In a recent interview I did for Cezar of Imperator Travel, I named Sarajevo as one of my Top 5 Eastern Europe. I placed it in the Number 3 position, but in retrospect it shouldn’t have even been on that list at all. Nope, it’s in the Balkans – a region so non-Eastern European in my mind. I did it anyways though because I will take any chance I can get to profess my love for this place.
Quite simply put, Sarajevo is one of the coolest cities I have ever been in, definitely one of the best in all of Europe and one you should go see now. It is also by far one of the most affecting places I have traveled to on so many different levels. Even just thinking about it now and going through my photos, I am overwhelmed by a variety of emotions. Happiness, sadness, pride, anger, excitement, worry, affection. They are all there.
For whatever reason, I love comparing cities to people. Sarajevo is that person you know who has been through so much darkness in their life, more than you could ever imagine, yet they don’t dwell on it, they don’t want you to feel sorry for them. If anything, they want you to enjoy the moment with them and instead tell you about all the wonderful things that have happened in the most humble way possible. You know that behind that big smile and warm welcome there is pain, lots of it, but the fact of the matter is that we are here today so let’s make the most out of it. That mentality. Those kinds of people are the epitome of inspiration. Sarajevo is the epitome of inspiration.
It’s also freaking GORGEOUS. I didn’t expect to feel so close to nature here but it’s completely surrounded by rolling hills with the Miljacka River calmly passing through. I was there in mid-March when there was still a bit of snow, but I can imagine in spring and summer this place gets lush.
Sarajevo also rocks multiculturalism like no other place I’ve been to before. One minute you feel like you are in Istanbul and then Vienna the next. Yet no matter how cosmopolitan and pivotal this city has been throughout history, it has retained this unexplainable coziness. The second you start wandering its streets you feel almost immediately at home, regardless of where you come from.
Of course it’s hard not to bring up the war when talking about any place in the Balkans because it’s still so obvious, physically and emotionally, but I think what surprised me the most about Sarajevo is what I mentioned before – they don’t dwell on it. They want you to be aware of what happened and not forget, but they are also eager to move forward and not let those awful times overshadow all the greatness it has to offer.
I am convinced Sarajevo, and Bosnia-Herzegovina for that matter, will blow up over the next couple of years as a major tourist destination in Europe. So much natural beauty, so much potential. So whether you are already traveling around Europe or have plans to in the near future, I just wanted to give you a heads up, a warning if you will – do not miss Sarajevo!
MeganJune 18, 2012 at 3:37 pm
this place is seriously one of my top places i want to go to. my boyfriend and i have been discussing road trippin next summer for a month through the balkans. i just dont think i can do a day or two there…i feel like i want to explore it all and explore it deeply…places like e.europe and the balkans fascinate me b/c of the history made just since i was a kid. its crazy to think places have been through so much.
LarissaJune 18, 2012 at 4:11 pm
Well Sarajevo is definitely the spot for you!
Road trip around the Balkans would be so awesome but I think some pretty serious driving skills would be required which hopefully you and/or your boyfriend have. I certainly don’t which is why I’d probably stick to bus or train. I was in BiH 6 nights and it was not enough – 5 in Sarajevo and 1 in Mostar – so take a month if you can. Soooo much to see!
RobJune 20, 2012 at 7:13 pm
I love your top slider on the front page and your photos are so pretty I just had the urge to tell you.
LarissaJune 20, 2012 at 7:40 pm
Thank you, Robert. Do you want to make out with that huge iPhoneographed photo of Sarajevo, too? P.S. You really should check out Bosnia, think you would like it.
SarahJune 20, 2012 at 8:26 pm
Just came across your blog through SHABL and I really like it!
You write about cities the way I feel about them too… I am constantly comparing places to people to try to explain them better. My favourite one I’ve heard by someone else is by famous travel writer Bill Bryson (In a Sunburned Country):
“Australia is like Jack Nicholson – he’ll just come right up to you and laugh really hard right in your face.”
The photo slider at the top is really well done too… might have to get something like that set up over on my blog soon. Hmm…
LarissaJune 20, 2012 at 8:48 pm
Thank you so much! Glad you came over for a visit.
I loved Notes from a Small Island by Bryson. That quote sounds about right :)
Love sliders on the front of blogs. There are so many different ones to choose from but I think this one suited mine best…think it is Nivo something. Good luck fixing up your blog!
