Five Weeks in the Former Yugoslovia

Old Jun 20th, 2019, 12:21 PM
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The end: Sarajevo

Again we arrived at our destination in the rain. The clouds had started inching in as we drew near. Our first night was at the Hotel Story, perfectly located in the heart of the Austrian section of the Stari Grad of Sarajevo. Home - Hotel Story - Room, Suite, Restaurant. After depositing our luggage in our spacious room, we went into the rain to explore the immediate area. The town was bustling; we couldn't even get into some restaurants on this Friday evening.

The next day we continued our exploration in light rain. We started at the attractive Roman Catholic Sacred Heart Cathedral with its interior of striped stonework reminiscent of the Sienna Cathedral. Admission was free but no photography was allowed. Up next was the yellow-orange neo-Renaissance building housing the City market. Its been open since 1895 and primarily has smoked meats and cheeses. We sampled our way through it. From there we made our way to the striking Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, definitely worth a visit for both the interior and the exterior. They were preparing for a wedding so we could easily walk in and take quick photos of the jewel box-like interior before getting the bum's rush.

We walked along the river bank to the Despić House dating from 1881. It is an old Serbian merchant house. The house was small but interesting for its glimpse into the lives of wealthy Serbian families of the time. At the house, you could buy a pass that gave entry into 4 other Sarajevo museums. One block further on was the infamous corner where Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria & his morganatic wife, Sofia, were assassinated on 28 June 2014 by Gavrilo Princip. These murders eventually triggered the start of WWI. We then toured the nearby museum documenting the Austrian era in Sarajevo, 1878-1918.

At this point, we needed to return to the Hotel Story, retrieved our stored luggage and moved to our hotel for the next 4 days, the Aziza Hotel. We had a room on the top floor with sweeping views of a large cemetery. Cemeteries became something of a theme during our 5 days in Sarajevo. It was terribly sad. The city had been under Serbian siege for 1,425 days from April 1992 through February 1996. This was the longest siege of a major city in modern times. Evidence of the war was everywhere, but cemeteries with their white headstones were in practically any empty space the city had -- including the former soccer stadium.

The next day at 10:30 we took a 2 hour walking tour with Meet Bosnia https://meetbosnia.com/. Our guide Kiki was excellent. In addition to some new sites, we revisited many of the sites we had seen the previous day, but Kiki added context to much of what we saw. We recommend Meet Bosnia. After the tour ended in Baščaršija, the old Turkish quarter, we scouted about for a lunch place and discovered the fabulous, Nanina Kuhinja, where we ended up eating several times. It was that good. After lunch gottravel wanted to take photos of the jaw-dropping City Hall. Back we went to City Hall and then since it was sort of a clear day, we figured we should go for the cable car ride. Much of the other bank of the river was under construction and we had trouble finding the exact road to lead us up to the cable car. A kindly police officer offered directions, which took us to a long and winding uphill road. We finally found the entrance to the Trebević Cable Car and were soon on our way over the rooftops to the top of the mountain. It takes about 10 minutes and the views over Sarajevo were fantastic -- something that had not gone unnoticed by the Serbs during the siege. The used the mountains as a vantage point for snipers to shoot at people in the city. The cable line was destroyed during the siege and had only reopened just last year.

That evening we made our way up to the yellow fort which was across a chasm from our hotel, but required climbing up the mountain and making a u-turn to reach it. It was the penultimate night of Ramadan. A tradition in Sarajevo is the firing of the cannon every sundown during Ramadan. After having nonalcoholic drinks at a cafe nearby the fort we walked over to hear and see the cannon fired--success!

The next day we had a 2:00 tour, Fall of Yugoslavia with Meet Bosnia. Before the tour we did more exploring on our own. We started at the Old Orthodox Church with its fantastic icon collection. Then in an ecumenical gesture, we moved onto the Jewish Museum & Old Synagogue built in 1581 housed in a beautiful old building with a collection of historic objects providing an overview of Jewish life in Bosnia. We ended the day with the heart-wrenching tour that took us from Serbian positions above the town past locations where mass slaughters had occurred during the siege to graveyards and the infamous tunnel. Our guide was a Bosnian veteran of the siege and provided first-hand details and insights into the country, the politics and the war. The tour cost 25 euros per person. We were only the people so it was effectively a private tour. Highly recommend this tour from Meet Bosnia.

