Bosnia & Herzegovina - Sarajevo

Trip Start May 30, 2013
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Trip End Dec 10, 2014


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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Day 1: August 24, 2013

We had to wake up a little bit earlier again since we wanted to catch a bus from Belgrade to Sarajevo departing at 8.00. Of course, it was not as smooth as expected.

Background: It is always very challenging to make the final calculations correctly. Our usual goal is to completely get rid of the local currency so that we didnīt have to travel with a few coins from each country weīve visited (because at the end of our trip weīd have to have a special bag carrying just the coins :)). Well, unfortunately not always we manage to anticipate all the expenses in every single country.

So back to our departure from Belgrade…before we reached the bus station in Belgrade we decided to buy something for breakfast in a local bakery (basically just to spend the last money we had). When we were about to put our bags to the bus, a driver charged us RSD 60 for one big bag (RSD 120 in total). We told him we were leaving the country so we intentionally ran out of the money. The driver said we could give him EUR 1; however, we had only EUR 5 (one banknote). Finally we had to look for an exchange office and get the local currency (again!) in exchange for EUR 5. By the way the local currency is called Serbian Dinar (EUR 1 = RSD 114). Unfortunately they didnīt let us exchange less just to get the exact amount we needed to pay for our bags. After considering different options (and confusing more and more the guy sitting in the exchange office) we realized we actually wanted to come back to Serbia so we could keep the local currency without any problems. It was good experience anyway. Weīll know how to solve this kind of situation in the future :)           
Then we got on the bus and left. The trip from Belgrade to Sarajevo was supposed to take approx. 6 hours…well, we took almost 9 hours because our bus broke down in the Bosnian mountains. Probably the motor got excessively hot which happens quite often in these countries, also taking into account the fact that the bus wasnīt in a good shape. Fortunately there was a bus of another company passing by so they loaded all our stuff and in the end we left our previous bus behind. Bad and good luck at the same time :)

We arrived in Sarajevo at 16.30, withdrew money and took a trolley no. 103 to the city center (BMA 1,60). The local currency is called Bosnian Mark EUR 1 = BMA 1,95; USD 1 = BMA 1,5).    

Our hostel didnīt look bad at all, just the room where we had to spend our first night was a little bit disgusting. It was a room with 10 beds (although we booked 8 beds dorm) with no space so everybody just left his stuff somewhere on the floor. Plus, it was extremely stinky (most likely nobody opened the window for more than one month).   

Especially from this reason, we got out of the hostel asap. We went to eat and noticed that there was a film festival going on. Actually we had heard that this event took place every summer in Sarajevo before we arrived there, however, we didnīt expect to be so lucky to catch it. And it was the last day of the film festival so the streets were super crowded. Even though we were quite tired we decided to go out for a while (it was Saturday….and we just couldnīt miss it). We walked around a bit, smoked shisha in a very cool place where nobody was drinking (they didnīt have any alcoholic drinks on their menu) but everybody was smoking like crazy :) Then we moved to a bar where we had vodka with redbul (only BAM 5 per drink) and we ended up in a cocktail bar drinking sex on the beach from a huge jar with super long straws (BAM 15 for more than 0,5l). After that night we could make the only conclusion: "Welcome to Sarajevo – the city of cheap drinks, hot girls and awesome parties".     

   
Day 2: August 25, 2013

Since we made a reservation only for one night (Thanks God) we had to check out and then wait till our new room (this time with 6 beds) is ready. In the meantime we organized ourselves for the next few days – plans for our stay in Sarajevo (including must-sees), our trip to Dubrovnik and accommodation in Dubrovnik.

Then we walked to the train and bus station to obtain info about how to get to from Sarajevo to Mostar. We decided to go by train because it was cheaper and it was supposed to be also faster (BAM 11 per person, 2 hours and 20 minutes).  

At least on the way to the stations we could admire the highest tower in Sarajevo called Avaz Twist Tower. It is just modern commercial building.

