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!


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)




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.



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.



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!


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.


The ceiling mosaic. Wow!




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.








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.





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.



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.




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:




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




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






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!


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.



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…


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



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






























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.


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





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


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


Loved the market!


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



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.


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


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






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.


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


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.




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


Here’s another.


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…



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.






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


This Courtyard Marriott is brand new.


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.


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.


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.




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



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



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



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.



The pub was dead, but pretty cosy.


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!





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.


And the colour scheme.


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.


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


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.


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!

Sarajevo Siege Tour

Today was very much a lesson in the hard hitting truth that there are three sides to a story, yours, mine, and the truth that sits somewhere in between.

I went on a four-hour “Total Siege Tour” with Funky Sarajevo Tours. This felt like the best way to hit some sites that are just about not accessible by public transportation and at 40KM (plus 10KM for entrance to the war tunnel), it was better value than hiring a taxi. They were not my first choice for a tour, but could fit me in this morning, so that’s why I picked them.

I have such mixed feelings about my guide and the tour she gave us. Now that I’ve processed it all, I can say that the tour was a good experience and worth what I paid for it, but I think she needs a little guidance on what is appropriate to say or not. I am willing to give her a lot of slack for times that she said indelicate things that were perhaps lost in translation.

She was 23 when the siege started. The thing she said to us today that I will never forget is, “I was eating pizza when the first shell fell.” That says everything about how memorable the moment was, that she can remember it in such detail.

I think an issue I had with her tour is that I feel that such things should be neutral and represent both sides of an issue. But this war is very recent and the wounds are still raw. For her, there might not be war right now, but there is not peace and the Serbs were and still are very much the enemy. She invited us to get a Serbian perspective, repeating many times that there are two sides to a story, but it was very clear that she felt that she was a victim in the siege and the Serbs were aggressors.

Another thing that stuck out is that she told us many times how unfair the siege was, that they were a European country, not some uncivilised back water. I held my tongue at reminding her that the Bosnian War was just one of several terrible conflicts in Europe and among so-called civilised nations. But I said nothing because she was obviously so wounded and so marked by events that I cannot even begin to conjure. She was able to flee to France partway through the siege, but the damage was done.

She also seems to resent the foreign community, feeling that they didn’t care about the suffering of the Sarajevans and that they came in much too late. She also said something that I had to really process because I felt so insulted, but I’m going to chalk it up to a translation issue because of a conversation we had much later. I got the impression that she was saying that people are now coming to Bosnia, but where were we when Bosnia needed us, and that we’re basically rubber necking. But that is a lot of projection and interpretation on my part. Considering how many times she would later thank me for coming to Bosnia and Sarajevo and being a positive ambassador to her country, I think I totally misinterpreted her initial comment that threw me off.

So this was a very different account of the siege than that of a man who was but a young boy at the time. This is a woman who, if I understood her correctly, had many family members massacred, who had friends who were among the 20,000 women raped, who experienced the shelling and the privations. I am completely sympathetic to her and am grateful that she shared her story and reminded us many times that this interpretation is just one of many.

The day started off a bit rockily because I had a hard time finding Sarajevo Funky Tours¬†office since it is a the end of an alley and there is no signage other than in a recessed window that you can’t see until you’re right up to it. It was frustrating to nearly be late when the location was so close and convenient for me, at the end of my street and about half a block over, that¬†I didn’t give myself much extra time to get there for nine. But I could have been late since we had to wait for another couple anyway.

I can’t even begin to recall everything that she told us on our half-day tour. A huge chunk of it was as we were going down “Sniper Alley,” the main thoroughfare through Sarajevo, at too fast a clip to take pictures. I am definitely going to walk that way tomorrow afternoon and get pictures and more information on what I saw. It was just too rainy and I had too much work to do to go ahead with that plan today. So consider this post one of two. I cannot get out of my mind right now the sky-high apartment blocks that still have impact craters. How are they structurally sound?!

We saw and heard so much on that 20 or so minute drive. I was enrapt even if I found the guide’s rapid-fire delivery a bit much. But I appreciated how much she was trying to cram in. Being on site¬†and having a guide who was right there brought history to life. It reminded me of a conversation I had with an Auschwitz survivor some years ago.

Our first stop of the day was the Tunnel of Life, by the airport. This was Sarajevo’s lifeline to the outside world and passed under the runway.

