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Looking down a side street near the city center in Sarajevo.

When one says the name Sarajevo, a whole host of thoughts enters people’s minds. Unfortunately, most tend to dwell on war and civil strife as they recall the horror that befell the city in the 1990’s.

I visited the city with zero expectations. Not in a negative sense, of course. I simply did not know what to expect and wanted my mind to be completely open to the experience. I was blessed with a wonderful visit filled with warm people, excellent food, a beautiful city brimming with history, and outstanding coffee.

Lucky enough to spend a couple nights downtown, I never really left the city center. There was enough to experience without ever having to go very far. Almost everything was walk-able.

One of the elements that makes the city remarkable is the fact that there is such an ingrained mixture of culture. Within a five minute walk, one can find an old Roman Catholic cathedral, an Eastern Orthodox church, and a mosque.

The city goes from modern, to post-medieval in a few short steps. There are side streets that look like Turkish bazaars, and main streets that would feel at home in any European capitol. Be sure to drink the coffee while walking through the old town. It’s served Turkish style–so strong that if you sip it too quickly, you’ll wind up drinking the grinds that are served in the pot without a filter. Move over, espresso.

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Chess is often played downtown by groups of old me who seem to endlessly talk about what the next move should be…

The charm of the city? On the exterior, graffiti, bullet holes, red colored tar and concrete filled holes where mortars exploded years ago are apparent throughout. Yet, venture in any building and one might find a trendy coffee shop or restaurant that would find itself at home in Chicago, New York, or London. It was impressive and demonstrated the resilience of the people who live there.

Worth noting. Affordable as ever, I rarely paid more than $2 for a beer, and almost never paid more than $10 for an entire meal.

There was an exception to this, however, and I must mention it here. Just north of the city center is a restaurant known as “Kibe.” This is a place visited by Hollywood A-list celebrities and even U.S. presidents. I cannot recommend it enough. If you visit Sarajevo, make a reservation and go. The food and wine is excellent, the view from the terrace where I ate was lovely, and the staff was warm and accommodating. Incredibly affordable, I had appetizers, two entrees, dessert, wine, and liquor for under $35. Be sure to leave a healthy tip, the staff will earn it.

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The view from Kibe at sundown. It stares directly at the city center.

The restaurant can be located at Vrbanjuša 164, Sarajevo 71000, and for more details you can visit their web site at: http://kibemahala.ba/.

Things you should see if you’re just passing through? I recommend simply walking down an east-west street named Ferhadija. Be sure to see the Saborna Crkva Rođenja Presvete Bogorodice (the Eastern Orthodox church), the Katedrala Srca Isusova (Roman Catholic cathedral), the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque, and the Sebilj (an old market square). You can’t go wrong if you stay along this road and walk one or two blocks down side streets in every direction. It should be quite safe. Even at night.

Enjoy Sarajevo.

 

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