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Sarajevo in the springtime. julia_t makes a return trip.

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Apr 14th, 2011, 10:01 AM
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Sarajevo in the springtime. julia_t makes a return trip.

After my mini road-trip through western Bosnia & Herzegovina last year I wanted to spend some more time in Sarajevo. While planning my return, my ex-mother-in-law – Mo - and I were talking about travel, and one thing led to another, and it was agreed that she would join me on this trip.

We flew from London Gatwick with Malev. There are no direct flights from the UK, and this was the quickest option, with a 50 minute layover and change of plane in Budapest. Total travel time LGW-SAR was 4 hours 10 minutes. The flights were uneventful and we landed 2.30pm local time. We didn’t check any bags, but this didn’t save any time as by the time we’d gone through security everyone else’s bags were waiting.

There is now a bus that runs from the airport to the central bus station, but I am told it tends to be unreliable. A taxi should cost in the region of 30KM (15 euros) though I have heard one should be very careful with using taxis, making sure the meter is switched on and that the driver is clear where you want to go.

I had arranged a guided tour for later in the week, and the young man who takes the tours offers airport pickups for 10 euros if you are taking the tour. His brother met us and drove us into town in a smart Mercedes 4WD.

Although there is a reciprocal currency agreement with 2 Bosnian marks (KM) being worth 1 euro, there is virtually nowhere in town that accepts euros as payment this year. The exception is hotels which will take euros as cash, and many of the tours are quoted in euros and will accept either currency. Also Bosnian marks cannot be obtained or used outside the country.

I had originally booked an apartment in the Austro-Hungarian quarter, though still right in the centre on Strossmajerova, and close to the Cathedral. A couple of weeks before we left I had an email telling me the apartment would no longer be available as there were problems with the heating. All other available apartments were either too far out of the centre or only had one bedroom and a sofa bed. Although most apartments are priced around 50-60 euros, we really wanted 2 bedrooms.

Luckily the lovely little hotel where I stayed last year had 2 rooms free for our dates, and offered them at 50 euros for single occupancy. This is the Hotel Safir, http://www.hotelsafir.ba/engleski/index.php in a terrific location 100m from the Sebili Fountain in the heart of the Bascarsija. The hotel only has 8 rooms and the staff are marvellous. Fatima, Elma and Amra are all so helpful and cannot do enough to help. The place is spotless, the showers are hot and powerful, the sheets and towels are changed daily, and my only quibble is that the towels are a bit on the small side. Most rooms have a small kitchen area, and they all have a mini-bar (very reasonable prices!). The television has something like 50 channels with lots of English speaking ones. Interestingly, all the other guests we met there were fellow Europeans who work in Sarajevo with the EU or UN. They have been staying here regularly for several years. One Danish man stays for 3 weeks every month. Breakfast is excellent, with home-baked bread, cereals, cold meats and cheeses, honey and jam, yoghurt. You can also have eggs, scrambled, fried or an omelette. Plus coffee, a wide selection of teas, and fruit juice.

Once we’d dumped our bags and freshened up, we walked down into the Bascarsija, and stopped at Hodzic 2 for cevapi and a Sarajevski beer (from the brewery just across the river). Then we just wandered through the streets of the old town. The main through-street, known as Saraci, was being dug up and pipes being laid, so we tended to avoid this street – I have a tendency to turn my ankles on uneven surfaces (indeed I had an ankle strapped up at the time) - but it was easy enough to find another route. This afternoon was surprisingly hot, 26 degrees. All the online weather forecasts I’d looked at had only prepared me for heat of 16-18 degrees! So I’d packed long-sleeved t-shirts! We returned to the hotel late afternoon, following a stop at a café which is between 2 streets, with scarlet chair covers with coca-cola logos under the shade of scarlet coca-cola logo-ed parasols and trees just coming into leaf. It’s a very pleasant place to sit and people watch. I think it is called Kobalana. Maybe Kolabana. Either way it is hard to miss if you are walking through the Bascarsija.

Last year I’d not been particularly impressed with either of my evening meals in the city, so I had made sure to do some restaurant research this time. Tonight we headed west into the Austro-Hungarian quarter, turning up behind the Cathedral and Markale market into Ulica Dzenitica Cikma. Here we found Karuso. The owner – Sasha – is also the cook, waiter, wine pourer, washer-up. He does it all himself so service is not quick. You have to be prepared to settle in for a few hours here. There are only 7 tables inside and a couple outside. Sasha’s motto is painted above the stairs to the kitchen – Life is too short to eat anywhere else but at Karuso. The cuisine here is traditional Bosnian, based on fish and vegetables (but meat eaters need not fear, it is on the menu too!)

