Sarajevo. The city with a very layered history, which is seen everywhere you go. The Ottoman influences on the bazaar, the point where Franz Ferdinand was being killed and was therefore the starting point of World War I, the buildings with bullet holes still in them because of the siege in the ’90s. The last couple of years the city is developing quickly and created a nice nightlife as well! It makes it therefore one of the most interesting cities in Europe I think. Sarajevo will steal your heart, once you have visited.
The first stop this trip was Tuzla in the north of Bosnia. Staying at a hotel that looked like a hospital, not really in the centre of town and being almost the only one there, I saw no other option than recreating some horror classics from the eighties. The ambiance in the hotel really gave me a feel like in The Shining. So here goes.
Maybe I will turn it into a series of photos, when I end up staying in big ugly hotels where I am almost alone. (:
The next day I wanted to go to Sarajevo by bus. Being the last country in the Balkans I didn’t see properly yet, I really looked forward to this city! However, during the night there was a snow storm in the mountains apparently and I was told there would be no public transport going to Sarajevo. As I was told by a taxi driver, anyway. But he could take me for 40 euros to the capital. Special price for me of course. I went to the bus station to see if busses would still go, and it seemed there was. It wasn’t easy to go to Sarajevo though and what would normally be a 3 hour trip, ended up being a six and a half hour one. It had been snowing quite a lot in the mountains. The roads were not cleaned and a some points the guardrail was totally snowed under. Very safe trip, this one. But it was beautiful!
After I arrived in Sarajevo I took a beautifully decayed tram to the city centre and checked in at Vagabond hostel near Baščaršija, where the old bazaar is situated. I was the only guest at that time, but as I felt a bit ill I didn’t mind so much. I couldn’t really go out or anything. It resulted in a weekend where I could really take in the interesting (and horrible) history of the city. The people of the hostel where really nice and helpful and can really recommend this one.
The first thing I did was checking out the old jewish cemetery. It was not easy to get through the snow, as it came to my knees. But it was very nice to see!
Next thing to see was learning a bit about the history of the city in the Historical Museum. As it was very cold, there was only a small part open to the public. There was a exhibition on the Yugoslavia Tribunal and the background of these issues and about the war. It is an exhibition that is not very suitable for the faint of heart. There were a lot of pictures of war victims. And some really sad stories. When this all happened I was a bit too young to understand and lived in the Carribean at that time, so I never really knew what was going on there. But I think it is very important to know a bit about these kind of things, how terrible it may be.
After this museum I got some lunch and went for another exhibition on the genocide. There was a very interesting one about Srebrenica. There was a big photo collection with very beautiful and sad photos and a beautifully, sad and impressive movie about this war. I was watching it with some other people and at one point you could hear people sniffing and get tissues out of their bag. I shed some tears as well. It was all so terrible!
After these two exhibitions the first day, the second one should be a bit more cheerful. I took a long stroll on the bazaar (which is really nice!) and went for lunch and dinner at restaurant Dveri, located at the bazaar. Walking on the bazaar makes you feel like you are in little Istanbul (although I haven’t been there yet). Beautiful little shops where they sell lamps and nice rugs. I wanted to buy it all!
One of the things I wanted to try was to work remotely. In this case my thesis. I see a lot of people doing this lately and tried it last year in Romania as well, but failed because I was maybe a bit too overwhelmed by the traveling itself I suppose. But in Sarajevo I tried to devide my time a bit better, so the rest of the afternoon I spent working in Dveri to work on my thesis and my blog. Getting there! (:
The third day I wanted to take a tour through the Tunnel of Hope and the abandoned Olympic bobsleigh track used in the 1984 Olympic Games in Sarajevo. The lady of the hostel arranged a private tour for me through BH Spirit City Tours. The guides were very nice and despite the snow which made it very hard to reach, they took me to the bobsleigh track anyway. That was great!
First the took me to the tunnel. This tunnel was used to smuggle necessities for the Sarajevo people during the siege in the ’90s. By that time the city was surrounded by Serbian troups for a couple of years and nobody could get in or out of the city. By digging the tunnel, it was possible to get at least some stuff to town. Again, very impressive to see how the people from Sarajevo dealt with the siege at the time. The tunnel is actually a replica of the real tunnel, which goes all the way under the airport. But seeing the tiny passageway of the tunnel and the fact that the tunnel was always flooded with a layer of water, you really get a good idea how difficult it must have been.
After that, my guides brought me to a man who helped digging the tunnel and owned a little souvenir shop now. I had a cold at that time and as it was 11 ‘o clock in the morning already, they thought it would be a great idea to give me some homemade raki to get better again. So, there I was…drinking raki in the morning with all these Bosnian men I didn’t know. I was impressed by the humour the owner had, despite going through all the things he had experienced in the past.
When I felt a lot better again, thanks to the raki (which was actually very good, normally I really don’t like it, but this one was great), we went off to try to reach the bobsleigh track. It’s located in the forest on top of the mountains in the region and there was a lot of snow! At one point we had to park the car and walk for a while, but at least I could see it! In these areas of Bosnia it is advised to take a guide into the forest, as there are still a lot of landmines to be found. We couldn’t really go up the track, but seeing it was still cool.
Yes, this citytrip to Sarajevo was, despite me feeling not very well and the serious amount of snow, very nice! It is a city that stays in your heart forever. I will definitely come back some day and visit the city in summer. I can imagine the bazaar is lovely at that time of year!
If you think about going as well, please don’t forget to visit the exhibitions on the war. It is not the happiest thing you can do on a holiday, but I do think it is important to know what happened here.