In this article we will tell you a bit of history of Sarajevo and what we reccomend you to visit if you have just three days to spend in the city.
A Brief History of Sarajevo:
Although Sarajevo’s valley was inhabited since ancient time, the city itself was founded by the Ottoman Empire in 1450 upon its conquest of the region. The first ottoman governor transformed the cluster of villages into a city by building key structures including a mosque, a public bath and a castle, called “Saray”, which gave the city its present name. Since then, the city grew exponentially until becoming the biggest and the most important settlement of the Ottoman Empire after Istanbul. In 1878 the city fell under the control of the Austria-Hungary empire, which introduced technological developments, such as one of the first tramways in Europe, and enormously developed Sarajevo. On the 28th of June 1914, in the event that triggered World War I, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated in the Bosnian capital but the city largely escaped damages and destructions of the following years and, after the war, Sarajevo was included in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia as a capital of Drina province. During the World War II the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was overrun by German and Italian forces and Sarajevo was heavily bombed by Allies from 1943 to 1944. After the war, Sarajevo, as the capital of the socialist republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina within the socialist federal republic of Yugoslavia, lived one of its most prosperous times and hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics. However, the situation deeply deteriorated during the Bosnian War for independence, when the city lived under siege by the Serbian army for almost 4 years (1992-1996), the longest siege of a capital city in the modern warfare. Today, Sarajevo is a tourist destination where evident signs of war and decaying houses live side by side with modern buildings, creating an almost paradoxical contrast.
We spent just three days in Sarajevo and we opted for a day trip to Mostar on the second one. A local friend recommended us what to see and, of course, we decided to follow his indications. On the very first day, exhausted from the journey from Zagreb, the city welcomed us with a heavy storm that forced us to spend a good hour in the bus station before we could go to the hostel (click here for more information about hostels and transportation). The hostel is strongly recommended but not suitable for light sleepers, since there were parties all nights in the pubs right below our windows. After having slept most of the morning, we went first to the cathedral, which we appreciated way more than the one in Zagreb, and then to Galerija 11/7/95. The latter is an impressive museum about the genocide in Srebrenica founded by Tarik Samarah, who is a war photographer who dedicated most of his life to collect evidences about the events of the Bosnian War. Be prepared, it is really shocking and sad but it’s totally recommended!
In the afternoon, we tried some local delicacies. Baklava, hurmasica and tufahija seem to be the most popular and we strongly recommend you to taste them.
The sugary delicacies gave us the energy to walk until the Avaz tower. Paying a small fee, you can go on top of it and enjoy the view of the city so we did. At night, we went to ćevabdzinica ferhatovic restaurant, whose owner was apparently a famous Yugoslavian football player, to eat ćevapčići. Well, we liked so much this place that we ended up there the night after as well and we were tempted to go there also on the third night….just don’t miss it!
On the second day, early in the morning (there are just two trains: at 7am or 4pm. Click here for more information) we went to Mostar. Even though you can go to Mostar by bus at any time during the day, the 2 hours journey by train (even if it’s early in the morning), is strongly recommended. The train is cheap, comfortable and the landscape outside keeps changing making the view simply spectacular. Mostar is divided between the old town, really pretty and touristic, and the new town, really not touristic and still half destroyed by the Croatian bombs. By mistake, we visited first the new town. It’s not nice but that is the “real” Mostar! There, we also went on top of the minaret of one of the mosques…really nice but not suitable to whoever is scared of heights. After a quick lunch, we came back to Sarajevo by bus and that night we enjoyed a local band playing covers of famous Bosnian songs. You can easily find live music in Sarajevo, another good reason to visit it.
On the third day, we went to Tunel spasa. It is an underground tunnel that for years respresented the only way to escape from the city under siege during the Bosnian War. Getting there by public transport is difficult. We took the tram number 1 from the city centre until the last stop and then a taxi from there onwards. On the way back, we hitch-hiked back to the tram stop and we took a tram to the city centre. However, if you don’t want any hassle you can simply take a taxi from the city centre, it won’t be overly expensive. Tunel spasa, along with Galerija 11/7/95, was, in our opinion one of the most interesting sights in the city. Just visiting it you will realise what the people of Sarajevo went through in the 90’s.
On the way back, we were meant to go to Trebević Vidikovac (famous view point of the city) but we met a couple of guys from Florence and we forgot about it. We drunk a couple of beers with the two guys, we had a good chat and hopefully we will see them again in Florence for the historical football (from now on we support the green ones!). That night we went back to the hostel quite early since we had to pack all our stuff. The day after we were going to Belgrade at 6am and, possibly, from there to Sofia. A girl in the hostel told us that there is a direct bus from Belgrade to Sofia at 2:30pm. Theoretically, we should be in Belgrade at 1pm but we are in Bosnia…timetables are not fully reliable. Let’s see…