Sarajevo & Mostar

Posted by on Jun 28, 2015 in Bosnia, Europe, Featured, Travel | 2 comments

Sarajevo & Mostar

I didn’t know what to expect from Bosnia and Hercegovina (or just Bosnia as it is more commonly known), but I discovered it is a truly beautiful country with stunning landscapes and a lot of history.

The Ottoman empire reigned for approximately 400 years, and the Turkish influence is particularly evident in Bosnian cuisine like cevapi, burek, and traditional style Turkish coffee.

The Austro-Hungarian influence is also very noticeable in much of the architecture across the city, despite the fact that their occupation only lasted 40 years.

The 'Eternal Flame' in Sarajevo

The ‘Eternal Flame’ in Sarajevo, a WWII memorial

After WWI Bosnia became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (later called just Yugoslavia), and it was decided there would be no investment or development in Bosnia, so during the 1920s and 1930s there was no infrastructure and the “Art Deco” era does not exist here.

In 1941 Yugoslavia was invaded by Germany and Bosnia was occupied by the Nazis.  The 12,000 strong Jewish population of Sarajevo was severely diminished, and today there is estimated to be only about 600.

1945 to 1992 saw socialist Yugoslavia under the rule of Tito.  However the death of Tito in 1980 caused serious problems for Yugoslavia.  Tito was said to be like the “glue” holding the states together, and after his death it all fell apart.

In March 1992 Bosnia held a referendum asking the people whether or not they wanted to be a republic and independent from Yugoslavia.  The referendum was boycotted by the Serbs, but of the population who did vote (mainly the Bosniaks and Croats) almost all voted in favour.

In April 1992 the Serbian army launched open warfare on Sarajevo.  The civil war would go on to last three years with over 100,000 people killed, the scars of which still run deep today.

The ‘Dayton Agreement’ was eventually agreed upon in 1995 which entitled the Serbs to ‘Repubika Srpska’, areas along the north and the east of Bosnia that are technically part of the country but have their own constitution and legislative powers etc.

Walking the streets evidence of the civil war is everywhere.  Almost every building in Sarajevo has what I first assume are bullet holes, but later learn are shrapnel damage.  Surrounded by mountains, the Serbian army didn’t need to actually enter Sarajevo but simply based themselves up in the hills and rained down on the city.

 

Typical shrapnel damage seen on buildings

Typical shrapnel damage seen on buildings

 

A Sarajevo Rose

A Sarajevo Rose

 

‘Sarajevo Roses’ are often seen underfoot, explosion damage in the concrete that has been filled with red resin to denote that more than three people were killed on that spot, a constant reminder of the bloodshed that took place.

There is also no swarm of tourists, even though the war ended nearly twenty years ago it is still fresh in peoples minds, and for many it is all they think of when they hear the name Bosnia.

There is still tension felt by locals, particularly for those who lost family members.  Our guide who lived through the war as a young boy says his motto is to “forgive, but don’t forget”.

 

Sarajevo

Our first stop is Sarajevo, the capital city.  We drive there from Kotor in Montenegro, a long but beautiful drive through stunning rural terrain of mountain ridges and cascading river canyons, with small farmer houses and medieval castles dotted along the way.

We stay at Old Town Accommodation, essentially a private house with rooms run by a friendly mother and son.  An easy five minute walk from the old town it’s a convenient location, and our room is clean and comfortable.

A walking tour of the city gives us a comprehensive overview of the city, our guide Neno is extremely knowledgable and passionate about his city.  We hear about his life growing up in Sarajevo, including living in the basement of his building from age 4-7 during the civil war.  Throughout this time there was no gas, electricity or petrol, and he would often go days without eating.

 

Local men enjoying a game of chess

Local men enjoying their daily game of chess

 

We walk to many sites, including the Latin Bridge, specifically to the nearby spot where Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in 1914, ultimately triggering WWI.  Following the assassination Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, with Germany (allied to Austria-Hungary) then joining.  A small plaque on the wall commemorates the spot where the assassination took place, and a museum offers more information and insight into the event.