Still fairly full from cevapi, we only ordered a main course each. We chose off the daily specials board – and we both ordered vegetarian. Mushroom risotto and a wholewheat pancake with eggplant, butternut squash and puy lentils. Both were absolutely fabulous! With 3 large glasses of a very pleasant local red wine from Trebinje, the bill was 56 KM (28 euros). Here we met an Englishman who lives in Sarajevo while working for the Foreign Office, and the Danish man who ‘lives’ at the Hotel Safir while working in the city. He spends weekends on the coast and had just returned from Dubrovnik.

We ambled back to the hotel. I slept amazingly well. So too did Mo, who is suffering quite badly with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome while she waits for an operation in May.
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Apr 15th, 2011, 03:48 AM
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I am very glad to see that your trip started out so well and that you liked your hotel. I look forward to reading the rest of your trip report.

Coincidentally, my copy of The Girl in the Film arrived yesterday and I am reading about Sarajevo (for other readers this is a novel by Charlotte Eagar who was a journalist in BiH during the war--recommended by Julia_t on her other trip report thread)
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Apr 15th, 2011, 07:30 AM
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Thank you so much for this, Julia. Your reports and comments about Croatia and Bosnia have been invaluable to me in planning our upcoming trip -- which includes 4 nights in Sarajevo.

Keep it coming! Can't wait to read the rest.
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Apr 15th, 2011, 10:27 AM
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Thank you for your comments.

Vttraveler, I hope you enjoy the book. I didn't find it an easy read, but as I wrote before "I found it riveting, and profoundly moving, almost disturbing, but still recommend it for anyone who has any feeling for this city and its people".

NanBug, I'm happy you have gained some useful information from my reports. To know that makes the effort of remembering stuff (I am not a diarist or note taker) and writing it down worthwhile. 4 days is a really good length of time to spend in Sarajevo. BiH is a gloriously beautiful country (unfortunately I noticed a great deal of litter along the roadsides and riverbanks this time, but once the trees are in full leaf this will not be so visible). When are you going and where else are you visiting?

I also did a day trip by bus to Mostar and took a day to go out to Kraljeva Sutjeska - I'll get to posting about them in due course! In the meantime I just wrote a little more about our first full day, which I'll post shortly, and although I'm working tomorrow will get some more done this weekend.
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Apr 15th, 2011, 10:53 AM
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It was raining the next morning, and much cooler. After a good night’s sleep, and a delicious breakfast, we headed out armed with umbrellas. Well, I had an umbrella, Mo had brought a transparent plastic poncho thing, like what you wear on the water rides at theme parks. She said she had bought it in Rome. Hmmm. I’m not sure she will wear it again if she is travelling with me – I could not hide my appalled amusement when she produced it from her handbag!

Most places/sites in Sarajevo do not open until 10am, but the Olympic Museum opens at 9am, so we were going here first.

We stopped at a tisak (wooden kiosk) and bought a tram pass – valid for10 rides, for 12.80KM (6.40 euros). The tram stops are just down from the Hotel Safir, and all the trams stop here (the stop is Bascarsija). Because we planned to get off at the Kosevo stop it didn’t matter which one we took. When we got off, we walked up the hill (Alipasina) to find a trolleybus stop to take us up the hill to the Olympic Museum. I had thought that the pass would be like other city travel passes and also allow us on buses and trolleybuses, but not so, it was only for trams. Anyway, when we got on the trolley bus we realised this. I asked ‘koliko kosta’ but we had a communication breakdown, so I just held out some coins. The driver waved them away, so we had a free ride up the hill to the Jezero stop. This was actually too high up the hill, so we had to walk back down. The correct stop should have been the Zetra one. Here was the football stadium for FC Sarajevo, the training pitches, and the back of the Zetra Olympic Hall.

http://www.visitsarajevo.ba/sightsee...ympics-museum/

We eventually found our way round the building to the entrance to the museum. It is a huge building, where the ice skating took place. British couple Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean won the pairs with a perfect score for their Bolero routine, and Scott Hamilton won gold in the mens figure skating.

I’d read an article published in the Washington Post earlier this year, the link posted originally by vttraveler…
http://www.cultureindevelopment.nl/N...ong-lost_flame

Yes, it is true that when you enter the lights are out, and Edin Numankadic rushes around switching them on. He was busy on the phone for much of our visit, which was a shame because I would have like to have spoken to him having visited an exhibition of his installation art last year. Actually I felt the museum to be a sad place. I felt that while they have managed to assemble a considerable amount of relics and memorabilia from that time, and that is an achievement in itself, there was still so much more that could have been made of this – but then perhaps there was no more to be found to make something more. Either way, it made me sad. However there is also a considerable collection of contemporary art in the form of paintings and sculptures which is very interesting and intriguing, much of it dating from around 1984, and the rest in the 1990s.

