Bosnian cuisine is largely influenced by Turkish, Austrian, and local traditions. I recommend finding a restaurant in the old Bascarsija area of the city. Grilled meats are the thing to eat, especially cevapi (pronounced with a "ch") or the smaller version, cevapcici (with three "ch" sounds!), which are usually a mix of meats (lamb, veal, pork), onion, garlic and seasoning. In Bosnia it is usually served with somun, the local version of pita bread. Burek, a meat pie made with filo dough, is also a local must for omnivors. If you, like me, are not a meat eater, options sadly shrink, but don't lose hope! If you eat fish, grilled trout aboud, but be prepared to deal with scales, tail, and eyes. They come whole. But there is also spanakopita and other kinds of "pita" (pita in local lexicon means a dish made of layered anything and filo). There are also some good salads and there is always pizza. For dessert local baklava is always a good option, washed down with Turkish coffee. Sitting in a Bascarsija cafe sipping wine while watching the people go by while listening to the church bells and the Muslim calls to prayer. It's another world!
Miljatska River, Sarajevo, 1986
The Miljatska River winds through the center of Sarajevo. The heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated by Gavrilo Princip in 1914 just after the Archduke and his retinue crossed the bridge in this picture. The assassination was one of the events that led to the start of World War I.
Getting along with the locals
Because I am not a well travelled person I was a little nervous about what might be expected of me, as a woman, in a partly Muslim community. Would I have to cover up, would I be allowed to drink wine, would men be dismissive and scornful of me? (Yeah, I know it sounds stupid but I have lived quite a white bread life.)
Delighted to report that young Muslim men and women in Sarajevo dress pretty much as they please, drink and smoke if they want to, are in fact up to all the sorts of things that young people get up to almost anywhere in the world. But although they party they don't party hard! Good manners and tolerance and moderation seem the order of the day. I was invited back for a nightcap to a student flat - Nick Cave and Blackcurrent vodka - and the only cultural hiccup was that although it was a student flat in every sense of the word, I had to take off my shoes at the door.
I myself was most impressed with how I was treated by the local men. With great respect and interest. I was listened to, shown complete courtesy, and there was that wonderful tinge of admiration for all things female. I really liked that. (The only problems I encountered was from a couple of men from Another Country.) There was no staring or wolf whistling at women in the street. Very relaxing.
And there was hardly any veiling. Just a few young women wearing a hijab. Very few. Fewer than in Sydney, actually, as a percentage of the population. I was told that they were probably tourists. It is not the fashion to veil in Sarajevo. "We are European Muslims," I was told.
Did find it a bit odd to see graveyards without crosses on the graves. Another cultural hiccup for me. Again, I was told, that really and truly a grave should have no marker, but there was no real harm in it.
Sidetrip to Ilidza
We went on a sidetrip from Sarajevo to Ilidza by tram. The lovely spa town, which is nowadays even Sarajevo's main suburb is situated about 10 km south west of the city centre. The trip by tram #3 or #4 takes about 30 minutes.
The best time to come is probably at weekends as then the 3,5 km long tree lined avenue Velika Aleja, which is one of the main sights here, is served by carriages.
Nevertheless we walked from the tram stop in Ilidza along several buildings from Austro Hungarian times and then along the Velika Aleja to Vrelo Bosne (source of the Bosna river) at the foot of the Mount Igman.
Here we felt like we deserved a longer break in the green park area and therefore had dinner in the restaurant Labud. Please read my restaurant tips for more details about this.
On the return way to the tram stop we decided to take a carriage. We negotiated a price of 15 KM for the about 3,5 km long trip.
Let's drive to Vrelo Bosne! (page four)
Okay, we're here! This is Vrelo Bosne: the source spring of the River Bosna. There is a big natural park here with plenty of trails that you can go for a stroll on. If you get hungry, there are a few small restaurants here too. If you want to buy some pirated CD's or cassettes, there will be people here selling these too.
Okay, so that FINALLY concludes our tour. I hope you had fun! See you again . . . "Ko se u Sarajevu vode napije--nikad Sarajevo ne zaboravi" . . . you drank the water, remember!