RobJune 22, 2012 at 9:33 pm
Love it, I really want to make it in there. Thanks for reminding me why I need to re-enter that magical part of the world.
LarissaJune 24, 2012 at 2:50 pm
You’re welcome. Now do it.
Caro from Passport and a ToothbrushJune 25, 2012 at 1:47 pm
Love this! I lived in Montenegro but never had a chance to go to Sarajevo. I have a friend there so I think you’ve convinced me to add it to our itinerary. If we’re short on time, what’s the bare minimum of days you would recommend?
LarissaJune 25, 2012 at 2:28 pm
You should! Bare minimum 2-3 nights I’d say and if you are in the region I also recommend Mostar if you haven’t been. I was only there one night and it was enough – will be writing something on that soon. When will you guys be over there? I myself need to get back to the Balkans, especially to Montenegro. I’ve only heard great things about it.
Emir HrvoSeptember 12, 2012 at 6:21 pm
I am from Sarajevo and have been away since 1992.
Lived in UK and now in Vienna, but I still think that Sarajevo is one of the greatest in Europe.
LarissaSeptember 12, 2012 at 7:16 pm
Thank you so much, Emir, that really makes me happy to hear. Hands down one of the greatest cities on this continent and I am still dying to go back!
AmelSeptember 13, 2012 at 3:09 am
I’m from Sarajevo, I would like to describe it more like city where two cultures are “hugging”…during Ottoman Empire, Sarajevo is the first city in Europe who had sewerage system and water supply system,still at Vratnik and Kovaci (part of Sarajevo), there are pieces of sewer that are old 5 centuries..also, the first city in Europe who had shopping center “Gazihusref’s Bezistan”..and one last interesting thing, during Austro-Hungarian Empire, Sarajevo is the first city that had trams in that period..just some of the facts that is useful to know..it is a shame that many people from Sarajevo do not know about these things i wrote.. :/..anyway thx for visiting and loving this city with all people in it. :)
LarissaSeptember 13, 2012 at 12:41 pm
Hi Amel, that is by far the most beautiful description of Sarajevo I have heard – two cultures hugging :) So much more to discover and explore there…mark my words when I say I will be back and soon!
And thanks for sharing the interesting information!
TaraDecember 18, 2012 at 10:24 pm
Thank you very much for such warm and friendly introduction…I am from Sarajevo, and I live there now….
Aleksandar Hemon, writer from Sarajevo, currently living in Chicago, wrote this about Sarajevo, I hope it is not too long for you to read.
Cheers from Sarajevo!
Sarajevo is…By Aleksander Hemon
The taxi driver who drove me from the airport and, when I observed that the leaves were already beginning to fall, replied: “Why, yes, first watermelons, then lessons,” which, on close analysis, I understood as representing a magic formula to describe the gradual approach of autumn.
The moment when, from Jekovac, after the Ramazan cannon fires to indicate sunset, you see the lights on all the minarets of Sarajevo simultaneously ignite.
The clatter of the first morning tram, echoing through the empty streets of the city.
The coldness of the buildings from the Austro-Hungarian era and the staircases inside them, with their treads worn by the soles that have climbed them for more than a century.
Somun—soft, white bread—(scattered with seeds) from the baker’s in Kovači.
Children’s balls, rolling in the shallow eddies of the Miljacka river.
The beauty of Sarajevo women, who always bear in them the imprint of their own past and their own future; the history of past and future changes: their faces reveal both skinny little girls and mature women, both minxes and careworn matrons.
The sfumato of a cold Sarajevo morning, before the sun steals up behind the mountains, and mist drifts up the slopes.
The fruit that grows on bushes throughout Sarajevo, known as “white berries.”
The slender cat, a striped market stray, that rolls on the pile of Persian carpets in Morić-han.
The round tray that rotates on the tip of a waiter’s forefinger.
The pigeons’ rally on Sebilje.
The aroma of cheese, cream, meat, and marble in the market.
The peal of church bells at six o’clock in the morning.
The way the Sarajevo accent bursts the speaker’s lips, because of the rumbling consonants and swallowed vowels, which looks particularly good on women with full lips.
Autumn leaves, ankle-deep, in Wilson’s Walk, and the sound of ripe chestnuts breaking off, hurtling through the branches, then hitting the soft carpet of leaves.
A white-wine spritzer at Ramiz’s.
The scent of old cellars: coal, dust, tubs for souring cabbage,mildew.
