| Destination Bosnia:
Sarajevo's Storied Bridge to
World War I
Story and photos by Tom Weber
be the first to admit that a description of the trajectory of an assassin's
bullet is not the normal way to jumpstart a guided walking tour of a
city, but this is Sarajevo after all, where images of wars past dot
the landscape, and where the "band of merry media" and I
18 intrepid travel writers and photographers invited by Insight Vacations
(Insight) to sample a portion of its Bosnia-Dalamatian
Riviera itinerary are being schooled by a local expert.
Just a little over a century ago, June
28, 1914 to be exact, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife
Sofia, the Duchess of Hohenberg, were gunned down in broad daylight
on a flagstoned street in the Stari Grad (Old Town) of Sarajevo
by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb.
"Princip was a member of a six-person
assassination team," Dino, Insights' thirty-something local expert,
explains, "dispatched to Sarajevo by the Black Hand, a secretive
military society within the Army of the Kingdom of Serbia."
Dino continues his open-air lecture, "He
stood in wait right here on the Latin Bridge until the royal motorcade
passed by and then, rushing forward, he fired point blank." Pausing
slightly for effect, Dino adds, "The fatal shots from Princip's
pistol triggered the start of World War I, the so-called 'war to end
Moving quickly out of the historic line
of fire, we make our way across the Miljacka River via the iconic Latin
Passing by Sarajevo's City Hall, the late
19th century storybook building highlighted by its prominent Neo-Moorish
facade, we enter the heart and soul of Old Town: the Bačarija
Here, the centuries-old Ottoman bazaar,
filled with mom-and-pop shops, is alive and well along its labyrinth
of flagstone alleyways and intimate courtyards that provide the camera
lens with an endless array of postcard-perfect, peekaboo scenes that
are suitable for framing.
after me, bahsh-CHAR-shee-jah means "main marketplace,"
and started out in 1462 with a caravanserai (small inn) and several
shops and reached its peak sometime during the 16th century when over
12,000 shops, featuring 80 different kinds of crafts, filled the space.
"The alleyways took their names from
the kinds of crafts that were being made and showcased," Dino tells
us, "like Kazandiluk, or Coppersmith Street," as we
pass by storefronts filled with polished copper items for sale, including
pens made from brass bullet casings.
Over time, earthquakes, fires and wars
reduced the old bazaar neighborhood to a fraction of what it used to
be during its heyday, but it's still Sarajevo's main tourist area, especially
around the Sebij, an ornamental, gazebo-like water fountain smack dab
in the middle of Pigeon Square.
The Bačarija is chock-full
of artisan workshops, bric-a-brac storefronts, cafes, hookah bars, inviting
little restaurants and Ottoman-era mosques, like the Gazi Husrev-beg,
where a custodian awaits our arrival and ushers us all inside for a
quiet look around.
"This mosque is considered the most
important Islamic structure in the country and is one of the world's
finest examples of Ottoman architecture," Dino informs us. "And,
it was the very first mosque on the planet to receive electricity, installed
back in 1898."
The Gazi Husrev-beg mosque takes its name
from the 16th century provincial governor of Bosnia, who financed its
construction in 1531.
Gazi Husrev-beg, the man, is widely considered
Sarajevo's greatest patron, as he bankrolled much of Sarajevo's Old
Town. Even after his death, a living trust that he bequeathed the city
nearly 500-years ago continues to work its magic even to this day.
Departing the mosque, we exit through its
courtyard where an ornate adrvan (fountain) stands. Used
daily to cleanse oneself before entering the grand Islamic house of
worship, the sweet-tasting spring water is surprisingly drinkable.
Back out on the pedestrian-only flagstone
alleyways, we cross over the symbolic demarcation line, where the cultures
of the east and west cross paths, and leave the confines of this atmospheric
Ottoman neighborhood and head into the more modern bustle of the Austro-Hungarian
side of Sarajevo.
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Where to next? Oh, just the absolute best
coffee house in the city for an authentic cup of Bosnian Joe. Join me
in about 20 minutes, just up the street and around the corner, when
you'll hear the waiter ask me: "One lump or two?"
in Sarajevo with Mrs. Safija; Bird's-Eye
Views from Sarajevo's Yellow Fortress; Surprising
Sarajevo Dinner in Grandma's Kitchen; Destination:
Bosnia and the Dalmatian Riviera; An
Eastern Mediterranean Odyssey