Sarajevo

30 May

We both took the train to Bosnia’s captial. A really spectacular train journey. €5 for 3 hours of steady climbing through some 50 tunnels, around dozens of lakes and across valley after valley.

Of Sarajevo, I was expecting great bars, amazing cafes and fast food, top notch hostels and to learn something about the recent siege on the city. Bosnia’s capital more than lived up to expectations. Although I wasn’t expecting 30cm of snow to dump the day before we got there.

We spent each evening bar hopping around town with the backpackers passing through our hostel – Traveller’s Home. We bugged snooty waiters at the Sarajevsko brewery, watched Chelsea win the Champions League Final in a massive crowd of Bayern Munich fans, and generally searched for and found bars with great music / wierd interiors / cheap beer / a varied selection of rakija.

Adi, the hostel owner, told us that byrek – a pastry with meat / spinach / pumpkin etc. originated from Sarajevo, and there are 2 famous places to go and buy some. Chibabce also originated here – a kind of beef sausage pitta. Another thing that could be said to have originated in Sarajevo is World War 2. Franz Ferdinand was assassinated next to the Central Hotel, and there’s a plaque and some photos there to mark the spot.

Surrounding the city, high cliffs and hills, leaning over the main streets and visible between the tall buildings and above mosques, churches and synagogs. Apart from facilitating top value ski holidays, these looming hills gave snipers and missile launchers perfect vantage points in the early 90’s. Sarajevo was a sitting duck. The War Museum displays various examples of homemade guns, legal documents proving the legitimacy of Bosnia-Herzegovina, photos of peace ralleys and brutal acts of terrorism. Everybody in the city over the age of 18 would have experienced something of being under siege, of having Serbian snipers waiting for them, of having not enough food or water. The civilians were targeted as they grouped together to buy bread. The Sarajevans dug deep, literally dug a tunnel under the UN controlled airport and fed electricity through it, and held the invaders off for 2.5 years before the UN bombed the Serbs out of town.

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