Sarajevo

My upcoming novella, The Pillar, takes place in 15th century Bosnia. It was inspired by a few days I spent there last year.

Today I’d like to share some photos from the capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Sarajevo. Click on any photo to see it larger.

It’s a lovely city.

013People hike in the surrounding mountains and ski in the winter. The 1984 Winter Olympics were held here. Unfortunately, the city’s location in a valley made it fairly easy to besiege, and during the war the city was under siege for nearly four years. You can see one of the consequences of that in this photo: all those graves, which are of people killed between 1992 and 1996. My guide told me that prior to the war, kids used to sled down that hill.

There’s a lot of history to be seen in Sarajevo, such as much more ancient graves. These predate the the Ottoman Empire:

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There’s the gorgeous old town (Baščaršija), which dates to the 15th century–the same time period as The Pillar. It includes this old covered market.

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There’s a fascinating mix of history and culture. Here’s a beautiful 16th century mosque and also the sephardic synagogue, which was originally built around the same time. Within a couple blocks of these buildings, you can also find Catholic and Orthodox churches.

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Sarajevo is full of quirky sites too. Here you can see a restaurant I spotted, as well as a game of giant chess (people bet on them!), and a “memorial” to the canned food given by humanitarian agencies during the war (it was awful stuff).

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Other reminders of the war are everywhere, like on this building.

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This house is now the War Tunnel Museum. During the seige, the people of Sarajevo hand-dug a tunnel (about a kilometer long) so they could get access to food and supplies, and so they could get people safely out.

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There are also memories in Sarajevo of older wars:

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The food in Sarajevo is wonderful. Bosnian coffee (much like Turkish coffee) everywhere, of course. Here are a few local goodies: squid ink risotto, burek (phylo dough filled with meat or cheese), and baklava.

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Oh, how I do love burek! You’re supposed to eat ćevapi when you’re there–grilled meat–but I skipped it because I don’t eat mammals. Everyone says it’s delicious, though. It might be served with ajvar on the side–a delicious relish made from roasted red peppers.

I found folks in Sarajevo friendly and exceedingly patient with my rudimentary knowlege of the language. Thanks to my time in Croatia, I can manage a few useful phrases, but most people spoke excellent English anyway.

The only downside to Sarajevo was the cigarette smoke. Bosnians smoke a lot, even by European standards. But it’s a small price to pay in order to visit such an amazing place.

If you get a chance to visit Sarajevo, GO!

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