Tuesday, July 2, 2013

SARAJEVO, Part IV, Walking and Eating

I should have already mentioned our terrific tour guide, Neno.  Anyone taking a trip to Sarajevo should consider taking one of his free tours of the city (after which you should give him a generous tip, of course). Neno is a 27-year-old Sarajevan who has a passion for history in general and his city in particular.  He crammed an awful lot of information into three hours of walking around the city, which is just the way we like it. We have taken several free tours like this one in cities around the world, and Neno is one of the best guides we've had.

This post will cover all the places in Sarajevo that I haven't yet written about. If it seems a bit random, well, it is.

Marsala Tita (Marshal Tito) Street is the main street that runs parallel to the Miljacka River, which bisects the city.  In general, the various peoples who live in the Balkans liked, or at least respected, Tito, especially in hindsight, as he was the only man who was actually able to hold this diverse region together. His death was the beginning of the death of Yugoslavia.

Photos from the top of the garage where we parked our car show not just someone's clean towels, but also the mountains that surround the city.

Near the Serbian Orthodox Church is this symbol of the Winter Olympics of 1984. Sarajevans are very proud of having hosted these Olympics, in spite of the fact that they won just one silver medal in the men's giant slalom. It was Yugoslavia's first Olympic medal in any Winter Olympics games. It seems impossible that the same platform on which that skier stood to receive his medal was used as an execution platform ten years later during the Bosnian War.
Unfortunately, Bob and I didn't have time to go the Olympic Stadium, which is on the edge of town. A grisly symbol of how quickly things can change, it is now the burial ground for hundreds of soldiers and civilians killed in the Bosnian conflict.  Some of the graves here are the victims of the market bombing mentioned in my previous post about the Balkan War. In horrible irony, they were buried on the very day of the opening ceremonies of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway (Demick, Logavina Street, p.xxxii).
Internet photo taken from here
By the way, anyone traveling to Sarajevo should plan a minimum of two full days. We could have used at least another half day to spend in the Olympic Park and at the famous tunnel that was used to smuggle people and supplies in and out of the city. I hope that some day we will be able to return.

Back to happier images.

One of the fun things in the city was this ongoing game of chess.  The pictures below are from two different days. We saw a similar set-up in Breisach, Germany, last year, but there weren't this many men standing around watching.  Which invites the questions: Where are the women? Don't women play chess?

I was intrigued by this rather frightening bust of Mesa Selimovic, Yugoslavia's Bosnian-born literary giant. I had to come home and look up his picture to see what he really looked like.

There were some wonderful shopping areas in the Old Ottoman section of Sarajevo. I could have used another half day there as well, but I was lucky to get twenty minutes out of my shopping-averse hubby.

There was another underground shopping area that has been around for over 500 years, the Gazi Husrevbegov Bezistan marketplace, built in 1542, seen here in the background

We walked fairly quickly through this area as well. Here it is again from another angle:
Right next door are the ruins of an old Ottoman inn, built about the same time as the market, 1543. I think it was built for men to have somewhere to sleep or goof off while their wives went shopping. I could have used something similar:

One of the most recognizable structures of the city, one that I have seen on the covers of brochures and guidebooks, is this wooden fountain in the Ottoman Old Town. It dates back to 1753, but was moved here in 1891.
At the end of our tour on our first evening in Sarajevo, we saw this elderly woman come dump a bag of dog food on the ground. We assume these are all homeless dogs and are surprised she is allowed to do this. When they were done eating, they went up the stairs of the fountain in the photo above and got themselves a drink.  Our guide stressed that the water in the fountain is clean, but we couldn't bring ourselves to share the fountain with the dogs.
We noticed stray dogs taking naps at mid-day behind the Jewish Synagogue:
. . . and we discovered a mother dog with a large litter of puppies under a bush next to the sidewalk:

The next morning we looked down on this lady dumping birdseed on the ground. The Sarajevans must love their wildlife. Then again, there was a time during the war that they were catching and eating pigeons. Maybe she is really a bird farmer.

This sign was taped to a door in the garage where we parked our car. The unemployment rate in Bosnia in 2011 was 43%.  However, I think what they meant was "If you don't work here, don't come in."

So THAT'S where Elvis went!

Sarajevo is an important cultural crossroads, as can be seen in these two store windows reflecting both Western and Eastern goods:
And now, before we leave Sarajevo, just a bit about the food.  Next to the wooden water fountain mentioned earlier is this Turkish Doner stand. We didn't actually eat there, but I was impressed that  students pay less for their food than the general populace.  It's already cheap. The most basic doner kebap costs 2.00 BAM (Bosnian Marks), or $1.33, and the most expensive is 5.50 BAM, or $3.66.

The reason we didn't eat at the doner kebap stand is because we ate next door at a very fine bakery. Again, the influence of both the West and East can be seen in the mix of tortes and baklava.

If you are observant, you'll notice that we went to the bakery twice during the two half-days we spent in Sarajevo.
We ate our last meal in Sarajevo at a famous restaurant called Inat Kuca, which translates as "Spite House."  The story is that this house used to be across the river (which you can see at the far left in this picture), right in the spot where the Austria-Hungary government wanted to build a new city hall in 1895.  However, the old man who owned this house refused to give it up. After long negotiations, he finally agreed that if they gave him a bag of gold coins and moved his house brick-by-brick to the other side of the river, they could have the land. It was done, and everyone was happy. The house has remained a symbol of Bosnian stubbornness, a trait the citizens seem to be particularly proud of. In 1997, it was turned into a traditional foods restaurant.

We sat at an outside table from which we could see the building in question across the river. It was built to reflect the Islamic roots of many of the citizens of Sarajevo, a generous nod to the city's multiculturalism. After World War II, it became the National Library.  In 1992 it was hit by bombs and set ablaze, gutting the interior and burning the entire collection of about 600,000 rare books. The government of Austria in 1996 and the European Commission in 1999 stepped in to provide initial funding for the restoration of the building. Later, other countries, including Spain and Hungary, helped complete the project, and it is once again being used as the city hall.

But back to Inat Kuca. I do love the mistranslation on the front page of the English version of the menu:
The eclectic decor was really lovely--kind of a Turkish feel with a bit of Europe thrown in.

Our food was delicious.  My dish, a collection of Bosnian specialties, included stuffed onions, stuffed eggplant, sausage, and veal:
Bob, who jumped off the vegan wagon pretty hard at this restaurant, had a mixed meat plate:
Both of our choices were excellent, and it was a great farewell meal in one my all-time favorite cities.

Next: An Unscheduled Detour


  1. Once again, it's fascinating to see the contrast in this city. It's hard to imagine the horrors people have lived and seen. Beautiful city, interesting post!

  2. Maybe my mixed plate of meat included pigeon and dog? The bakery was amazing.

  3. So sad about all those rare books, gone forever. I have been listening to the stories coming out about the moving of rare books again, (from Tunisia?) and it's these things that are such great losses.

    Fun bakery stuff and food stuff. Looks like your plate was all about the stuffing!