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 he 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 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 (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!
After the museum, with a deep sense of sadness, we went for some food. We then tried local delicacies, among which baklava, hurmasica and tufahija seem to be the most popular.
The sugary delicacies gave us the energy to walk until the Avaz tower where we went on top and enjoyed the view of the city. 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….don’t miss it!
On the second day, early in the morning (there are just two trains either at 7am or 4pm) we went to Mostar. I know, it’s not nice getting up at 6am but the 2 hours journey by train is really nice and the view is 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…nice, really nice but are you scared of heights? Then don’t go! After a quick lunch, we came back to Sarajevo by bus where we went to our favourite restaurant and enjoyed a local band playing covers of famous Bosnian songs.
On the third day, laziness took over and we spent most of the morning in bed. After good 10 hours in bed, we went to Tunel spasa, the only way to escape from the city under siege during the Bosnian War.
On the way back, while we were deciding in front of a beer whether to go to Trebević Vidikovac (famous view point of the city) by cable car or not, we met a couple of guys from Florence. Once again laziness took over. We forgot about the panoramic view, we had another beer, we had a good chat and we will see them again in Florence for the historical football (from now on we support the green ones!). After a fake pizza in a local restaurant, we then went back to the hostel since we had to pack our stuff. The day after at 6am, we were going to Belgrade 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 are meant to be in Belgrade at 1pm but we are in Bosnia, not in Switzerland, timetables are not reliable. Let’s see…