We left and went a different way down the hill, on the other side of the cemetery. We hopped on a bus down the hill, 1.60KM (.80 eurocents) for a single ticket, and then took a tram back to the Bascarsija. It was barely 11am, and we went to Morica Han, an ancient Ottoman coaching inn, for a coffee.

There is a ritual to drinking Bosnian coffee which I was too timid and unsure of myself to try on my last visit, but this time with Mo in tow, I decided to try. Now I am not a coffee drinker as a rule, though I do like a nice latte and own a Nespresso machine to make my own at home. I can drink an occasional cappuccino but often find them too strong.

We ordered two Bosnian coffees. They arrive in a copper pot called a dzezva (pronounced jezva). Also on the tray will be a china cup called a fildzan (filjan). You stir the coffee in the dzezva until the top turns creamy. The grounds sink to the bottom, so only pour the top ¾ or so into the fildzan. I like to pour onto a sugar cube, but others dip the sugar cube into the coffee and eat it. If the cup is in a copper holder don’t pick this up, this stays on the table and you just pick up the cup (by the rim as it will be very hot). Any candies or Turkish delights are eaten as sweets, not dipped or dunked. I confess I always asked for milk with the coffee, I couldn’t drink it black, but I surprised myself by really liking it. Cost was 2KM (1 euro) each. I went to visit the toilet (a perfectly normal one here, if not quite as clean as I would prefer) and when I returned Mo announced she had just seen a large rat under a neighbouring table. She had stamped her foot at it and it had scarcely moved – obviously well accustomed to humans then!

We walked up the hill behind in search of Svrzina Kuca – a traditional Ottoman house.dating from the 18th century. 2KM (1 euro) entry fee. I found this very interesting and on a sunny day the balconies and enclosed garden would be delightful to sit in. From here we wandered down into the town again, stopping into the Saborna Crkva, the largest Orthodox church in Sarajevo. We felt in need of some sustenance by this time, so we proceeded to ASDZ on Mali Curcilik where I’d eaten lunch before. Here you choose what you want to eat from the counter, then sit and your food is brought to you. It is inexpensive, there is lots of choice from hearty meaty stews to stuffed vegetables and salads. Lots of local people eat here, and a big plus – very nice toilets.

In a moment of madness I did think of subtitling this trip report along the lines of ‘a tale of squat toilets’ but decided against it! However I did encounter more than a few this time, and will post warnings of where to find them (or avoid them) for future visitors to this lovely country to bear in mind (and maybe work on some thigh strengthening exercises before travelling LOL!).
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Apr 16th, 2011, 02:19 PM
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Hi, Julia ~

We're not sure when we'll go -- maybe this (late) fall or early spring of '12 -- definitely in the off-season, due to our work schedules. It certainly can't come soon enough, I'm chomping at the bit!

As it's planned now, the trip is the usual circuit: Fly into Sarajevo (4 nights); Mostar (2); Split / Trogir (2); Korcula (3); Dubrovnik (4) -- fly home from DBV.

I'm loving your report! Can't wait to read the rest. Thanks again for taking the time to post it.
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Apr 17th, 2011, 03:41 AM
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After lunch we walked the short distance to Princip’s Bridge or Latinska Cupriva where the assassination of the Emperor Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophia occurred in 1914, and we also visited the small museum there.

This part of town has many elegant Austro-Hungarian buildings and houses. Although many show very visible signs of war damage, there is no denying that a century ago this must have been the most glorious place. There would have been no ugly 60’s concrete blocks or grim Tito-esque architecture along the river or up in the hills. It takes a stretch of the imagination to try to picture these Austro-Hungarian buildings in all their original magnificence along the riverside here, with the steep hills sloping down, unspoilt by the fairly unattractive 20th century buildings now clustered upon them.

I also find it sobering to walk around the town, looking up to those hills, in the knowledge that just 15-18 years ago, if a person could see the hills then the snipers on the hills could see them too.

These days in early April are quite momentous dates historically for Sarajevo. In 1941, on the afternoon of 6th April the Germans bombed the city, initiating the Second World War in this area. The Yugoslav King Petar II fled to exile in London. In the years after this the Nazis and their collaborators murdered 10,961 citizens including 7092 Jews, wiping out almost the entire Jewish population of the city. Many of the citizens of Sarajevo joined the underground resistance movement led by Vladimir Peric Valter.

