Written by captain oddsocks on 05 Mar, 2007
On Liberation Square in front of the orthodox cathedral, there’s a large chessboard painted onto the paving and unless it’s pouring rain, it’s likely to be surrounded by men playing chess.The usual scene as you approach the chessboard is the backs of thirty to fifty…Read More
On Liberation Square in front of the orthodox cathedral, there’s a large chessboard painted onto the paving and unless it’s pouring rain, it’s likely to be surrounded by men playing chess.The usual scene as you approach the chessboard is the backs of thirty to fifty men crowded around in a rough square, peering over each others’ shoulders for the best view of the board. Depending on the stage of the game and who’s playing, there might be tense concentration and quiet discussion, or there could be loud calling out of suggested moves and groans of disappointment when the suggestions are ignored. The banter can sound quite heated at times, but always seemed to be good-natured. At least it never came to blows while I was there, (I’m sure it would have in some other countries that I’ve visited-including my home country).I didn’t ever actually play a game; it seems the next competitors are chosen by popular demand from among the most verbose critics of the preceding game. That is, the crowd in general will call out two names “Šaško i Tabak, Šaško i Tabak!” in much the same tone as they’ve been using throughout the game for “Dame na Kun, Dame na Kun” (Queen takes the knight, Queen takes the knight). Then Šaško and Tabak will step up and play or glance at their mobile phones and make their excuses. This will go on ad nauseum until who knows what hour; one night we passed at about 11pm, and there were still a couple of diehards battling it out. I’m sure if I’d asked to play though, I’d have been welcomed, if for no other reason than the novelty value of playing an Australian who keeps trying to ask silly questions in Bosnian with a Czech accent.This might sound a bit nerdy, but hanging around by the chessboard was one the things I enjoyed most in Sarajevo. There’s a crowd of regulars and it doesn’t take long to know some of their names. Watching their interactions and especially their reactions to suggestions and criticism made for fascinating people-watching and it was the closest I thought I came to glimpsing a Bosnian national character. That’s a big claim, I know, but if such a thing as a national character exists, then a group of blokes cheering on some competitive event is as good a place as any to try to understand it. For example, imagine a group of thirty Italian men around a bocce pitch, thirty Japanese men around a Sumo ring and thirty Australian men around a pie throwing contest and you’ll certainly see some different characteristics that you can attribute to each nationality.Anyway, I liked it and it was a good fixed point to meet up if your travelling companion wanted to go off and look at shoes! If you understand and play chess, I highly recommend passing at least a short part of your stay with the chessmen of Sarajevo. Close
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.…Read More
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! Close
Written by billmoy on 24 Oct, 2003
When I mentioned to people that I was going to Sarajevo in May 2003, reactions ranged from "wow!" to "you're crazy". For many people, a mention of Sarajevo brings up war-torn imagery instead of glorious moments as the host city for the 1984 Winter Olympics.…Read More
When I mentioned to people that I was going to Sarajevo in May 2003, reactions ranged from "wow!" to "you're crazy". For many people, a mention of Sarajevo brings up war-torn imagery instead of glorious moments as the host city for the 1984 Winter Olympics. I wanted to spend a bit of time here to see how the city has been coping with its recent setbacks.
Sarajevo was a melting pot for many religious and ethnic groups for hundreds of years. Serbian aggression is said to have killed over 10,000 people here during the staggering siege from 1992 to 1996. The locals were able to endure this ordeal with a long tunnel constructed under the airport that was the lifeline from the city to a nearby suburb. Any random walk through the city will take you past many structures that have been damaged or annihilated. The National Library still stands empty and in a state of semi-disrepair along the Miljacka River, whose sludgy chocolate waters mock the brownish exteriors of this handsome Moorish-style edifice. Originally designed by Alexander Wittek in 1892 and later revamped by Ciril Ivekovic, the National Library was originally the Town Hall and is slowly being rehabbed.
Perhaps the most moving sight in Sarajevo is the graveyard that has taken over the landscape surrounding the Kosevo soccer stadium. It is sad to see thousands upon thousands of mostly whitewashed grave markers, a majority of them with the death year of 1992. A wander through the cemetery is a small history review, as you will see fancier older tombstones from previous generations, which contrast with the simpler, hastily erected ones of the more recent batches. In a close second place, the burnt-out shell of the former Parliament Building is a morbid and recent reminder of the ferocity of these dangerous times. Deserted hotels scattered about town are identifiable as such only because of outdoor signage, which distinguishes them from the ruins of residential blocks.
Despite the rough spots, it is heartening to see areas that are slowly recovering. The well-to-do members of the middle class appear as if they could be in any other European setting. The cafes and shops along Ferhadija, the main pedestrian street, look very lively as the young locals enjoy each other's company. A walk around busy thoroughfares like Marsala Tita and Zmaja Od Bosne ("Dragon of Bosnia") could lead you to giant chessboard matches, bustling fruit markets, and the somewhat sedate Eternal Flame commemorating World War II. The ethnic mix of Sarajevo is evident with the proximity of several prominent places of worship that cater separately to Muslims, Catholics, Orthodox Serbs, and Jews.
