When the owners of my guest house in Mostar, Bosnia picked me up, they seemed genuinely endeared by my interest in their country—and adamant that theirs wouldn’t be the only Bosnian city I visited. “You must go to Sarajevo,” they insisted. “It’s incredible, but in a very different way than Mostar.” At the time, I smiled and nodded, not wanting to explain to them that my two weeks in the Balkans were packed as it was. The more research I did on Sarajevo, however, the more visiting the city seemed like a good idea.
1. Sarajevo is kind of a hot mess—the best kind
An amalgam of buildings old and new, huge and tiny, gorgeous and hideous, Sarajevo kind of doesn’t make sense, from a visual perspective, a fact that mirrors its cultural schizophrenia. It’s the sort of over-the-top eclecticism that Berlin markets itself as having, but has almost completely lost 25 years after the wall fell. Sarajevo, to be sure, bears few scars of war—a sense of triumph rises from the city like its dozens of minarets.
2. It’s a living museum
In fact, it’s just a few minutes’ walk from the minaret of the magnificent King Fayd Mosque that you find the Latin Bridge, which Archduke Franz Ferdinand has just crossed when he took the bullet that started World War I. About 15 minutes by foot north and west of this and you’re at the Eternal Flame of Bosnia, which burns to signify the perseverance of the Bosnian people. Sarajevo’s got actual museums, too, the most relevant among them the Srebrenica-centered Galerija 11/07/95, but the entire city is a museum if you get right down to it.
3. It’s easy
I stayed in a four-star hotel in Sarajevo’s old city and yet only paid 120 KM (about $70) per night, at a walk-up rate. Sarajevo’s Old Town is easily explored by foot, whether you traipse along the banks of the Miljacka River, scale the Yellow Fortress for a sunset panorama or even walk to the city’s bus or train station.
4. You can’t go hungry here
The only thing Sarajevo old town has more of than heritage buildings is food stalls, whether they’re serving up Bosnian Cevapi, Turkish döners, pizza on par with what you’ll find in Italy (or, at least, Croatia) and even Sarajevo-style cuisine such as the eclectic Sarajevski Sahan sampler on offer at Pod Lipom, whose food I’m sad to say is much better than its service.
5. It’s only two hours from Mostar
In spite of how slow buses in Bosnia travel, it will take you no longer than two hours to reach Sarajevo from Mostar, so what do you have to lose? Even if you hate it—and you won’t, trust me—you’ll be out nothing more than a few Bosnian marks and a little of your time.