Valter was the inspiration for the 1972 film Valter Branj Sarajevo (Valter Defends Sarajevo), Because this was the most popular foreign film in China, it has been watched by more than a billion viewers. This is a cracking good action film (terrible subtitles though!) and well worth watching if you can find it. I discovered it showing on the Movies4Men channel we have here in England.

The film ends with a scene where a German officer explains the nature of Sarajevo’s resistance movement to a Gestapo officer (who asks ‘You know who Valter is? Tell me his name!’) with the words ‘I will show him to you. Do you see this city? That is Valter!’

Sarajevo was freed exactly 4 years after the war began on 6th April 1945. Sadly during the final battles on the night between 5th and 6th April, Valter was fatally wounded by shrapnel from an exploding grenade when he was trying to prevent the enemies blowing up the central electric power plant at Skenderija. There is a memorial bust next to the bridge here.

Almost half a century later on 6th April 1992 the battle for Sarajevo started again. There was a peaceful protest against the looming conflict, some of the banners carried that day bore the words ‘We are all Valter’. This was the day that two young lovers were shot by snipers as they crossed the Vrbanja Bridge, now known as the Romeo and Juliet bridge. Also on 6th April Sarajevo Airport was taken over, thus beginning the longest siege of a city in modern history, lasting 1,425 days.

Finally, the United States and Croatia accepted the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 7th April 1992, with Sarajevo as the capital of a new state.

Phew! History lesson over now!

I had been to the National Museum last year, and felt no desire to go again. Mo wasn’t too bothered, but she did want to see the Historical Museum which is on Zmaja od Bosne, next to the National Museum, and both are opposite the Holiday Inn.
The easiest way to get here is by tram, numbers 2 and 3 are the lines to use. We got on right by the Princip’s Bridge and rode round the Bascarsija and out towards Ilidza.

The Museum charges 4KM (2 euros) to enter. I had been here before but it was worth a second visit. Mo was quite quiet afterwards – it has that effect on people I think. She said she just had not been aware of all the terrible things happening then; there wasn’t that much about it in the news.

We crossed the busy dual carriageway – Sniper Alley – to the Holiday Inn. Walking along the pavement I tripped and fell flat on my face! There was a raised hump of asphalt which I hadn’t noticed and it caught me unawares. Luckily I hadn’t twisted an ankle, I just had stinging hands and a slightly bumped knee. We sat in the tall atrium and ordered a cup of tea. I’d not been in here before, and having seen it featured in the film Welcome to Sarajevo, and read about it in the book The Girl in the Film, I was keen to see inside. Well, it is all very smart and cosmopolitan, but it could be any hotel anywhere. It was built for the Olympics in 1984, for the press and visiting dignitaries. I went to the bathroom here to wash my hands and managed to lock myself in – there were two sets of doors and I couldn’t open the outer one for several minutes. Eventually I managed to get the cap off the knob, tweak the inside lock and escape!

We got on the tram to return, and along the way at Skenderija Bridge were two banners hanging from the bridge. We passed by too quickly for me to make out the words, but I did see the name ‘Valter’. Today was 5th April. I found it comforting that he is still remembered.

Back at the Sebilji stop in Bascarsija, and decided to see one final sight just along the road – the Old Orthodox Church. This is consecrated to the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel, dates from 1539-40, but was built on the site of an even older sacred building. It is known for a large iconostasis covering the entire right wall. You can see a photo here…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sa..._church_03.jpg

It is also a very nice little church with some cases containing relics and bits of saints. Upstairs behind the lattice screen where women would worship is a wooden canopied table, which has a little coffin on it, a picture of the Madonna, and some offerings of flowers. There is a legend attached to this which I learned from Kostake, who wrote it in another trip report of mine, and I quote him here…

‘’Inside the Old Orthodox church is the "child's grave." Restorers of the church from 18th century were digging at the foundations of the Church found the remains of a child. This dead child among the peoples of all faiths, Islamic, Catholic, Orthodox and Jewish, became sacred. The child was placed in a small coffin on a beautifully decorated table. Women of all faiths who would have trouble to bring a new life should pass three times under the table with "child's grave" on it on the knees, believing that it will help them to become pregnant and bring into the world their healthy newborn. “

The museum was not open, and anyway it was getting close to the closing time of 6pm.