We were also very close to two important museums in the city of Sarajevo – Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina and National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Unfortunately the national museum was closed due to lack of money. It seems that the government of B&H doesn't have any interest in supporting its functioning because it's somehow related to the Republic of Srpska (Iīll try to describe the conflict between Bosnian Serbs and non-Serb population of Bosnia and Herzegovina later). It was a pity because the world cultural heritage “Sarajevo Haggadah” can be found in the national museum. At least we were able to enter the Historical Museum of B&H which offers to its visitors a very interesting exhibition called “Sarajevo under siege” (BAM 5 per person). It was for the first time when we had an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the Bosnian War, its background and consequences. Last but not at least the exhibition was showing everyday life of people under the siege (basically in the battle field). Looking at all these photos and reading the heartbreaking stories provoked in us very strong feelings and made us think a lot. This was just an impulse for us to start being more interested in the Yugoslavian conflict, get more involved and reveal the actual causes of the Bosnian war and understand them well. 

Also I shouldnīt forget to mention that we passed by Ali Pashina Mosque. Some people say itīs the most beautiful and the most harmonious mosque in the city of Sarajevo. It was built in 1560.

It was 15.00 and we were starving so we decided to buy two pieces of “burek” – one with meat and potatoes and the other one with kajmak (typical cheese used in Balkan countries). Then we went for a glass of milkshake and a cup of coffee (milkshake: BAM 3, coffee: BAM 2,50).

At 16.30 there was a free walking tour we decided to take as usually. It was very promising because this time we were supposed to have two guides instead of one. Further they had completely different opinions about events that have taken place in Sarajevo in last 60 years. It was caused by the fact that one of them was from the left and the other one from the right. So letīs say we experienced a great tour led by two friends, communist and capitalist, that were having amazing fights during the tour. At first we were not sure if they were serious or they were just acting (when we managed to get to know them better we realized their fights were real :), however, they became friends despite of the fact their view of events happening from 1945 till presence was dimensionally different. For us, as visitors, it was amazing because finally we could hear both sides and choose the version we liked more or we considered it to be more logic according to our political orientation. We believe that both of them had valid points. Besides it was a perfect example of coexistence of people in Sarajevo. No matter what their religion is, no matter what their political orientation is, they are friends and live next to each other in peace.       

First of all, we gathered around the place where Gavrilo Princip (Serb) assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand d'Este and his wife Sophie which is actually how the WWI began. The famous bridge is located across the street and is called Latin Bridge.

Letīs see very casually what happened back in 1914. In the second half of the 19th century there was a meeting where it was agreed that Bosnia and Herzegovina would be part of Austro-Hungarian Empire for the following 30 years. When this period was over Austro-Hungarian Empire was supposed to give back to Bosnia and Herzegovina their independence but they kept the territory instead. As a result they created a movement called “Black hand” in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Their task was to assassinate the Emperor Franz Ferdinand during his visit of Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. Franz Ferdinand came to Sarajevo to say hello to people of Sarajevo. He was supposed to have lunch in the hotel Europe and then he was ready to have a meeting in the City Hall. When passing one of the bridges a bomb exploded and injured some of the Emperorīs guards. Franz Ferdinand decided to cancel his lunch in the hotel Europe, went to the City Hall to excuse himself from the meeting and then he headed to the hospital to see if his men are doing fine. Next to the Latin Bridge Franz Ferdinandīs driver who was Czech turned unexpectedly to the right where Gavrilo Princip was waiting. The assassin murdered not only Franz Ferdinand but also his pregnant wife Sophie. Gavrilo Princip was arrested immediately, imprisoned for 20 years originally but he died after 4 years from TBC in Terezin (Czech Republic). As a consequence the WWI started – Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia, Russia declared war on Austro-Hungarion Empire (since they were trying to protect Serbia) and Germany declared war on Russia (since they were trying to protect Austro-Hungarian Empire).