That evening we took a taxi way up in the mountains to have dinner at Kibe Mahala. What a view and what a meal--perfect. Restoran Kibe Mahala - Vrhunska bosanska gastronomija

The next day was an important holiday, Eid al Fitr. Most everything in the town was closed except cafes and restaurants. Everyone spends time with their families. The CIty Hall was open and we enjoyed seeing the elaborate interior and going to the museum downstairs. We had another delicious meal at Nanina Kuhinja Restaurant Nanina Kuhinja, Sarajevo. At some point, we decided to hop on a tram to see where it went. As it turned out, it went far - very, very far. After about an hour we ended up past the airport in a queue of trams in a desolate Communist-era suburb waiting to start the trip back. So we hopped back on a tram, paid again and made our way back to the Stari Grad.

We loved Sarajevo and the memories of the stories and the sights will stay with me for a long time. I wish we had been able to explore the villages in the mountains as I originally planned, but the weather and then the holiday precluded that. I highly recommend a visit to Bosnia. Go before it gets discovered and is swamped with tourists.
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Old Jun 20th, 2019, 04:00 PM
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Orthodox cathedral.

Sarajevo City Hall

Cable car

Mosque, dusk

The former soccer stadium converted to a cemetery.
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Old Jun 20th, 2019, 04:07 PM
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I am going to Bosnia in September and will for sure use your experience to help plan my visit. Thank you for posting in such great detail!
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Old Jun 20th, 2019, 04:17 PM
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Yestravel and gottravel, thank you again for taking the time to share your trip with me in detail. The photos are spectacular too. I very much enjoyed it and hope to visit someday too. I have been apprehensive about visiting Dubrovnik and must admit that I remain so. I don't like taking a long break during the middle part of the day, and there doesn't seem much to do other than mixing with the large crowds. Perhaps going in the off season is an option. Good to know that Sarajevo isn't "discovered" yet; by your description, it is exactly the type of place I would like.
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Old Jun 20th, 2019, 04:21 PM
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Thank you for taking the time to finish your fascinating trip report! I enjoyed reading about Sarajevo. Was the former soccer stadium built for the Olympics? I remember first hearing the name Sarajevo when the 1984 Olympics occurred, and then learned that was where the Archduke and his wife were assassinated, which is what started WWI. And then of course, during the terrible war during the 90's. It sounds like a fascinating place to visit and to learn more about recent history. What is the food like? I assume you flew home from Sarajevo. Are there many flights? And where would you typically connect to fly to the U.S.? Just curious, in the hopes we can visit Bosnia some day.
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Old Jun 20th, 2019, 06:23 PM
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Originally Posted by rialtogrl
I am going to Bosnia in September and will for sure use your experience to help plan my visit. Thank you for posting in such great detail!
You're welcome. I would love to see more of Bosnia. Be interested to hear what you think of it.

"I have been apprehensive about visiting Dubrovnik and must admit that I remain so. I don't like taking a long break during the middle part of the day, and there doesn't seem much to do other than mixing with the large crowds."
tp -- Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. We were only there 2 full days. The one-day midday after lunch we went to the 2 museums which were pretty empty. The 2nd day we did the day trip to Cavtat. I imagine there are other places you can visit or explore. I know you move a bit faster than we now travel, but I think you might be fine for a day and a half at least. I am glad I saw it.

karen -- You're welcome. And thank you for the compliment. I believe soccer is played in the summer Olympics. Sarajevo in 1984 was the Winter Olympics. They do have the bobsled that was built and then used by the Serbs. they are trying to restore it so it can be used again. I remember the war in the 1990's but don't think I ever completely understood what was going on or who the players were. The war was a constant companion with us wherever we traveled this trip. Sarajevo was a fitting end to this journey.
The food was good, probably heavier than what I generally like & meat-centric. But since this came at the end of 5 weeks of pretty much a seafood diet, I welcomed the meatier choices. Some of it seemed like Greek food to me. The Bosnia coffee of which they are rightly proud I really liked.
Yes, we were scheduled to fly on Austrian from Sarajevo to Vienna, but the early am flight was canceled. We ended up on a LU flight into Munich and then on to DC. What I have learned is that flights are often canceled or late out of Sarajevo. Its a small airport and the city is ringed with the mountains, so you can imagine the problems it must have. When I looked at flights the 2 available from & return to DC were either Austrian and LU. I hope you have a great trip and look forward to hearing about it. Happy to answer any questions you may have as your get closer to your departure.


