When I first thought of Sarajevo “vibrant” and “cosmopolitan” did not exactly come first to mind. Instead it was more like “war,” “bullet holes” and “mass graveyard,” an image modern media and movies tend to perpetuate. When Natty and I drove to Sarajevo from Dubrovnik this past summer these were the remnants of a city we expected to witness; a testament to the Bosnian War that ravaged the region in the early 1990’s.
When we arrived we did drive by the now infamous Olympic Village and did see bullet holes marking plenty of grey cement building facades. What we did not expect, however, was to walk through a city that despite all that has happened there, remains vibrant, inviting and completely absorbing.
While walking through Sarajevo, the two of us were greeted by numerous friendly locals all happy to share their favorite place to grab cevapci, a flavorful sausage that resembles a kebab (there will be more on this local delight later). And even though we were in Sarajevo on a rainy day in the middle of the week the streets were crowded and cafe’s were filled to the brim with Sarajevo locals old and young shopping, gathering, chatting and enjoying the day.
The grand and Soviet architecture of Sarajevo sets the backdrop for the lively spirit that defines the city. From the restaurants we visited (yes we managed to visit more than one in a single afternoon) to the shops, stalls and mosques of Old Town, Sarajevo’s bewitching spell never relented. Moreover, the affable attitudes we were immediately greeted with seemed to be woven into the local community fabric. Whereas elsewhere in the world religious differences cause drama and strife, in Sarajevo the devout and secular, Muslim and not walk the main thoroughfares as one, hand-in-hand.
Within moments of arriving in Sarajevo, Natty and I wished we didn’t have to return to Dubrovnik that same day. To explore everything the city has to offer would take a few days but more than that, Sarajevo is one I’d like to linger around in for a while.
Though I usually enjoy passing through most of the places I’ve gone, a few stand out as cities I could spend some time in removing myself from the normal tourist path and just experiencing life. Sarajevo is one of those cities; a city on the crux of East meets West where an outgoing and affable charm is impossible to ignore. The cafes reminded me of those in Berlin and Paris, the Old Town a little bit of historic Jerusalem.
Sarajevo seems to be a city made up of many intricate layers that though diverse, sing in harmony. I suggest that if you’re ever in the area to carve out some time to explore the alluring complexities Sarajevo. I know I’ll be back soon to do the same.