There are places that may not stand out in particular way, but they are like a magnet and evoke imagination. Sometimes, it’s an inspirational photo or an article, and sometimes it’s just their name that causes strange, poignant chills. Sarajevo and I were connected by all these things together.
For the first time, I heard about this city at the elementary school in History classes. I must admit, the moment I bought the tickets to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), I felt a certain excitement that I would be at the places, let’s say where modern history began.
The Latin Bridge – the place of the assasination of Austrian Archduke – Franz Ferdinand, the direct cause of the outbreak of world war. I had imagined that it would be as a monumental building as it played in history. Meanwhile, reality turned out to be a little different…
Taking into account famous phrase “Balkan cauldron”, I think that Sarajevo can be regarded as its centre. There’s an amazing blend of cultures in the city. There are mosques, Orthodox churches, Catholic churches and synagogues. The places of this type are very interesting, but as history has shown, it can also be very dangerous.
Sarajevo has been under the rule of Ottoman Empire for more than 400 years and the relations with Turkish culture in my view prevail. Starting with the cuisine, where we can find a number of dishes typical of Turkey, and ending with the architecture.
The main point of the city is Bascarsija. When I arrived after a long trip to Sarajevo, and got off tram no. 1, linking bus station with the centre, I felt if I was in another reality.
The historic fountain – Sebilij, narrow, paved streets, mosques, antique shops with craft and oriental souvenirs, baclava, halva, cosy cafeterias where you can dring Bosnian coffee, which is actually Turkish coffee, served in traditional cezwe. All of this, and additionally the typical turmoil of Arab bazaars, threw me back to Turkey. Still Europe, but closer to the Middle East.
A little further from Sebilij, there is so-called. Begova Dzamija – Bey’s mosque. It is worth visiting during Friday’s prayers, when it is beautifully lit and then you can see the every-day life of the people of Sarajevo.
Right next to the mosque, there’s an interesting clock tower that can be a little bit confusing because it shows the lunar time. In past times when people didn’t have watches, it was used to indicate the hours of prayer, and time of sunset during Ramadan, as well.
Just a few steps farher, there’s another Ottoman gem, bazaar – Bezistan, built in the 16th century. Inside, you can find a number of stalls, mainly with jewellery, watches and bags.
The remnants of the Austro-Hungarian era is beautiful, representative City Hall – Vijecnica. From the outside, maybe it doesn’t stand out from the other buildings in Sarajevo, but its interior makes an amazing impression.
In the vaults of the City Hall you can also see an exhibition on the history of Sarajevo, including the prewar photos. The photos, especially these presenting bombarded – Vijecnica, impressed me greatly. The restoration of Vijecnica took 15 years.
Next to the city hall, on the other side of the river Mijacka, there’s an interesting building, called Inat Kuća (the House of Spite). According to the legend, the town hall was built in the place where another building had been before. He belonged to a certain Bosnian who didn’t want to move it. After all, after long negotiations, he agreed to move, but on condition that it would be transferred brick by brick.
However, in Sarajevo there’re places that resemble modern history and cruelty of war. Here, you can feel this story, you can almost touch it. You can see it on buildings marked with bullets holes, you can hear the locals stories. Walking the streets of Sarajevo, watching all the beautiful sights, looking at the city from several points of vantage, it is hard not to feel that the memory of this tragedy is still alive. My personal feeling was like something heavy was over this city.
In order to better understand the history of the civil war in BiH and its consequences like concentration camps and mass murders, with the most famous in Srebrenica, it’s necessary to visit two places. The first – Museum of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide 1992-1995, which in a comprehensive manner presents all the facts related to the genocide during the war. The second place is Gallery 11/07/95. The black and white, powerful photos was something like a ton of bricks for me.
In the vicinity of both museums, there’s the Markale Marketplace (Gradska Tržnica). It’s the place of the two tragic bombardments in 1994 and 1995, during which a lot of people were killed.
At present, you can purchase here excellent Georgian cheeses and so-called suche meso – dry meat, local delicacy.
In Sarajevo, the signs of war can be seen everywhere. What is more interesting, even the local brewery – Sarajevska Pivara, played a very important role during the siege of the city, as there was a source of drinking water. I heard that this beer is considered the best in the country, but in my opinion it’s an average lager.
In Sarajevo, you can see also a weird statue of preserve. The Serbian siege of Sarajevo lasted almost 3 years, from 3 July 1993 Until 9 January 1996. The city was completely cut off from regular food and drug supplies. The monument appears to commemorate humanitarian aid to the capital, but in reality it is a symbol of shortcomings and deficiencies in this aid. Unfortunately, in many cases, it was the food remembering the times of Vietnam war, and in addition it was often pork which Muslims do not eat.
An important place that saved the lives of many inhabitants of the beleaguered city, is a Tunnel of Hope, also called the Tunnel of Life. It was digged to combine two separate districts of Sarajevo – Batumir and Dobrinja. It enabled the city a contact with the outside world and served as a way of transport food, fuel and weapons to the city.
Late afternoon, at sunset, it is worth to go to two vantage points, located right next to each other – White and Yellow Fortress.
Beautifully situated city, lit in yellow – red colors, slightly dimmed, in a word, a perfect picture for a romantic date. Meanwhile, below there’s a forest of Muslim’s gravestones of the Kovači cemetery. All the tombstones look the same, and even the dates on them are the same 1992 – 1995…