We have a new hometown! A couple months ago Brendan accepted another position within USAID based in Bosnia & Herzegovina, and its been a whirlwind ever since. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we visited family on two coasts, met with management companies to rent out our Portland apartment, and packed up everything we own to be stored or shipped. The day after Christmas we hauled our eight pieces of luggage to the airport, boarded the plane, and settled in for the trip to Sarajevo.
We were met at the Sarajevo airport by a few lovely individuals from Embassy, one of whom brought cookies, to assist us in navigating through customs, managing all our luggage, and getting to the hotel (our temporary home until our apartment is ready).
We spent the first couple of days exploring the city’s central section and getting to know new friends via dinner parties.
This city is beautiful – the architecture reflects the various ruling influences over the last 500 years, and mosques and churches dominate the skyline. The Miljacka river winds its way west through the heart of the valley, crisscrossed with bridges built in different centuries. The most famous of which is the Latin Bridge, where Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie, in 1914, igniting World War I.
That first Friday night we ended up at Zlatna Ribica – just about the coolest bar on the planet, and the perfect place to kick off our stint in this beautiful city.
From Zlatna Ribica, we walked the half block to Cakum-pakum, a little cafe specializing in delicious pastas and crepes. Brendan was introduced to this hole-in-the-wall during his previous trip to Bosnia. Being Americans (and jet-lagged) we showed up around 6pm and were rewarded with having the place to ourselves (which lasted for about an hour until the beginnings of a soon-to-be packed restaurant began to show itself).
We briefly explored Baščaršija, the old town section of the city, on Saturday. The white-tiled streets are lined with mosques, bazaars, and one-story buildings filled with shops, cafes, and kebab stands. The New Year weekend and unexpected sunshine brought in tourists from all over the country. Even though it was below freezing, outdoor tables overflowed with patrons drinking Bosnian coffee and eating early dinners.
We ducked into Board Room, where I discovered my new favorite local craft brew, Gelander Rasta APA (American Pale Ale). We also dined at Barhana, a half block north of Board Room, on spicy chicken stew and pizza. Crave-inducing and inexpensive, this place is definitely a repeat.
We spent the last day of 2017 hiking up through the sehid cemetery Kovači to the historical Yellow Bastion, famous for its city views. Following the locals’ lead, we stopped at Cafe Kamerija, a glass-box cafe hanging off the edge of the road, sipped coffee and enjoyed the (smoggy) views from the patio.
The New Year holiday is a bigger celebration here than we anticipated; both December 1st and 2nd are national holidays. New Year’s Eve was filled with tourists and fireworks, and streets shut down the evening of New Years Day for rock concerts.
When we weren’t wandering around the city or hiking to fortresses through freezing temperatures and rain, we were binge-watching Stranger Things (so good!).
There is so much more to explore – this place is packed with cafes, bars, museums, glitzy, gleaming shopping malls and walking tours. This is the first of many Sarajevo posts.
December 2017 / January 2018