As it happens, the bus is an hour late. The driver does not speak English to explain/seem to care why and as we are the last pickup the only two seats available are at opposite ends of the bus. Granted it is a minibus but still, we’re not off to the best of starts. I call the proverbial shotgun and proceed to spend the journey fearing for my life along the winding mountain roads. The driver proceeds to answer more phone calls in one journey than I’ve had in the last month all whilst overtaking every vehicle we encounter on the single lane roads. It’s an experience I’d be happy to never repeat. Amongst the other (all American) passengers are two Bosnian ladies who are impossibly sweet and rather enamoured with us British. Maybe (probably) it’s the accents. They ask for a photo “for memory” and their sunny dispositions bode well for the next culture we’ve crossed the border into.
Annoyingly we arrive two hours later than scheduled. Annoying not only because we are already on a limited time scale but also because we are given the warmest of welcomes to our studio apartment by the owner of Apartments Emily and after one look at the panoramic views we are already in love with the place. After a quick chat it’s straight out the door, via the infamous bridge and into the midst of the Sarajevo hustle and bustle which seems to centre around the delightfully copper filled Old Bazaar. I immediately want to sacrifice all my clothes and instead fill my rucksack with copper trinkets and coffee sets I have no idea how to use. Begrudgingly, and luckily for everyone we’re yet to encounter throughout Europe, I settle for a more travel friendly bangle and ring which the owner of our chosen shop continues to make as I scrupulously peruse my options.
We observe the meeting point of cultures, as it’s known, and notice within one view you can identify most kinds of religious temple. It’s a peaceful reminder of harmonious living together after more turbulent times. It really is a vision of East meets West, as the signage suggests and it’s a fascinating fusion of cultures.
After stopping for a fresh (and green) lemonade we head to the 11.07.95 gallery which is just the most eye opening insight into the turmoil this beautiful country endured in the 90s. It’s harrowing and heartbreaking and makes you so angry that such events could even take place. They show two films amongst the art installation of photos. One scene that’s particularly memorable shows young girls who would have been a similar age to me at the time, dressed in the same 90s clothes, listening to the same 90s music in the street all whilst gunfire endlessly echoes behind them. I cannot recommend this gallery enough if you’re in Sarajevo. I feel like these films should be compulsory viewing for students and UN leaders alike.
Feeling educated if not slightly emotionally drained we choose to eat at a restaurant I had scoped out called Apetit. It’s tiny- enough room for maybe only 12 covers and the kitchen/solo chef is situated right in front of the diners. There’s no menu, you just tell the waiter what you like and your own personal concoction appears. After requesting vegetarian I enjoyed an Asian inspired stir fried vegetable dish with the fluffiest rice. Tom went for a fish option and had sea bass after we both shared a smoked trout salad starter. It’s a wonderfully innovative addition to traditional Sarajevo and an absolute bargain- our meal with a bottle of wine comes to around £28. Definitely one to stop by.
Upon our arrival I had immediately cited the window bath in our room as a definite late evening activity so we head back to the apartment where the owner greets us and treats us to a viewing of the hidden gem he’s been working on. An architect by trade, he’s been building a whole new studio room above the others with floor to ceiling windows. This is great enough but then he takes us outside and up to the roof terrace. And then to the “top” roof terrace. We emerge high above the surrounding buildings as the sun perfectly sets under the Sarajevo skies. It has to be the best view in the city and we feel as on top of the world as we are above it to have found such an incredible spot.
We long for more time in Sarajevo to explore the tunnels and visit the winter olympic site but alas we’ll have to save that for another trip as the next morning sees another early start and a train onwards to Mostar. We’ve heard good things about the scenery en route and it’s safe to say the Bosnian countryside soon prevails in a pretty spectacular way.