We returned to the Hotel Safir, 5 minutes walk away, to prepare for dinner. On the way it was Mo’s turn to trip and fall! Fortunately she was unhurt, but had caught her foot on a small lump of metal which was slightly raised above the level of the pavement. She is in her mid-70s so I was rather concerned for her, but thankfully she was OK. Neither of us felt like walking very far this evening – quite understandably – so we chose Dveri which was very close by on Prote Bakovica, a little side street linking Saraci and Mula Mustafe Baseskije.

The food here was very good indeed. Mo had Punjeni Patlidzani (stuffed eggplant) and I had Steak Dveri (thin steak rolled round a veal stuffing). Both plates came with lots of grilled vegetables. With 2 glasses each of a Herzegovinian Chardonnay, a small bottle of water and some sort of dessert for Mo, the total bill was 70KM (35 euros).

One interesting thing we noticed about the wine here at Dveri and also at Karuso, was that bottles of local wine tended to be priced around 35-40 KM. A bottle is 75cl, a glass is 20cl. We worked out that 4 glasses at 8KM meant that we would be getting 80cl of wine, costing us 32KM – therefore it was definitely cheaper to order wine by the glass than the bottle!
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Apr 17th, 2011, 04:30 AM
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Between reading your trip report and reading The Girl in the Film I almost feel as though I am back in Sarajevo....

For anyone looking for restaurants in Sarajevo, I second the recommendation of Dveri. It is one of our friend's favorites, and we had a good meal there. I would say they are stronger on the meats and stews than on seafood. The black (cuttlefish) risotto we had there was only so-so.
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Apr 17th, 2011, 10:04 AM
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The next day was Wednesday 6th April, the Day of the City of Sarajevo. Apart from the laying of flowers at the Eternal Flame (the monument commemorating the Serbs, Croats, Muslims and other partisans who gave their lives in liberating Sarajevo from the Fascists) we saw little else going on to mark this day.

Having taken a tour out to the Tunnel Museum with a group from the Tourist Information centre last year, I had found it fascinating but felt the guide was rather detached, and all the information we were given was given to us parrot-fashion and it was really quite dry and dull. These tours are quoted at 12 euros. I wanted Mo to visit this place that was a lifeline to the besieged people of Sarajevo, and I came across Sarajevo Funky Tours.

www.sarajevofunkytours.com

Yes, it might seem a bit strange for two women, in their 50s and 70s respectively, to be taking a ‘funky tour’! But I really like the sound of the tours, the reviews were all very good, and the clincher was the 10 euro airport pick-up. I emailed Skender who runs them. His English is excellent, and we exchanged several emails and texts to fix a date and time. As it is still early in the season there was no-one else wanting to take a tour on the days we were going to be in town, which meant he had to increase his prices slightly.

The Tunnel Tour is usually 15 euros per person for 3 or more people. His charge for us was 20 euros each. The Total Siege Tour is usually 20 euros, but for just 2 of us it would be 30 euros each.

We chose the Tunnel Tour, which includes quite a bit more than the Tourist Office tour. Skender met us at our Hotel promptly at 9am. He is 26 years old, very charming and personable. His knowledge is amazing, both of the history of the city he obviously loves, and the country. He was a small boy of 8 when the siege started and spent much of the next 3 years trying to escape from the basement in his house, while his mother spent most of that time trying to keep him in! He missed out on a lot of school, but he still graduated from university and is currently doing a Masters degree in Business and Management. A bright and clever young man. His father passed through the tunnel several times, he lost several childhood friends and his uncle.

He drove us out to the Tunnel, where we watched the short film and Skender filled us in on lots of little personal detail which made it all so much more vivid. After this he drove us up to the Jewish Cemetary from where many snipers lay in wait to shoot the citizens below as they made their daily way about the city.

On the way we were talking about WW2 and how many Jews had been persecuted. I happened to mention Valter and Skender said in a surprised voice ‘How do you know about Valter?’ I said I had seen the film the week before. So he told me more about Valter and the legend that he is, and then pointed out the old station at Bistrik which was a key location towards the end of the film, and the road which used to be the train track down which they filmed the last few scenes! Now I hope the film will be shown again on Movies4Men as I want to see it all again, as well as many other locations in and around Sarajevo!

After the cemetery Skender drove us down to the Kozja Cuprija, or Goats Bridge. This is the oldest bridge in Bosnia and Herzegovina, existing since before its first documented mention in 1550. This was a symbolic and significant crossing between east and west, where Ottoman visitors arrived from the east, and pilgrims to Mecca began their journey east. It is over 10m high, and the building of it may well have been a practice run for the bigger bridge in Mostar – they both had the same architect.