The lights that glint on the hills around Sarajevo at night, like stars that fall slowly, the way snowflakes do.
The sound of a deflated ball kicked around by children in the
open spaces of New Sarajevo.
The hissing of rain on streets under the wheels of cars.
Carved cartridge cases in the Kujundžiluk.
The chirping of radio stations in taxis.
The rheumatic hands of old men behind their backs as they watch a game of chess with giant pieces in front of the ghostly Department Store.
Ice cream with the flavor of “Egyptian vanilla” (whatever that is) at the Egypt pastry shop.
The green turf of Željo’s Stadium.
Asphalt full of hollows, holes, puddles, and the “roses” of shell craters, never perfect, always spattered.
The brief jerk of the head to one side that accompanies the response “Okay…” to the question, “How’re things?”
The intense colors of autumn fruit and vegetables softened by the shade of the beams at the Markale Market.
Meatballs—ćevapi—anywhere in town.
Soda that goes to seed in less than fifteen minutes.
The hardness of the stone you touch when you bend to drink a mouthful of water at the Gazi Husref-Beg Mosque.
The hum of Sarajevo heard from Hrid or Trebević—all the sounds of the city merged into one.
The silence that accompanies the first snowfall, as though everything and everyone were hushed with wistful excitement.
The long shadows of the trees in the Big Park on a September afternoon.
The collection of stuffed animals in the National Museum.
The statues in front of the National Bank, eternal guards of the Čeka, holding helmet-lights above their heads.
The rhythm of the tread of the elderly in Ferhadija, harmonizing with the rhythm of their conversation—a syntax of footsteps.
A cheap football shirt with the name Zinedine Zidane on the back of a grimy boy.
Tito’s portrait in the goldsmith’s in Ćaršija.
Underpants and stockings in the passage beside The Imperial.
The aroma clothes carry in them after a stay in Sarajevo: a mixture of sweat, cigarette smoke, ćevapi, washing in Sarajevo water, and drying in the open air.
The people of Sarajevo: the clever and the churlish, the greedy and the handsome, the weary and the young, youthful and crazy, rich and wretched, sturdy and sick, tall and rundown, the angry and the underhanded, the tricksters and the brilliant, the Diaspora and locals, children and adults, the faithful and infidels, the powerful and the pious—all in all, nearly four-hundred-thousand
And let’s be honest, there’s no end. You either love Sarajevo or you don’t.
SeadJanuary 23, 2015 at 5:05 pm
LarissaJanuary 27, 2015 at 5:16 am
HAKAN HADZOVICJune 2, 2015 at 10:33 pm
I LOVE SARAJEVO VERY MUCH, I WAS BORN IN TURKEY, I CAN SPEAK TURKISH AND ENGLISH BUT MY GRANDFATHER WAS BORN IN SARARJEVO.MY GRANDMOTHER WAS BORN IN SKOPJE…YOU ARE SO LUCKY…I CAN’T SEE SARARJEVO YET…BUT I WILL SEE, 6 NOVEMBER 2015, I’M SO EXCITED…IF I LUCKY I’LL FIND MY RELATIVES…
LarissaJune 4, 2015 at 1:22 am
That’s fantastic, very excited for you! Hope you find them and I wish you a wonderful trip :)
YannickJune 13, 2015 at 4:23 pm
Love the tips on your website! I’m currently doing a backpacking trip through the Balkans myself. Any suggestions for places to go?
LarissaAugust 11, 2015 at 3:52 pm
My whole blog is a suggestion :) Hope you had an amazing time!
JoenNovember 24, 2015 at 12:37 pm
I just come back from Sarajevo and happened to stumble upon your post! I have to say it is the same way I feel about Sarajevo too!! I am overwhelmed with emotions every time I think about Sarajevo. Also, I totally didn’t expect to be so close to nature in Bosnia. When I travelled from Tuzla-Sarajevo and Sarajevo-Mostar, I would look out the window and smile at the scenery in front of me. I felt so amazing looking at all the hills!! And every time I walk around the old town, seeing many people sitting at the cafe and drinking coffee, I felt so cozy! I went to Mostar for 3 days after Sarajevo, and when I returned to Sarajevo afterwards to catch my flight home the next morning, I swear I thought I have come home!
LarissaMarch 20, 2016 at 1:02 pm
That’s beautiful :) It’s definitely my favorite capital in Europe and a place I’d love to call home for even just a short period of time.