A Travellerspoint blog

Bosnia And Herzegovina

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovinia


The war is over but never forgotten, bullet holes on buildings are testimonials, the Dayton Accord is a bitter remedy - welcome to Bosnia.

The Siege of Sarajevo, the longest siege in modern history, occurred between April 6, 1992 and February 29, 1996.

We took a mini bus, a twenty passenger van, from Belgrade to Sarajevo. Travel time was about six hours, there were two rest stops along the way. A lot of the trip was through mountains, or rather, twisting roads around mountains, climbing upwards.
The distance between these two points is about 300 km but the going is slow along stomach turning narrow mountain roads.

Since the bus originated in Serbia we were taken to the Serbian 'side' of the city. Hey, where are we? Ten Euros for a taxi from the autonomous Serb Republic to the Bosnia side. We had no idea Sarajevo is a 'divided' city.

I had never heard of Republika Srpska, east Sarajevo.

Our one bedroom apartment is near the Latin Bridge, across the river and uphill from the old town.
We have a little terrace and the bathroom has a washer and dryer. A dryer!! This is a first!! They have natural gas. Wow. 54 Euros for three nights!! But there is no water - at all, between 11 pm and 6 am!! This has been going on for awhile - months.

The Latin Bridge over the shallow Miljacka River connects us to the old town and main sights of the city centre.

Cevapi - Bosnian meatballs, are the national dish. In fact cevapi is something of a national dish in Serbia as well and are served throughout the Balkans.
Like burek, (pastry filled with meat and/or cheese) these sausage-like meatballs are descendants of Turkish food, Kofta, from the hundreds of years of Ottoman rule.

We have eaten versions of cevapi and Burek all over the Balkans and in Turkey. Here cevapi is served in a pita-like pocket with a large side of onions and a hot pepper:

The old town is a big bazaar, numerous shops selling hammered copper and all manner of souvenirs - a warren of narrow streets lined with cafes and shops.
Older men play giant chess in a Square near the old town every day:
The Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque is on our side of the river, close to the brewery.

There are names of the dead engraved on the bricks of this building:

Sarajevo is a hilly city:

We were too late for the free walking tour on our first morning in Sarajevo. We wandered around the old town and decided to go into a museum.
The fact that the Srebrenica Museum had been in the running for best museum in Europe in 2016 was a factor when we decided to take a look. The photos, audio and documentaries in the fairly small space pack a powerful punch.
Little did I expect to leave two and one half hours later with eyes almost swollen shut with tears.
At first as I looked at the photos I was thinking, wow, I am glad I'm not Dutch. The atrocities at Srebrenica happened during their watch, after all.
By the time I finished viewing the three documentaries it was personal. It became, for awhile, all about me.
I was transported back 23 years to a time blurry in my memory. 1994.

Subdued. Bowed but not beaten. A bit of the Sarajevo melancholy had seeped into our bones.

We met up with the free walking tour the next day. It starts at 10 am from the National Theatre.
Although the siege of Sarajevo lasted almost four years, the Theatre never closed. People scurried to performances and maintained a semblance of normalcy.

The square where the theatre is located has been named Susan Sontag Square - Susan Sontag, the American writer, directed 'Waiting for Godot' at this theatre in 1993. The play was advertised by word of mouth, the performance lit by candlelight.

She is held in high esteem by Bosnians who consider themselves, like Godot, waiting endlessly during the long siege for the west to intervene.


Across the street from the Venetian architecture along the river is the colourful building above, designed for Sarajevo's Winter Olympics in 1984. Then it was Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. In 1988 Calgary hosted the games of winter. Four years later Sarajevo was under siege.

The First World War started in Sarajevo. A Bosnian-Serb freedom fighter assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in June, 1914.

Assassin, freedom fighter, terrorist.

Princip, the guy who successfully assassinated the Archduke and then killed the pregnant Duchess, Sophie, fired the shots from the side of the pink building across the street from the Latin Bridge.

The Bridge used to be called Princip Bridge and Princip was a national hero for awhile, but not at the moment.

There is a sign, well below eye level, on the side of the pink building. I would not have noticed it, did not notice it, until the tour guide pointed it out.