Excellent Bosnian coffee service



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Old Jun 21st, 2019, 12:51 PM
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Yes, thanks for finishing your TR, something I've been known to be quite remiss about.

Great photos and insights into the places you saw; you revived my memories of the places we visited so long ago and piqued my interest in others. Time perhaps to tear myself away from Italy and explore the lands on the other side of the Adriatic.
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Old Jun 21st, 2019, 04:30 PM
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yestravel-So much rain on our trips! BUT...we both knew how to still make the best of it! I would like to go to Sarajevo, especially when you say get there now before the other tourists do! There are not too many of those places left I think! It's funny how we are always a few steps behind you all. One of these days, maybe we will be at the same place at the same time, and we can share a beverage!
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Old Jun 22nd, 2019, 06:47 AM
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Originally Posted by annhig
Yes, thanks for finishing your TR, something I've been known to be quite remiss about.

Great photos and insights into the places you saw; you revived my memories of the places we visited so long ago and piqued my interest in others. Time perhaps to tear myself away from Italy and explore the lands on the other side of the Adriatic.
You get home and the trip quickly becomes a fading memory so doing a TR is not what I want to do. We wanted to do Sarajevo as there is very little on it.

odie -- the weather was the worst we have ever had on a trip for such a long period of time. We'd get sunshine and then leave for a new destination and we'd have the drip & dreary all over again. We enjoyed the trip anyway. Yes, do get to Bosnia. I bet beyond Sarajevo there is much to see that would be interesting and defintely not crowded. It would be nice to run into one another one of these trips. We were sure close this time.



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Old Jun 22nd, 2019, 01:31 PM
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I would like to go to Sarajevo, especially when you say get there now before the other tourists do! There are not too many of those places left I think! >>

not quite on topic but a friend of mine went to Albania last year. Loved it. AirBnB has got there [in this case being "a good thing" as it makes it relatively easy to book reasonable accommodation] and the food is cheap and very good. And the people are extremely friendly and welcoming. And no-one is visiting. Yet.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2019, 05:32 AM
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Originally Posted by annhig
not quite on topic but a friend of mine went to Albania last year. Loved it. AirBnB has got there [in this case being "a good thing" as it makes it relatively easy to book reasonable accommodation] and the food is cheap and very good. And the people are extremely friendly and welcoming. And no-one is visiting. Yet.
I've heard Albania is supposed to be very nice. Macedonia also. They're both on my very long list of places I'd like to get to one of these days.

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Old Jun 23rd, 2019, 07:19 AM
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Thank You for the posting

I have happily been following along....been to many of those places so it was a pleasant picture walk
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Old Jun 23rd, 2019, 01:10 PM
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<<I've heard Albania is supposed to be very nice. Macedonia also. They're both on my very long list of places I'd like to get to one of these days.>>

I've been ruminating recently about a trip to Turkey next fall (sort of promised Otherchelebi we'd do this), coming home via Greece and Macedonia and Albania. Plans in their infancy right now, but I can see putting together a memorable trip. I haven't been to Greece or Turkey since the early 70s, and I've always wanted to visit Albania.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2019, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Percy
Thank You for the posting

I have happily been following along....been to many of those places so it was a pleasant picture walk

Thank you, Percy -- glad it brought back some memories for you.

"I've been ruminating recently about a trip to Turkey next fall (sort of promised Otherchelebi we'd do this), coming home via Greece and Macedonia and Albania. Plans in their infancy right now, but I can see putting together a memorable trip. I haven't been to Greece or Turkey since the early 70s, and I've always wanted to visit Albania."
St Cirq -- we enjoyed a trip to Turkey a few years back. I think we might have even done a TR. OC & Eser are wonderful hosts. I would love to hear about Macedonia & Albania should you decide to go there too.

