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Saturday, September 10, 2016

9/1: Sarajevo: A Fond Farewell

We had just a few more hours in Sarajevo to return to a few sights we hadn't explored previously before needing to catch a mid afternoon bus to our next stop on our journey. Since hearing so many positive reviews of Sarajevo's Franciscan church also known as the people's church a few days previously while on our walking tour, and how it welcomes those of all faiths through its doors, we walked there first.

On the way, we passed the Emperor Mosque and Cemetery:

What caught our eye across the street from it was a high school that had plaques outside listing the teachers' names who had died in Sarajevo's 44 month-long siege.
Just a stone's throw from the mosque and school was St. Anthony's Franciscan Church and Monastery:

The church was much smaller than I anticipated especially knowing of how the church is a beacon for Sarjevans for all faiths especially at Christmas. 

We walked next back to Sarajevo's newly reconstrcuted Town Hall which had been intentionally hit by Serbian forces during the war. It had formerly housed the National Library but sadly all the nation's history was lost forever. We had bypassed entering it previously but, now knowing more about its history, we paid the entrance fee and explored it.

A town hall was established in Sarajevo at the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and this building was first started in 1890 and completed in 1896. The information we read said it is "one of the most remarkable examples of pseudo-Moorish style and was described superficially as culturally misunderstanding." Huh?!
The name Sarajevo was mentioned for the first time in 1507 and comes from two words: saraj and avasi which mean fields around the palace. It became a very wealthy city and an intersection of religions and cultures. After the city's Golden Age of the 16th and 17th centuries, Prince Eugene of Savoy entered the undefeated city in 1685 and burned it to the ground.

The very grand rotunda:

There had been ten previous attempts to kill Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand beginning in 1502 before the final one on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo was, of course, successful.

Archduke Ferdinand's wife Sophie: The day she rode with her husband in the open royal carriage in Sarajevo was their first together on any official visit. How sad it was to be her last. Before that she had not been allowed to accompany her husband in the royal carriage on any official occasion. Sophie Chotek had been a lady-in-waiting and, though of a prominent family, she was not from one of the reigning or formerly reigning dynasties of Europe. Therefore, she was not considered eligible for marriage to the Archduke.

Pope Leo XIII, Tsar Nicholas II and German Emperor Wilhelm II intervened with Ferdinand's father to alow the marriage. It was stipulated, though, that Sophie was not allowed to ride in the royal carriage, sit inthe royal box at theaters and their children wouldn't have sucession rites to the throne.
Town Hall in  1996:
Town Hall now:
Sarajevo's Winter Olympic Games in 1984 were considered to have been the best organized as of that time.

There were a huge number of other exhibits about the city but the smell of cigarette smoke was very off putting and it was hard for me to enjoy them,
I felt like a princess as I descended the grand staircase to the rotunda! Unfortunately, I had forgotten to pack my ballgown!
Just behind Town Hall was Old Town and Coppersmith Alley that we also returned to for one final time.

Up and down the narrow alley, we could hear the rhythmic tap tap of men carving designs into copper plates, coffee sets, etc.

One of the reasons I wanted to return to the alley was to go back to this shop we had first seen a few days ago. I had admired then the beautiful woven items unique to this region and wanted to bring back a small souvenir. The shopseller mentioned that making those items is now only done by women over 60 and that, as a result, the items will become increasingly rare.
So many shops in Old Town sold lovely handknitted items and, in particular, slippers like these ones. Oh, how I missed my knitting and my knitting friends from Loving Hands.
A few days ago we had bought tickets to enter the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque but it had been closed. We walked back hoping to see it in the little time we had left  before leaving for Mostar in a couple of hours. It was closed to non-Muslims then because it was one of the five official prayer times. However, when Steven told the man in the mosque information office we really wanted to see the interior and this would be our last opportunity, he made it happen just for us.

Steven always carries the gray scarf, below, I use for entering mosques or other places of religious worship in his backpack as I don't carry a purse, etc. The scarf was a gift from Lina, my kindergarten friend back in Ottawa, Canada. She had given it to me in memory of her dear mother who had owned it. I was honored to wear it to cover my head when entering the mosque as required by Muslim custom.

Photos taken of us by Vahidinhalil, the wonderful man from the information office who made us feel so welcome in his place of worship even though it was not visiting time for non-Muslims.
We were so surprised and touched that he graciously allowed us both to be in the center of the mosque as women are normally relegated to their own area. 

The mosque's women's area:

I noticed a number of faintly, disapproving looks coming our way from men praying but they never said anything to make us feel we had intruded onto their special time and space.

In a world where so many headlines are devoted to the horrific acts committed by some Muslims in the name of Allah, to have been made to feel so very welcome by Vahidinhalil at the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque in Sarajevo was not something I hope we will likely soon forget.

Photo of Vahidinhali at the mosque:

Natalie and Adam: I thought of you both here as we enjoyed a local dish called burek we both liked. It was a savory pie that reminded me of shepherd's pie. It cost a grand total of $1.75 for the one piece! As you can tell, we haven't gone out for meals much so that's why this photo was for you!
We wandered around the bazaar some more and saw lots of shops selling beautiful knitted items before walking back across the river on the Latin Bridge.

Before heading back to the Airbnb to collect our bags and go to the bus station, we wanted to stop at the synagogue as it too had been closed a couple of days ago. That seemed like the story of our lives that morning! On the way, we walked by the beautiful Muslim cemetery that was almost next door.

The synagogue: It was unusual that what appeared to be the Jewish community center was on the main floor and the temple or synagogue itself upstairs. 
We were escorted there by an older woman who kindly unlocked the temple's doors for us and let us stay for a few minutes before she locked up and left for the day.

Zachary: We thought of you when we walked by both the Residence Inn and, strangely enough, a few minutes later, the Courtyard Inn. Neno, our guide a couple of days ago, had mentioned how great it was that Marriott Hotels were investing in Sarajevo again!
The rather sad looking Olympic Stadium: 
As you know from reading these posts on Sarajevo, it wasn't a 'fun' city to go to but I wouldn't have missed seeing it. I will remember the almost annihilation Sarajevo suffered during the siege, the horrors at Srbenice, the tensions that still exist today between different ethnic groups but I will also remember the people we met that brought their city to life and hope that they and their city will all experience a brigher future.

Posted from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 10th, 2016.


  1. Annie, you look ecumenically lovely in a Hijab! :)

    1. Thanks, Andrew! Just want to point out that you just MIGHT be seeing me in a few more hijabs this trip as we'll be seeing a lot more mosques not only in the former Yugoslavia but also when we travel to the Middle East countries in a couple of months!

  2. That burek looked delicious. Glad you were able to sample some of the local cuisine!

  3. Adam,

    You know Steven and I are not as adventurous foodwise as you and Natalie are but I don't want you to think we only exist on 'safe food' like pizzas etc when we're on the road!

    Love to you both,


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