There are many places on earth with amazing views, natural wonders, architectural marvels and rich history. While it’s no Paris, Sarajevo has all these and more.
What Paris lacks, however, and the Sarajevans have in abundance, is warm hospitality.
The people of Sarajevo are happy to be alive, grateful for what they have, generous to a fault, and welcoming to all. They say that a man’s wealth is not measured by his material belongings but rather in his friendships.
In Sarajevo, where everyone makes you feel like a friend, they take this maxim seriously.
A Wounded Past
Why is being nice such a big deal? Just look at how much they have to be angry about…
During the Yugoslavian war in the 90’s, the Serbians laid siege to Sarajevo for nine long months. Many people lost their lives and those who didn’t, lost friends and family. Everyone suffered.
Wounds of the war can still be seen in a handful of places. One of the most famous, the Sarajevo Tunnel, has been turned into a museum worth visiting.
Credit: Nigel’s Europe
United They Stood
During the siege, Serbian forces completely cut off supplies from the city. Hungry citizens joined together in digging a tunnel to the Sarajevo airport, held by the United Nations. The Tunnel was just over a half mile long (960m) and allowed humanitarian aid to pass through, including 20 million tons of food.
The old town still bears the scars of that atrocious war.
Bullet holes can be found on a few buildings and holes in the ground betray where mortar shells landed. The war ended just 17 years ago, yet when you meet the locals, you would never be able to ascertain the suffering these humorous, inquisitive and open minded people went through.
Sarajevo: A City of Compassion
The present city of Sarajevo was founded in 1450 by the Ottoman Empire, though people have been inhabiting the area since ancient times. Nicknamed the “European Jerusalem”, it has long been famous for its religious tolerance.
Take a walk though Sarajevo’s Stari Grad (old town), and you will pass a mosque, synagogue, catholic and orthodox church, all existing in peaceful harmony within 500 feet (150m) of each other.
Credit: Simonetta Di Zanutto
Old Town Welcome
During your visit spend some time exploring Stari Grad and its cobble stone streets. Stop to enjoy a delicious lunch and experience the wonderful service. Sarajevo is a coffee society with excellent café’s too.
Don’t be surprised if curious locals strike up a conversation with you and ask personal questions. It’s completely natural to them, they like to make strangers feel like they are at home. Which is why this is such a wonderful city to visit.
If Belgrade [under Ottoman rule] was all martial punch, Sarajevo expressed the Ottoman instinct for gentle hospitality. It was in Sarajevo that the camel caravans from Anatolia and beyond terminated. The Sarajevans were widely noted for their gentleness and their learning. – Jason Goodwin, Lords of the Horizons
When To Go
The best time to visit Sarajevo is between April and October.
Sarajevo’s climate exhibits influences of oceanic, humid continental and humid subtropical zones, with four seasons. July is the hottest month with 71°F (22°C) average temperature.
Getting There & Around
Sarajevo Airport (SJJ) is located 4 miles (6km) from the city center. Take bus 36, or a taxi to the city.
- Mid-range accommodations: $60-120
- Meals: $5-15
- Beer: $2
- Visit the Latin Bridge where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated.
- Go to the Bosna River’s source, just at the outskirts of Sarajevo. This area is at the foothills of the Mount Igman where nearly 300 small streams converge.
- Try a traditional restaurant and don’t miss “suho meso with kajmak” (smoked beef with a kind of butter).
- Organize a pickup for your arrival. Many accommodations offer this service and it’s usually free or at a very minimal cost.
- Believe your taxi driver. The scam goes like this: unsuspecting tourist will be taken to a more expensive hotel and the driver and receptionist will swear that the new arrival is in fact in the right place.
- Go to a hotel if you can help it. Private rooms, or “Sobe” are available in Sarajevo and comes with local knowledge and warm hospitality.
- Miss a guided tour, it’s highly recommended in Sarajevo. The local guide will tell you many personal stories (about war time) on top of the historical facts.
- Sarajevo has been going through a post-war reconstruction, and is the fastest growing city in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
- In 1885 Sarajevo was the first city in Europe and the second city (after San Francisco) in the world to have a full-time electric tram network running through the city.
- The city hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics.
Feature Image Credit tm-tm