We saw this map quite a bit later in our tour of the War Tunnel, but I’m presenting it now so that you can get some visuals. I really didn’t understand the terrain until we got to this sign and then everything came together. So what you see is Sarajevo surrounded in red by the Serbian forces, with the airport (blue) at a narrow point to the south (top of the map is south, bottom is north).¬†The tunnel was used to move everything from guns to food to¬†medicine. People who had money were able to get out that way as well. The tunnel on both sides was in the basement of a private home. The tunnel museum is on the south side at the Kolar family residence and we can visit 25 of the 800 metres of the tunnel.


Sarajevo Airport.


The Kolar home, now the Tunnel Museum. Tunel Spasa means “tunnel of life.” We saw a 12-minute video of raw footage from ’92 that shows this house sitting in the middle of a mud field.


The video was incredible as I could see buildings being bombarded that have since been reconstructed. I was 13 years old when this war started and 17 when it ended. I remember the news reports, but we didn’t have the internet back then so we were limited in how much we knew and what we did know was biased.


I think I kind of sort of get what this sign is trying to say if you consider WWI as the start of the 20th century, with that conflict also being triggered in Sarajevo.


The tunnel entrance is under that metal piece at the back. We will return.


A Sarajevo rose.


Mockup of a land mine. Our guide confirmed my research that says that mines are still a problem in the wilder parts of the country and to make sure an area has been cleaned up before heading out in the wilderness. She also spoke about how Princess Diana came to Bosnia just before her death to protest landmines.



The tunnel runs under this field. There are plans to reopen the whole of it.



Sobering facts. Our guide did remember the ’84 Olympics very fondly. She was 16 at the time.





Here’s another moment where she just casually tossed out something that surprised me. This is what they cooked on and heated with during the siege. I forget what her exact quote was, but something along the lines of, “Can you imagine going from IKEA to this?” What a reminder that ’92 was not that far away. I spent a good chunk of the tour remembering what I was doing ’92 to ’95 (my high school years).



Tunnel entrance.


But first, we went into that little room.


One of the rebuilding aids that was sent to Sarajevo was PVC windows. That explains why every house in Sarjevo seems to have really nice new windows.


We went into the tunnel. I’m 5’6″ and I had to stoop. I had had enough of the experience about halfway through this 25-metre section. I can’t imagine going through all 800 metres with a 50-pound pack of supplies on my back…


Here, we were shown an example of how people lived in their basements. She again make the comment about how they went from IKEA to this.


This was a pump to get rid of the water in the tunnels. The video showed that the water was quite deep at times.


Here’s a model of the tunnel and area.


There were rails in the tunnel so that things and immobile people could be moved on wheels.





She talked to us a bit about Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s work in Bosnia, including Jolie’s movie¬†Land of Blood and Honey. I haven’t seen it, but have heard pretty terrible things about it. Our host seemed to think it represented reality and told us that the Serbs are working on a movie of their own in retaliation for how they were portrayed in¬†Land of Blood and Honey.

From the war tunnel, we headed up into the mountains to get a better perspective on where the shells were coming from and to see the luge track from the ’84 Olympics. Speaking of which:


I was really disappointed that we didn’t even stop to look at it more closely…

And then, we pulled over to see Sarajevo spread out below us. There was light artillery here and on all the surrounding mountaintops. It’s “only” two kilometres as the crow flies to the city centre. Imagine yourself as one of the people in the city below in the sights of the big guns.


You can see the parrot building clearly in this shot.


City Hall stands out here. The movie we’d seen at the tunnel showed it, and many other buildings, on fire. The rebuilding effort has been amazing, but, like Neno said yesterday, our guide reminded us that there is a lot of corruption and in-fighting so the money isn’t going where it needs to go and rebuilding is very slow.










So many cemeteries…


Our next stop was the luge track! As it turns out, it’s now a walking path! What a lovely way to nearly end the tour, in all that fresh ¬†mountain air. Because of Sarjevo’s position in the valley and the fact that there is a lot of pollution, the air quality is terrible. I could not believe the difference up there.

So you can see the start of a track and some stands where people sat. Our guide said that she stood some distance down the track to get a better view.






The track was filled with insulation and then water to make slick ice.






What an incredible space to walk or mountain bike!












Our final official stop was this restaurant that was a headquarters of sorts during the war. It was destroyed by the retreating forces.





I don’t know why, but coming upon this text freaked me out!


She pointed out the Franciscan church and remarked on how unusual Sarajevo is because you can hear both church bells and the adhan. It seems like the many religions here have found a way to coexist and that this is very much a modern, European, Muslim population that cannot see itself in the more oppressive Islamic countries.




