Sarajevo Walking Tour Bosnia-Herzegovina

Latin Bridge Near Assassination of Franz Ferdinand 1914

I’ve been exploring Sarajevo on my own 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

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”.

Old Orthodox Church

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’s Hamam, one of two hamams in Sarajevo. The hamam 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

_____________

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

_____________

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

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 treats 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 and 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 Hilltop 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 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 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… With few options, I got in 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, jumped into his car, and sped off leaving me standing 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 always reliable or trustworthy.

Latin Bridge Miljacka River Near Apartment

I take responsibility for the taxi fiasco. 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…

Kotor Montenegro to Sarajevo

Sarajevo Vista – samed

Tomorrow I leave Kotor for Sarajevo – the capital and largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s exciting to visit Sarajevo even in the winter when it’s cold with snow flurries in the forecast.

Sarajevo – FIBA

Emperor’s Mosque Sarajevo – otarikkic Pizabay

Although I appreciate the medieval cities, exceptional nature, and beautiful coastal areas in Croatia and Montenegro, I also enjoy the energy of cities. Sarajevo is the “political, social, and cultural center of Bosnia and a prominent cultural center in the Balkans”. It’s also known for religious and cultural diversity.

Sarajevo Rooftops and Catholic and Orthodox Cathedrals – Charles Bowman

Roman Bridge Sarajevo – Elvira Bojadzic Islamic Arts Magazine

There’s a cable car and like San Francisco, Sarajevo has an electric tram network running through the city. I’m staying in Old Town near the city center and looking forward to exploring!

Sarajevo Trebević Cable Car – Monocle

Sarajevo Bridges Miljacka River – Sarajevo Travel

_____________

“Sarajevo is one of few European cities with a “mosque, Catholic church, Orthodox church, and synagogue all in the same neighborhood”.

_____________

Sarajevo Tram – commons.wilkimedia.org

In 1914, Bosnian Serb teenage activist Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria sparking World War I and “ending Austro-Hungarian rule in Bosnia“.  Years later during the Bosnia and Yugoslav Wars, Sarajevo suffered the “longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare”. The city is still undergoing post-war reconstruction.

Princip Gavrilo – Wikipedia

Sacred Heart Cathedral Sarajevo – Sygic Travel

Latin Bridge Sarajevo – FlixBus

Festina Lente Looping Bridge Sarajevo – Dezeen

More later…

Montenegro

Tours from Dubrovnik are difficult to find in winter, so I was happy to book a tour to Montenegro with GetYourGuide, a Berlin-based company operating throughout Europe. It was a full day led by local Amico Tours. I’m considering Montenegro or Sarajevo as my next stop and day trips will help me decide.

Mausoleum of Njegos Lovcen Mountain Montenegro

We began at 7 am and returned to Dubrovnik 11 hours later. Our group of five included a Chinese mother and daughter from Shanghai on a long European trip, a young couple from Santiago Chile, and me. Our Bosnian guide and driver shared fascinating Montenegrin geography, culture, history, and folktales with us. As usual the vast amount of information was a bit overwhelming – at least for me.

View from Petar Petrovic Njegos Mausoleum – Old Town Kotor Hostel

Our Lady of the Rocks and Benedictine Monastery Islands Perast – dubrovnik-tours.hr

Winter Weather Croatia and Montenegro

I’m learning about weather in the Balkans and had rescheduled once because of heavy rain. Winter rain patterns come fast and furious and can clear quickly, but not always. When rain is in the forecast it doesn’t necessarily mean all day, and for a winter day trip, rain or shine is usually OK. We had heavy morning rain and a few rays of sunshine in the afternoon followed by light rain. It wasn’t a great day for photography. Even with a raincoat and umbrella, I got a little wet.

Kotor Clocktower

Konavle Valley and Bay of Kotor

Our southeast route to Montenegro passed small villages like Mlini and Cavtat, birthplace of Croatian painter Vlaho Bukovac, and continued through the Konavle Valley to the Bay of Kotor. The fertile valley is sometimes called the Gulf of Croatia. It’s known for granaries, canals, and abundant “waterfalls and watermills” generated from the Ljuta, Kopačica, and Konavočica Rivers.

Croatian Painter Vlaho Bukovac

Budva Old Town – Chasing the Donkey

On the way to Kotor we passed several Montenegrin villages – Herceg Novi, BijelaVerige, DobrotaPerast, and Risan. Over the years, Illyrians, Romans, Slavs, Celts, Greeks, Venetians, Spaniards, French, Ottomans, pirates, and others invaded Montenegro. The small country finally gained independence in 2006.

Church of St. Luke Kotor – Travel East

Although Montenegro just started the process of joining the EU,  the Euro is its local currency. Today there’s a strong Russian influence, and in recent years wealthy Russian investors have changed Montenegro.

Kotor St. Nikola Church

Perast

A UNESCO World heritage site, Perast is a quiet village. We stopped for coffee and even with rain and poor visibility marveled at the bay and its two tiny islands. One is home to Our Lady of the Rocks (Gospa od Škrpjela) Church and the other Saint George Benedictine Monastery. St. George Island is closed to tourists but during the summer, you can take a boat to visit Our Lady of the Rocks Church.

