The two-hour walking tour that we did from the tourist information centre was very good and I would recommend it to anybody.
We enquired in the morning and were told the tour begins each day at Noon (more frequently in the warmer months) and returned then. (The price was 20KM/10 euros, payable in advance or upon completion). Once our entire group had assembled in front of the information office, we found a quiet place just around the corner, where the guide introduced himself as Muammar, explained the form the tour would take and asked if we had any questions.
Having no questions, we proceeded to the first point of interest, which was the site on which Gavrilo Princip stood while he waited for his chance and then executed the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, nephew of the ruling Habsburg emperor Franz Josef, thus setting in motion (or accelerating) the chain of events which would soon lead to WWI. Princip is still sometimes referred to as the torch that ignited WWI and in the Yugoslav era the nearby ‘Latin bridge’ was named after him and he was considered a Serbian national hero.
We then wound our way through the narrow cobblestoned backstreets of the city’s old Turkish quarter, Baščaršija. The streets here are lined by old ottoman low-roofed buildings of timber, brick, and terracotta. Most of the buildings were originally craftsmen’s workshops and this is reflected in the street names, Kazindžiluk being Coppersmith Street, for example. Most buildings now are retail shops, with the occasional restaurant, coffee shop or take-away food place mixed in. The overall effect is that of a gigantic mazelike market, with the shops’ wares spilling onto the street and the smell of grilled meat floating on the air. You can spend days wandering this part of town, but the walking tour passed through quite quickly.
Our next stop was the mosque named after its founder Gazi Husrev Beg (1480-1541), who was the province’s first native-Bosnian Muslim governor. His contribution to the development of the city also included Europe’s first public toilets/ baths, a clock tower showing prayer times, the madrassa (high school) and the han (traveller’s inn and marketplace), which still has a huge store of Turkish-style carpets.
From there we continued past the central monuments of the other major religions of Europe. The time allotted for the tour was drawing to a close, but Muammar made sure to take us past the synagogue and adjacent Jewish museum, which may have been difficult to find by ourselves. We had time to duck inside the catholic cathedral, before continuing on to liberation square, the orthodox cathedral and the end of the two-hour walking tour.
We thanked Muammar and started back towards the old Turkish quarter to visit some of the sights in more detail, after finding the source of that delicious grilled meat smell, of course!