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Europe » Bosnia & Herzegovina » East » Sarajevo
September 1st 2011
Published: December 14th 2011
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It was past time to get out of Serbia. Our GPS had only main roads, and the paper map we had wasn't detailed enough to help us that much but we eventually made it to a border crossing, a small one. We decided that the small ones are the way to go – no queue of cars and the guards a tiny bit less sullen, if not actually cheerful.

Up until we crossed into Bosnia the scenery had been nice, if not exactly spectacular. Border formalities done with, we continued along the road, soon coming to a tight mountain pass. We drove out from the shadow of the mountains into the bright sunlight and….wow. Spectacular mountain roads, deep gorges, incredible views. A blush of autumn on the surrounding mountainsides (which I must admit just looked like dead trees to me) leading down to beautiful blue water far below. The road, too, was pretty good.

Until it just sort of stopped. No wonder the map had a dotted line – where the line was there was actually no road at all. Instead, a very exciting detour. Not quite Romanian exciting as it wound its potholed, goat track type way up and around the bend, but not bad. Savage, though, were the cops. Even with a veritable Tiesto light show of headlight flashing we saw at least 6 different people getting speeding tickets.

Sarajevo is sort of nestled in the mountains, and the drive in was pretty spectacular. Our trusty GPS took us straight through the centre of town, right in the middle of rush hour. Excellent. Still, it wasn’t so bad, and I don’t think there was actually any other option. The campground we were looking for was on the other side of town, right down the road that had come to be known as ‘Sniper’s Alley’ during the war.

Camping Oaza was its name, and it was pretty nice. Quiet this time of year, just us, some French campers, and 21 Dutch caravanners in a convoy – they even had numbers on their windscreens. The Dutch take their holidaying very seriously. Summer is clearly the best time to steal things in Amsterdam – there’s no one there. Just outside was some street art. In truly unexpected places. And of a high standard too.

A short ride on an old, but well maintained, tram and we were in the centre of Sarajevo. I’d heard a bit about the place from others that had visited, so expected it to be nice. It was better than that. We spent the better part of a day wandering around the old Turkish quarter, with its bazaar like streets, mosques facing churches, fantastic bars and cafes and restaurants. Tourists wandered by, checking out coffee sets and spice grinders while old men played checkers under weathered umbrellas. Except for the main plaza. Famous for its monument, it was really The Square of Pigeon Death, and I wasn’t a huge fan.

We retired to a side alley for a very relaxing lunch of fantastic Bosnian food. And it turned out that the local drop – Sarajevska – was actually one of the better basic beers I'd had since the Czech republic. Worth a walk across the river to have a look at the brewery. It wasn’t open for tours or the like, but it was a nicely restored building nonetheless. During the siege it had been one of the few places in the city with clean water.

The scars of the siege were still very much in evidence – shell holes in the footpath, bullet holes on a lot of the concrete surfaces – and it was a sobering thing. But a lot had been done to fix the place up, so Sarajevo was once again a beautiful city, a mix of different cultures. I guess the human scars will be a bit harder to fix, but the city was well on its way.

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