Trip Start Sep 12, 2006
100Trip End Sep 08, 2008
Famous throughout the world for hosting the 1984 Winter Olympic Games, and later for the infamous Serb siege of 1992 to 1995 (the longest siege of any city in history), Sarajevo was a city I wanted to see more than almost any other in Europe
After having a surprise when a boisterous lady asked me if I was 'William' as we left the bus station (our host in Mostar had called her friend to meet us), we checked into a small hostel, managed to get lost for half an hour and then finally met Nick and Jess by the fountain in Bascarsija, the bustling old Turkish Quarter of the city. As we sipped on one of the best coffees I'd ever had, we made ourselves comfortable in a prime people watching location at an outdoor café as we told each other about everything we'd seen in the week since we'd left Belgrade. Ducking to avoid the thousands of pigeons flying around the square, we watched all manner of people walk by, some tasting the water from the small wooden fountain of Sebilj. Many of the women wore headscarves, and the tall minaret of the nearby mosque reminded us that we really were in a part of Europe where east and west met.
Following a delicious 'Burek' for lunch (a typical Bosnian cheese and spinach pastry) the four of us went for a walk down the pedestrian thoroughfare of Ferhadija and then south to the Miljacka River
The four of us spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around at a leisurely pace, along the river, past the shelled National Library, through some of the new graveyards and up a hill where we were rewarded with a fantastic view over the city. As the sun began to set we made for a small café back in Bascarsija where I tried some Baklava for the first time, an insanely sweet apple pie of sorts, brought to Bosnia by the Turks. It must be said that the food I ate in Bosnia was the best I ate during my short stay in the FYR. The roasted vegetable dishes and pastries were just delectable. The rest of the night was spent hopping from pub to restaurant to pub to café to pub until well into the next morning. As much as we tried to convince Nick and Jess to join us on our journey to Slovenia the following evening, they were determined to go off on their own, so we celebrated my birthday a few days early.
Before meeting them again in the morning, Chris and I went for a short walk around the corner from our hostel to get a closer look at the bright yellow Holiday Inn
After another delicious cappuccino the four of us jumped aboard a cramped, rickety tram bound for Ilidza, a suburb on the south-western outskirts of the city near the airport. The lady who rented a room to us told me that we wouldn't have seen Sarajevo if we didn't see the tunnel, and I was intrigued to see what made the 800m tunnel beneath the airport so special. During the siege, Serb tanks in the hills picked off anyone crossing the runway, meaning Sarajevo was sealed off from the rest of the world. Some determined Bosnians dug a tunnel beneath it, allowing food and provisions to be brought into the city from the outside
We met an Australian couple at the tunnel museum, who by coincidence were the same couple who were living in Olomouc in the Czech Republic who owned and ran the hostel we stayed in. Turns out they had been travelling basically the same route as Chris and I, and we were surprised when they told us that they saw us in one of the small squares in Kotor, looking up three girls laughing at us out of a third story window! We got another slow, rickety tram back to Bascarsija where we again went our own ways
Two days certainly wasn't enough time to spend in Sarajevo. I felt I'd barely scratched the surface, and everywhere I looked I couldn't help but be intrigued by the place. The clash of cultures, east and west, Muslim and Christianity. The old Turkish Quarter had a unique atmosphere all of its own, and I admit I was a little excited when an attractive brunette handed me a flyer for the International House School in Sarajevo. I couldn't think of any other place I'd seen in Europe that I'd rather live in, given the history and culture. However while there had been peace in Sarajevo for almost a decade, I still couldn't help but wonder what people thought of what happened, and how it must be for the Serbs and Muslims to once again live together given the recent history. I guess all hasn't been forgotten, as some time later in the afternoon a cargo plane of sorts flew low over the city, and a great deal more than a small number of people stopped what they were doing to gaze up, with a not altogether unconcerned look on there faces. Oh Sarajevo...