The amazing capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina is Sarajevo. For many, the mention of Bosnia and particularly Sarajevo, conjures up images of a tragic, war-stricken city following the 4 years of brutal conflict between the Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks. Sarajevo was a city under siege during the Bosnian War from 1992 to 1996. The Bosnian war was a tragic period of recent history with over 100,000 people losing their lives in total and just under 14,000 of these in the siege of Sarajevo, including civilians and children.
However, almost 21 years on and Sarajevo has become a city that is well worth a visit for all sorts of reasons. When I arrived in Sarajevo I was struck by the rugged natural beauty of the city. Sarajevo sits quietly nestled between three rugged mountain ranges and with the Miljacka river flowing through the centre of the city from east to west it truly is a stunning place.
I started my exploration of Sarajevo in the famed square known as the Sebilj or pigeon square. The Sebilj is actually a wooden water fountain dating back to 1753. This is a lively and charming old part of the city with pigeons (obviously) children, couples, dog walkers and families all milling around like any other large European city on a spring afternoon. However, a quick look upwards at almost any of the buildings will reveal bullet holes and craters – silent scars of a city that are a reminder of the tragedy that was endured. This is in part what so fascinated me about Sarajevo that it literally tells the story of its own chequered history if you are prepared to look closely enough.
In the old bazaar it is all too easy to imagine Ottoman rule with a good view of beautiful mosques, narrow streets and lots of craft shops selling everything from shoes to copper coffee pots. I sat in a lovely café and decided to sample a coffee and watch the world go by. Well, for all you coffee lovers, the Bosnian coffee is quite an experience. It is served in a long-necked coffee pot known as a džezva with a ceramic cup, sugar cubes, a glass of water and a bowl of what can only be described as Turkish delight. The assortment of items are served on a round iron tray and the copper coffee pot serves to keep the coffee hot whilst locals sit for an hour over a cup… or three. This is when I realized that Sarajevo was my kind of place!
The Yellow Bastian
Up above the city of Sarajevo is the Yellow Bastion or Zuta Tabija which is well worth the climb up the hills. Saying that I’m a little overweight … to be honest, quite a LOT overweight and it took me much longer than the 15 minutes cited in the guide books. It’s a steep climb and by the time I had reached the old fortress ruins I was seriously considering weight loss surgery on my return home, that or a quick weight loss plan. The Yellow Bastion is an old wall that was built around the city for defence reasons and dates back to 1739 when it was completed. It is not the wall itself, or the sweet café with the outside tables, but the truly amazing panoramic views of Sarajevo. I timed my visit to coincide with the sunset and was truly blown away by the breathtaking atmosphere and beauty of this spot. You can sit up there in peace and yet still hear the emotive sound of the Islamic call to worship from the numerous mosques below. It was my favourite experience of Sarajevo.
The Sarajevo Rose
A unique feature of the streets of Sarajevo, are the red rose-like marks on the pavements, known as the Sarajevo Rose. Sarajevo suffered the longest siege in warfare (1992 – 1995) and during that time the number of mortar shells dropped on the city was immense, averaging around 329 bombs a day. This bombardment of shells left their scars deep in the pavements of Sarajevo and deep in the hearts of the citizens. The Sarajevo roses are flower-like marks that were left in the concrete and later filled with red resin as a poignant memorial to all those who lost their lives during the conflict. Once I became aware of these irregularities in the pavements filled with red I noticed them everywhere, particularly in the old part of the cities. The Sarajevo roses can be found in front of churches, markets, playgrounds and bakeries reminding us of the very real horror that this city endured. As the pavements are gradually re-done and the city gently recovers from this terrible time the Sarajevo roses are gradually disappearing.
Having worked as a nurse for most of my career and being so deeply touched by my visit to the city of Sarajevo, I did a little research into the medical system here and the enormous strain that was put upon it during the siege. I organized a visit to the Clinical Centre at the University of Sarajevo that is now over a century old. I spoke with a friendly radiologist who explained that during the war about 10,000 civilians lost their lives and power, heating, water and medical and food supplies were cut off. Incredibly, the Clinical Centre kept going throughout the crisis and staff in both radiology and oncology still managed to provide treatment and care for those with all types of cancer including breast cancer and lung cancer.
So my short visit to the city of Sarajevo ended with a look around the hospital and tales of courage and hope that touched my heart. I did drink from the famous fountain, which in local folklore means that I will return to Sarajevo someday and I really hope that this is true. What a city!
Sarajevo is both the capital and largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with an estimated population of 369,534. Sarajevo is the leading political, social and cultural center of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sarajevo is a prominent city of culture in the Balkans, with its region-wide influence in entertainment, media, fashion and the arts. It is located in an intermountain depression, encircled by Bjelašnica and Igman on northwest, and Trebević on the northeast. The city is famous for its traditional cultural and religious diversity, with adherents of Islam, Judaism and Catholicism coexisting there for centuries. Due to its long and rich history of religious and cultural variety, Sarajevo is sometimes called the “Jerusalem of Europe“.
At the locality of the present airport there used to be a hippodrome and a small airport built for military needs. The first airport construction was completed in 1968. In preparation for the 1984 XIV Winter Olympic games the airport was expanded and modernized . The war period between 1992-1995 will be etched in history as the longest humanitarian airlift to supplying a besieged city. There were almost 13,000 operations in three years which considerably surpasses the airlift of the Allies for the transport of supplies to West Berlin. The United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) controlled the unit until end of the war.
Sarajevo airport was re-opened for civil air traffic on 16 August 1996. Immediately upon the opening Croatia Airlines established connection between Sarajevo and Zagreb, while Turkish carrier TOP AIR started flying from Sarajevo to Istanbul. By the end of 1996 Sarajevo airport had 26,000 passengers. It was the only airport in B&H open for civil air traffic. All maneuvering surfaces were reconstructed along with the technical buildings and the air traffic control tower.
Inside the Sarajevo airport
Carriers with service in Sarajevo.
As the capital and headquarter of many embassies, Sarajevo became an interesting destination for many international airlines such as:
Sarajevo Airport flies around 93% of all flights in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Destinations are: Istanbul, Stockholm, Stuttgart, Dubai, Munich, Vienna, Belgrade, Cologne and Zagreb.
Airlines are Turkish Airlines, Eurowings, flydubai, Pegasus Airlines, Croatia Airlines.
Croatia Airlines – to Zagreb
Austrian Airlines -to Vienna
Turkish Airlines -to Istanbul
Norwegian.com -to Stockholm
Pegasus Airlines -to Istanbul
Eurowings -to Stuttgart
FlyDubai -to Dubai
Lufthansa -to Munich
Air Serbia -to Belgrade
Eurowings -to Cologne