The food in Bosnia is predominantly made up of meat, dairy and pastry, so not to my taste at all, but Wayne was in absolute heaven!  His top recommendations are burek (baked pastry with meat filling, kind of like a sausage roll) from Buregdzinica Bosna and cevapi (small meat sausages served in a flatbread with chopped white onions and sauce) from Cevabdzinica Zeljo.

 

Turkish coffee, and baklava

Turkish coffee, tufahija and baklava at Kuca Sevdaha

 

When you need an espresso head straight to Ort Cafe, the barista is friendly and knows what he’s doing, and the setting is really chilled and relaxed.  For a traditional style coffee and piece of baklava Kuca Sevdaha offers up a nice courtyard area.  They also serve tufahija here, a typical Bosnian sweet dish made of a peeled green apple filled with chopped walnuts and honey, topped with cream.

Our time in Sarajevo was short and sweet, but before we knew it, it was time to see Mostar!

 

The drive from Sarajevo to Mostar

Taken along the drive from Sarajevo to Mostar

 

Mostar

We drive from Sarajevo to Mostar, another beautiful trip through the mountains and only about two and a half hours.  Mostar is a small but postcard perfect riverside town, and the sights can been seen in a day.

 

Mostar

Magical Mostar

 

We stay at Teo’s, a similar setup to where we stayed in Sarajevo as again it’s more of a private house than hostel.  Teo welcomes us with shots of his homemade cherry infused liquor, points out everything we should see on the map and tells us where is good to eat.

The musala area is less touristy than the old town, and seems to be where the locals have their espressos in the morning sun.

We enjoy a wine on the rooftop at Terasa and watch the sun go down over the old town, the view so enchanting it’s as if we dropped ourselves into a painting.  The beautiful Stari Most (Old Bridge) is the centre of the backdrop, the stone arch reflecting the golden glow of sunset.

The original bridge was built from 1557 to 1566, however it was sadly destroyed in 1993 during the civil war.  The bridge we admire now is actually a replica built in 2004.

 

Enjoying a glass of wine with in the background

Enjoying a glass of wine at Terasa with Stari Most in the background

 

We watch on bemused as a local man busks for money to jump off the bridge into the river below, we overhear someone nearby explain that they usually jump once they reach 50 euro.  He does indeed end up jumping, after slathering his body in vaseline.

When ready to eat we head to Tima-Irma in the old town, where Wayne and our friend Myles share the meat platter.  It’s massive and satisfies the hungry boys, the plate has cevapi, steak, pork, chicken fillet, chicken skewers, pita bread and salad toppings.

Irma (who owns and runs the place) is the most efficient person I’ve ever seen at a restaurant.  She’s the only person on the floor and manages to allocate tables, take all the orders, bring out the food and drinks, prepares the bills, and does it all with genuine warmth and friendliness.

 

One of many abandoned buildings in Mostar

One of many abandoned buildings in Mostar

 

We leave Mostar and head off on our drive to our next stop – Split, Croatia.

On the way we stop in at Blagaj, a small riverside village area that’s quite pretty but set up just for tourists.  Further along we also make a stop at Kravica Waterfall on the Trebizat river, where you can go for a refreshing swim or soak up the sun.

 

Waterfall

Kravica Waterfall

 

I had a great time in Bosnia (other than the cuisine!) and would definitely recommend a visit.  Sarajevo has more to offer than Mostar, so if you’re only going to one spot make it the capital.

2 Comments

  1. Thank you Emma! I really enjoyed reading about your experience in Bosnia. If you have time, you should go to Budva (Montenegro). You would be fascinated and it would be a worthwhile experience. Stay true to yourself and cherish your memories along the way. Yelena Bojanic xoxo

    • Thanks Yelena, we had a wonderful time in Bosnia, such a beautiful country!
      Didn’t get to Budva, but we did spend four days in Kotor which was amazing!! If you’re interested you can check out my post on Kotor here: http://www.memoriesnotdreams.com/kotor/
      xx

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