WE CREATED A GUIDE TO SARAJEVO THAT STILL STANDS STRAIGHT DESPITE ALL THE GRIEF, WHERE TURKISH AND OTTOMAN TRADITIONS, DYNAMISM, DIFFERENT CULTURES AND FAITHS CAN EXIST TOGETHER.
If the marks of a city make it a city, then Sarajevo must be apt to this promise. The capital of Bosnia Herzegovina has made a stand for leaving all the sorrow behind since the civil war between 1992 and 1995. As you walk on its streets, you will deliver the fact that this popular destination of the Balkans was successful at this reach from grief to resurrection. Although, Sarajevo refers to the past often, this city never lets today and the future go out of its hands. Sarajevo that has been referred as “Jerusalem of Europe” is a city that becomes familiar as you get to know it by means of its history, which carries the characteristics of a life lesson, Turkish and Ottoman traditions that make one feel their presence strongly, its young dynamism, and its ambience where different cultures and faiths can exist together. We created a guide to Sarajevo that still stands straight despite all the grief it has been through. Read our article to understand how a city that was one of the world’s most dangerous places to visit during the 90s has become a popular touristic destination. This resilient city of the Balkans is worth learning about it.
Ever lively Başçarşı, located at the heart of the city, bares the marks of the Ottoman with its traditional wooden shops, restaurants, and cafes. At the very entrance, the city’s symbol Başçarşı Fountain welcomes you. It was built in the 18th century by the order of Governor Hacı Mehmet Pasha. The fountain that resembles the public fountains in İstanbul has a dome with wooden engravings. This place is also known as the Güvercin (pigeon) Square because of the pigeons that crowd the square all the time. You come across on Başçarşı streets to shops that keep alive the traditional crafts such as wooden and copper engraving, as well as inns, madrasahs, the mosque that was built by the order of Gazi Hüsrev Bey, and many other significant structures. At the Başçarşı, where you would love to visit over and over again, the Clock Tower that was ordered to be built by Gazi Hüsrev Bey, the Gazi Hüsrev Bey Mosque made by Mimar Sinan, the Gazi Hüsrev Bey Madrasah that used to have a library, which consisted of fifty thousand books in the Ottoman period and also known as the Kurşunlu Madrasah, the Moriça Inn, which is popular with its cafes and shops that sell items such as authentic carpets, the indoor bazaar Brusa Bezistan, which was built in 1551 by the order of Rüstem Pasha to market Bursa silk take place. Many alternatives are available here to taste the traditional Cevapi (meatballs) and Burek (Bosnian pastry).
City Hall (the National Library)
Vijecnica (1898) with its arched façade, dating from the Austro-Hungarian period, is the most beautiful structure of the city and it is the demonstration of the city’s resurrection. The building that was damaged seriously during the siege in 1990 was reopened after a thorough restoration in 2014. When the heir to the throne, Franz Ferdinand, and his spouse Sophie were assassinated in 1914, they were on their way back from this place. The Serbs bombed the structure, which was turned into the National Library after 1949, in August 1992. Ninety percent of the books that belonged to the Bosnian literature and a collection of irreplaceable codices were lost. An exhibit that consists of books dating from the period between 1914 and 1981 takes place at the lower floor.
The Latin Bridge
The bridge, dating from the Ottoman period, that connects the two sides of the Miljacka River across the National Library has a significance, which should not be underestimated, for the city and the world. Among the city’s symbols, the Latin Bridge was the background to the assassination of crown prince Franz Ferdinand and his spouse Sophie by Gavrilo Princip, who was a member of Young Bosnia Organization that claims the governing power should be Serbia, in 1914. The Austro-Hungarian Empire ruled Bosnia Herzegovina at the time. Their assassination sparked a series of events that eventually led to the First World War.
The Horse Square Park
It is a great pleasure to walk along the front of Milijacka River in Sarajevo. Slave trade and executions used to take place at the Horse Square Park once upon a time, in addition to horse trade and races. The music mansion at the park where you can often see people who sit on the benches to watch the river was built in 1913; however, it was damaged during the Second World War.
