The exotic capital city of Sarajevo was ruled by the Ottoman Empire until the late 1800s, followed by a short period of Austria-Hungarian occupation. It later evolved into Yugoslavia and finally, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Today, it is an eclectic mix of cultures and religions, though largely Muslim, with beautiful mosques all over the city and an atmosphere of peace and tolerance. At times, it feels like you have stepped foot into Turkey, with all the colourful fabrics, copperware, turkish delight and coffee shops around every corner and the scent of shisha floating on the breeze. Recent history of the siege of Sarajevo during the 1990s is horrific, but the warmth of the people and the openness with with they share their experiences is enriching and thought-provoking.
With just a one night stop over in Sarajevo, I was only able to slip in a few sights, sample some local cuisine and do a bit of shopping in the Old Town, but this place definitely deserves more time. Here are just a few highlights:
A free walking tour of the city
The local guides are really passionate about sharing their city and its history. The tour runs for approximately two hours and gives you a good over view of how Sarajevo has developed over the past centuries, up to present day. Did you know that Sarajevo was a junction point in the major spice routes?
Shopping in the Old Town Bazaar (Baščaršija)
You can find so many unique souvenirs here, such as elaborately designed copper coffee pots, colourful glass lamps, mirrors and combs, sequinned shoes and silk scarves. Such a great spot to do your gift shopping! Most places accept the local currency (Bosnia and Hercegovina Convertible Mark) and the Euro, which means there is no excuse not to make a purchase!
The War Childhood Museum
Just opened in 2017, this museum presents the experiences of children during the war in Bosnia, told through objects, videos and first-hand stories, some of which are sure to bring tears to your eyes. It is a very powerful exhibition and really struck a chord with me, largely because I was growing up alongside these children on the other side of the world and it was just luck that meant I was born into safety and they were not. It can be an overwhelming experience but definitely worth a visit.
Feast on local cuisine
A common local dish is the ćevapčići, meat sausages in bread, served with raw onion and cream cheese. Have a yoghurt drink on the side for the true experiences. There are places that serve only this dish, as it is a very popular staple meal. Another traditional fast-food snack is the burek, meat inside a puff pastry, served with yoghurt. If you get a good one, it melts in your mouth! For something sweet, try the turkish delight, or freshly made baclava. Both taste amazing with a Bosnian coffee, served in traditional-style in a copper pot with a tiny cup and solid cubes of sugar, which you are supposed to bite before sipping on the coffee.
I loved this city and definitely need to return some day!
Have you been to Sarajevo? Tell me about your experiences?