other chocolates to all sorts of nuts. I like pistachio the best and that was 2KM, which I was going to pay, then realised I’d never had it with hazelnut, which was only 1KM. So I decided to try something new! Like at lunch, pointing at the menu (which did have English) worked.

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The coffee is simmered in this pot. I know I drank it wrong, but it was really good! I prefer milk to sugar in my coffee, but had the sugar for authenticity’s sake. Be careful as you drink as there is a lot of sludge at the bottom!

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This is just what was in my cup and there was more in the pot. I poured some back into the pot to show on the cup walls how thick the sludge is.

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I had a headache starting at this point and work to do, so I headed home for the afternoon. Now, I’m regretting not getting stuff to make dinner at home as it is pouring and cold outside. I think I’ll go through the pantry here and see if I can cobble something together!

It was a very informative day and I don’t feel nearly as emotionally drained as I would have expected. I’m hoping my tour tomorrow is a go, but I haven’t heard back. I think I will wander down to their office tomorrow morning and see if I can join the tour…

First Day in Belgrade, and a Walking Tour

After returning home with groceries this morning, I did some research and then went out in search of lunch before the 2PM walking tour. As I turned onto Knez Mihailova Street I heard the amazing violin playing and discovered it was coming from this little girl:

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She needs to be in a world class music school, not busking. ūüôĀ

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For lunch, still craving meat, a burger made sense and Burger House seemed like my best bet for an “American-style” burger. But this shot is more about the beautiful building at the end of the street!

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Next door to Burger House, these were the pub’s specials of the day…

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Burger House is a “build your dream ¬†burger” joint. I asked for one patty with cheddar cheese, bacon, grilled onions, and honey mustard sauce, with a side of half-and-half — fries and onion rings.

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This may be the best burger-fry combo in the world and that is not hyperbole. I am going back there before I leave!!!

At the end of¬†Knez Mihailova¬†Street, you get to Belgrade Fortress. We’ll come back here later on the walking tour, but, basically, it’s a giant park that you can wander freely.

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Looking down at the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers. The Danube!

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Notice that bridge in the distance? It so reminds me of the Provencher Bridge in Winnipeg, which is also at the confluence of two rivers, that I wonder if there is a connection.

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I’ve seen a lot of this graffiti with Nikola Tesla’s name and this date. I wish I had remembered to ask my guide about it!

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One of the words I learned in Bulgaria is “pesh” (on foot). The word carries over to Serbian in that “peshachka” means pedestrian. My guide told me that Bulgarians and Serbians do not understand each other despite these similarities.

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I got back to Republic Square around 1:50 to wait for the walking tour. Since I was a bit early, I walked up a side street beside the National Museum and found a jewelry vendor with lovely wares. I was really disappointed to leave Bulgaria without a pair of earrings, but I didn’t find anything I liked there, not even in Nessebar, and, really, I didn’t get a lot of opportunities to browse as I passed maybe five earring vendors total in the three months I was there. There just weren’t stalls and markets with them the way I’ve seen in Mexico. Here in Belgrade, in just the short span of time I’ve been here, I’ve seen heaps of such stalls, running the gamut of prices. I tend to know what I like and be quite impulsive in my earring purchases. These beauties spoke to me and were just 400RSD (5CAD):

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I then went back to Republic Square to start the tour, but something weird happened. The guide said to me, “You’re looking for another tour. Go wait at the clock.” I didn’t question why I couldn’t join his tour. I’d done some research and knew there are several different walking tours by different outfits and that the 2PM tour didn’t really have much of what I wanted to know more about. So I took that as a sign to go home for a rest and try again at 4PM with a different tour.

I got back to Republic Square at 3:45 and the guide said we would start at 4:05. It was chillier than expected after the hot afternoon, so I said I was going to go home and be right back, which I was, fleece in tow!

Republic Square is Belgrade’s anchor. People meet at “the horse,” even though the person on the horse (Knez Mihailova — Prince Michael) is more important. But the statue has been called “the horse” since at least the early 19th century.

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I learned that the National Museum has been closed for ages and that the reopening keeps getting delayed for lack of funding. ūüôĀ

But the National Theatre has been in continuous operation since it was built in the 19th century, its programs running even through all the wars.

