Seven Surprising Things About Sarajevo
We only had vague impressions of this city on the Balkan Peninsula. But there is much to love here.
Before arriving in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, we had only vague impressions of the place. It’s where World War I started, right? Oh, and there was a terrible war in the 90s. And Brent and I are (just barely!) old enough to remember the 1984 Winter Olympics.
Here are seven things about Sarajevo that have surprised us the most.
1) The Old Town is Insanely Charming
Sarajevo was founded in 1462 by an Ottoman general named Isa Bey Ishaković in what is today the neighborhood of Baščaršija.
The name Baščaršija is two common Turkish words combined: “baš,” which means “main” or “head,” and “çarşı,” which means “bazaar” or “market.”
Put them together and you have “main bazaar.”
After Ishaković established an initial trading post, more merchants set up shop and Baščaršija quickly became the most important place in the region. Its influence only grew as other prominent buildings were built, including mosques, churches, and synagogues.
The Ottomans were famously tolerant of other religions, and Sarajevo is still proud that there is a mosque, cathedral, and synagogue all within 100 meters of each other.
Now the whole area, which is pedestrian-only, is absolutely fantastic, a maze of meandering walkways and narrow alleys, all jammed with shops, hookah bars, museums, hidden courtyards, and many wonderful restaurants.
But hey, don’t take my word for it, see for yourself:
Did you notice the alley with all the copper goods? That’s Kazandžiluk Street, also known as Coppersmith Street. Sure, they sell mostly to tourists these days, but it’s high quality stuff — and extremely affordable by Western standards. (Some of the metallurgy now involves leftover bullet shells from the war, which is macabre but visually very striking.)
And that wooden tower of sorts? That’s the most famous landmark in Baščaršija, Sebilj Fountain, an Ottoman-style wooden fountain built in 1753.
This central area is officially called Baščaršija Square, but locals refer to the area as Pigeon Square due to, yes, all the pigeons.