Then Skender drove us up little narrow lanes to the Yellow Bastion where there were some spectacular views of the city. Here’s some more about it from Skender’s website…

http://www.sarajevofunkytours.com/at...p?id=6&lang=en

…and then it was even higher up the hill to the White Bastion (Bijela Tabilja) where there are some excavations going on. Skender dares his clients to climb though a window and stand on the cliff edge outside. However both Mo and I declined!

http://www.visitsarajevo.ba/sightsee.../bijela-tabija

The tour took 2 ½ hours and was worth every penny of the 40 euros. Skender gave me a DVD about the times of trouble, and we parted feeling like good friends. I whole-heartedly recommend taking a tour with him. He was brilliant.
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Apr 17th, 2011, 10:35 AM
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I'm throughly enjoying your trip report. I was in Croatia, Montenegro and Albania a few years ago and found each place fascinating. I've now put Sarajevo on my travel list.

Another great book about war-torn Sarajevo is The Cellist by Steven Galloway. I highly recommend it.
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Apr 17th, 2011, 10:36 AM
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Today was a hot bright sunny day. We nipped into the hotel to shed our coats and use the bathrooms. I’d visited the toilet at the Tunnel Museum – OMG, it was a nasty dirty squat. Skender warned me before I entered, but I had to go, so I rolled up my trouser legs (yes, you have to do that too!) and braved it. Actually squats are not so bad once you are in position so to speak. This one was not at all nice, yet it was not the worst I encountered on this trip!

We were both feeling a bit hungry now, and decided on Mala Kuhinja (meaning Little Kitchen). There are no menus here, the chef talks to you about what you like to eat, then cooks for you with ingredients bought fresh from the nearby Markale Market that morning. He will go out to buy something if he doesn’t have it. It is small, and when we entered we thought it much larger as all the walls are mirrored. This means that wherever you are seated you can watch the chef as he prepares and cooks your meal! It will only seat 16 people at most, so you either need to make a reservation or be prepared to wait. We were turned away, being told to return in 30 minutes, so we had a glass of wine at Bilbo by the Cathedral before going back for our table – alcohol is not served in the restaurant. Muamar the chef is a delightful young man whose food is delicious. We had a sweetcorn soup followed by a chicken and vegetable stir fry dish that was just so flavoursome and delicious, and quite unlike anything we’d had before. Cost with soft drinks and coffee was 38KM (19 euros) so very affordable.

They have just got a website – here it is – and please do visit if you are in Sarajevo – you really won’t be disappointed with this Bosnian-fusion cuisine!

http://www.malakuhinja.ba/eng/eng.html
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Apr 17th, 2011, 10:52 AM
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historytraveler--if you read julia_t's earlier trip report about Sarajevo and my trip report from last fall you will see that we have recommended books and movies to each other for months. I agree The Cellist of Sarajevo is a good book and recommend it to anyone interested in the Balkans.
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Apr 18th, 2011, 02:38 PM
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Julia, your trip report is wonderful, so concise and informational. I am sure it will be a huge help for anyone interested in visiting Sarajevo, myself included.
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Apr 20th, 2011, 07:37 AM
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http://travelingluck.com/Europe/Bosnia+and+Herzegovina

QUOTE:
An INCREASING NUMBER of British tourists visit Bosnia and Herzegovina each year. Most visits are trouble-free. The main type of incident for which British nationals require consular assistance in Bosnia and Herzegovina is for replacing lost or stolen passports. You should be aware of pickpockets in the tourist and pedestrian areas of Sarajevo and on public transport.
END OF QUOTATION.

I am sure, @julia_t is one of the reasons for bh tourism becoming more and more successfull part of economy.

For the first 5 months 2010 in Sarajvo, there were 656.333 what is increase of 14,6% than during 2009.

I am going to inform Tourist Association about your Travel Reports in the Internet.

I would like to ask you to describe Bosnian people bcs, in my opinion, people makes cities and countries. Not, only, buildings, streets,...etc.
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Apr 22nd, 2011, 03:11 AM
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After lunch we headed towards the Bistrik side of the river. Along the way we passed the Gazi Husrev-Beg Mosque. I hadn’t visited it before, and had always thought it closed as the main front doors were usually shut. However today I realised that there is a side entrance and for a fee of 2KM we went in. Of course we had to cover our heads, but you walk on plastic sheeting and are instructed not to step on the carpets, so we didn’t have to remove our shoes. There is a lovely vaulted dome, and the wall paintings were exquisite. We just sat quietly here for a while.

