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Review: Sarajevo


Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina

City of Inspiration

  • By SilverTraveller KarenJane

    3 reviews

  • Aug 2008
  • Colleague(s)

52 people found this review helpful

From the old men in the Square, playing chess with spent shells, overlooked by the modern Man-Phoenix in metal, to the rebuilt apartments, boutique shops, mosques and churches, the whole of Sarajevo speaks volumes of the indomitable human spirit, the will to survive and the ability to survive against all odds.

Muslims and Christians live alongside each other again, friends again after what must have been the most harrowing experiences of human life.  And yet they smile, they work and play and carry on.

The city is beautiful to tour around, either alone or with an experienced guide such as Zijad Jusufovic; the buildings rise cleanly and elegantly once again to impress visitors, the parks refresh the working day of the citizens, the statues and trees give witness to the horrors experienced and risen above.

The Eternal Flame speaks of timelessness and determination whilst behind it, a wall inlaid with a dedication to those lost in war commemorates the reason for the Flame’s continuation.

Life goes on excellently in Sarajevo, with its cinema, restaurants and cafe/bars.  The bars can leave their tables and chairs outside overnight and know they will be there the next day; the market stall holders greet you cheerily and don't hold a grudge if you'd rather buy from their neighbour.  Those who speak a language other than Serbo-Croat/Bosnian are so willing to try out their skills on visitors with a toothy (or toothless) grin.
‘After-hours’ can be as quiet or as fun-packed as you wish.  There are also clubs/parks/leisure centres in Sarajevo; during the summer especially, there are plenty of free music concerts, classical, jazz and rock/pop and free-to-attend art exhibitions.  The cobbled-street, Old Town part of Sarajevo has churches, mosques, museums and plenty of traditional 'eateries', clothing, fabric/furnishing and jewellery shops.  One of my favourites is a clothes shop selling unique items designed and made by a mother-daughter team, where, in her spare time, the daughter plays the piano—she’s also a concert pianist!  You can walk through Old Town listening to the wafting strains of Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, among others.  For those who prefer Western European shops, there’s an Yves Rocher, Next, Benetton.  Bakeries sell ‘to-die-for’ breads and pitas (pies) with various fillings.  The church in the Square where the old men play chess is home to some wonderful art; the upper part of Old Town home to copper and brass-workers and their shops and you can actually watch them working.

If you need them, you will find internet cafes along ‘Sniper Alley’, so named as the opposing forces laid out in the hills above the town and fired at will on those going to/from work  or to visit family and so on, during the war; the real name is Ulica Zmaja od Bosne, Dragon of Bosnia Street.  There’s also the Metropolis cafe here, selling the most marvellous range of ice creams.

Inat Kuca, (Spite House in English) is a popular and ‘dinky-doo’ restaurant/bar on the river Miljacka in Sarajevo, a wooden, three-storey building with waiters running up and down the stairs all day and evening. They serve tasty, traditional food and, for those who like them, chips!  Opposite the Inat Kuca is the library, bombed in the war and now beautifully rebuilt, but sadly lacking many of the books and archives it held previously—history lost.
Just off the tramway is the Oslobodenje building; it’s a hotel/leisure centre with a revolving restaurant at the top.  The food is a little expensive for what it is, I prefer the centre of Sarajevo for the local foods, but there’s the most wonderful view of Sarajevo from there and you can take some excellent panoramic pictures.

On the subject of trams—they are a real experience; the old folks believe a draught will kill you, so the tram windows have to be closed, even in the most sweltering of August heat.  However, there’s a tram every few minutes into and out of Sarajevo in various directions, a very efficient bus service, as well.  The cost of tram/bus travel is very reasonable, so you can get around easily if not driving.  Taxis are reasonable, too, but the drivers are mad!  Great fun!

On the outskirts of Sarajevo, the small town of Ilidza (Ileeja) is more than worth a visit.  The restaurant by the side of the Vrelo Bosne river, Brajlovic, with its water wheel, excellent grill/barbecue and fresh salads is another of my favourites, along with the restaurant set among hills and fields just outside Ilidza, discovered by walking through the large park there.   The house in which Franz-Ferdinand stayed (before his assassination on the ‘Franz-Ferdinand bridge’ in Sarajevo centre) still stands, though empty now, in this park.  Central Ilidza is home to the Hollywood Hotel, also an internet cafe, as well as several very good restaurant/bars.  The leisure centre with indoor and outdoor swimming pools is excellent; you can stay all day and have an outdoor massage if you wish; I have, and the masseuse there is the best!  (I speak from professional knowledge)
The people are some of the kindest I have ever met, warm, hospitable and friendly.  They are really hard-working, too.

Surrounded by beautiful, wild and mountainous countryside, Sarajevo is a spectacle to behold from the air as well as from the ground; it takes the breath away.  In one of the hills above this beautiful and apparently endless city, is the restaurant where Princess Diana ate on her visit to Sarajevo, another memorial to beauty of a different kind.

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