You have to bend down to read the inscription, 'From this place on 28 June 1914 Gavril Princip assassinated the heir to the Austrian-Hungarian throne Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia'

There used to be footprints in the sidewalk to show exactly where Princip stood. The sign used to be higher, at eye level.
A young lad of 18 started a war that resulted in the death of more than ten million soldiers.
There were six would-be assassins in the crowd that day, four of this group received the death penalty. Princip was too young for the death sentence, but he died in jail from tuberculosis in 1918.

The Franciscan Monastary and the Church of St Anthony are across the street from the brewery. They hold an ecumenical service on Friday afternoons.
Although damaged during the war repairs to the century old buildings are complete. The monks preserved many important historical documents.

The statue above, reminiscent of Michelangelo's Pieta, is in the courtyard of St Anthony’s Catholic Church where real candles burn.

Light a candle for Sarajevo, I want to say, let go, let go.

The brewery dates back to 1864, to Ottoman times. The beer is made from spring water. Yes, many of the Muslims in Sarajevo drink beer.
During the siege of Sarajevo people got their drinking water here - there were other sources - but this one was pretty safe. 'Only' six people were gunned down by Serbian snipers at this location.

Sarajevo is in a kind of Valley, the shallow river bisects the city core, the Bosniaks lived mostly in the valley, the Serbs were all around, higher up, in the hills.

City Hall - rebuilt and reopened in 2014 - two million books and document were destroyed during the siege.


We stayed three nights at the apartment near the brewery and then moved to another suite across the river and uphill, for our final night.

Ah Magic Gueshouse was cozy and a bargain at 13.50 Euros!

On a hill above the old town - a memorial - a cemetary - a wall of the names of the dead - Kovaci:
As we wandered downhill from the cemetery I passed a man sitting on the wall. 'Sorry' he said, I am not sure why.
Random 'I'm sorries ' are a very Canadian thing.
'What part of Bosnia are you from?' I asked. 'Ireland' he responded dryly and I continued on my way, picking my footsteps carefully on the sloping, cobbled street.
There was a bit of a traffic jam at the curve in the road, a car had stalled, so there was honking, of course. I was directing Jeff to help push to get the car out of the way when the Irishman ambled up.
We now spent 2.5 hours with this guy, mostly at the side of the road, talking. I think we came together, us three, as we were all eager to chat with another native English speaker.
His name was Martin and he said he was in Sarajevo writing a novel about heartbreak. The perfect place to get in a melancholy mood - where heartbreak is, as he said, palpable. It hangs in the dust in the air.
Sarajevo, population 400,000, capital city of Bosnia Herzegovina is worth a visit. Diverse, east meets west vibe, lots of history, scenic - affordable....depressing.
Unemployment is over forty percent.
The government must include Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian leaders - three leaders who must all agree before a decision can
be made - Serbian is Orthodox, Croatian is Catholic and Bosnian is Muslim.
No wonder some citizens when polled identified ethnically as Jedi or metal head - they were all southern Slavs once, now their ethnicity is their religion!!

I guess I am surprised about the bitterness towards the west in general and the UN in particular. The UN did not protect Srebrenica, the UN did not stop the siege of Sarajevo for 1,425 days, the UN did not send in drinking water which caused the murder by snipers of innocent civilians going with their jugs to get water, the UN sent old food, rice with dead worms, spam (canned food - a kind of meat in jelly), world war 2 rations - old, crappy leftovers were dumped on starving people.
They had no running water, no electricity, no phones, they were packed like rats in their basements for almost four years, thousands were killed and the UN and the west allowed this to happen.

I had no idea the UN mission had failed so miserably!!
I wondered if all of the aid money that flowed toward the country actually reached the citizens. What happened to the good food?

We did not see the ICAR canned beef monument, a 'tribute' to the humanitarian aid, dedicated to the international community by the grateful people of Sarajevo in 2006.

While the blame is handed out the Serbs, (and the Dutch) together with the west and the UN figure prominently.

40,000 Canadian peacekeepers spent time in Bosnia between 1991 and 2010. All of their efforts had less impact on the population than Susan Sontag.
Sarajevo is 8,506 km from Calgary.
We are a long, long way from home.

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 15:50 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Tagged mountains museums history budget balkans yugoslavia sarajevo affordable brewery cevapi Comments (0)

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