There was an impressive storm rolling in!




We were past our return time, so we then sped down the mountain into town. The Americans in our group wanted one last shot of the city and I took the time to take this shot of an old railway station.



And another minaret.


We were dropped off at the office, which, again, was convenient for me since it would be easy to get home. The threatening rain was holding off, so I decided to get lunch and buy a few groceries for a supper at home. I wound up wandering around in circles for too long looking for that Middle Eastern Tea For Two restaurant I ate at on Saturday and was just about to give up when I finally spotted it! Lunch was very good chicken kebabs. The Moroccan spice tea was was very welcome after that chilly walk!

(pausing to listen to the adhan)

It was spitting when I came out of the restaurant. I went to a little grocery store I’d spotted the other day that is conveniently located and got salami, cheese, and tomatoes for a cold supper. Then I remembered how damp the flat was yesterday in the heavy rain and added a package of soup so I would have something warm! That reminds me that I went out in the pouring rain last night to get dinner and was so soaked by the time that I got to the market that I went straight back to Minder Fast Food, who were, thankfully, open! I had another lovely meal there. It’s a new restaurant, not even on TripAdvisor, and my own little secret piece of Sarajevo!

I got in and went to work, pausing in the late afternoon to do laundry that I really hope will dry by Thursday morning!

It’s been another big day in Sarajevo, with so much to ponder. I’ve got two days left and will try to visit a few buildings and museums, as well as do that walk downtown, depending on my workload.

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.


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


Don’t they?!


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.


Here’s the National Theatre:


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.


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.


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!




A very powerful message on this sign…


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).


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!


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


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!



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.






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.




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.


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!


Here’s that oldest mosque again:


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!


Across from the church is a beer brewery.


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!




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




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!


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


This is the oldest road in Sarajevo:



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







Here’s city hall:



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!


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.”


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


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!).


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.


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.


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!


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.


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…

Finding Dinner in Old Town Sarajevo

Yes, two posts today! ūüôā

I headed down the hill around seven in search of dinner. I thought I might be in the mood for sushi, but the day had gone from torrid to frigid and I was no longer in the mood. I wandered into BaŇ°ńćarŇ°ija Square and combed its alleys for what felt like an eternity looking for dinner. It was rather like my first night in Sofia, where I had a hard time getting service. It didn’t help that I wasn’t committed to any place I tried. I really didn’t know what I was in the mood for and everything looked “fast foody” and boring, like Serbian and Bulgarian food, or was pizza and pasta. I’m actually getting a little tired of the Balkan pizza diet!

After some time, I was just done and ready to head home to have peanut butter toast as I was getting a hunger headache. As I orientated myself, I passed a little restaurant called “Minder” that had a really cosy decor and menus on the table outside. I picked one up and a second later, a girl came out and, in English, asked if I needed help with the menu. The food list was very similar to a dozen other food lists I’d seen all evening, but she was the first friendly face I’d seen all evening so I said I would eat at her establishment.

The Bosnian-language¬†menu was bigger and more elaborate. I saw from it that they had a large and small “chicken fillets” portion. I knew from seeing enough pictures that the “chicken fillets” were grilled chicken tenders and that appealed to me as I’m just about done with all the overly processed sausagy offerings each country has had. The girl explained that the small portion has salad and the chicken, while the bigger one has salad and rice. I haven’t had rice except at home in Malak Izvor or in sushi in ages so that was very appealing.

My expectations for dinner were really low. So maybe that and my hunger combined played tricks on me, but, DANG. I could not believe how good this was! The chicken was actually marinated to have some flavour. The rice was exactly like Mexican chicken broth rice, which I adore. The salad had cabbage and two kinds of peppers in it, plus cucumber and tomato, and it had a dressing! The bread was chewy and yummy. The only way this would have been better is if the mayo had been sour cream and the ketchup lutenitsa. A very funny case of my not knowing what I was in the mood for and being directed to exactly the right place. With the tip, dinner was only 9KM (7CAD)!!!


I rather felt like I was in a souk. Well, I guess I was…


I’m having a hard time resisting all the textiles and especially scarves that I’m seeing!


It’s been an emotionally difficult first day in Sarajevo and I expect the next few will be just as hard as I join tours and learn more about the history of this city. So I’m putting myself on a light sightseeing schedule, especially since I do have work to do. Now, to see if I can get to bed early. Or maybe I’ll learn to sleep through the muezzin’s call?

