Sarajevo gets a bad wrap, mainly because he’s of people have been massacred here over the years. But it’s actually a cracker of a city with plenty of culture, a great nightlife, and a unique personality unlike any other I’ve experienced. It’s not hard to see why it’s knows as The Jewell of That Sort of Southern-Middle Bit of Europe.
For a lot of people – myself included – Sarajevo is still tied to the Yugoslav Wars, and the signs of that are still here. Bombed out buildings still stand on the outskirts of the city, and cemeteries dedicated to the thousands who died in the conflict are absolutely everywhere. Seriously, in Bosnia you never have to look far to find one, and paddocks full of pointy white tombstones are one of the most noticeable things about this country. But Sarajevo is so much more than that.
It doesn’t really feel like a European city, and reminds me more of being in Asia. The Old Town district is crammed with stalls and restaurants, with people hurrying in every direction and the smell of cooking meet wafts through the air. Wild dogs look for food in alleyways while homeless people in rags beg for change. Every so often some weird music will start playing and some dude will start yodelling through a megaphone, as part of the Muslim call to prayer. It’s a unique place, with a bigger mix of cultures than a Sasha Grey gangbang video.
After my long bus ride, I was pretty thirsty, so spend the afternoon and evening drinking beer in a number quality establishments, including a shack called the City Pub, which filled up late and became rowdy as the band took to the stage. I found out something about myself last night – I really like Bosnian rock music, even if I can’t understand the words. It’s loud and fast, with great choruses and booming guitar solos. After drinking beer all afternoon, I was singing along and dancing with my new Bosnian friends, acting like a fuckwit.
Not surprisingly, I woke up with a rotten headache that made me wonder if a large Bosnian man had climbed in my window while I was sleeping and danced on my head. There’s only one cure for a hangie like that – a kebab. Or, in this case, two kebabs and a plate of hot chips, with a can of Coke to wash it all down.
Feeling better than ever, I jogged (well, walked… slowly) up to the Yellow Bastion, which provides a brilliant view out over the city. There was a really hot sheila getting married up there, so I pulled my hoodie over my face, lest she see me and immediately leave her hubby, leading to hundreds of angry Bosniaks chasing me through the streets of Sarajevo.
As I was trotting along with a kebab in one hand and a beer in the other, I saw a bunch of champions in fancy clothes playing trumpets and making an awful racket, so I headed over for a closer look. They started walking off down the street, and I followed them to see where they’d end up. People were lining the streets, clapping and cheering, and after a few minutes I noticed that they were just cheering for the band, they were still doing as I went past. That’s when I looked around and realised that the people I was walking with weren’t just regular street trash, they were all wearing nice clothes with medals pinned to them. I wasn’t following the parade, I was part of it!
Nobody seemed to mind, so I just kept going, waving at people as I passed them. When we finally reached some sort of cathedral, me and the rest of the group assembled on the stairs while the band banged out another song and some dickhead with a camera snapped photos of us. I made sure I gave him my biggest smile, then stood there for the next hour or so while some bloke chatted to crowd in some language I don’t understand, before ducking away when the band started up again.
I finished the day with a steaming hot burek in my mouth. No, burek isn’t the name of the handsome man who dances outside my hostel, it’s the Bosnian national dish, and is basically mince meat in pastry, so it’s like a pie! I was about disappointed that the little bloke in the restaurant didn’t squirt any tommo sauce on it, but it was a delicious way to end the day.