Exploring Sensational Sarajevo

Exploring Sensational Sarajevo

Keen to revisit my favourite Balkans spot, I headed back to #Sarajevo to learn more about the European city that exudes eastern promise. Still sporting the scars of war, this #culture crossroads is a very moving and eye-opening place. Lovely locals, #cheap prices, beautiful scenery, and a vibrant nightlife make this a must-see destination.

I first visited Sarajevo in December 2012 and I fell in love with the place, despite the freezing cold weather. I vowed to return to the city during a warmer time of year and, true to my word, I was back eight months later in the height of summer. At the time I lived in Istanbul, and found the Bosnian capital to be the perfect antidote to the stress and gridlock of big city life. Yet, only an hour away by air, it also seemed reassuringly familiar with its Ottoman buildings and mosques. The best thing about beautiful Sarajevo is that it’s extremely affordable, whilst offering a wealth of cultural activities in natural surroundings.

The perfect antidote to the stress and gridlock of big city life.

A colleague was also flying to Sarajevo on the same flight completely by chance, so we decided to make the most of it and splash out on a nice hotel for the first couple of nights. We chose the Hotel Hecco Deluxe because we wanted to be ultra-central and found the promise of amazing views appealing. We weren’t disappointed! 

from  $93.51

Hecco Deluxe Hotel

 Ferhadija 2, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
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This hotel is all about location and panoramic views, and the rooms have floor to ceiling windows. The lift goes up to the ninth floor reception and then you walk upstairs, where you’ll find a bar and restaurant - a great place to enjoy an evening drink whilst watching the sparkling lights bring the city to life. I could have happily stayed there for the whole five days, but when my friend left for Croatia, I moved to a hostel for budgetary and social reasons.

Hotel Hecco Deluxe is located next to the famous Eternal Flame, a memorial to the victims of the Second World War. A reminder of the more recent war in Bosnia, is located nearby at the Markale marketplace, which was the location of two brutal massacres carried out by the Republika Srpska Army in 1994 and 1995. Indeed, poignant reminders of the Siege of Sarajevo (the longest siege in modern history) can be found all over the city in the form of ‘Sarajevo Roses’, mortal shell scars filled with red paint that resemble blood on the ground where civilians died. We learnt so much about the history of the old town from Neno on his free walking tour, and I highly recommend it as an introduction to the city. You can also book a private tour with his company Sarajevo Walking Tours.

from  $57

Sarajevo Walking Tour

 Sarajevo, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina
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I was interested in learning more about the recent war, so went on a ‘Total Siege Tour’ with Sarajevo Funky Tours. It was an informative and extremely humbling look at the brutality of the siege and the strength and willpower of the besieged citizens. The Tunnel of Hope was a highlight for me. Dug by the Bosnian Army, it allowed people out and humanitarian supplies into the city from the United Nations controlled area.

Bosnians are rightfully proud of their sports heritage.

In contrast to the city’s tragic recent events, Sarajevo was the host nation of the Winter Olympics in 1984, and you can still see the abandoned bobsled track and other remnants around the surrounding hills. Bosnians are rightfully proud of their sports heritage, and if you would like to see the Olympic mountains for yourself, I recommend the Olympic Adventure Tour.

There is plenty to see and do in Sarajevo’s city centre aside from tours. I liked wandering around the pedestrianised lanes of Bascarsija (the Turkish quarter), eating cevapcici (grilled minced meat in pita bread) and burek (filled pastry), whilst people-watching. Strolling by the river was also relaxing, and I found myself transported back to 1914 when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. It was like my high school history lessons coming to life. The History Museum and the Jewish Museum are definitely worth a look for more insight into the city. Unfortunately, there are a lot of upsetting sites in Sarajevo, but the most heartbreaking is the gallery dedicated to the Srebrenica Massacre. It’s emotional, but important to inform ourselves about these harrowing atrocities so that they become personal and not just some sad story on the news about a distant country.

It was like my high school history lessons coming to life.

The standout memory I have from both trips to Sarajevo is that the people are some of the most welcoming and kind I’ve ever met. To see the locals at their fun-loving best, go out to one of the many tavern bars and drink rakia with them - I recommend the pomegranate or honey, and advise you to steer clear of the herb one, unless you like your alcohol to taste like medicine. One evening we stumbled upon a courtyard concert of sorts where soulful Balkan music and drinks flowed. My favorite nights out were at Kino Bosna, a cinema converted into a bar, I loved the alternative vibe and friendly atmosphere.

Sarajevo is a small and intimate capital; a blur of minarets, red rooftops, bullet-scarred buildings and cemeteries. It's a vibrant enclave surrounded by hills, where east can truly be said to meet west, but most of all, it’s a city of humanity and life.

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