After returning from 1914 we passed by At Mejdan which is an interesting construction built in 1913. It was completely destroyed in 1941 and rebuilt in 2004. Today it is a music pavilion and coffee house. There may be found the ugliest construction in Sarajevo (of course, built in the socialist times) near At Mejdan.

Across the street there is Ashkenazi Synagogue which is the third largest synagogue in Europe and the only operational synagogue in Sarajevo. It was built by a Czech architect, Karl Parzik, in 1902.  

Then we crossed the River Miljacka again and could take a quick look at a small memorial dedicated to the victims of the Siege of Sarajevo (92-95).

Later on we headed to the square where we were asked to pay attention to two objects – National Theater (place where the red carpet was placed during the film festival) and Headquarters of the Winter Olympic Games (1984).

Of course, we didnīt fail to see the Eternal flame that is commemorating the fallen Soviet soldiers during the liberation of Sarajevo in 1945.  

Then we appeared in the place where the first great massacre happened in the street called Vase Miskina at that time or today Ferhadija. The massacre happened on May 27, 1992 and itī s called First Breadline Massacre because 26 innocent people were killed and 108 people were wounded while they were standing in line for bread. After this massacre Vedran Smailovic, a cellist, played consecutively for 26 days the adagio in Vase Miskina Street, in honor of the ones who dies there. There were much more massacres of this kind later on during the Siege of Sarajevo and today people remember those awful times thanks to “Sarajevo rose” (red = color of blood) being painted on the ground of all places where massacres happened.       

Then we passed by the Market Hall (Gradska trznica which actually looks more like a theater than a market place from outside. It was built in 1895 and today you may get there typical fresh products from the countryside (eggs, cheese, meat). On August 28, 1995 a shell landed near the Market Hall, killed 43 people and injured 84. A plaque in their memory has been mounted on the north faįade of the building.  

A little bit further (going deeper to the city center along the street Ferhadija there is a statue of "Multicultural man". It is a symbol of unification of the world and coexistence of different cultures in one place like Sarajevo.   

Behind the statue there is the Congregational Church of the Holy Mother which is the largest Orthodox house of worship in Sarajevo. It was built in 1868.  

Just a few steps from the Orthodox Christian church there is placed a Roman Catholic church called Cathedral of Jesusī Sacred Heart. It was built in 1889 in the Neo-Gothic style.  
Then we passed by the art gallery that originally served as a typical Muslim bath – hamam (we already know this “institution” of relax from Morocco). 

One of our last stops was the first synagogue in Sarajevo which is actually the Jewish museum today.

We ended our tour in front of Ghazi Husrev-bey's Mosque that is supposed to be the most important Islamic house of worship in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was constructed in 1531 and left to the city by Gazi-Husrev Bey, the Ottoman ruler of Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Thus we ended up in the heart of the old Sarajevo called “Bascarsija”. Its foundations were laid in 1462 and by the mid-16th century, Bascarsija had reached its height. Today, only a portion of the once great bazaar remains, but walking along its cobblestone streets gives a glimpse into the Ottoman past of the city of Sarajevo. Another remarkable sight located in Bascarsija is called Sebilj (a wooden fountain).  

Our tour was over and we were quite hungry so we went to eat something typical again. This time it was cevapcici (mince / smashed meat) with onion and somun (traditional bread).


Day 3: August 26, 2013

That day we left our hostel at about 10.00 since we wanted to visit a tunnel situated 12 kilometers from the city center. We took a tram no. 3, got off the tram at the last station in the suburban part of Sarajevo called “Ilidza”. Then we started to walk. Even if it seemed to be extremely easy to get to the tunnel we got lost :) We couldnīt even found ourselves on the map because we were too far. In the end we had to throw away the map and try to get to the tunnel by asking. Fortunately the famous saying “By asking you get to Rome” worked perfectly so we went from one person to another, asking in English or Czech about the way that takes to the tunnel. The biggest problem was that young people spoke English but they didnīt have a clue what place we are looking for. On the other hand old people knew where the tunnel was but didnīt speak any English. Well, we walked like 10 kilometers instead of 3 and took 2 hours instead of 30 minutes, however, finally we succeeded anyway and plus, it was quite nice to see different parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina that are outside of the city.

