Do we relate Sarajevo to the Winter Olympic games which glorified the city? Or an event that was a mover for the First World War? Trust me…it is so much more about this city that makes him unique and truly memorable. Get ready to meet the city woven of emotions and find out why such a beautiful and untranslatable Serbian word “Merak” is a synonym for Sarajevo and its citizens.
This largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its capital will seduce you by its rich history and architecture. If you ever want to step into the past, this is a must-visit destination.
Is Sarajevo the heart of cultural diversity?
It is one of the most historically fascinating cities in Europe, well known for its religious diversity. I mean where else in the world you can see places of worship of four religions: Islam, Catholicism, Judaism and Eastern Orthodox – all just steps away from each other. Hearing the sound of church bells mixed with the call for a prayer by the praying leader…It’s kinda astonishing, don’t you think?
Can we call it the city of turbulent history?
We sure can. And not only that, but Sarajevo also had an impact on global events, in 1914. Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand was assassinated and that event was a mover for World War I.
As a strong force, Yugoslavia was a unique state, straddling both the East and West. Its members fought for each other for years. Today, in the heart of the town, you can see proudly standing a monument – The Eternal Fire, dedicated to the military and civilian victims who fought bravely together as a glorious Yugoslav army of the Second World War in Sarajevo.
But sadly to say, not long after, they started to fight with each other. During almost 4 years Siege of Sarajevo resulted in the death of over 14,000 people, and numerous people were either expelled from the country or just ran away to survive. Ultimately, in 1992. Bosnia & Herzegovina gained independence.
I think we all learned some things since, as now most disagreements can be solved in a different way today. We should all raise awareness for the importance of peace and unity. Let’s make this world war free zone forever!
When did the city become famous?
Thankfully the Winter Olympics in 1984, Sarajevo as a host became the center of the world and popular on a tourist scene. “We love Jurek more than burek,” was one of the main slogans in Sarajevo in 1984. And for those of you who are not familiar, burek (a type of food) has its own value for Bosnians. However, it is not exactly the slogan when Jure Franko won a silver medal in the giant slalom, which was Yugoslavia’s first medal at the Winter Olympics.
Unfortunately, today the Olympic village is deserted and the bob track serves only to remind citizens of its glory back in 1984.
Interesting facts locals will tell you about themselves?
They absolutely love coffee! In fact, they have the tenth highest coffee consumption per capita in the world. Not only is it served most uniquely, but also tastes incredible. Just a tip…when you see them having a coffee, don’t try to interrupt. “Coffee poured and an undressed woman can’t wait” is a well-known proverb for ages from literary works, I guess now you understand why.
“Burek” has a special value for them. This tasty food consists of layers of phyllo dough stuffed with meat. And only with meat! Please don’t insult them by saying that you have tasted before filled with various savory fillings. Or even worse to ask in the bakery “What is burek with’? You won’t get a friendly look, but the explanation that burek is only filled with meat and all others are pies.
They are always smiling, ready for a joke, a good drink and socializing. Bosnians believe there is no life without problems, that’s why they will drink another one – for luck. A wonderful little word “Merak”, a synonym for Sarajevo citizens, refers to a feeling of bliss and the sense of oneness with the universe that comes from the simplest of daily pleasures, giving the great sense of happiness and fulfillment.
What makes these attractions a must-see?
- Spite House – No, this is not just another popular national restaurant, this building has its own unique story to tell. At the end of the 19th century, the Austro-Hungarians decided to build the City Hall at the place where this house was located, but surprisingly they had trouble negotiation with the owner. Not only did he refuse offered money which was doubled at some point, but he requested for the house to be moved, brick by brick to the other side of the River and built with the exact same look.
The owner’s request was accepted and additionally, he received a bag of ducats. From that moment, this house became famous and out of spite and stubbornness of the owner, the house was named Spite House.
- Trebevic Mountain and Cable Car ride – It is incredible to know that Sarajevo is the only city in the whole world that has a mountain just 30 minutes away from the city center. So why wouldn’t you take advantage and hop on a cable car for a ride to mountain Trebevic? Totally destroyed during the ‘90s, it was reopened in 2018. with the song – Trebević is coming to the city again. Inhale the fresh air and enjoy the scenery overlooking the town…it is quite unique!
- The Latin Bridge – Sarajevo had 10 bridges over River Miljacka, but this one stands out. Not only is it one of the oldest bridges in the city, but because this was the site where Gavrilo Princip assassinated Franz Ferdinand, changing the history of world forever.
- Bascarsija (Old Town) – In its bloom, Bascarsija had about 12,000 stores and was the largest trading center in the central Balkans. Unfortunately, most of it was destroyed in the great fire in 1857. But even twice as small as before, it is very impressive. If you get to its center, you will meet Sebilj – a public fountain in the shape of a kiosk.
But also find yourself surrounded by numerous pigeons, which if you wish to feed and get an awesome photo opportunity, be careful (I was attacked by them and that wasn’t funny at all). In addition to its cobbled alleys, it is intertwined with inns, churches and mosques, tekkes, madrasas, imarets…The only preserved bazaar in its original form to this day is Kazandzluk and you couldn’t possibly live this city without a souvenir from this street.
- Spring of Bosnia – This natural gem spreads on over 600ha, surrounded by Mount Igman and offers you the most peaceful environment you could ask for. As the source of the Bosna River, numerous charming lakes full of swans and small green islands is a favorite outing destination not only for locals but tourists for over 100 years. Here, for only 1 euro (entrance fee) you can spend the whole day relaxing on numerous benches, covered rest areas, having a meal in a restaurant or playing with your kids in designated playing areas.
- Gazi – Husrev Beg Mosque – It is the largest historical mosque in the entire country, built in the 16th century, and one of the most representative Ottoman structures in the Balkans. Today is one of the most important architectural monuments from the time of the Ottomans rule here and a major attraction for all tourists.
What else is there to see and do?
Of course, there is so much more worth seeing in this city, but even if I try, it wouldn’t all fit in this post. But I will surely mention them: Imposing City Hall, The Yellow Fortress, White Fortress, Sarajevo Tunnel (known as a Tunnel of Hope)…
Lastly, please don’t even try to tell your friends and family you have visited Sarajevo if you haven’t overeaten yourself with “Cevapi” and “Baklava”.
Exploring this city was a magical adventure I will never forget and it wouldn’t be possible without my friend who hosted me and shared with me all best kept secret spots among locals. I had certainly fallen in love with Sarajevo and can’t wait for another opportunity to visit. But in the meantime…
Have you visited Sarajevo? What was your experience like? Please share in the comments and help others who wish to visit one day.
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