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We headed off to the Bohemian Quarter, Skadarlija or Skadarska Street. Let me pause here to say that,¬†like always, my review of a city tour is in no way going to encompass everything I learned. There’s just too much to remember!

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This street is lined with pubs and “kafanas,” the Serbian answer to the pub. It’s a drinking district. I asked if it’s safe for a single woman to be out after dark and have a few drinks and our guide, Luba, said absolutely and that Belgrade does not have any “bad” neighbourhoods. The worst that will happen is you will get scammed by a taxi, something that even happens to locals!

I am definitely going to come back here to have a drink!

By the way, it was here that I learned that Serbia is the only European country to have two writing systems that are used equally and interchangeably. Most Serbians favour using Latin letters.

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Since it is a drinking street and people have a hard time staying on their feet, this helpful sign tells drunks that the moon is that way, so, obviously, the ground is the other way…

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These are kafanas. They have booze, coffee, light local fare, and live music past 8PM. I think they are best described as a cross between a bistro and a pub.

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This is where Luba pulled some rakia (fruit brandy) out of her bag for all of us to try!!! I had rakia in Bulgaria, where it is also popular. This was honey rakia and it was really lovely!

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This is a statue of a famous Serbian poet outside the house he shared with his wife and ten children. He wanted a house on the drinking street and died from an alcohol-related disease at the age of 40. What a shame. He was actually lauded in his lifetime, so he must have been very good!

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This is a chimney from an old beer brewery owned by a Czech.

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We continued on and stopped here to talk a bit about the history of Belgrade in terms of armed conflicts and the geo-political situation. Way too much there to get into in this post! The damage on this wall apparently dates back to WWII! Luba explained that Belgrade has such a hodgepodge of architecture — Turkish, 19th century, and Communist, among others, is that every time a building was destroyed in a bombing, a modern building of the day was erected in its place.

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This is the Museum of¬†Vuk and Dositej. From Wikipedia (echoing what the guide told us!): “one of the most important memorial museums in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. Founded in 1949, it depicts the life, work and legacy of Vuk Stefanovińá KaradŇĺińá (1787‚Äď1864), the reformer of the Serbian language, and Dositej Obradovińá (1742‚Äď1811), a writer who was the country’s first Minister of Education. The museum is a crucial site for understanding the revival of Serbian culture at the time of the First Serbian Uprising against the Ottoman Empire.”

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This is where I won a prize for¬†being the tour member who has made the most progress with the Serbian language! Really! LOL This is a special glass for drinking rakia. I’m wondering if I can find a place in my luggage for it as I really would love to get it home…

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Here’s the minaret of the last remaining mosque in Belgrade. Most of Serbia’s Muslim population is in the south.

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We then made our way to Kalemegdan Park, which is open 24/7, and which is also the site of the Belgrade Zoo and the Belgrade Fortress. The zoo boasts the oldest known alligator in the world!

The fortress is a series of fortifications, but there’s no castle in it or anything like that, as such construction kept getting destroyed and so there was no point to making the effort to build anything. The fortress is on prime real estate to protect the city and so has been a prized treasure during many conflicts.

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Here, you can see some of the original Roman limestone that once surrounded the city and gave it is name, ie. “the white city.” Beo is white and grad is city. I forgot to ask how Beo became Bel in English and French.

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Looking again at the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers.

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This is the Sava.

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This giant statue of a naked man represents victory.

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Looking out to New Belgrade, which was built after WWII on reclaimed marshland. It’s mostly a residential and business zone and Luba told us it’s not worth a visit by tourists.

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As we finished our tour of the fortress, Luba spoke some more about conflicts in Belgrade, including the 1999 NATO bombings. I’m exactly 10 years older than her and was 20 when that was going on, so I have a pretty clear memory of news reports about the bombings. It was fascinating to hear what it was like over here compared to the media coverage in Canada. The bombings were announced and were strictly on infrastructure, so there was little loss of life and not much disruption to daily activities. Serbia has yet to recover financially from the bombings.