If you would like to look at the Sarajevo’s panoramic scenery filled with red rooftops from above, the best angle would be the hill named Žuta Tabija, where the castle bastion dating from 1809 takes place. The location is also popular among the picnic lovers. The artillery shootings at the end of the Ramadan are made at this hill.
Bosnia Herzegovina National Museum
The oldest museum in the region is the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina (1888) built during the Austro-Hungarian period. The most famous work in the museum that was damaged during the war is a manuscript of great importance to Jews, known as the Sarajevo Haggadah and brought to Bosnia by a family of Sephardic Jews that was exiled from Spain. According to some rumors, the work was hidden in the house of a Muslim family or in the floor of a mosque in Bjelasnica to avoid harm in World War II. Brought back to the museum in 1945, the work was hidden in a bank vault during the war between 1992-1995. The museum has archeology, ethnology, natural sciences, and library departments as well as a botanical garden.
Restored faithfully, it is a typical Ottoman period house of the 17th century. This wooden house, surrounded by vines, makes it easy to imagine the past Sarajevo life. You can take a guided tour of the house that has separate sections for men (selamlık) and women (haremlik) and listen to the stories about the house.
Alifakovac Muslim Cemetery
Many graveyards in Sarajevo have been turned into martyrs’ cemetery after the civil war. The cemetery in the Alifakovac area along the Milijacka River is one of them. On this hill are the graves of Sarajevo’s famous leader Aliya Izzetbegovic and 1700 martyrs. On many of the gravestones, the year of the war, which is 1993, is written as the date of death.
The House of Stubbornness (Inat Kuca)
The sign on the front of a house by the river reads, “I used to stand on the other side, but I moved to this place out of stubbornness.” This note is a good example of Bosnian stubbornness. This interesting place in Sarajevo arouses curiosity. The house has a story: In the 19th century, the Austro-Hungarian Empire occupied Sarajevo, destroying the city’s buildings for power, and replacing them with magnificent state buildings. Their intention was to make an unrivaled city hall in the Balkans. He chose the edge of the Miljacka River to build the structure but found out that a house, which belonged to Benderija, a native of Sarajevo, was located there. Benderija did not let them demolish his house but required them to move it to the other shore. Today, the house called “The House of Stubbornness” is a restaurant that has been offering Bosnian food since 1997.
The Eternal Fire Memorial (Vjecna Vatra), located at the beginning of Ferhadija Street, closed to traffic, and erected for the liberation of Sarajevo in the World War II, was made in memory of soldiers and civilians who lost their lives during the war.
Tunnel of Hope (Life)
In order to understand the war experiences of Sarajevo and its people in the 1990s, you should visit the Tunnel of Hope. The most impressive part of the museum is the 25 meter section of the tunnel, which is dug by hand and 1 meter wide and 1,6 meters high. This tunnel, just beneath the airport floor, was one of the most critical points for the Bosnian during the Bosnian War. During the 1992-95 Serbian siege, this last area, known as Butmir, dominated by the Bosnian people was the breath of life that extended to the outside world. However, there was an airport runway that stretched between Butmir and the rest of the city. Although, this region was neutral and controlled by the United Nations, it was suicide to pass through it during the war. As a solution, a tunnel of 800 meters, which allowed the transportation of food and ammunition under the runway, was opened and railed here. The 960-meter-long tunnel, which was made by Bosnian volunteers during consecutive eight-hour shifts, allowed the city to survive four years of siege. The restored part of the tunnel gains more meaning with an interesting museum that is established in a house that has been exposed to gun fire, hiding the entrance to a tunnel, a video that consists of archive images, and a mine field.
RENTING A CAR
Compared to many destinations in Europe, you can rent cars at extremely affordable prices and get support throughout your journey: OQLA d.o.o (+387 61227004, offers services also in Turkish).
Balkan Tours (www.balkanstours.com) organizes tours for the ones who want to explore the Balkan culture and geography.