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Old Jun 25th, 2019, 01:53 PM
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I just came across your trip report and loved the hours I spent on it (to Eser's consternation)
Good choice of shots and great photography a;so.

Just trying to remember what you told us about how and when you decided on your profession or career of "wanderer" with gottravel.
I know you get the rundown from Eser's FB, but should realize that you miss the real thing by following her glitter.
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Old Jun 30th, 2019, 08:20 AM
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Hi OC -- wanderer is the best profession ever--love it! Glitter is good. Glad to see the election results in Istanbul. There is hope yet.
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Old Jul 13th, 2019, 09:00 PM
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What a wonderful trip report, yestravel and gottravel! You've reminded me of many glorious moments (among other things, I, too, loved Korcula and the Gallerji Ivan Mestovic and Zagreb and was deeply moved by my experiences in Sarajevo) and you've reminded me of the many places I had hoped to see, but couldn't fit into the time I had (Osijek in particular). Congratulations for coping with the weather and OMG, surviving the Kamnik Alps, and managing the overly large vehicle on narrow roads used by crazy drivers. (I wish I didn't know how that felt!) Thanks for sharing your experiences so evocatively.
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Old Jul 14th, 2019, 04:44 PM
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Originally Posted by kja
What a wonderful trip report, yestravel and gottravel! You've reminded me of many glorious moments (among other things, I, too, loved Korcula and the Gallerji Ivan Mestovic and Zagreb and was deeply moved by my experiences in Sarajevo) and you've reminded me of the many places I had hoped to see, but couldn't fit into the time I had (Osijek in particular). Congratulations for coping with the weather and OMG, surviving the Kamnik Alps, and managing the overly large vehicle on narrow roads used by crazy drivers. (I wish I didn't know how that felt!) Thanks for sharing your experiences so evocatively.
Thanks for your nice comments, kja.
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Old Oct 21st, 2020, 02:15 AM
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yestravel, I am topping your report because I just read it again after you posted a link on another thread. It is such a great report. Can you believe how we were annoyed with weather, when we did not know what was coming the following year.. I just spend three weeks in Kotor, and now realize from reading your report, how lucky I was to have Perast completely to myself and to not have to see any cruise ship in Kotor Bay. I really liked Cetinje, I visited the museum of King Nikola where the curator gave me a tour (I did not ask for it, he was obviously eager to share his knowledge and I was grateful.) For the first week it was rain, rain and more rain.. just like last year... but watching the storms come in over the Bay of Kotor was something I will never forget. I am going to try to get to continental Croatia too and will use your posts as I plan. I hope topping this will give hope to people who want to travel, as at the moment entry to both Croatia and Montenegro is open to US citizens with a negative test.
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Old Oct 21st, 2020, 06:00 AM
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Originally Posted by rialtogrl
yestravel, I am topping your report because I just read it again after you posted a link on another thread. It is such a great report. Can you believe how we were annoyed with weather, when we did not know what was coming the following year.. I just spend three weeks in Kotor, and now realize from reading your report, how lucky I was to have Perast completely to myself and to not have to see any cruise ship in Kotor Bay. I really liked Cetinje, I visited the museum of King Nikola where the curator gave me a tour (I did not ask for it, he was obviously eager to share his knowledge and I was grateful.) For the first week it was rain, rain and more rain.. just like last year... but watching the storms come in over the Bay of Kotor was something I will never forget. I am going to try to get to continental Croatia too and will use your posts as I plan. I hope topping this will give hope to people who want to travel, as at the moment entry to both Croatia and Montenegro is open to US citizens with a negative test.
Hi, so nice you are getting to travel afar. I appreciated all the help you gave me for our trip last spring. Glad you found my TR to be useful.
Yea, rain seems trivial compared to The issues in 2020. We also loved watching the storms from our apt in Kotor, a beautiful area. Had we nit just been to Croatia we might have ventured there this year, who knows? We’ve been doing some lovely domestic trips exploring the regions not far from our home.
Enjoy yourself.
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