I love Sarajevo – a cool European city with a laid back atmosphere! It’s a treat exploring such an agreeable place. The people are friendlier than Berlin, Croatia, and Montenegro. They make things comfortable and it’s easy to blend.
Performing Arts and Architecture
My apartment is along the Miljacka River which has 20+ bridges. It’s near Old Town close to restaurants, markets, museums, and the National Theatre, a venue for symphony, ballet, opera, and theater performances. Sarajevo Philharmonic is more active in the summer, but there’s a concert February 21.
The University of Sarajevo and Sarajevo’s Academy of Performing Arts work with Open Stage Obala, an “alternative theatre scene”. Students present their works along with professional actors, directors, and writers. I remember thoroughly enjoying an alternative theater performance in Ljubljana a few years ago. There are plays – in Bosnian – almost every day at the National Theatre.
Architecture in Sarajevo reflects Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, Yugoslavian, and Soviet influences. The churches, mosques, and synagogues are spectacular!
Bumpy Trip Kotor to Sarajevo
The trip from Kotor was a bit bumpy. I booked the bus not only because it was economical but also to enjoy glorious Balkan scenery – the sunset was gorgeous! Later I learned that Internet bus bookings aren’t the best option. It’s better to make reservations in person at the bus station. Apparently, no buses go directly from Kotor to Sarajevo, so the trip involved a layover. The drivers (there are two who switch) looked at my ticket and had a lively conversation in Montenegrin. Neither spoke much English.
One driver approached speaking Montenegrin. He quickly realized I didn’t understand and tried to speak English asking where I was from – the other driver said Netherlands, I shook my head, then Denmark, UK… When I smiled and said US, they both laughed – not sure what that meant, but people in the Balkans seem to like Americans. Gruff and unfriendly when I boarded the bus, the drivers warmed up.
Border Crossings, Other Passengers
There weren’t many passengers but several pick-up and drop-off stops. At each border crossing – Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia – we got off the bus. After immigration agents checked and stamped our passports, we walked a few meters between countries and the bus picked us up on the other side. This reminded me of border crossings in South America. During the process I met other passengers. Two young guys from Sabah Malaysia seemed a bit lost. Mountain climbers, they were working up to the Himalayas. We chatted about Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia which I climbed many years ago.
Bus Change, Taxi Drama, Early Arrival
Several stops later the drivers suggested I switch buses and take one going directly to Sarajevo – another passenger on the bus translated. The change would bypass a layover and cut 2 hours off my travel time. I agreed.
It was slightly unnerving when we pulled off the highway in the dark to meet the other bus and make the change. There were only a few passengers on board. The drivers were smoking so much it almost made me sick. After a pit stop at a small café, we arrived in Sarajevo around 10 pm. It was snowing!
The next hurdle was notifying my accommodation I was arriving early. There was no Internet and I didn’t have a local SIM card yet. I asked the bus driver about taxis – big mistake. He immediately called a friend who gladly picked me up – ha no taxi sign on the car or meter inside, but since no “real taxis” were in sight there were few options, I got in the car and asked the driver to call the accommodation to explain I was checking in early. We arrived at the apartment before the landlord.
Then the dodgy driver said the charge for the “taxi ride” was 20 Euro (that’s almost 10 times too much) for such a short drive! I had no opportunity to get local currency – Bosnian Marka (BAM). Fuddled I didn’t ask the fee before getting inside his car :( which clearly was not a taxi. I gave him a piece of my mind as he grabbed the 20 Euro note from my hand, jumped into his car, and sped off leaving me in the cold and dark.
Just as I was about to scream, the landlord arrived to welcome me. I told him the taxi story. He rolled his eyes agreeing that local taxis weren’t reliable or trustworthy.
I take responsibility for the taxi fiasco – a dumb mistake. The situation caught me off guard – difficult to think out all scenarios. Word of advice for travelers – always beware of taxi drivers! I seem to relearn that lesson often. Uber isn’t available in Bosnia but a local company supposedly has a mobile app – couldn’t find it… In transit between countries I’ll remember to use my international SIM card.