An Afternoon Wandering Around Sarajevo

It was a very late night and I didn’t get to sleep until around midnight. I woke up around 5:45AM to the sound of a¬†muezzin leading the adhan (ezan in BiH), the call to prayer of the Muslims in the city. It was so beautiful!

I listened for a bit and it lulled me back to sleep. I managed to sleep until about nine when the child upstairs woke me up. I checked my emails and there was one from a client who has been very quiet the last few weeks asking if I’d mind “cleaning up” some files that came in late in the day so that they’d have them by their morning. There are advantages to my working during their night!

First, though, I had to figure out breakfast. I had buns from Belgrade and some of my Greek peanut butter from Bulgaria on me, so that was food sorted. Coffee was trickier since there wasn’t a single pot in the apartment!

This is what I ended up using to heat water!


Here’s a quick tour of the interior of the apartment. I don’t feel comfortable doing the exterior since I didn’t realise last night that this is a private residence (owners or long-term tenants are upstairs). It just feels too invasive.

I love the floor in the entrance and the pink wall, which is also in the living room. Almost the same colour as my dressing room at home!


From the entrance, you can access the kitchen and then the bathroom on the right, or turn left to go towards the other rooms.



Here’s the little kitchen. The table there makes it difficult to use the stove and it appears there are two fridges. But it’s functional and clean. There was an American lady living here for three months, so she left behind a lot of food, like pasta, still in the packages, as well as seasonings. So if I want to cook, I’m in better shape than I was in Belgrade, where I had to buy salt. Behind the door is a bank of drawers with utensils in them. Not the best layout, but it would be my dream to have a house with a kitchen like this in its own room with a door that shuts!


When I saw my driver this morning (I think that he is a tenant of my host) who lives upstairs, I asked about a pot to make hot water. There was a lot of miming involved because he did not understand me. Finally, he said that he got it and that he would put something in the kitchen. He understood! That’s a Turkish coffee pot at the top (what I used to make hot water in Belgrade), and a decent size pot if I want to make pasta. I don’t mind the discolouration, that’s old enamelware for you.


The pink wall in the hallway.


The bathroom is pretty good and has tons of storage, but the location of the shower head is really unfortunate. I was unable to avoid spraying the floor last night, so it was a very quick in and out shower!



I am going to ask if I can use this washing machine before I leave!


Looking down the hallway to the rooms. My bedroom is on the left, the dining/living/spare bedroom/office is at the end.


The bedroom has too much furniture, but that gives me some surfaces to spread out. ūüôā The bed is terrible, two hard single beds pushed together. It was cold last night, so I added the blue and white duvet, which I found in the armoire in the hallway, and was then comfy.


And here’s the last room. A table and hard back chair are actually not that great for long typing marathons, but fine for a couple of hours at a time. The futon is terrible. I think comfortable furniture is a Canadian/American concept…


The far wall of this room is hideous, but I love the bedding on the bunk beds! The two rooms have numbers and keys, so I think that they are sometimes rented separately with shared kitchen and bathroom space.


Needless to say, this place feel huge to me! I’m not crazy about having the family upstairs since the child cries a lot, but it’s fine for¬†five days. The location isn’t as good as I would have hoped since I’m at the top of a super steep hill and there doesn’t appear to be any restaurants or shops immediately around me. Thankfully, I’m in great shape from all that Bulgarian hiking, so I shouldn’t have a problem going up and down a few times a day. I’ll be going back out later to find dinner.

So I put in about two hours of work this morning and have another two or so to do by the end of tomorrow my time. I was finally about to shut down and think about tourism around one. I did some research about tours and booked a walking tour for tomorrow morning and sent in a couple of requests for half-day driving tours. My first choice was booked solid for the week and I’m waiting for my second choice to get back to me.

Then, I set off to orientate myself and find some lunch. This is the first place I’ve stayed booked through Airbnb that had a map, which was really appreciated!

Here are some Bosnian Marks. The 5KM coin looks like the Canadian toonie! Some of you might recognise the change purse I bought in Mérida (I only showed it off on Facebook). Love it!


Looking down my street towards Old Town.


Sarajevo orientation tip: don’t bother using the minarets. They all start to look alike after a while!



One of many, many cemeteries in Sarajevo.



When I came home this afternoon, he was awake and very happy to have a bit of a scritch around the ears!



