A city centre church lit up in all its glory (Sarajevo; Bosnia and Herzegovina)
The next leg of the global itinerary takes us to Sarajevo, a city which has essentially seen its fair share of conflicts, hardships and transitional periods. The city's origins are somewhat shaped by the Ottoman empire, and the distinct Turkish influence which runs through the city (in particular the Old Town area) has attributed Sarajevo an identity which sets it apart from your more 'exclusively European' city setting. The Old Town is indeed the one place where it is assumed most visitors' tourist itineraries will commence from, and the enclave of eateries, (mostly) souvenir stores, and prominent public buildings, most of a mosque-like appearance, is a browser's delight and an area where the sounds, sights and smells are quite possibly most likely to seduce the unsuspecting visitor who has come to Sarajevo with visions of it being a relic of a beleaguered nation.
The eternal flame burns brightly (Sarajevo; Bosnia and Herzegovina)
For a more modern take on Sarajevo, look now further than the unique and inspiring modern building that is the Avaz twist tower, so called because of the way in which the building's panels ascend skywards in a twisting formation. The city views from the 35th floor are amongst the city's finest, and a short walk from the tower will bring the pedestrian to a cluster of 3 modern shopping malls, one of which (Sarajevo City Centre) has a wraparound neon display board which suggests it would not look out of place in a neon-infested Far Eastern city setting. The tram network in Sarajevo has been in existence for 130 years, and the trams here are positively iconic, and an efficient means of getting from A to B in this rectangular mass of urbanization. It might be hard to visit the place and erase any notions of curiosity from your mind as to how the 1990's conflict actually affected Sarajevo, so what better way to put all of that into perspective than to follow the Total Siege tour organized by Sarajevo funky tours, a locally-based agency which excels at the kind of tour which is both insightful and slightly disturbing, all details considered.
The national library is an attractive building for sure (Sarajevo; Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Nonetheless, stop-off points on this tour include the 'Tunnel of Hope' which is now a bona fide museum despite its 'escape route' war-period identity, and the arresting sight of the abandoned bobsleigh run, a relic of the 1984 Sarajevo Olympic games, and now a tourist sight listed in the world's top 20 hall of fame for abandoned spots whose glory days are clearly over. One of the best discovery processes has always been, for my money, the random city-roaming option, and in this traveller's case yielded strolls past photogenic buildings such as Sarajevo's city brewery, far more appealing a sight than one would have any right to expect! Despite all of the above reflections on the Bosnian capital, something among the ranks suggests that Sarajevo is still in the process of recovering from a grim period of history which it would have strongly benefitted from not having to endure, but that past has clearly not dampened the residents' spirits, and certainly, judging by the stonking nightlife options, not discouraged their tendancies to celebrate life, and the only advice I can offer is to sample a slice of the city's living history and to align yourself with the population's indomitable and fiercely proud fighting spirit of determination.
A city view including the Avaz twist tower (Sarajevo; Bosnia and Herzegovina)