Travelogue: Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Hey, friends! Since I’m asking you to let me help with your independent travel, I think it’s important to share some of my own travel stories with you. I want you to understand how I see the world and the kinds of experiences I focus on when planning trips! I’m currently traveling through London and Norway with my wonderful mother, and I’ll share some of the stories from this trip a bit later.

Today I want to share a journal entry I came across from my six-week solo trip driving through Central and Eastern Europe in 2015. I know the writing isn’t perfect, but it was my real and raw experience that day.  I’ve only done minor edits for grammar and understanding. 🙂

June 27, 2015 – Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina

sarajevo-fountain-imageWell, day two in Sarajevo started with a bit of a hiccup. As I went to get in the shower, I realized my dirty clothes bag was missing. I went out and checked the trunk, but sure enough, I left it in Jajce. In times past this would have totally ruined my day and sent me into a panic, but I called and emailed the hostel and they said they would mail them to my hostel here. Today is Saturday and they won’t arrive until Tuesday or Wednesday. I’m really okay with this!

It’s actually good for me to be forced to slow down and really just BE in a place. I spent three nights in Plitvice National Park, but everything else has only been a night or two in the same place. While I like to be on the move and have things to do, but it will be good to just slow down. This may be hard for me so it might be just what I need.

Walking Tour of the City

This morning after straightening out the dirty laundry (ha!), I went on a walking tour of the city. What an awesome experience on so many levels! I learned a lot about the history, people, and culture. Our first stop, after a brief intro to the city and country, was the Eternal Flame. This was created in 1945 or 1946 as a monument of gratitude to the people (Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks) who liberated the city from the Nazis. 

The only time the flame has been out was during the siege (1992 – 1996), which ironically was fighting among the same three groups. You can still see where the bullets and shells damaged the monument. The people chose to leave them as a reminder of what good can come from working together and the bad from fighting amongst ourselves.

Remnants of the 90’s Siege

sarajevo-rose-imageOur next stop was the open-air market. After not being hit with a single shell for two years, in 1994 a shell hit the market killing 67 and wounding more than 100 others. It was the largest massacre during the siege. They have left the small crater where the shell landed and the back wall of the market is now a memorial with the names of all 67 who died that day – Muslim Bosniaks, Orthodox Serbs, and Catholic Croats. I love that they preserved and remember what happened instead of just glossing over the troubles. 

From there we moved to the Cathedral of Jesus’ Sacred Heart and a spot where another shell killed someone. The hole has been filled with a red material and the damage to the building was left in remembrance of those who died. The red filled mortal holes are called Sarajevo Roses and you can see them all over the city. They’re used to mark a place where one of the shells took a life. 

WWI Starts in Sarajevo

Next we visited the place on the Latin Bridge where Franz Ferdinand’s car drove and had to turn around, giving one the assassins the perfect opportunity to kill him and his pregnant wife Sofia. Tomorrow is 101 years since the assassination. 

The rest of the tour was the covered market, Bey’s Mosque, the Old Synagogue, the city park with the giant chess board, and the oldest hostel in the city (now offices). I found the parts about the siege most interesting because I remember hearing about it on TV when I was young. 

Parallel Lives

Park in Sarajevo

What I found most striking was listening to our guide talk about her experience as a Bosnian. The jokes about the people living in Sarajevo being missed (by snipers) and how they were very athletic because they all ran everywhere in hopes of avoiding sniper fire. The stories of the horrible UN rations of rice that had to be boiled for five hours to be edible and the bright pink meat gelatin are a stark contrast to the first world problems and Junior High drama that was my own life during the same time. 

She talked about how the unemployment rate is currently about 50% and even higher (65%) for those under 35. About how they sit in cafes and drink coffee for 1 mark (50 cents US) comparing who has the crappiest life, like a one-upper game. She said overall life is okay, and people are pretty happy just to have the simple things because they have known so much worse.

This got me thinking about the sliver I had in Bled (I got a painful piece of wood stuck in my finger that took up a ridiculous amount of head space until I got it out) and how we spend so much time and mental energy on things that really don’t matter and miss the joys of simply being alive!

Coffee and a conversation with people you love or just met, fresh fruit on a summer morning, being able to walk the streets of a new city, are things many of us take for granted. These are the things Sarajevo is meant to teach me. That’s why I’m here. I have much to learn from this city and its people. (Damn, reading that now makes me all choked up – this was only the beginning of what this beautiful city would send home with me…)

sarajevo-bosnian-coffee-image

Enjoying the Sarajevo of Today

I spent the afternoon eating Čevapi, walking along Marshal Tito street, hiked the road to the Olympic Stadium (the 1984 Olympics were in Sarajevo), had an espresso, read my book, met some other travelers from Germany and Ireland over a beer, and enjoyed a simple backpacker dinner with funky roast chicken puffy chips before a nice chat with my hubby. 

When I’m in the bigger cities, I find myself running through the list of things to see. Again, I have much to learn from the Bosnian way and pleasure in the simplicity of life. I will do my best to just relax and let things flow more easily. The best part is that I have the time. There’s no reason to rush! 

