Insider Travel Tips: Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Top things to do
Allow plenty of time to lose yourself in the cobbled streets of the Old Town, taking in the beautiful tiered river, and the spot by Latin Bridge where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914, kicking off the First World War.
Enjoy burek, meat filled pastries, followed by traditional Bosnian coffee – which should come with a complimentary piece of Turkish delight.
Wander around market stalls, and stock up on hand-made woollen socks, local copperware or Second World War relics.
Visit the History Museum – just off ‘Sniper Alley’ – to begin to comprehend the complex history of the Balkans, and the shocking truth of life in a city under siege between 1992 and 1996 – the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare.
What to avoid
Whilst crime levels are low, like all places European, there are some tiresome beggars who will try the usual routine to relieve you of some cash, and not always with honourable intentions.
Some of the hills around the city may still contain unexploded landmines from the Yugoslavian conflict of the nineties. Take extreme care not to wander off paved roads, and avoid any damaged buildings. If you want to safely explore the Bosnian countryside, get advice on routes from tourist information or take a guided tour.
It is probably best not to try and discuss ethnicity unless amongst friendly company. Whilst the differences between Bosnian Muslims, Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats may seem indeterminable, below the surface, wounds are still raw.
Arrive at the bus station in the day, and you can take the tram to the city for a fraction of the price of a taxi. Make use the excellent tram network for longer journeys, although walking will give you a better insight into the city – look out for Sarajevo Roses: where mortar shells exploded against concrete during the Bosnian war, they were later filled with red resin, creating a floral memorial.
The city’s tourist information bureau is extremely helpful, so stop by early into your trip. They can help you with onward transport tickets and great value for money tours – visiting the Tunnel Museum is well recommended, as much for a peek at the beautiful countryside as the moving historical tribute within.
Bosnians are generally very friendly and helpful, but don’t assume everyone will speak English – it would be a good idea to learn some basic phrases or have a phrase book to hand.
There are a few tourist-trap emporiums, stocking goods at above average prices. Stick to smaller shops and markets.
Don’t Leave Home Without
Make sure you pack some warm things, as temperatures plummet in winter, and it can get cold in the evenings throughout the year, due to the city’s valley location. Also pack appropriate cover up clothing to allow entry into some of the countless mosques that dot the cityscape.
Written for Epigram Issue 224.