Perast Marina

Our Lady of the Rocks is on a man-made island. “The island’s folklore began on July 22, 1452 when two sailors returning from a difficult voyage discovered an icon of the Madonna and Child resting on a rock in a shallow part of the Bay. They considered their find a miracle and vowed to build a church on the spot. Over time the sailors dropped stones around the spot where the icon was found, slowly creating an islet and then building a small chapel.”

Sokol Tower Konavle Valley – Adventure Dalmatia

Over the years dropping stones in the water around the church became a tradition for sailors. The ritual had a dual purpose – strengthening the tiny island’s foundation and “asking the Virgin Mother to bring them safely home”. Today the tradition is part of “one of Europe’s oldest sailing regattas, the Fašinada“.

Dobrota Village Montenegro – mylittleadventure

_____________

“During the Fašinada regatta, at sunset on July 22 countless local boats decorated with garlands sail out into the Bay to drop a stone around the island and Our Lady of the Rocks Church.”

_____________

Kotor City Walls to St. John Fort – montenegro-for.me

The church contains 68 paintings by Tripo Kokolja, a 17th-century baroque artist from Perast. There are also paintings by Italian masters, and an icon (circa 1452) of Our Lady of the Rocks by Venetian painter Lovro Dobričević.

Tripo Kokolja Sibile from the Church of Our Lady of Škrpjela

Map of Balkan Countries

“The church has a collection of silver votive tablets and a tapestry embroidered by Jacinta Kunić-Mijović, the wife of a Montenegrin seaman. It took her 25 years to finish the tapestry she made while waiting for her husband to return from long journeys at sea. She used golden and silver fibers but what makes the tapestry famous is that she embroidered her own hair in it.” The folktale goes that the hair woven changed from dark to gray as she grew older.

Kotor Montenegro – croisieurope

Saint George is a natural island. It’s home to 12th century Saint George Benedictine Monastery and has an old graveyard for Perast and Kotor nobility.

St. Triphon’s Cathedral Kotor

Verige and Risan

Verige (chains in Croatian) is named for chains that were placed throughout its bay to damage or sink enemy ships. Inaccessible limestone cliffs helped protect Risan from pirates and other invaders. Konavle Cliffs are part of the Orjen mountain range in the Adriatic Dinarides. Risan has a famous Roman villa with mosaics dating from the 2nd and early 3rd century AD. Today it’s a popular beach town.

Island of St. George Perast – @poseidonsreach

Side View Church of St. Luke Kotor

_____________

“For about 12.5 miles, the steep inaccessible limestone Cliffs of Konavle sprawl along the coast from Cavtat to Molunat and fall vertically into the Adriatic Sea.”

_____________

Medieval Street Budvar Old Town

Kotor

Kotor is one of the “prettiest towns in Montenegro”, known for its ancient fortified city walls, Venetian-inspired architecture, and maritime history. It’s located “deep down the Boka Kotorska Bay” and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kotor Canal Kampana Tower

There are many interesting churches, palaces, and monasteries in Kotor, especially the Cathedral of Sveti Tripun “mentioned for the first time in IX century.” It’s a symbol of the city and the seat of the Catholic Bishopric of Kotor.

Kotor Old Town Clock Tower Montenegro

There are ten churches in Kotor and Orthodox Christians outnumber Catholics. Locals have “acknowledged the peaceful coexistence between the two religions”. Orthodox Christians attend or partake in Catholic celebrations and vice versa. Kotor’s Christmas season lasts into January since Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas Day on or near January 7.

Kotor Palace Old Town

A hike to the top of the city walls leads to St. John Fortress and a phenomenal view of the Bay of Kotor! I was looking forward to the hike, but heavy rain and a notoriously slippery path made it too dangerous. The weather cleared a bit, and we got some stunning views and photos while continuing our journey into the hills.

Vlaho Bukovac Daydreams – largesizepaintings.blogspot.com

_____________

Lord Byron famously called Montenegro’s coastline the planet’s ‘most beautiful encounter between land and sea’.

_____________

House Old Town Kotor

The annual Lovcen International Hill-Climb Race takes place in the Kotor hills on dangerous curvy roads full of sharp turns. The race is named after Lovcen National Park in the Dinara Alps. During the 2018 race a driver survived a crash that sent his car somersaulting through the air into a boulder!

Budva Montenegro – adriaticdmc.hr

The Dinaric Alps are part of the Balkan Dinara Mountain Range and a popular adventure sport location for climbing, hiking, skiing, and sky diving. Most of the Adriatic islands belong to this system because in earlier geo history the “western parts of the mountain range were partly submerged by seawater “.

Ferry from Lepetane to Kamenari – Doo Pomorski Saobraćaj

Budva

Budva is a popular Mediterranean tourist town known for its beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife. Budva has over 30 sand, pebble, and rock beaches. The sand in some areas is an extraordinary pink from the color of local rocks. Near Budva there are endless possibilities for adventurous recreational activities. Lovcen National Park, Lake Skadar National Park, Durmitor National Park, Mount Ostrog, Tara Canyon, and Biogradska Gora National Park are popular destinations.