Learning to Slow Down

The next place I want to see is Budapest, so maybe I can learn to chill and I’ll head straight there and spend a week rather than a few days in many of the places along the way. I think part of the mentality for me is, “I’ve come all this way, I should see as much as I can!” rather than slowing down and really enjoying the place, not rushing through it.

Appreciating the simple things and embracing more of the “slow travel” idea is where I’m going to focus for the rest of this trip. 

Budget Breakdown:

I was on a super tight budget for this trip, so I kept track of all my expenses every day and logged them at the end of my journal entries. Seems relevant. 🙂

$15 hostel, 4 mk tour, 4 mk grapes, 5 mk lunch, 20 mk gifts, 2 mk coffee, 3 mk beer, 1 mk bread, 3 mk beer & chips (Total: $35 USD and one serious fucking education)  

Reflections

In hindsight, I can see how much this single day changed my life. If not for a bag of misplaced dirty laundry, my experience in Sarajevo would have been much shorter and probably just the “highlight reel” of sights. Instead I spent a full week (Bosnian post isn’t the speediest) and fell completely in love with the city. I was able to see and feel the daily flow of life, make friends, and really soak in all it has to offer. I even returned that September and stayed for a full month!

Last fall, I went back for a visit and took a friend along so I could share the magic of this place. It’s become such a huge part of my consciousness and changed my worldview in ways that are difficult to put into words.

I always say, “Sarajevo is where I go when I need to remember how to live.”

Your Turn

Have you had any experiences that blow your mind wide open like this? How did you process that huge shift in awareness? How has it changed the way you see and interact with the world now?

 

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30 Thoughts to “Travelogue: Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina”

  1. Such a great post, Annie! Love all of your honesty about this trip.

    1. Annie

      Thank you! 🙂

  2. Fascinating information, don’t know if I’ll ever travel to this area, but it’s so interesting to read about.

  3. Joanne

    Wow! Places that haven’t made my list YET!

    1. Annie

      Yet! I would add it for sure! 🙂

  4. When I lived in Eastern Germany, I was really surprised that the amenities where about 20 years behind the US. Such as air conditioning! I didn’t think it was life changing but different. I loved it there!

  5. Angela

    The Sarajevo Roses are quite an interesting fact. Thanks for sharing the story and sorry about the lost clothes!

  6. Cynthia

    I enjoyed reading about your travels.

  7. I’m glad you were able to turn the negative situation into something so positive and life-changing.

  8. What a wild adventure that must’ve been!

  9. Wow, your telling of your visit to the open-air market gave me chills. So heartbreaking.

  10. This is a trip I so want to take. It has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. My husband and I were just talking about this area of the world a few weeks ago. He said he never learned or read much about the area so he has been the last few weeks and is really intrigued. Thanks for all the information

    1. Annie

      Oh my goodness, yes! It’s such an amazing place! When you’re ready to plan, feel free to ask any questions you have!

  11. Tiffany

    What an experience – love that you wrote down some thoughts during your travel. Great writing!

  12. What a life experience! Thank you for sharing this.

  13. Margaret

    It sounds like a wonderful trip, and a trip that also helped to give you great perspective on things like slowing down and the appreciation of just being alive. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Annie

      <3 Sometimes it's the little things that teach us the big lessons!

  14. Sian

    I love hearing about all the different places to travel! I want to go everywhere!

  15. So cool! Coming from German descent, I love posts from that part of the world!

  16. So interesting! I would love to be able to see the pictures a better, maybe bigger? Red to fix where shells have landed is so unique and kinda sad too. I was trying to look at the picture better to understand what you meant.

  17. April

    Hiccups like that do sometimes teach us the greatest lessons. And what a great place to learn those lessons.

  18. What an amazing overall experience. I love your attitude about taking a roadblock and turning it into such a beautiful experience!

  19. I have to be flexible about my plans almost every day. With kids (not even about travel), details change in the blink of an eye. Because of this, I actually try to plan our travel with a lot of leeway. The adult, love adventure part of me wants to take in everything, but the part that travels with 5-7 kids says, lets pick and choose our itinerary so we have plenty of time to play and not just rush here and there. Our best memories are in between the sight-seeing!

    1. Annie

      I love that attitude! It’s totally true, with or without children, everything can change when you least expect it. We can roll with the punches or mistress ourselves out. Cheers to being flexible!

  20. Beautiful! You were indeed meant to slow down and spend time there.

    Scotland, and in particular Edinburgh, has this effect on me. It shifts my perspective and teaches me things about the world and myself. I’ve just returned from my third trip to Edinburgh with the desire to figure out a way to live there part time.

    1. Annie

      You’re absolutely right, Edinburgh has that same magical feeling for me too! My husband and I have also talked about finding a way to spend more time there. Maybe our paths will cross there someday! 🙂

  21. I would love to see this part of the world. It looks amazing.

  22. Leaving room for the unexpected, and truly taking time in a new city is the best way to experience it. Sometimes we do blitz through a place and it leaves us wondering if we should have stopped just a little longer.

  23. Wow! It’s amazing what we take for granted. These aren’t places that I would think of to take a vacation and yet I think I’m going to put them on my bucket list!

  24. This was a fascinating read – what a fantastic place to explore!

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