The tunnel is called “Tunnel of Hope” or “Tunnel of Life”; however, in fact the project itself has much more names like for example “The Sarajevo War Tunnel”, “House of the Kolar Family”, “Salvation during the War” or “Memory for Peace”. At the end of 1992, Sarajevo was completely surrounded, without water, electricity and food. On December 22, 1992 the Headquarters of Bosnian Army started planning for a tunnel construction under the Sarajevo Airport in order to connect the city with the free Bosnian territory. The construction commenced on January 23, 1993 from both sides of the airport. The construction, which lasted 4 months and 4 days, was beset with many difficulties which followed the construction, i.e. permanent shelling, lack of tools and water extraction pumps, low temperatures and underground water. On July 30, 1993 the tunnel was successfully completed. Sarajevo got the connection to the outside world. The tunnel was 762 m long, with the average height of 1,59 m and average width of 1 m. In two years of use, around 3 million people passed through (an average of 3,000 people per day). Sarajevo received all supplies through the tunnel – water, electricity, gas, food, medicine and weapons. The tunnel became the symbol of the defenceless peopleīs resistance toward one of the greatest armies in Europe. Today it is possible to see around 25 meters of the tunnel which is situated under the house of the Kolar family that actually runs the museum. They were owners of the house before the war, during the war until these days so their own memories represent valuable contribution to the museum.

On the way back we were a little bit smarter so we took a bus back to Ilidza and then tram no. 3 back to our hostel. we passed by the old bridge built by the project of Goustave Eiffel as well as by the Academy of Fine Arts.

At 16.00 we were starving again so we went to have lunch in the Market Hall (Gradska trznica). There is a nice restaurant above the market place. We ordered some traditional food again - Bosanski Lonac (thick, stew-like soup made with two or three types of meat, potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, peppers, salt and bay leaves) and Sarajevski Sahan (vegetable stuffed with meat and rice).

Then we passed through the Bazaar and headed to the Latin Bridge where we took our favorite pictures with flags. Next to the bridge there is the Museum of Sarajevo so we entered. It is basically a one room museum filled with information about the city up to the fateful day in 1914 when the last Austro-Hungarian monarch, Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, were assassinated outside the museum.

Just across the street there is a travel agency (the same one that organizes free walking tours) and in the first floor of the agency there us an impressive exhibition called "The Siege 92-95".  So we were able to go deeper and deeper to the entire war conflict. After visiting the exhibition we had some additional questions which resulted in a longer discussion with those two guys that were our guides the day before.

At that time we were still missing a few sights in Sarajevo so we went to see the Archeological Site of Taslihan that is located next to the above mentioned hotel Europe. 

Our intention was to climb the Yellow Fortress and enjoy a beautiful sunset from there. Of course, we passed through the cemetery dedicated to some of the people who were killed during the Siege of Sarajevo.

After dinner we decided to finish our visit of Sarajevo by seeing another exhibition placed in the gallery next to the Catholic cathedral - Gallery 11/07/95. The exhibition was called "You Are My Witness". It is a photography exhibition that documents the genocide that took place at a place called Srebrenica in 1995. This powerful collection of images and interviews from the survivors make the visit a heartbreaking one. Covering the barbaric killings, that happened so recently, it is a testament that the world is not done with genocide.

ADDITIONAL INFO

Bosnia and Herzegovina has 4 million inhabitants and Sarajevo itself has 400,000 people. Nevertheless, last census took place before the Bosnian War in 1991 so itīs estimated that in todayīs Sarajevo there are around 380,000 inhabitants.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina there are 3 different ethnic groups living next to each other (43% Bosniaks - Muslims, 33% Serbs - Orthodox Christians, 17% Croats - Roman Catholic). They use 3 very similar languages (2 alphabets - latin and cyrilic). They have 3 presidents and 12 governments.