A walk through the Turkish quarter gives its trademark Muslim flavor to the city with its prominent mosques and shops. Most visitors are welcome to stop by, but some Muslims are still put off by those who dare to interact with the ritualistic fountains. Pop into the courtyard of the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque for a peek into local life. Designed by Persian architect Adzem Esir Ali in 1530, this important mosque has an attractive "birdcage" fountain in its courtyard. Muslims pray on the outdoor terrace, as the interior is still undergoing postwar renovations.
The beautiful mountain ranges contrast with the bleak and gray Skenderija quarter that is one of the few remaining venues from the 1984 Olympics. In the city center, umbrella salesmen pop out of the woodwork during downpours, although the local police seem to crack down on the more unsavory vendors. Speaking of security, soldiers from around the world still maintain positions in Sarajevo and elsewhere in Bosnia-Herzegovina. These peacekeepers reveal their ethnicities by their tongues and their flag-embossed uniforms. The international mix also includes humanitarian aid workers and the ever-present journalists.
Written by jorgejuan on 19 Jun, 2006
I had been in all ex-Yugoslavian countries twice, but that was long time ago, when they were all together. My travel in 2005 had the intention to know the present situation of every new republic.First I traveled for 29 euro by boat from Barcelona to…Read More
I had been in all ex-Yugoslavian countries twice, but that was long time ago, when they were all together. My travel in 2005 had the intention to know the present situation of every new republic.First I traveled for 29 euro by boat from Barcelona to Civitavecchia, near Rome, then by train to Bari and another boat to Dubrovnik, in Croatia. Then I went down to Montenegro until the border with Albania, and further to Ulcinj where one day later I took a bus to Pristina, in Kosovo.I continued to Macedonia, from where I catch a train to Belgrade. Night bus to Sarajevo, a few hours excursion to Pale, in Republic of Srpska, next day to Mostar, then I went back to Split, and bus to Istria (Pula). Finally, after weeks of vagabonding I left the country through Slovenia and entered back Italy. It was a marvelous trip. People everywhere treated me excellently. If I tell the truth, I did not find any difference in these countries and only regret that millions of peaceful people were compelled to a horrible war and now Yugoslavia is not united anymore. People are mixed up: Serbians married with Bosnians, girls with father from Novi Sad and mother from Ljubljana, etc. Everybody understands each other with their different Slavonic languages and dialects; the customs are similar, as their food, and their religions are respected. The journey to Pristine took me a whole night. In the control all the passengers showed a Kosovo United Nations passport. During the last part of the bus journey, already at down, I saw United Nations signs, cars, and foreign soldiers in their bases. From the bus terminal of Pristine I walked to see the main attractions, which are the market, cathedral, churches and mosques. People lead a normal life, just like in my hometown Barcelona, in Spain.Sarajevo was a city that I loved very much. It is beautiful and the market most exotic. Walking around the town I observed a sign: WELCOME TO THE REPUBLIC OF SRPSKA. I was amazed and asked the people. Some told me that it was nonsense, and that we were in Bosnia Herzegovina, but I decided to take a mini bus and get to a town seen from there, at about 5km from the sign. That town was Pale, and talking with the people I was told that Srpska is a different republic, not yet recognized by the United Nations, but their decision to separate from Bosnia was irreversible. The difference, I was told, was that the Srpska people are Orthodox Christians, and not Muslims. I visited the Cathedral and even had lunch there before returning to Sarajevo by a regular minibus. Of course, no borders or checkpoints and passport controls were required to me, I did not even saw any police men at the supposed "border".Mostar was my favorite town in ex Yugoslavia because of its eastern atmosphere. The famous bridge (most, in Slavonic languages, means bridge) has been reconstructed uniting the two communities living in both sides of the Neretva River, but at every side of it there was written a sign in English: DO NOT FORGET, and nearby a broken mortar. In Mostar you feel the eastern atmosphere. Have lunch in any of the many restaurants with terraces facing the river. People are friendly and prices are cheap.I specially liked the people. Noticing that I have Latin features in my face, they talked to me in Italian. A few times I was invited to have breakfast: in Skopje, because I had no local currency, in Belgrade and in Pale. People, by nature, are open and eager to be good, but unfortunately a few manipulate them and create in them hatred, to the point to convert peaceful people in beasts ready to kill his neighbor because he speaks a different language or follows a different religion. After studying the ex-Yugoslavian history and seeing the recent results in the new countries, one cannot refrain from asking: was it worth all these wars and the hundreds of thousands of people who died in them? I think no.