This is a main street in Sarajevo. Very busy and there are no sidewalks. Thankfully, the traffic is in just one direction. So I can always get home, just not always the most efficient route. Even with the map, it’s really difficult to orientate yourself since there isn’t a ton of signage and all the streets go off in odd directions.


Coming into the heart of Old Town,¬†BaŇ°ńćarŇ°ija Square, Sarajevo’s old bazaar built in the 15th century.


Like in Belgrade, the pedestrian walk lights are not synchronized to get across a whole boulevard. You have to wait for one green light, cross to a median, then wait for another green light.


This car decided to park right on the tram line and the tram was only just able to stop in time!


This is a famous fountain in Sarajevo, Sebilj. There are replicas in Belgrade and St. Louis, MO. It was built in 1753 in a pseudo-Ottoman style. The pigeons took off just after I took this picture and it was like a scene in The Birds. I’m lucky that none of them crapped on me!




Walking around this square, it is easy to get disorientated as there are so many little alleyways. I wandered randomly, eventually taking out 100KM from an ATM and being rather annoyed that it came as a single 100KM note!








This little dog is paralysed and is still able to move easily thanks to this contraption. Can you imagine how much his parents love him?





I found this lovely fruit and vegetable market that reminded me of Mexico.


Here’s a fish shop. In this part of Sarajevo, the signage is all in Latin letters. Where I landed yesterday, near the airport, there is a lot of Cyrillic. My research tells me that using Latin letters is huge part of Bosnia’s identity as being European, as opposed to being aligned with the East (ie. cutting ties with a Communist past).




Outside this mosque, I found a restaurant called Two for Tea that had all my comfort foods on the menu, hummus, tabouleh, and falafel!


I ordered the Moroccan tea. So lovely! I loved the spicy (as in flavourful, not hot) tea with the sweet honey. The little cookie was really good too!


And lunch! The hummus and tabouleh were spot on and incredibly wonderful. A party for the tastebuds! I was disappointed that like Bulgarian falafel, these were a little flat considering how good the rest of my plate was! I would have preferred pita, of course, but that bread was delicious and I may have had a few bites drizzled with the honey from my tea as a dessert. No, I did not eat that entire basket of bread!


Lunch was 10.50KM, plus a 2KM tip. So reasonable! I asked the server if he could break my 100 note (I had 15KM left from yesterday, but didn’t want to give up my change if I had to!). He visibly blanched and said, “Euro?” I said, “No, marks!” and he laughed with relief and said it was absolutely not a problem.

I wandered some more and was impressed that Sarajevo does not shy away from its recent bloody history. I didn’t go in. I just wasn’t in the right head space for that yet.






Standing on the spot on the Latin Bridge where Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated, precipitating the First World War. Talk about feeling the weight of history!



Couples leave locks on the bridge.












Another bridge.


I headed up this pedestrian street towards a cemetery.



And emerged into a neighbourhood of recently built houses.


Terminating in a not so recently built house.


The tour of the cemetery was shattering. So many graves of so many lives that started in the early ’70s and ended in the early to mid-’90s. Such a waste. This was¬†a war that happened in our lifetimes, not in some far off past so that we can pretend we are so much more civilised than our ancestors were.


There was music coming from a nearby mosque that really added to the ambiance. I’m not ashamed to say that I wept.




The first line says “from nest to the stars” and the second “wife and daughter.” Fuad is a man’s name (Arabic for heart), so I believe that second line is a signature rather a description of the person buried.




There was a sort of fortification at the top of the cemetery, with a lot of people heading up there, so I decided to check it out and found an astounding nearly 360 view of Sarajevo.




This is yet another cemetery.









These are the steps I took to come up to the viewpoint.





I was ready to head home after this and thought I could use my map to plot a route that would avoid my having to backtrack and go back downhill. That plan failed and, most of the way home, I realised I had to go back down to a shop anyway to get bread and coffee!

I love how the newer houses are built in the old style.



Old Vratnik Fort entrance.






These neglected tombstones are across from the cemetery I visited.




I finished my afternoon by finding a tiny shop where I was able to get the coffee and bread I need. Hopefully the coffee is good! I was disappointed I wasn’t¬†able to find Tchibo in Belgrade.

My first impressions of Sarajevo are¬†that it is really lovely and that the people are kind and welcoming (with many speaking good English!), but that its tragic recent history is still very present. I will have lots more after my walking tour tomorrow! Now, I’m off to find some dinner.