Pink Sand Beach Sveti Stefan – depositphotos

Beautiful Painting Vlaho Bukovac

Konavle Cliffs – Agroturizam Konavle

Budva’s famous award-winning nightclub Top Hill is one of the largest and best nightclubs in Europe. Open-air performances are 600 meters (2,000 feet) above the sea with magnificent Adriatic views.

St. Stefan Island – adriaicdmc.hr

I walked Budva’s Old Town in the rain. Smaller than Dubrovnik and Kotor it’s described as a “Venetian maze of cobblestone streets, anchored by a 15th century citadel”. Except for a few shops, it was a winter ghost town.

Konavle Canal – Just Dubrovnik

You can’t help but notice that many palm trees in Budva, Kotor, and Dubrovnik look dreadful. Our guide said this is because palm moths and weevils are killing them and no one has discovered a remedy. It’s really sad.

National Restaurant Konavoski Dvori Ljuta River Konavle

There are many stray cats in Budva and Dubrovnik. Our guide explained that the cats were brought to Montenegro and Dubrovnik during the great bubonic plague to kill rats carrying the disease. Thousands died during the epidemic. To address the situation, Dubrovnik “issued an interesting decree where anyone who lived abroad had to spend 40 days in quarantine at one of the nearby islands before entering the city”.

St. John Fortress Kotor – Afar

Sveti Stefan, Petar Petrovic Njegos Mausoleum, Sokol Tower

Three interesting places we didn’t visit on our tour are Sveti Stefan Island near Budva,  the Petar Petrovic Njegos Mausoleum, Montenegro’s greatest writer, and Sokol Tower, a medieval remain near Dubrovnik. I’d like to visit Petar Petrovic Njegos Mausoleum, and Sokol Tower, but they’re both in isolated locations and would require hiring a guide for a private tour – very expensive in winter.

Verige – Montenegro Travel

Sveti Stefan

Sveti Stefan is one of the “most famous and prestigious places in Montenegro”. It’s a tiny island near Budva. Once a fishing village, it’s now a high-end five-star luxury resort. It’s connected to the mainland by a narrow bridge, with “stone houses packed together on top of the rocks”. Guests “stay in individual rooms or rent entire villas with private pools, terraces, and magnificent sea views”.

Orjen Mountain Range Dinaric Alps – discover-montenegro.com

Petar Petrovic Njegos Mausoleum

Petar Petrovic Njegos, Prince-Bishop of Montenegro, was a revered ruler, poet, and philosopher. His magnificent mausoleum is situated at the top of the second-highest peak on Mount Lovćen, Jezerski Vrh (1657 m). “To get there you climb 461 steps to the entrance where two granite giants guard the tomb of Montenegro’s greatest writer”.

Our Lady of the Rocks, Venetian Painter Lovro Dobričević

View from Petrovic Njegos Mausoleum

Sokol Tower

The earliest records of Sokol Tower appear in Dubrovnik archives from 1391. The isolated location “suggests that a fortress existed on this spot since the time of the Illyrians, Greeks, and Romans”. Sokol Tower was “a weapons arsenal and used for storing emergency supplies”. The tower survived the great earthquake of 1667. It’s now owned by the Association of Friends of Dubrovnik Antiquities.

Inside Kotor Cathedral

_____________

The view from Petar Petrovic Njegos Mausoleum is breathtaking – “it’s the best panoramic view of Montenegro”.

_____________

Side Street Old Town Budva Montenegro – adriaticdmc.hr

Luxury Yachts and Resorts

Montenegro and Croatia are popular summer destinations for Europe’s rich. Rapid development in Montenegro is obvious from the unseemly mix of new architecture in some areas. Wealthy Russians and Germans purchased land and built apartments and luxury resorts that are out of character with existing medieval architecture. This is especially noticeable in Budva, known for government corruption. There are no building restrictions or codes, but hopefully this will change.

Saint George Benedictine Monastery Perast Montenegro – Emerging Europe

Owners of luxury yachts often visit Montenegro and Croatia. I forget the details of a new port being built near Herceg Novi to accommodate the summer onslaught of superyachts. One superyacht, Eclipse, owned by German billionaire Roman Abramovich visits the area annually.

Budva Montenegro – adriaticdmc.hr

Back to Dubrovnik

At the end of the day we took the ferry from Lepetane to Kamenari to cross the Bay of Kotor heading back to Dubrovnik. There were few tourists on the ferry and it was fun mingling with locals. Of course each way we had border crossings which in summer can require as long as 10 hours of waiting!!! Compared to borders in Africa and South America, the border crossings were tame.

Yugoslavia

This blog post is long, but there’s so much to learn about the area, including Adriatic cultureYugoslav and Balkans Wars, and the Croatian War of Independence. Every village along the Bay of Kotor has an interesting story. Glad I have more time here!

God Hypnos on Mosaic Risan Montenegro

Church of St. Mary Kotor – Travel East