To get into the city, we needed to walk down several sets of stairs on one of the many hills that surround Sarajevo to a busy street that lined both sides of the river that runs through the city. Since we didn’t have any local currency except what our Airbnb host had kindly lent us when he picked us up from the bus station in East Sarajevo (that's a story for the next post) last night, finding an ATM and a bakery to buy something for breakfast were our first priorities.
We found a grocery store and ATM before joining the walking tour at the National Theater in Susan Sontag Square. Yep, the same Susan Sontag who was a writer, filmaker and political activist who spent time in Sarajevo during the city's siege.
Gavrilo Princip was sitting in the coffee shop located where the word 'Muzej' is when he shot Archduke Ferdinand and his pregnant wife Sofia.
Directly opposite the church is a large brewery that remained open during the entire 44 month long siege of the city.
The factory had been opened since 1864 and was built on the site of a local spring. Fresh water was so scarce during the war that residents lined up to get water from the brewery.
At the top of the hill was a large Muslim cemetery that had gorgeous views overlooking the city of Sarajevo.
All the headstones in the cemetery face the north side as that is the direction of Mecca.
We slowly began traipsing downhill back toward Town Hall that we had seen from the opposite side of the river earlier on the tour.
That was the end of our walking tour which had lasted for close to three hours. It had been a tour we won't likely soon forget: very informative, at times amusing, at times very thought provoking and always an insight to a period of disturbing conflict. Before saying goodbye to everyone, he again urged us all to visit BiH again and promote others to come too.
We were tired and hungry since we had only eaten a couple of croissants all morning. We headed into Old Town behind Town Hall and walked down Coppersmith Alley:
We found a huge selection of doner restaurants in the main square since Sarajevo's heriatge is primarily Turkish. Doner is meat cooked on a massive revolving spit which is then shaved into little pieces and added to a warm pita bread. Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, a sauce are finally added - yum!
We shared one while watching the world go by for a while in Pigeon Square. While munching the doner, we noticed a number of Arab women walking by in full hijab clothing.
Neno had suggested a number of places to see on our own so we walked the couple of blocks from Pigeon Square to the first one: the Old Orthodox Church. It was also known as the Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel and it dated from 1493/4. Because of its location on a very narrow street nestled just behind a tall black iron fence, there was no space to back up and take a shot from a further perspective.
The entry was through a small doorway that led down into the church.
From upstairs, we were able to get a fresh perspectiveof the chandelier.
We strolled next to the massive Gazi Husrev-beg Moslem complex which comprised the mosque itself plus a museum, market area, high school, elementary school and other buildings.
Leaving the courtyard where the Museum was, it seemed odd to see the No Drone sign on the tree. I wondered whether it was because they might interfere with the religious sanctity of the mosque and the rest of the complex or whether it was for potential security concerns.
Across from the museum was the entrance to the Mosque area. The first thing you normally see is the Hamman where ritual bathing of hands and feet is performed by Muslim men normally before entering the mosque itself. This mosque's courtyard was different from so many we've visited before. There were large number of people wandering around evidently having a really joyful time, kids were playing with soccer balls, etc. That may be, in part, because of its location smack dab in the middle of the Arab market too.
Seemingly all kids we had seen while wandering throughout Old Town had these black balloons with writing on them and the mosqure area was certainly no exception. I wish I had could have figured out their significance.
We wandered through the market area thinking back to Neno's comment about this area of Sarajevo having been 50 times larger in an earlier age.
The mosque's minaret: It had been amazing seeing all the minarets that dot the city's skyline in every direction when we had walked high above the city just a couple of hours ago on the walking tour.
The Bezitan or indoor market was our next five minute pit stop. There were so many shops selling scarves and all sorts of items direct from Turkey that we imagined ourselves back in Istanbul.
I bought a lovely pink scarf from one of the stalls which was positively the last item I 'needed' after buying way too many last year in our travels through Asia. But of course, I just wanted to support the local economy!
How lovely to read the sign on the street that said Sarajevo: Meeting of Cultures.
We walked to the Jewish History Museum next which only seemed natural after visiting the Orthodox church and the mosque complex!
The ticket taker cum guard and guide said that about 14,000 people visit the Museum yearly making it one of the most popular places in the city. As gorgeous as the Museum was, I think the numbers speak more about the limited sights in Sarajevo as the city is still recovering from the war and has a very long way to go before making it on the tourist trail.
A circumcision knife:
The Museum suffered little damage during the war because of its location.
Jews during the Midle Ages were engaged in various trades, in particular tailoring, shoe making and production of sheet metal goods, etc.
We read about the last surviving attar shop which sold herbal remedies and had served the Sarajevo people for 300 years until its doors were shuttered in 1942.
The Museum underwent extensive renovations in 2004.
Part of the museum was dedicated to the roles of Jews in the Workers' Movement in Sarajevo before WWII. Sinking ever deeper into fascism in 1940, the government issued laws that prevented jews from entering high school. In Sarajevo, a Jewish high school was set up where the most prominent Jewish intellectuals worked.
This massive book was the first thing we saw on the second level and recorded the 12,000 Jewish lives from BiH that perished during WWII.
One area was dedicated to the Holocaust of the Jews and the destruction of their cultural heritage. I wrote extensively about Israel's highest award given to people who helped save Jews during WWII: the 'Righteous Among Nations' in one of my posts about Vilnius in Lithuania.
This is a list of just 42 recognized with the honor in BiH. How tragic that it is so short. As of January, 2007, 21,758 people worldwide were recognized.
Seeing the Mother of God Serbian Orthodox Church near where we had begun our tour brought us back full circle.
As we walked back to the safety of our home away from home for our few days in Sarajevo, I thought of the war that ravaged Sarajevo for 1,400 days from 1992 to 1995 and brought the city to its knees. And how one family experienced that war.