Sarajevo…Where East Meets West.

Sarajevo…Where East Meets West.

Walking the old Ottoman section of Sarajevo

The trip to Sarajevo from Mostar is one of the most beautiful journeys in Europe. You can go by train or bus but the train was out of service, due to rail repairs, the day I wanted to travel so I was forced to take a bus.  They both travel a similar route through the Neretva Canyons but the train would have allowed me to take photos while hanging out a window. Although the bus was my second choice, it was still a breathtaking view winding through the mountains with the emerald green Neretva River running along side the road. It is a must see and do in this part of the world.

Sarajevo has a long and often times bloody history…wars have been started and fought here. The region has changed hands often over the centuries…at times back and forth between the Ottomans and the Austrians.  I wish I could have visited the city in its hay day right before WW1 when the wealth of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had turned this into a modern elegant city fully turned to the west and away from its Ottoman history and traditions. Broad boulevards lined with elegant and romantic buildings in the art nouveau or Neoclassical style made the city an attractive and inviting one in which to abide.

Sarajevo…Where East Meets West.

The spot where World War l started

I went to the spot where Arch Duke Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated to commemorate an event that ushered in the beginning of the First World War. All wars are senseless but surely this one must be one of histories all time great blunders. It was a conflict that swept away the old world order and forever changed the face of Europe. Empires fell both in the West and in the East, a generation of young men were lost and the world of the landed gentry disappeared for there were no men to work the land and the age of mechanization and assembly lines supplanted the old ways. Sarajevo was built while being controlled by two great empires…Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian…and the city reflects both in style and attitude.

Sarajevo…Where East Meets West.

Old Ottoman Masque in the tourist center of the town.

A large chunk of downtown is comprised of the old Ottoman district with its domed mosque and minarets, narrow winding lanes filled with shops and tea cafes.  One could easily think they were in a small town in Turkey with the beaten copper trays, carpets, jewelry and blue evil eye amulets. I wandered the streets in this area and thought “I might as well be back in Fethiye”  On the edge of the old town is the National Archives which houses a superb collection of photographs of “old Sarajevo” on the lower level.  It is well worth the visit if you are interested in what the city looked like before a century of war took its toll on the infrastructure.

Sarajevo…Where East Meets West.

Early morning walk on the streets of Sarajevo

The Winter Olympics were held in Sarajevo in 1984 and the infrastructure is still there in the hills surrounding the city. Long abandoned the luges and downhill sky jumps still stand as witnesses to a proud moment in the cities recent past. The typography is one of the most interesting aspects of the city. Neighborhoods run up the sides of mountains surrounded by pine forest edge the city. I would have loved to have been here in 1984 with the mix of young athletes, news commentators and spectators from all over the globe. I am sure the energy would have been incredible.

Near the Cathedral and on the main walking street is a museum of remembrance for the dead of the Srebrenica Massacre. I try, if possible, to avoid the reminders of mans inhumanity and savagery…I have not gone to the concentration camps set up by the Nazi’s in Poland or Germany as an example…but this is a interesting and thought provoking exploration of the horrors of the recent Serbian – Bosnian war. In July 1995 while under UN protection Srebrenica was attacked by Serbs under the leadership of Ratco Mladic. In the days following 8,000 men were massacred and 25,000 women, children and the elderly were forced out of their homes. This happened while the UN Peacekeepers did nothing. It is a stain that the UN carries to this day and the shame of it will not easily be erased. It is visually well done and worth a visit but I warn you it may mean a drink or two with lunch afterwards.

Sarajevo…Where East Meets West.

Old and new mix…the lovely old art school building .

I had one of the best meals of the trip here in Sarajevo at the Dervi Restaurant which is located on the edge of the the old town. They are known for their home bakes rolls and breads as well as traditional Bosnian dishes.  I felt compelled to order the bread (it is not free) along with a bowl of mushroom soup and a beef rolade.  The soup was not your typical mushroom soup…this was more like a thick beef vegetable with the main ingredient being a mix of wild mushrooms. The beef roulade was excellent served with sautéed potatoes and topped with a tarter sauce.  The meal while not the cheapest was certainly the best of the trip. If your in the city be sure to make a beeline for Dervi.

Sarajevo…Where East Meets West.

Woman sitting alone at in the yard of the mosque for Friday prayers.

I think there are places, cities, countries where acts of violence and evil leave behind ghost and shadows that are visible to those willing to see.  I have felt them in the killing fields of Cambodia and once again here in Sarajevo.  As I sat in cafes watching the parade of people go by occasionally an old person would walk by and I would get glimpses of the horrors that a century of war inflicts. For some it was missing limbs for others it was a vacant stare and a slow stumbling gate. I asked myself if it was possible that the DNA of a nation and its people gets altered by conflict. Does the horror of two world wars and various regional conflicts effect not only the living but the unborn as well. Does the new generations grow up with dread built into their chromosomes and are they always waiting for the other shoe to drop, the next massacre to happen and their lives to be rent asunder?

Sarajevo…Where East Meets West.

Always time to stop and talk with friends.

Don’t let my morbid preoccupation with war and its aftermath dissuade you from visiting Bosnia – Herzegovina. I am glad I was able to visit the country in general and Mostar and Sarajevo in particular. This mix of East and West give the region a unique feel in architecture, food, and lifestyle.  The people are friendly and hospitable, and the scenery is incredible all of which makes this bargain destination a must if you are touring Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

Sarajevo…Where East Meets West.

In Eastern Europe the ever present graffiti

About Larry Bosco

In 2010 I had one of those “Is this all there is” moments and so in January 2011 I retired from Real Estate Appraising, sold off all my worldly goods and headed out as a solo traveler in search of a new place to live. Since then I’ve traveled around the world, made new friends and had many great adventures and some not so great. After staying almost a year in Cuenca, Ecuador I have headed back to South East Asia where I began the journey in 2011. Currently I am living in Chiang Mai, Thailand
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5 Responses to Sarajevo…Where East Meets West.

  1. Paula Wong says:

    Great post, Larry….beautiful city with a very challenging history. I love your rich descriptions and thought provoking commentary.

    Yes, DNA travels down to the offspring carrying all it’s history:
    That’s why I love dumplings, rice noodles, and am always hungry.

  2. David Donaldson says:

    I particularly like your reflections. It makes your commentaries so much more than just a travel blog. My only question to you is “Where” are you planning to put down temporary roots this winter?” I have a feeling that winters can be long and cold in that part of Europe.

  3. Claudia Hammer says:

    Another great history lesson I did not realize I needed. You are a wealth of information. I agree with David, your blog is so much more than a travel blog. Interesting that you did not talk much about the art and culture. Maybe write a follow up?

  4. LindaRose says:

    I think it´s odd that you find similarities to Turkey! looks like hipsters abound! Is it beer or wine this trip???

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