My Birthday in Sarajevo

Trip Start Nov 09, 2007
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Trip End Feb 03, 2008


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Saturday, December 8, 2007

One of the benefits of being chief planner of the trip is I get to choose where I have my birthday. My choice was Sarajevo, the jewel in the crown of Yugoslavia, the scene of the 1984 Winter Olympics and the place named in one of my favourite songs, Miss Sarajevo by U2.
Jess and the girls had arranged a whole bunch of presents for me that they had bought in Turkey -yummy things to eat, a lovely painted tile, a silver evil eye, handmade cards and two sets of worry beads - one for every day use and a silver one for going out.
We went down to breakfast at Halvat and after nearly a month of Turkish breakfasts the breakfast of fresh fruit, juice and pancakes was welcome indeed. After our sumptuous feast we rugged up for our planned walk around Sarajevo. It was a cold day and there was snow lying in the streets and on the roofs of the buildings around us. Five minutes from Halvat Guest House and we were in 'Pigeon Square', the focal point of Sarajevo's renowned Bascarsija district. Pigeon Square was living up to its reputation with thousands of them milling around. Some musicians were in the middle of making a film clip and we watched for a while as they mimed in various poses to music coming from a tape player around the neck of the camera man.
Bascarsija is a pedestrian thoroughfare and is paved with cobblestones and lined with pretty shops selling copper pots, rugs, food, knitted goods, souvenirs and other interesting things. We had a great time exploring these laneways and found an excellent place to eat burek, a delicious pastry filled with meat, spinach and cheese, or potato. We decided on the meat ones and ordered two plates. We seemed to have chosen the best place in town because it was doing a booming business. As we walked we came across an old man that appeared to be a clockmaker. Jess's 'Rolex' had lost its winder (clearly Rolexes are not what they used to be) so we went in and asked if he could fix it. He nodded and then spent the next fifteen minutes trying different winders, grinding the ends, selecting a range of special tools and generally showing us his craftsmanship. The girls watched transfixed as he went about his business.
We walked down to the Miljacka River and strolled along the riverfront. We noticed some of the 'Sarajevo Roses'. These are holes in the pavement where shells hit during the war. They have been filled with concrete and are shaped a little like a rose. We saw bullet holes in the buildings we passed and also on the ground where we walked. Some of these had filled with water and had frozen overnight. The girls took delight in running along and breaking the ice on the top of the frozen bullet-hole-puddles. The irony of this wasn't lost on me. We crossed the Latin Bridge, site of the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand, the event that kicked off the First World War. Having just come from Gallipoli this had even greater significance.
Despite being a similar longitude to Turkey, Bosnia is an hour behind, so the sun sets not long after 4pm. It was dusk as we headed back to Halvat for a rest and a recommendation for dinner. We were advised to visit Inat Kuca (Spite House). This was also on my list of restaurants so it worked out well. The food was great and the atmosphere relaxed. After dinner we walked back home in the chilly evening air.
What a great birthday.
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