We crossed the river, and passed the Careva Mosque, which is the oldest mosque in town. As we stopped to look into the courtyard we were beckoned in, and invited to enter the mosque. This is much plainer and simpler than the Gazi Husrev-Beg Mosque, but if anything is more beautiful for its simplicity.

We slipped into the Franciscan Church of St Ante for a quick look, and then crossed the road to the Sarajevska Pivara – the brewery. This striking crimson and white building is built upon a large freshwater spring, and was a vital source of water during the years of siege. The bar here has an amazing brick and timber vaulted ceiling, and the beer is very tasty; even if you are not a beer drinker it is worth trying a small glass of either the light or dark beer. I like the light beer. It is 3KM for a small glass, probably around a half pint. Nice ladies room here, down in the basement.

We walked back down the hill to cross the river again, looking up to the Bastions on the hills above and to the front of us where we had been this morning. It was hot, and we stopped at Planet on Bravadziluk for the Bosnian equivalent of gelato. There is a story that an Italian man tasted the vanilla ice here and liked it so much he offered thousands for the recipe. But the recipe was not for sale, and the Italian man went away without it. It certainly was delicious, and there are lots of different flavours to choose from.

We wandered through the coppersmiths' streets on our way back to the hotel for a rest before dinner. We were not particularly hungry after the fabulous lunch, and went to Zeljo’s for cevapi. They say if you haven’t eaten cevapi at Zeljo’s you haven’t been to Sarajevo! Very tasty.

In the Bascarsija, many places do not sell or serve alcohol. We went looking for a nightcap, but gave up and just had a coffee and soft drink at Kolabana before returning to the hotel.
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Apr 22nd, 2011, 03:57 AM
  #16
 
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Glad to see that you made it inside the Gazi Husrev-Beg Mosque this time. I was frustrated that we could not see all the beautiful carpets that cover the interior. I did not go inside the Emperor's (Careva) mosque as it seemed less open to women when we were there. I wish someone had been there to beckon me in.
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Apr 28th, 2011, 04:39 AM
  #17
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A DAY TRIP TO MOSTAR

Today was a bright warm and sunny day, and we were going to Mostar.

The train left at 7.05am, the first bus was 6am, and both were too early, so we planned on taking the second bus at 9am. We caught the No 1 tram which goes to the area in front of both stations. There was no problem with buying the tickets, and because we thought we might get the train back in the evening we only bought a single ticket each – 18KM (9 euros). We waited for the bus to come in and despite my only having one cup of tea that morning (knowing I was in for a long bus journey) I knew I had to go to the bathroom. There was a sign at the end of the platform but OMG, it was dreadful! Needs must and all that, but I do not recommend using this toilet!

We sat on the left of the bus to take in the fabulous views going down the mountains into Herzegovina. Absolutely spectacular, just wonderful. After an hour or so we stopped at Konjic and lots of people got off the bus for a cigarette break, a quick visit to the bakery or the café. The stop was maybe 10 minutes.

I would have liked to have moved to the other side of the bus for the views of the Neretva river valley, but the bus moved off and I didn’t make the effort to move. But I could still see the stunning vistas of the striking green river – it is this amazing colour due to some mineral in the rock which makes it appear thus. With the bright blue sky and the trees just coming into leaf, it was very pretty – apart from the rubbish and litter strewn along the river banks and floating in the water. This problem seemed to me to be much more visible than when I’d driven along this road last year, but maybe I’d just not noticed it being lower down in a car.

The bus pulled into the Mostar Bus Station on time at 11.30am. We set off into town – this is easy, you turn left out of the bus station, then after a few hundred yards take any one of several right turns which lead you down towards the river. You can either turn left and enter the Old Town on the east side, or cross the river here by the Hotel Bristol and the ruins of Tito’s summer villa, then turn left and enter the Old Town on the west. We took this route, and crossed the river back via a footbridge. At this point the famous Stari Most is not in sight. The walk into town takes 10-15 minutes.

Mo had been keen to try burek, and we were feeling a bit peckish so we stopped at a burek place just by the little open air market as you enter the old streets. This cost 2KM each. I find burek gets a bit greasy after a few mouthfuls even though I love it, and I asked if we could have some Ayvar with it – this is a sweet pepper sauce which I think delicious, and it complements burek perfectly.

We turned into the courtyard of the Pasha Mosque which was almost next door, and I took Mo down the steps to a little terrace that runs along the river bank so she could get her first view of the Stari Most, gleaming white in the sunshine and towering above the green river.

