A Visit to Sarajevo: A Fascinating Mix of East and West

Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a city with a rich and fascinating history. Located in the heart of the Balkans, it has been a crossroads of cultures for centuries, resulting in a unique blend of Eastern and Western influences.

The city’s history can be traced back to the Neolithic period, but it gained prominence during the Ottoman Empire. In the 19th century, it became a major center of trade and industry, earning it the nickname “the Jerusalem of Europe” due to its diverse population of Muslims, Orthodox Christians, and Jews.

Today, Sarajevo is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, with a diverse array of architectural styles reflecting its rich history. The narrow, winding streets of the old town, known as Baščaršija, are lined with quaint shops and cafes, and at its heart sits the Gazi Husrev-Beg Mosque, one of the largest and oldest in the Balkans.

sarajevo

But Sarajevo is perhaps best known for its tumultuous recent history. In the 1990s, the city was the site of the longest siege in modern history, as it was surrounded by Bosnian Serb forces for nearly four years. The city’s residents were subjected to daily bombardments and shortages of food and supplies, but they persevered and the city has since been rebuilt.

Today, visitors to Sarajevo can see firsthand the resilience and strength of the city’s people. The Sarajevo War Tunnel, built during the siege to provide a lifeline to the outside world, is now a museum showcasing the city’s history during this difficult time.

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But Sarajevo is not just a city defined by its past. It is also a vibrant and lively place, with a thriving arts and culture scene. The National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, located in the city center, offers a comprehensive look at the country’s history and culture, while the Sarajevo Film Festival, held annually in the summer, is one of the largest and most prestigious in Europe.

sarajevo

In addition to its historical and cultural attractions, Sarajevo is also a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The surrounding mountains offer opportunities for hiking and skiing, and the nearby river Miljacka is popular for rafting.

No visit to Sarajevo would be complete without trying the local cuisine. Bosnian food is a delicious blend of Eastern and Western influences, with dishes such as ćevapi (grilled minced meat) and burek (savory pastry) being particular specialties. Wash it all down with a cup of Bosnian coffee, served in the traditional manner with sugar cubes on the side.

Overall, a visit to Sarajevo is a truly unique experience. The city’s rich history, diverse culture, and stunning natural surroundings make it a must-see destination for anyone interested in exploring the Balkans.

Etymology

The name Sarajevo derives from the Turkish noun saray, meaning “palace” or “mansion” (from Persian sarāy, سرای, of the same meaning). Scholars disagree on the origin of the evo attached to the end. In Slavic languages, the addition of “evo” may indicate a possessive noun, thereby making the name of Sarajevo, ‘city of the palace.”

One theory is that the name may have been derived from the Ottoman Turkish term saray ovası, first recorded in 1455, meaning “the plains around the palace” or simply “palace plains”

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Geography

Sarajevo is near the geometric center of the triangular-shaped Bosnia and Herzegovina and within the historical region of Bosnia proper. It is situated 518 m (1,699 ft) above sea level and lies in the Sarajevo valley, in the middle of the Dinaric Alps.

sarajevo

The valley was once an expansive, fertile and green space, but considerable urban expansion and development took place following World War II. The city is surrounded by forested hills and five major mountains. The highest of the surrounding peaks is Treskavica at 2,088 m (6,850 ft), followed by Bjelašnica mountain at 2,067 m (6,781 ft), Jahorina at 1,913 m (6,276 ft), Trebević at 1,627 m (5,338 ft), and Igman the shortest at 1,502 m (4,928 ft). The last four are also known as the Olympic Mountains of Sarajevo.

When the city hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics, venues were constructed at these mountains for many winter sports events. The city is developed within hilly terrain; there are many steeply inclined streets and residences that seem to perch on the hillsides.

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