Sarajevo Walking Tour

Latin Bridge Near Assassination of Franz Ferdinand 1914

I’ve been exploring Sarajevo but decided to join a guided walking tour today. We walked several hours mostly covering territory in Old Town. Several Bosnians started the tour group – Meet Bosnia – a few years ago. They’re clearly passionate about their city. The tour was rich in history and stories.

The Meet Bosnia office in Old Town is at the corner of Gazi Husrev-Begova and Mula Mustafa Baseskija Streets. With its jewelry shops, Gazi Husrev-Begova is also known as Zlatarska – Goldsmith’s Street. Mula Mustafa Baseskija is near the Eternal Fire, a monument to Sarajevo’s liberation in World War II.

Austro-Hungarian Architecture

Baščaršija  Square – Churches, Fountains, Mosques, Towers

The tour started at Baščaršija Square, the “lively core of Old Town” and home to Sarajevo’s oldest streets and most notable landmarks. Except for churches and temples next to mosques, the area is like a scene from Istanbul. We walked by the Old Orthodox Church dedicated to Archangels Michael and Gabriel. Built in the 16th century, it suffered from fires and destruction, but was repeatedly reconstructed.

Sarajevo Post Office – Destination Sarajevo

Old Town Wall Sarajevo

We paused at Sebilj, a famous wooden fountain on Baščaršija Square. According to local legend, if you drink water from the fountain you’ll come back to Sarajevo.

Bezistan Bazaar – Muzel Sarajevo

Gazi Husrev-Bey Mosque – National Geographic Your Shot

We passed Gazi Husrev-Bey Mosque, a beautiful building from the 1500s considered Sarajevo’s “most important architectural monument from Ottoman rule”.  We walked through the Bezistan, Sarajevo’s oldest shopping area. It’s near the 16th century Clock Tower which has an unusual clock that keeps lunar time. The clock indicates the five times for daily Islam prayer – dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and night. With the lunar system, “the day begins at sunset and the time shown is 12:00”.

Šeher-Ćehaja Bridge Sarajevo

Old Orthodox Church Sarajevo

Sarajevo City Hall

The group admired beautiful Sarajevo City Hall (Vijećnica), the most recognizable Austro-Hungarian building in Bosnia. It was the National and University Library and seat of Sarajevo’s city council. Now it’s a venue for major exhibitions and concerts.

Isa Begov Hamam Hotel – Sarajevo Construction

Isa Begov Hamam

We passed Isa Beg Hamam, one of two hammams in Sarajevo. The hammam is named after Isa Beg Ishakovich, a successful Ottoman General and the Beg (Governor) of Bosnia Sandzak. Ishakovich is known as the founder of Sarajevo.

Isa Begov Hamam – Cicelićka Portal

I’ve enjoyed a few invigorating Turkish hamams. Visiting Isa Beg’s Hamam is on my list of things to do before leaving Sarajevo. I’ve never felt so clean, relaxed, and refreshed as after the hamam process! This blog post explains the experience.

Sebilj Baščaršija Sarajevo

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“The main idea in the Hamam is to use steam and hot water to cleanse the body and create a sensual relaxing.”

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Rebuilt Sarajevo City Hall

Diversity

Our guide highlighted Sarajevo’s exceptional diversity and the mutual respect among Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, and Islam religions. Sarajevo’s Jewish community has existed for almost five centuries. The Old Jewish Temple is within walking distance of churches and mosques. Today it’s a Balkan museum.

Tombs Governors Gazi Murat and Gazi Husref

Old Jewish Temple Sarajevo

Meeting of Cultures and Roses

We stopped at the “Sarajevo Meeting of Cultures” point on Ferhadija Street – a  location tied to the Habsburg MonarchyThe Cathedral of Jesus’ Sacred Heart with a statue of Pope John Paul II is one of many iconic buildings on Ferhadija. Toward the eastern end there’s a marker showing the spot where “East meets West”.

Bosnian Copper Coffee Set

Our guide talked about Sarajevo Roses, “craters left by fatal mortar strikes that were filled with red resin to remember those lost during the Siege of Sarajevo”.

Ćevapi – Hostel Franz Ferdinand

Bosnian Food

The group listened to pointers on restaurants, cafés, and the best places for local cuisine like ćevapi and burek. Coffee is a very important part of Bosnian culture. Drinking their special strong brew – never to be mistaken for Turkish coffee – is a must. As you drink the coffee you must linger and enjoy the time with your companions.

Burek – Destination Sarajevo

Baklava Dućan Sarajevo

Latin Bridge and Ferdinand’s Assassination Site

We walked over famous Latin Bridge and stopped at the sight of Franz-Ferdinand˙s Assassination. The story of the nearly botched assassination is fascinating.

Sarajevo Roses

It was a beautiful clear day with temperatures in the high 40s. I’m smitten with Bosnia. Since the weather forecast is good, I’ll take full-day tours tomorrow and Wednesday:

Sarajevo Ottoman White Fortress

Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina

Gazi Husrev-Beg Mosque – Bjoertvedt WikiCommons

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.

Austrian Architecture Old Town

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.

Cathedral Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos – Bjoertvedt WikiCommons

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.

Franz Leo Ruben Bascarsija Sarajevo

Architecture in Sarajevo reflects Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, Yugoslavian, and Soviet influences. The churches, mosques, and synagogues are spectacular!

Sarajevo City Hall – Lasserbua WikiCommons

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.

Sarajevo Vista – Luke McCallin

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.

Sarajevo National Theatre – Youth History Blog

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.

Sculpting Old Town

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.

Sarajevo Clock Tower – KB Abroad

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!

Ali Pasha Mosque Sarajevo – Damien Smith

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.

Sarajevo Scene Near Apartment

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.

Old Town Vista

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.

Latin Bridge Miljacka River Near Apartment

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.

Sarajevo Old Town – World Nomads

More later…