A Labyrinth of Treasures
While I have only been in Sarajevo about two weeks, I think I have already found my favorite place in the city. In case you couldn’t tell from the title of this post, it’s called Old Town and it’s awesome. There seems to be a little bit of a debate amongst people from Sarajevo or who have spent time here as to where Old Town actually starts. I think I take a more liberal stance and say that it is the area after the fork in the road where the Eternal Flame is. I include both the Austro-Hungarian buildings and the Ottoman section. For those of you who have spent time here, feel free to disagree and I would love to hear your definition, and for those who have never been (although I’m sure after reading all my blog posts you all want to and we have an extra room in the apartment so hint hint, cough cough, now’s your chance, come visit ) the past few sentences will make no sense to you, so don’t worry about it. Anyways, back to the topic.
So . . . Old Town, what is it? As mentioned previously it’s a combination of an old central European inspired section and then a more Ottoman inspired old marketplace and mosque area. Most of the European section has become high end clothing stores and expensiveish restaurants. But in the center is a small park which has a huge chess board painted on some tiles and chess pieces that are like three feet tall that you pick up and move around when you play. I told my roommates we are totally having a Harry Potter style wizard’s chess match before we leave. I’m not sure if they are as excited about this as I am or not. There are also some cute gelato shops and coffee places. The Catholic Cathedral, where we went to mass on Sunday, is also located there. Once you pass through the European area, you enter the section built during the Ottoman Empire and it’s totally my favorite part. It’s just alley upon alley of small single story shops built out of stone with old school wooden doors and windows and tiled roofs. Everywhere is people selling copper tea sets or jewelry or silver engravings or wood carvings or basically you name the craft and it’s sold there. There are also some really cool old mosques. One, which we visited on Saturday, was built in the 1400’s and was still almost completely original, until during the Siege of Sarajevo it was badly damaged. They rebuilt it though after the original style and it still looks awesome. In addition, there are a variety of restaurants and coffee shops in the area. Overall, Old Town has a lot of to offer, but why does that make it my favorite? Side note, the one thing it doesn’t have is very much graffiti (the Ottoman area has none) which I find a really perplexing and interesting detail.
The reason that I love Old Town is because there is always something new (ironic right, always something new in Old Town? Okay, I’m probably the only one laughing at this but the whole being left by myself at a desk for extended periods of time are beginning to get to me). I have been to it almost every day since I arrived (it’s only like a 20 minute walk from the apartment) and every time I still find sections, I repeat that sections, not just like little shops or something, but actual large sections, of it that I never noticed before. If you haven’t picked up from my other blog posts or more so just knowing me in general, I love finding and discovering new things. Whether that be new places, new people, new ideas, or new food (yes Mom and Dad I can sense you smirking remembering my peanut butter and jelly only diet, but this has surprisingly become true as I’ve grown up), I love not being entirely sure what is coming next when I travel. Old Town is the perfect place for this. There are always new alleys, new shops or new restaurants to explore. But in addition to just being new, the thing I love about these places is that you actually have to work to find them. Old Town doesn’t just give up its secrets easily to any tourist that walks down the main path. Case in point, last night Addie and I were craving čevapi (traditional Bosnian food of grilled sausagelike meat, onions, and a weird saltyish cheese, all inside of a pita like bread, did not look appetizing at first, but I tried it, see Mom and Dad, and now I really like it) and decided to head to Old Town for it. Sadly Laura is sick, so she couldn’t join. After almost an hour of wandering in what began as mist and quickly became a downpour, trying to find a čevapi shop that wasn’t ridiculously overpriced and catering to tourists we stumbled into this small, out of the way shop. Turned out to be one of the best čevapi in Old Town and based on all of the press clippings and photographs on the wall, had been there a very long time and served some pretty cool people. Or during one of our many forays to find good Bosnian coffee we got lost and as we were trying to find our way back wandered into a old courtyard coffee shop that ended up being a local hangout spot with great coffee.
I have feeling I’m going to spend the rest of the summer continuing to explore Old Town and hopefully each time I’ll continue to find something new. And who knows, if I feel like I haven’t discovered all of its secrets by then, I guess I’ll just have a reason to come back to Sarajevo.