Sarajevo has about 400,000 people that all seem to migrate into the old town at some point during the day. The centre has this buzz about it that gives off an amazing vibe. It feels very alive as we walked down the pedestrian streets filled with cafes and bakeries
. We are lucky enough to be staying in the heart of the old town with many of the sites within a few hundred metres of us. Sarajevo is situated in a valley surrounded by rolling hills now peppered with autumn colours that made it even more beautiful. It was pretty cool to see a mosque, cathedral, and synagogue all on the same block. The Sarajevans seem very proud to be in a place that is such a melting pot of cultures. Especially after everything they have gone through.After touring the old town with its cafes, markets, and deliciously hypnotic pastry shops, we headed to the Sarajevo Brewery to sample their product and have a traditional meal. The restaurant that they built is gorgeous and their beer! Wow. After a meal of goulash and stroganoff we headed back to rest for some site seeing tomorrow.
The next morning we walked along the beautiful Miljacka River to the National Museum to check out their Ethnology exhibit. It showed a sampling of Bosnian life over the centuries and even had full rooms built out of actual homes from different periods. They even had a courtroom scene that showed a trial before the judge with a member of the clergy from the responsible church, mosque, and synagogue present to help guide the proceedings. From there we strolled back along the water and began to notice some of the scars of war. Many of the buildings here are still being reconstructed and many more still are riddled with bullet holes and shell marks
. On the streets every so often we came across a "Sarajevo rose". These are mortar craters on the street that were filled in with red concrete. The red is to remember those that were killed by that shell. It was pretty wild to see a little old lady out on her balcony hanging her laundry surrounded by bullet holes on the walls all around her. Seeing some of these buildings and craters made it eerily easy to try and imagine what it was like only 13 years ago here. From there we went on a tunnel city tour. We were driven around and shown an abridged version of some of the turmoil that was daily life for the Sarajevans. We were brought to the tunnel that was the lifeline for the residents here for three years. The city was surrounded and cut off so no water or electricity was available here for some time. Once the UN got involved the airstrip was under their control. This opened a conduit for supplies to reach the city. Still, over 600 people were killed by snipers crossing the airfield as they tried to bring supplies to their families. Engineers from Sarajevo then decided to build an 800 metre long tunnel under the airstrip that connected Sarajevo with an unoccupied town across the airfield. Once that was complete over 3,000 trips through the tunnel were made everyday bringing food, water, weapons, wood, everything that kept the city going. It took over four months to finish, but without it many here believed that they would not have lasted.
The next day we headed to the History Museum to see the "Surrounded Sarajevo" exhibit. It is a wonderfully detailed collection of photos, pieces of legislation, personal accounts, and memorabilia from wartime. It was organized to show the progression of events that gave rise to the 1992-1995 conflict. It was very moving and powerful enough to put our own personal life worries into perspective. With that percolating in the brain we headed back to experience more of that wonderful vibe that the old town has to offer.
This place has a truly powerful history that may be part of the reason why Sarajevans are so passionate about living life to the fullest. We can see this place becoming the next Prague as it has so much to offer (and eat!), feels as safe as can be, and will keep you busy for days. We unfortunately have to say goodbye for now as we are heading to Croatia.
Megan and Kevin
Getting to Sarajevo was an interesting experience with lots of delays, especially at boarder crossings. We bused through the Bulgarian and Serbian countryside before we headed into Bosnia. It was gorgeous. It actually reminded us of fall at home. This was the first area where we saw the colours that compared to those in Canada at this time of year. It made the journey rather enjoyable considering we were dreading the long trip. It gave us lots of time to think about what Sarajevo was going to be like. We obviously had the images from the war 15 years ago that seemed to dominate our thoughts. We were pleasantly surprised upon our arrival to see what kind of city Sarajevo really is.