There is an imaginary line going through the old town (Bascarsija) dividing this part of the city of Sarajevo into two opposite worlds - Muslim (obvious influence of the Ottoman Empire) and Catholic (obvious influence of Austro-Hungarian Empire). Thus you may experience two different cultures living next to each other, also architectural styles bear significant differences. Itīs like to take a plane and move from Istanbul to Vienna or vice versa but in Sarajevo itīs enough to make a few steps to the east or to the west!

Nowadays there are 100 mosques, 8 churches and 1 synagogue.

Sarajevo is commonly called European Jeruzalem. It is because many Jews came to Sarajevo during the times of the Ottoman Empire (they were unwanted in the other parts of Europe). The Jewish population before the WWII reached 10,000 but 9,500 died during Nazi occupation and in the concentration camps.

Bosnian War (very simply and briefly)

After the WWI the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs was formed and in 1929 this new political arrangement was named Yugoslavia. During the WWII Yugoslavia fell apart but then reestablished under the rule of Josip Broz Tito. Yugoslavia was constituted from six republics (Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia) and two autonomous provinces (Vojvodina and Kosovo). Yugoslavia was always one of the socialist countries; however, the life in its countries was much better than in the other countries belonging to the Soviet bloc.

After the fall of communism in Eastern Europe (1989) the particular countries started to call for independence. These attempts to create states that would work independently on the system of Yugoslavia provoked many bloody conflicts. Of course, the Yugoslavian Peopleīs Army tried to repress all the uprisings, luckily for people of todayīs Balkan states unsuccessfully. The majority of countries declared their independence on Yugoslavia in 1991.

Situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina was a little bit different because of so many ethnic groups living in this country. On one hand there were Croats and Bosniaks who were desperately calling for independence. On the other hand there were Serbs who didnīt want Bosnia and Herzegovina to be an independent state and their intention was actually to connect Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Republic of Serbia. Thus, step by step the Bosnian Serb Army was formed. This army was supported not only by the Republic of Serbia but also by the former Yugoslavian Peopleīs Army.     

Sarajevo, the capital of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was attacked on April 5, 1992 by the Yugoslavian Peopleīs Army (YPA) and paramilitary forces of Serbian Democratic Party. Already in May 1992, when the President of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was arrested by YPA, the ring around the city was closed. Sarajevo survived the longest siege in modern human history which lasted for 1425 days. During this period, people lived without water, electricity, food, gas or heating. The city was systematically attacked and the people were killed with heavy artillery and snipers from the surrounding hills. Thousands of fallen grenades and fired bullets were a part of everyday life in Sarajevo. More than 11,000 people were killed during the siege (almost half of them were civilians), including 1,600 kids. The number of wounded was 50,000. During the siege, the citizens of Sarajevo had exactly 159 grams of food per day. During nearly 4 years, most important economic, political, cultural and other public facilities, as well as huge number of residential buildings, were completely destroyed or damaged. It is said that 35,000 buildings were demolished after 1995. Though Sarajevo was proclaimed as a “UN safe area”, the city was constantly attacked until February 29, 1996 when the siege officially ended.     

After the Bosnian War the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was divided into several territories – Bosnia, Herzegovina and Republic of Srpska.

SOME OBSERVATIONS

People in Bosnia and Herzegovina are nice and friendly even if they speak average English. They are very open minded which is probably given by the diversity of customs brought by each ethnic group and its religion. They are unbelievable tolerant and their only wish is to finally live in peace.

It's incredible how fast the country recovered from the Bosnian War. Even though many buildings still need to be reconstructed (especially those that are situated a bit further from the city center), the old town looks very beautiful. Of course, if you get out of the zone of the old town you can see that the local government doesn't have enough funds to rebuild or at least modernize the whole city.
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