Due to its long and rich history of religious and cultural variety, Sarajevo is sometimes called the “Jerusalem of Europe”. It was, until late in the 20th century, the only major European city to have a mosque, Catholic church, Orthodox church and synagogue within the same neighborhood. The city, which dates back to the 15th century, has also attracted international (and infamous) attention.
It was in Sarajevo where the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Sophie, occurred on 28 June 1914; setting off World War I. Sarajevo was the site of the 1984 Winter Olympics, the first Winter Olympics to be held in a Communist state (remember Torvill and Dean?). And it was in Sarajevo where the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare took place.
In April of 1992, after the Muslims and Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina had declared independence from Yugoslavia, the city of Sarajevo fell under attack from Bosnian Serb military groups with the backing of the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army, who were against Bosnian independence. The Bosnian Serbs encircled the city and placed Sarajevo’s 500,000 citizens under siege. Sarajevo was bombarded by artillery and snipers picked off residents as they walked in the streets. The Siege of Sarajevo lasted from 5 April 1992 to 29 February 1996 (1,425 days) during the Bosnian War and claimed the lives of almost 14,000 people, including over 5,000 civilians.
Today, Sarajevo is a city on the rebound and on the rise. The travel guide series, Lonely Planet, has named Sarajevo as the 43rd best city in the world, and listed Sarajevo as one of the top ten cities to visit in 2010. In 2017 the Huffington Post named Sarajevo The Second Most Beautiful City in the World. Moreover, in 2017, 1,307,319 tourists visited Bosnia-Herzegovina, an increase of 13.7%, and had 2,677,125 overnight hotel stays, a 12.3% increase from the previous year. Also, 71.5% of the tourists came from foreign countries.
Sarajevo was indeed a beautiful city to visit. The history, the culture, the great food (get ready for plenty of beef, veal and steak!) and even greater coffee, all without the high costs of those other major European cities. Walking the streets of Old Town with my wife into the evening is something I’ll never forget. The city has come a long way – but you don’t need to look too hard to see its many scars still healing.
Photographs taken with my Lumix GH4 and a few good lenses. Special thanks to our tour guide Ahmed Lavić of ToursbyLocals.com for helping us get around to all the interesting sites around town (and serving as my unwitting production assistant). We stayed at the lovely Old Town Hotel in Sarajevo and despite not having an elevator, we enjoyed our time there – not to mention the stunning views of Old Town from our room.
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Mrs. Perez and I enjoying Baščaršija