Sarajevo Farewell and Isa-begov Hamam

Isa Begov Hamam Hotel – Getaroom India

I spent my last day in Sarajevo walking around enjoying the beautiful city. Late afternoon I had a hamam at Isa Beg Hamam Hotel in the Bistrik neighborhood. The process was invigorating but different from Turkish hamams I’ve experienced.

Isa Begov Hamam Entrance to Stone Sitting Area

Isa Beg Hamam Process

The hamam had a large Jacuzzi and steam room divided by a warm stone sitting area. Before the bath process began, I loosened up by going back and forth between the Jacuzzi and steam room. There was no göbek taşı – a central, raised marble platform above the heating source or “kurna stone”. Laying on the göbek taşı is the first step in most Turkish hamams. It’s meditative and special, especially if you’re looking up at a beautiful dome.

Jacuzzi Isa Begov Hamam – Destination Sarajevo

The thorough bath process included four different washings, scrubbings, and exfoliation. At the end I was literally squeaky clean! After the scrubbing I had an aromatherapy massage with rosemary and rose oil.

Steam Room Isa Begov Hamam Hotel –

Hamam has been the “meaning of clean” through history. The old Arabic word means the “spreader of warmth” and dates back to ancient Rome.

Isa-begov Hamam Sarajevo –

Isa-beg Ishakovic –


The main idea of the hamam is “using steam and hot water to cleanse and relax the body”.


Sarajevo Old Town Flags Bosnian Independence Day March 1

Šeher Ćehaja Bridge Sarajevo

Depending on the culture, hamams have different structures. Earlier blog posts describe the Turkish bath process I experienced in Istanbul and Cappadocia.

Pomegranate Juice Stand

Sarajevo from Mt. Trebević

Hamams consist of three parts. The first step is heating your body and relaxing. The second part is opening your pores and sweating. After these steps, the “tellak” (masseuse) massages and washes you vigorously with a traditional olive paste soap and thin cloth. Bowls of water poured over the body wash away the dead skin cells.

Mostar Bridge

Jajce Waterfall

The next step is an “intensive scrubbing with a rough mitten called a kese” followed by another extensive rinse with alternating hot and cold water. My tellak was a Bosnian woman who spoke little English but enough to tell me she had a degree in physical therapy, a common occupation in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Latin Bridge Sarajevo – Wikimedia Commons

The whole process lasted 3 hours leaving me rejuvenated but feeling like rubber. The cost, including a 60-minute massage, was $50.

Travnik Bridge

History Isa Beg Hamam

Isa Beg Hamam is Sarajevo’s first and oldest bath. It has over 500 years of history and was an old Waqf building donated by Isa-beg Ishakovic. His family came from Saruhan in western Turkey. In the first half of the 15th century the Ishakovic family “played a significant role in Macedonia, Serbia, and Bosnia”.

Abandoned Building Near Isa Beg Hamam Hotel

Sarajevo City Hall Vijećnica – Sarajevo Times

Isa-beg Ishakovic built the Sarajevo hamam in 1462 during the era of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The building is of “great importance and symbolizes the transition between the rule of the Bosnian Kingdom and Ottoman Empire”.

Kriva Ćuprija Bridge Mostar

Lašva River Travnik

Isa-beg Ishakovic

Isa-beg Ishakovic – known as the “founder of Sarajevo” – was a successful Ottoman General and the Beg (Governor) of Bosna Sandzak. He’s credited with Sarajevo’s urbanization and creating many “magnificent buildings”.

Orthodox Congregational Church of the Holy Mother Old Town Sarajevo

Mt. Trebević Balkan Vista

Isa Beg Hamam is next to Careva (Sultan’s) Mosque which Ishakovic founded and gifted to the Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The Mosque and hamam were built at the same time.

Careva Mosque Bistrik Sarajevo

Sarajevo Old Town Clock Tower and Mosque

Damage During the War

The Hamam suffered serious damage during the war 1992-1995. After renovation by architect Ferhad Mulabegovic it became the Isa Begov Hamam Boutique Hotel. The hotel is protected and preserved as an important cultural heritage icon.

Modern Art Sarajevo

I’ll miss Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sarajevo – a special place! Photo memories are attached. More later from Belgrade Serbia.

Old Town Building

Sacred Heart Cathedral

Sarajevo Cable Car and War Bunker

View from Mt. Trebević Cable Car – Monocle

This week I explored new areas of Sarajevo mostly on foot. Sarajevo’s famous cable car (Sarajevska Žičara) was on my list, but I didn’t do much research before the ride. It’s the fast way up Mt. Trebević to popular recreational areas and favorite picnic spots of locals escaping the city. Riding the cable car made me think of alpine skiing which I miss but so far have not tried in Europe.

Houses from Mt. Trebević Cable Car

Mt. Trebević Cable Car

The cable car base station is on Hrvatin Street in Bistrik, one of several neighborhoods on the mountain’s northern slopes. It’s a short uphill walk from Old Town, Latin Bridge, and Obala Kulina Bana along the Miljacka River. A round-trip ticket is $12 with tourists paying four times more than locals. It costs extra for bicycles and pets. The new system has 33 cable cars accommodating a total of 1,200 people. 

Trebević Cable Car –


Mt. Trebević became a “deadly sniper position on the frontline”.


Trebević Cable Cars – Sarajevo Travel

I shared a gondola with three fun German guys from Hanover. One of them pointed to a village below where his grandmother had lived during the siege. As we worked our way up the mountain, the area along the lift line was full of ice, snow, and protruding rocks.

