My first (but hopefully not my last!) trip to the fascinating and welcoming Bosnia and Herzegovina.
by midtownmjd on October 11, 2009
Budget lodging doesn’t get much better than the Lion Hostel. Here’s why:Perfect LocationIt’s located smack-dab in the middle of Sarajevo’s charming Old Town, on a nice little courtyard, with garage parking nearby. You can hear mosques’ five daily calls to prayer from the rooms, and you can step outside right onto streets that boast the city’s cutest shops, cafes, and bars. You can walk to everything of interest, including the other side of the river, in just minutes.Great RoomsThere’s a tiny but pretty lobby downstairs, and the rooms are very, very nice. We had one large room for four of us, and it had beautiful décor (art, rugs, lamps, a sofa, a painted screen) and nice amenities (a balcony, TV, towels, slippers, books). With a well-kept shared bathroom at the end of the hall, it felt exactly like staying in a friend’s nicely appointed home. Friendly StaffGina, with whom I emailed beforehand and chatted at the hotel, is wonderful! She, and everyone else, was incredibly helpful and pleasant. I even sent them a thank-you postcard after returning home, which I don’t think I’ve ever done before.
by midtownmjd on April 7, 2010
My friends and I set off in a car from the Sarajevo city center in search of the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum with only a vague sense that it was located near the airport. The museum is a bit tucked away and hard to find—or maybe it isn’t, because after aimlessly driving down a few gravel streets, we ended up right in front of it.The museum is actually inside and beneath the Kolar family home, just behind the airport. The Kolar house sits above one of two entrances to the 800-meter tunnel that was Sarajevo’s lifeline during the siege, and today visitors enter the cramped space to understand what a crossing was like. The Kolars run the museum themselves; Bosnia does not yet have any official exhibit commemorating the 1992-1995 Bosnian War or the siege of Sarajevo.After paying a few dollars to help support the exhibits, our first stop was a room that plays an introductory video about the siege; as it attempts to explain how 11,000 lives were lost in the city, it plays images of the burning and bombing of all the buildings we’d just driven past to get to the museum. Perhaps the most moving images, though, are those of people using the tunnel right next to where visitors sit to watch the video.After the introduction, we toured the home’s first floor, where the rooms are full of leftover weapons, medical supplies, maps, documents, and newspaper articles from the war. A lot of the gruesome logistics became illuminated to me here—who was fighting where and when. I understood what happened in a way that I hadn't gleaned from books and films.Then, the tunnel. Just next to a mortar shell embedded in the ground and just beneath a façade pockmarked with scars, we entered the tunnel to experience, for a minute, what thousands of Sarajevans faced in the 1990s. The space is dark, cramped, and overflowing with terrible memories.If you visit one thing in Sarajevo, make it this small museum—I found it to be a profound experience that provided much-needed context to what I knew of Bosnia’s recent history. While I loved everything about Sarajevo, I don’t think I’d understand the city at all if I hadn’t made this stop.
Thanks to tip-offs from IgoUgo members billmoy and captain oddsocks, our only choice for dinner in Sarajevo was Inat Kuca. It was a great recommendation and the perfect introduction to Bosnian food.Both previous reviewers sought to warm up winter’s chill at Inat Kuca, but I can report that the restaurant is lovely on a summer’s night as well. We sat in the upstairs window nook, opened the windows, and enjoyed warm air and good food.We ordered some of the same dishes as billmoy and captain oddsocks, plus about half of the rest of the menu—what can I say, we were hungry! We got the Bosnian Pot, along with a couple of orders of Bey’s Soup, a spinach pie, a mixed meat plate of appetizers, and beef medallions with fries. Also some local beer, wine, and coffee, which was exquisitely presented alongside a Turkish Delight on a copper platter. One of the best parts, though, was the absolutely delicious bread.The service was unexpectedly quick, even though our server had to climb a couple of flights of stairs each time he visited us, and the atmosphere was Old World perfect. I’m going to concur with billmoy and captain oddsocks and recommend the venerable Inat Kuca to all future visitors to Sarajevo.
by midtownmjd on October 12, 2009
It would be hard not to like Motel Kriva Cuprija. For one thing, you can’t beat the location: it’s located on a babbling brook at Mostar’s Crooked Bridge and is central to the entire Old Town. (There’s a Kriva Cuprija II across the river, and it didn’t look nearly as charming—and wasn’t as central—as this one.) For another thing, the staff is unfailingly friendly and helpful, from pouring welcome juice drinks to performing MacGyver moves on locked doors. (Beware the bathroom keys.) And the rooms are simple but completely modern and with charming outdoor seating areas outside each one.This place isn’t really a "motel" by U.S. standards—it’s a full-fledged hotel. Inside the rooms, space is tight but adequate, and there’s air-conditioning and a TV. The standout, though, is the brand-new en-suite bathroom and its high-tech shower-massage machine (we got a tutorial when we were shown our rooms). There’s an indoor-outdoor restaurant at the hotel, with the outdoor portion being under umbrellas on a cobblestone courtyard—that’s where we ate the buffet breakfast (included in the price of the rooms). There was a generous spread of the usual breads, meats, cheeses, yogurts, cereals, and hard-boiled eggs.The only thing that posed a bit of a problem for us was parking. The hotel provides spots across the street, but it’s quite a delicate production getting into and out of them. On the way in, we were told that everyone except the driver had to exit the car for it to work. And on the way out, our car overheated and spewed smoke for an hour or so. Also, if another hotel guest parks behind you and then goes sightseeing for the day, you’re stuck. Everything worked out fine, and hotel employees and strangers alike were nothing but helpful, but I would avoid parking here if possible and search for paid parking in a garage.
We had a hard time choosing where to eat dinner in Mostar. There were plenty of restaurants along both sides of the river, but those that were open were all quite empty on a Tuesday in September. We ended up seeking out this restaurant because it had been recommended to us by our new friend Gina back at our Sarajevo hotel. It was a solid recommendation in a magical setting.Our long table and benches were in a corner of the large patio, high above the river. We sat and watched the last sunlight disappear as the call to prayer sounded; the muezzin’s call was one of the most beautiful I’ve heard, absolutely mesmerizing.The food was from Italy by way of the Balkans. We first enjoyed some wine, appetizers, and yet more delicious Bosnian bread. Then, for my main dish, I got the "Mostari pizza," a large pie topped with cheese, salami, and mushrooms. It was salty, sweet, and delicious.There was one rather large hiccup in the service, however: the waiter never ordered one of my friend’s main dishes. We had to wait a while for it to show up, but he was very apologetic, and honestly, we were enjoying the setting so much, we didn’t mind. (Easy for me to say: I had my food!)I wouldn’t label Bella Vista a must-go dining destination, but if you’re looking for a nice-casual restaurant with incredible views and good food, it’s definitely a place you'll enjoy.
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