Again, there is way too much history to go into here, but Luba emphasized that the bombings had nothing to do with the conflicts going on in nearby areas, including what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, but were¬†in response to Serbia’s relationship with the disputed state of Kosovo. This is a part of the world with a particularly convoluted and complicated history and 20 years beyond peace, it is obvious that there are still tensions that keep Serbia from moving forward.

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We then headed out to our final stops. While we were told that New Belgrade isn’t worth a visit, we were advised to try to make it to¬†Zemun, an old community that dates back to the days of the Ottoman Empire and which is now part of Belgrade.

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I wish I could remember what this building is all about, beyond it being the home of the mother of Knez Mihailova.

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This is the top of the largest Orthodox cathedral in Belgrade.

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I learned that each country has its own Orthodox church with its own leader. There is no central Orthodox leader like the Pope for Catholics. This is the seat of the Serbian Orthodox church.

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This is the palace of Princess Ljubica.

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An example of three styles of architecture side by side:

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The Question Mark kafana. It was the kafana by the church, but the priests complained to the authorities. The owner removed the sign and put up a question mark while he searched for a new name, but the question mark stuck!

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Our last stop was a school where basketball was first played in Belgrade.

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This is where we learned about the time that Bulgarians were billionaires, during a period of hyper inflation. This was around the mid-1990s and Serbia’s hyper inflation was second only to Zimbabwe’s. We all got one of these bills!

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The tour was free, but a tip was welcome. I thought 500RSD would be fair and that turned out to be the suggested tip. This was an amazing tour! Luba was very knowledgeable and her English was excellent. I did not come close to doing justice to all that she taught us!

It was just past 6:00 at this point and I was done for the day. I just wanted to unwind with a beer and then get a takeaway to eat at home.

Going down the pedestrian street, I was amused to hear a bagpiper!

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In my comings and goings from home today, I had spotted a kafana, Zora, on the opposite side of the block from where I live (basically across the street) and decided to check it out since they make their own beer. I went in and the bartender spoke English, so I was able to ask for recommendations. He said they do a number of fruity beers, but he recommended their lager. That sounded good, and it was! It was a bit cloudy and citrusy. I nursed it for almost an hour, enjoying American music from the ’90s (interesting, that’s what frequently gets played in Bulgaria, too), especially the Bon Jovi! A pint of good beer here was 200RSD (about 2.50CAD). Wow! A pint of average commercial stuff¬†in Canada is about 5CAD and it’s about ¬†7CAD in London!

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I then headed across the street to get a slice of pizza. They were down to the dregs, but this looked good, and it was! The salami was super spicy, but the sesame seeds on the chewy crust were inspired. Pizza out here in the Balkans has yet to disappoint! But like Bulgarians and Mexicans, Serbians put mayo, ketchup, and sometimes hot sauce on their pizza and look at you funny if you decline!

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It has been a really full and great first day in Serbia’s capital. I will do a few museums tomorrow since they will be closed on Monday. I’m not sure yet what the rest of the week will look like and it will depend on my work load.

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Lunch at The Irma

The ladies at the Cody visitors’ centre told me that I really should “do lunch at The Irma,” the restaurant attached to Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel. I checked the menu online and found prices very reasonable, so I decided to do that today. I had to stop at an optometrist’s first to have a screw replaced in my sunglasses (free service), so by the time I got to The Irma, it was almost 2:00.

I started by ordering a beer since I haven’t had one since Moab. The Irma offered a number of beers brewed at the nearby (60 miles away) Red Lodge Brewery in Montana. I went for the very “grapefruity” Bent Nail IPA, which was delicious!

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The restaurant was updated in the ’70s to meet health codes, but would have fit in 100 years ago.

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The ceiling is an exact reproduction of the original:

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I had a fantastic patty melt with “Irma fries,” which are cubed and saut√©d red potatoes with seasoning. Much better than frozen fries! At $9.99, this meal was priced right around what I’ve paid for a patty melt in many locations, but the potatoes really elevated the dish. Excellent food at a fair price. Rather unexpected for such a touristy location.

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I went upstairs to check out the hotel:

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This is the original bar, which was a gift from Queen Victoria:

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And here’s a random shot of the pest who has insisted on cuddling with me all week:

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