Why visit Sarajevo, Bosnia?
Why visit Sarajevo?
Sarajevo is one the most historically interesting and varied cities in all of Europe and the crossroads where Roman Catholic west, Eastern Orthodox east and the Ottoman south collide. Simply walking through Sarajevo is a lesson in the rich tapestry of historical influence. Baščaršija, Sarajevo’s most central district, is a wonderful blend of minarets, grilled kebabs and the pervasive smell of ground coffee, reminiscent of Istanbul but with a Slavic twist. Heading west, the minarets give way to churches and the elegant Germanic influence of the Austro-Hungarian period takes over. Continuing on, and the soaring behemoths of Communist architecture rise into view, heralding your entry into ‘snipers alley’, and the bullet marked remnants of war.
A lively summer scene and, during winter, some of Europe’s best-value skiing, a mere 30km away ensure good times all year round. Throw in some of the friendliest locals in all of the Balkans and very little street crime and it isn’t hard to see why Sarajevo is one of Europe’s fastest growing tourist destinations.
Rating: 1 – Bad Experience 5 – Good Experience
Sarajevo: the facts
The areas around Sarajevo have been inhabited since Neolithic times, with its most notable early inhabited being the Butmir and later Illyrian civilizations. During Roman times the colony of ‘Aquae Sulphurae’ of which Sarajevo was a part, was a bit of a backwater and was underdeveloped in relation to other parts of the Empire. In the middle ages, Sarajevo was part of the Slavic Bosnian province of Vrhbosn.
Sarajevo, as we know it today, was founded by the Ottoman Empire in the 1450s, when a number of key structures were built including a mosque, a closed marketplace, a public bath, a hostel, and the governor’s castle (Saray) from which the city’s name derives. By the 16th century, Sarajevo was a significant urban centre, noted for its markets and its numerous mosques.
In 1699 Prince Eugene of Savoy led a successful raid on Sarajevo, after which the city was looted and razed to the ground, destroying almost everything, save a handful of neighbourhoods. In the 1830s, the city was to suffer further damage as the scene of the many battles during the Bosnian rebellion.
In 1878, Bosnia was occupied by Austria-Hungary and Sarajevo was to undergo yet another rebuilding project. It was around this time that the Latin script was first introduced to the city. Sarajevo was also the place where Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg were assassinated on 28 June 1914 by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip.
During the 2nd World War, after a brief German bombing campaign, Sarajevo was captured on 15th April 1941 by the Axis powers. It was then subsequently bombed by the Allies from 1943 to 1944. Following liberation, Sarajevo was made the capital of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
The Communist period saw Sarajevo grow rapidly, becoming an important regional industrial centre in Yugoslavia. New residential blocks in Novi Grad and Novo Sarajevo Municipalities were constructed and the crowning glory of the Socialist Yugoslavia era witnessed the Winter Olympics held in Sarajevo in 1984.
The history of modern Sarajevo can be said to have begun with the declaration of independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina from Yugoslavia. Following the declaration, Serbian units of the Yugoslav People’s Army established itself on the surrounding mountains and the longest siege in the history of modern warfare was under way. The city was held without electricity, heating, water, and medical supplies, a feat even more impressive given this whole time, the surrounding Serb forces were shelling the city. It is estimated that 12,000 people were killed and another 50,000 wounded during the course of the siege.
Today, Sarajevo is one of the fastest developing cities in the region after a massive urban renewal program which has helped to repair the clear the majority of the city’s ruins.
Economy & Tourism
Whilst previously a heavy industry stronghold, very few of the pre-existing businesses made it through the conversion to a market economy. The major industries in town today include tobacco production and, furniture, hosiery, automobiles, and communication equipment.
Sarajevo has a wide tourist industry and a fast expanding service sector thanks to the strong annual growth in tourist arrivals which is helped by both its summer and winter appeal. The GDP of Sarajevo is estimated at $16.76 billion which comprises around 36% of Bosnia & Herzegovina’s total GDP.
Sarajevo experience 4 distinct seasons and rainfall spread across the entire year. The average yearly temperature is 10°C (50°F), with January (−0.5°C (31.1°F) avg.) being the coldest month of the year and July (19.7°C (67.5°F) avg.) the warmest. The Adriatic Sea somewhat moderates Sarajevo’s climate, although the mountains to the south of the city greatly reduce this maritime influence.
Weather in Sarajevo now
Sarajevo is well-known for wide variety of cultural festivals that take place throughout the year in the city. Sarajevo Fashion Week takes place in November and contains all you would expect from an international fashion show. Sarajevan Winter is the longest of Sarajevo’s festivals, lasting for 2 whole months in February & March, and is marked by daily events that encompass music, dance and theatre as well as organised museum trips and city walks. The Sarajevo Film Festival is perhaps Sarajevo’s premier event and is arguable the most important film festival in all of south-east Europe. The event prides itself on its unqiue blend of local and international stars and regional shows hosting some of the world’s best documentaries. Bascarsija Nights takes place in July in the city’s old Turkish district and offers a full month programme of folk dancing, opera, ballet, rock, love songs and poetry. The Jazz Festival, which takes place across the city in November is one of Sarajevo’s newest celebrations and is a must for all jazz lovers.
Written by: Jon