Balkan Dispatches: Sarajevo

Sarajevo was a wonderful time. We came from Mostar, a short trip, and arrived in the early afternoon. Mom and I wandered a bit, looking for lunch (3 bus rides in, and we still hadn’t figured out the need to buy more snacks than we thought we’d need) – we stopped at a little place marked by a giant Galatasaray flag. Inside there were Turkish flags and more Istanbul football paraphernalia; it felt like home, except the cevabi, kebabs, tasted a bit different (less obviously meaty; I prefer Adana kebab. ).

I spent the evening, a Wednesday, wandering through Sarajevan nightlife with a fellow American. We exchanged ridiculous travel stories, smoked nargile, and made a quick visit to a Bosnian casino. There, we were greeted with Kanye West’s most recent album and an offer for tea; after one game, we left, though the streets had emptied in the short time we were inside.

In the morning, we met Muki, who would be our tour guide around the city. Muki took us to the tunnels where Bosnians carried supplies during the four-year Siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s; to an abandoned bobsled track from the 1984 Olympics; and to old Serbian sniper positions in the mountains. While hardcore-parkouring down the bobsled track, Muki oh-so-casually revealed that he once competed on the Yugoslav Olympic bobsled team. A man of many mysteries, that Muki.

Muki invited us to a wine tasting party later in the evening. We took a chance and agreed to go – at this party, we met the most bizarre set of characters imaginable. There was the wine connoisseur, leading the party and explaining the characteristics of the wines in impeccable English; Emer, a co-founder of the tourism company that ran our hostel, and who ate half of the cheese and meat plate at our table; Fuat, who was introduced as a gigolo and offered his services to the ladies of the room (me and mom) and promised me I could have his car in exchange for my love; a surgeon and a professor of metaphysics; the Godfather of Sarajevo; and a guy who loved the phrase, “Is this like a joke, man?” Quite a group, quite a group. After we downed six bottles of wine, it was time to move on to part II of the evening: even more wine and a glass of rakija (Balkan-made brandy) at a small underground tavern, where a large band played traditional music. We laughed and laughed; mom stayed out past her bed time; much fun was had by all.

The next day, we had most of the afternoon to kill before our shuttle took us to Belgrade. We spent it wandering the streets of Sarajevo, sticking mostly by the river – crossing the bridge where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914 and looking at the bullet holes and shrapnel marks still left from the war in the 1990s. I really loved Sarajevo, and I would love to go back (especially in the summertime) to learn more about the city’s history.

bobsled 1
bobsled 2
jewish cemetery 1
mines 2
whatchu looking at
sarajevo 1
the bridge
television tower sarajevo
sarajevo cemetery

wine night

Muki’s on the far right, the gigolo in the middle, and Emer on the left. Miss you, Muki.

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