Trebević Cable Car – Balkan Insight

Before the 1990s Siege of Sarajevo millions of passengers rode the cable car. Built in 1959, it was one of the “most recognizable symbols of Bosnia-Herzegovina”. Sadly, it was destroyed during the early days of the war, and Mt. Trebević became a “deadly sniper position on the frontline”.

Inside Sarajevska Žičara

Mt. Trebević – Lungs of Sarajevo

With its fabulous panoramic views and fresh mountain air, Trebević is known as the “lungs of Sarajevo”. I’ve explored a few of the lower hiking trails but in winter the upper ones have snow and ice and are difficult to transverse on foot.

Mt. Trebević Vista

Like everything in Sarajevo, the war had a devastating effect on Mt. Trebević. Shortly after Bosnia-Herzegovina declared independence in 1992, a guard on the old Trebević gondola, Ramo Biber, became the first victim of the war. “The Serb-dominated Yugoslav army shot him dead as they began a campaign to encircle Sarajevo and capture key strategic positions.” The 1,425-day Siege of Sarajevo began four weeks later and became the “longest blockade of a capital city in modern history”.

Makeshift Homemade Rifle


Ramo Biber, the guard on the Trebević gondola, was the first war victim. The Yugoslav Army shot him dead as they began encircling Sarajevo…


Mini Snowman Mt. Trebević

Front Line Sniper Position

“Hundreds of mortars and countless bullets rained down on Sarajevo from Mt. Trebević, killing a large proportion of the 11,541 people slain during the war. Gunfire was a part of daily life for more than three years.”

Mt. Trebević Vista

In 1995, NATO intervened by bombing artillery encampments on Mt. Trebević forcing the Bosnian Serbs into retreat. The Dayton Peace Agreement followed. The nation was “split along ethnic lines with two autonomous entities – the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska“.

Inside Mt. Trebević War Bunker

The boundary line between the two entities “skirts the mountain”. Disagreements between the Federation and Republic on redevelopment “turned Mt. Trebević into a ghost town”. The remains of destroyed houses, restaurants, hotels, sports facilities, and mountain huts “were left to rot”.

Cable Car Ticket

After the war, the arduous process of clearing thousands of landmines moved slowly. Bandits “roamed the hills attacking tourists visiting the bobsleigh tracks”.

Cable Car Entrance Hrvatin Street Bistrik


“With death hot on their heels people sprinted from one side of Sniper Alley to the other to deliver supplies to family and friends.”


Top of Mt. Trebević


Rebuilding the “cable car wasn’t a top priority”. Sarajevans drifted away from a troubled mountain divided between two entities and strewn with dangerous landmines.

Inside Mt. Trebević War Bunker

Over the years, Sarajevans slowly returned to their “favorite excursion site”. An “awareness that the cable car could be renovated” began to grow. After 25 years, renovation was complete and the cable car began running again on April 6, 2018.

War Bunker Makeshift Radio


“PAZITE SNAJPER! – Beware Sniper warning signs appeared along Sniper Alley – the name for Sarajevo streets exposed to marksmen looking through telescopic sights from the top of Mt. Trebević.”


Mt. Trebević Snipers – Kurir

Reconstruction of the cable car may be a final step in the restoration process. Despite frustration that it took so long, there’s a sense of optimism with the reopening of access to beloved Mt. Trebević.

Village Water Supply During Siege Mt. Trebević

March 1 was Bosnia-Herzegovina Independence Day. It was only observed by half of the country – the Bosniak-Croat-dominated entity called the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. For the other half, the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska, March 1 was an ordinary working day.

Bunker Map of Encircled Siege Territory Mt. Trebević

For a few days before and after the March 1 holiday, police patrolled the area near my apartment along the Miljacka River. Since I wasn’t certain of the right spot to turn off toward the cable car, I asked a machine-gun-carrying policeman for directions. He didn’t speak English, so I pointed toward the mountain and said, “cable car”. He gave me a slightly funny look – now I understand why… Of course I should have asked for directions to “Sarajevska Žičara” :o(. He may have been too young to have experienced the snipers first hand, but I’m sure their parents had a tale or two to share!


Views from the cable car are great but the outing was somewhat disappointing. Unless you have skis, hiking up and down the mountain is better than riding the cable car, and summer is definitely a better time of year. Interesting hikes include remnants of the Olympic bobsled and luge trackPrvi Šumar recreational area, and the Observatory (Čolina Kapa), formerly Bistrik Kula, an Austro-Hungarian fortification.

Map of Mt. Trebević Hiking Trails

War Bunker and Museum

As I walked back down to Sarajevo Old Town, I saw a makeshift sign for a “War Museum” and stopped to check it out. It was an amazing emotional experience. The man leading tours had lived through the siege with his wife and six-month-old son.

Mortar Shells and Landmines from the Siege

The museum was an underground bunker exactly like those used during Siege bombings. He described what it was like living in an overcrowded bunker without electricity, food, plumbing, or water. Despite great obstacles and the tragic deaths and injuries of friends and family, somehow, they survived. They used innovative methods to protect themselves, communicate, and get food, water, and the other essentials needed to survive. Their life was difficult and certainly not for the faint-hearted.

Trebević Mortar Shells

My photos aren’t great but they give an idea of what the bunker looked like inside. It contained mortar shell remnants and other items from the war. On a mountain full of booby traps and landmines, it’s amazing that these brave people survived!!

Trebević Landmine – Swissinfo