Whilst in Montenegro I decided to visit Sarajevo. Some I met were curious thinking there would be more to be seen by going to Belgrade (where I was to go later) but wanting to go everywhere and believing appreciate each place on its own merits I made my way by Herceg Novi by bus. The bus passes through some really marvellous scenery. Should I return to Bosnia I will have to stop at several locations between Mostar and Sarajevo because I saw some of the beautiful streams, lake or rivers there. I have read those that recommend the train over the bus for the scenery but the scenery from the bus is outstanding and it does not appear to suffer from over development at all. The only drawback is that to get the most out of the views you may need your transport.
As I arrived in Sarajevo and had to take the taxi. Anywhere in the world I would retain a sense of caution of using a taxi but Bosnia seems to be a rare place where they are not in league in the devil. I could take a taxi from the bus station as I did a few times without being concerned about being overcharged.
In fact some of the more friendly people were taxi drivers. Bosnia is a fairly reserved place and coming from the friendly border country of Montenegro it is instantly noticeable.
First thing.. Sarajevo is an attractive city, much more than I envisaged. Growing up I remember seeing the city being destroyed by the silly war.
It has an Ottoman heritage, an Austrian and Slavic heritage accompanied by beautiful trams. To me it appeared as if it could be a small Turkish town. The many mosques with minarets, madrassas, the Turkish quarter including the Bazzar and at least one Islamic place of pilgrimage, the calls to prayer and the food all give it a Turkish and Islamic feel. Bosnia is often described as an Islamic country but the population of Muslims is actually 43-44% Over 31% of the population confess to be Orthodox and the Catholic Bosnian Croats make up a significant part of the population too. Despite this I definitely have the impression of an Ottoman / Turkish town.
However Sarajevo has a connection with World War I. And many a tourist and visitor, myself included paid a visit to the Latin Bridge to the location where the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by a Bosnian Serb, setting the fuse alight that started World War I.
Think of Sarajevo today though and many will think of the war in the 90s. After all it suffered the longest siege in modern warfare. On the surface things appeal to be healed but the reality is the Dayton Accord to end the war is more a lose federal state. Which the Republika Srpska (Serbian), the federation (Muslim and Croat) and Brcko, all autonomous and to some degree culturally separate despite the progress being made it seems still sometime before Bosnia can be seen as having an united identity. However my kind friend Amira I met from Couchsurfing was one positive example having friends from across the lingo-religious divide.
My trip to Bosnia did not start well. In fact it started with me getting food poisoning and my second day disappeared. Prior to that I had gone to the Yellow fortress where there is a beautiful panorama. 360 degrees but the best view is in the upper half of the mount. One can admire the beautiful scenery and architecture of Sarajevo from there but also see the scars. The mass white gravestones pay testament to the awful price Sarajevans paid during the conflict when they themselves became the target. Sniper Alley named because the Serbian gunmen could use the hills to target anybody trying to cross the road is one other place.
I visited the Old Orthodox church. A really beautiful church with an attached museum. Unfortunately my visit to the museum was ruined by the person who sold me the tickets without telling me I had less than 10 minutes to see the exhibits. Really poor but the wonderful church made up for it.
I also visited the main Orthodox Cathedral where I received a warm welcome from a non English speaking faithful when she ascertained I was Orthodox. Westerners often are assumed to be Roman Catholics until proven otherwise.
I stayed at the Hotel Hecco. A hotel I can recommend for its interesting interior architecture, location and warmness of the staff. There is also a more upmarket Hotel Hecco deluxe but the hotel Hecco was fine on every account.
Meeting Amira was great. She showed great kindness and a willingness for me to visit. And went for dinner with her and her kind friend Lejla .
The next day I met several more of her friends and it was interesting to learn about life in Bosnia now from her and her friends. Although I didn’t fully recover in energy or appetite from my food poisoning until I had left Sarajevo unfortunately. Bosnia is known regionally for its food particularly Cevapi I just had a bad experience. Be more careful and you may well appreciate the culinary and atmospheric flavour of the vibrant city. Oh and watch up for pickpockets we can across a really suspicious gypsy who tried walking far too close to me when there was so much space. The laughable thing is that her behaviour was so obvious.