We spent several hours wandering around. We had coffee on a terrace of a café down close to the river bank on the west side. We had a glass of wine on the terrace at Bella Vista, also on the west side. I’d not seen the old town or bridge from this vantage point before, and enjoyed it. After the burek we did not really feel much like lunch. There was an exhibition by War Photo www.warphotoltd.com in the tower on the west side of the bridge (although I’d previously seen many of the photos at the permanent gallery in Dubrovnik), and we went into the free display room in the tower on the east side of the bridge.

It was now 3pm. Deciding that the train at 6.35pm was going to be too late we agreed to get the 4pm bus back – it was either this one or wait until 6.15pm. The return bus ride was 16KM (8 euros) each, and uneventful, getting us into Sarajevo at 6.30pm. It was interesting that at Jablanica I could see the bridge featured in the 1969 film Battle of Neretva (starring Orson Welles, Yul Brynner and Franco Nero). This WWII battle in 1943 was a great victory for the Partisans, in which they escaped over the bridge with 4,000 wounded before downing the bridge. You can see a picture of it here…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Neretva

The No 1 tram took us back to the Bascarsija, where we later had dinner at To Be (Or Not) ot) To Be – the words Or Not are crossed out on the sign and on the restaurant logo. This is because during the siege the owners wanted to present a more positive message - on Cizmedziluk, a side street running along from close to Zeljo’s to Saraci by the Mosque. A delicious Herzegovinian chardonnay was only 5Km a glass, we ordered the most delicious grilled squid and vegetables as a starter. This was in fact a main dish, but we asked for it to share before our main courses – and I can’t now remember what we had as I have misplaced the receipt. I think I had a Bosnian platter of smoked meats and grilled vegetables - I know it was very good and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Also it was very reasonably priced
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Apr 28th, 2011, 06:40 AM
  #18
 
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Thank you again, Julia, this is great!

I can't wait to visit Mostar. We have 2 days/nights scheduled.

Is there are reason, other than the schedule, that you chose to take the bus? Is it non-smoking? I'd prefer the train, but am concerned about the smoke. I've also read that train riders need to switch onto a bus, anyway, because of repair work on the rails. Any info on this?

Thanks again for posting!
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Apr 28th, 2011, 11:12 AM
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There is a long thread on tripadvisor's Bosnia & Herzegovina forum about the train v bus Sarajevo-Mostar. Apparently there is still a switch train-to-bus or vice versa at Konjic. It is worth checking out.

But as both train and bus take around the same journey time of 2 1/2 hours, I would say take the bus. You still travel pretty much the same route, you can see the train tracks most of the way, though higher up a lot of the time, I wouldn't say it makes a lot of difference.

The buses are definitely non-smoking (at least the ones I was on), and the only train I took in BiH smoking was only allowed in the corridors, not the compartments.

And yes, we only took the bus because of the timetable, not because of any smoking considerations - I am a reformed smoker and now hate it with a vengeance, whereas Mo very much enjoys a cigarette occasionally, but just a very few a day.

Actually, I wanted to say some more about Mostar...

I first visited this tiny city in October 2007, arriving late afternoon. I spent the evening and night there, taking a tour the following morning and leaving early afternoon. I absolutely loved the place. It just felt so special and wonderful, and snagged a chunk of my heart. Trip report here...

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...llet-holes.cfm

However, when I drove from Sarajevo in May 2010 and stopped in Mostar for a few hours, I felt the magic had gone.

The Mostar I remembered with so much affection - well, this wasn't it. The lovely old town was jammed packed with visitors - most up from either Medjugorje or the Croatian coast just for the day. The streets were hard to pass through due to the mass of heaving sweaty humanity, the restaurants were busy with few free tables. And everything was charged in euros, though I did ask to pay in KM which peeved the waiter as he had to make out another bill!

And this was only the end of May - God only knows what it must be like in the really high season of June, July, August.

But I felt that Mo should see Mostar - everyone should see Mostar at least once in their lifetime. She LOVED it, better than Sarajevo - for her it was the highlight of our trip - and the romance was rekindled for me too, but it was purely because there were so few people there and I could feel the heart of the city beating once more. I know if I go again and it is busy the magic will disappear.

Nanbug, I am glad you will be staying there overnight, it is so wonderful without crowds. I will be posting a few more photos in due course, different ones from the link in the TR above.
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Apr 28th, 2011, 11:40 AM
  #20
 
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Oh excellent, I love hearing your impressions and emotional response to everything!

We'll be there, most likely, in the winter, so I'm hoping to catch some of that quiet ambience. We love traveling in the off-season.

Thanks for the details on the train/bus, too.

Keep it coming!
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