As we are always on the hunt for new adventures and experiences, in the vast majority of cases, this involves deviating from the route. Take a deep breath and let go of the map. In our new series of blogs we want to remind you of those cities that allow us to get away from the hustle and bustle. Discover actual genuine experiences that you only get when you are on the road less travelled.
This week we invite you to discover the capital of Bosnia: the peculiar city of Sarajevo. Steeped in history, it is the meeting point of Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and Yugoslav cultures. Cosmopolitan and picturesque all at the same time; something special that makes a visit surprising, entertaining and utterly enjoyable.
To start your immersion in the heart of Bosnian culture, you obviously need to start off with food! So why not try one of the local delicacies, Börek. This salty pastry is a monument of Bosnian cuisine. You can practically find it on every corner of a buregdžinica, a small shop specializing in pastries. When you enter one, or two, or three, as you are likely to get addicted to these cakes, you will appreciate how important these shops are in the day to day life of the locales. Böreks are stuffed with minced meat, spinach or cheese. Try them all before deciding which one is your favourite! Traditionally, you can eat them with a type of Bosnian yoghurt drink, but we recommend trying them with a coffee called kahva bosanska. The art of serving this coffee will not go unnoticed. You can expect receiving a tray and cups, decorated in refined engravings. But do not get too distracted by its beauty, you just might let your coffee cool down too much and believe us, the visual pleasure has nothing on the taste.
If you are impressed by the artistry involved in making the beautiful coffee drinking sets, go to the Ottoman district of Baščaršija, do not worry, we also have a rough time pronouncing that name. Here you can find endless little quirky shops. You can spend hours getting lost in the tiny worlds that have been built on each premises. Go out to the street and walk to the bazaar, let yourself be guided by the light atmosphere, the smells of the spice stalls, the colours of the fabrics, the jewellery and the sounds; everything comes together in a spectacular ensemble for the senses.
After spending all your money at the bazaar, start walking towards Vijećnica, the new old library! We say “new - old” because this building, which dates back to the late nineteenth century, was completely destroyed in 1992 during the siege of Sarajevo. It was then rebuilt, as identically as possible, respecting the Moorish style, and opened its doors anew in 2014. Cross the library portal and again you find yourself in a unique and different environment. The bright colours of the stained glass windows, the domes and the arches will make you believe that you are inside a fable about the past and feel mesmerized by the magic of the ancient world. The preserved frescoes are also worth a look. In the basement you will find a museum that explains the way in which the history of this building in particular reflects that of the city, the country and even the world.
Why world? Well there’s a particular event that took place in Sarajevo that has left a mark on modern history and can be considered as the true beginning of the twentieth century: the First World War. During our history lessons, we were all taught that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand triggered the domino effect that would commence WWI. But few might now however that the Archduke survived a first assassination attempt while on his way to the Vijećnica library. Ultimately, Franz Ferdinand was killed on the Latin bridge, which is still standing and definitely worth the visit for its historical value. The city of Sarajevo has obviously been marked by war. To this very day it remains a sensitive issue. Surely you will notice the Roses of Sarajevo, the wounds of the city caused by gunshots and bombs etched in the city walls, having left a red resin.
The capital has recovered without a doubt. A simple walk around the centre of the city will show you that apart from the reconstruction of its wonderful architecture, the cultural life in its streets, cafes, art galleries, bars, events and bazaars, are all living proof of the warmth and vitality of the city; Bosnia’s charm will accompany you for a long time after having visited it.