More to See in The Bascarsija (Ottoman Old Town), Sarajevo
– A stop outside the beautiful old Serbian Orthodox Church of St Michael and Gabriel. There wasn’t enough time to walk inside all the historic monuments in Sarajevo so Anya just showed outsides, told a little about their history, and suggested we return later today. The Church of St. Michael dated from medieval times with foundations and arcade structures early Christian (5th-6th century). The current structure dated from 1740 and was badly damaged by Serb shells during the siege.
There is a lengthy, local legend involving Serbian Orthodox Church of St Michael and Gabriel. Here is the short version. Child strangled by stepmother (we stepmothers get such bad press) and thrown into the Miljacka River….locals told this church priest who took body, and buried behind church….body exhumed 100-200 years later because church wanted to build on grounds…child well preserved…church declared a miracle and took body inside church…all churches and even synagogue (supposedly) in Sarajevo now wanted miraculous relics for their buildings….child’s body stayed here…women who were infertile or wanted to protect their children came to St Michael’s to be blessed by the child’s mummified body. Sorry, the short version turned out to be a little longer than I wanted!
Getting hungry? We were. Sarajevo had wall-to-wall restaurants lining the streets of the Ottoman quarters. The Bosnian version of fast food is either a burek/borek (meat or spinach pies, in a filo-type pastry sold in layers by weight or by piece), our favorite doner kebobs and cevapi. Cevapi is a grilled dish of minced meat usually served on a plate or in a flatbread. They taste like hamburgers/meat balls and also can resemble little sausages. Zeljo had two restaurants and is famous for its cevapi.
How in the hell do you even begin to choose a restaurant when there’s only one night to sample Sarajevo’s plentitude of restaurants? Steve and I went with the flow, Sinisa’s recommendation, and did a eeny-meeny, ending at Bosanska Kuca in the Bascarsija (Old Town) area. A large restaurant with seating inside and out, their menu had a wide-range of traditional Bosnian food at reasonable prices.
We parked ourselves outside in the shade, people-watched for ages, while snarfing down a Greek salad and roasted red peppers with garlic. What would a day be without stopping in Bakery Sara for the most delicious ice cream? Yummy looking cakes, Baklava, Halva… so good.
Back on pedestrian-only Ferhadija Street where East meets West before learning about Sarajevo’s Austro-Hungarian history. If you look east, the architecture is Ottoman. Look West and it is Austro-Hungarian.
Sarajevo is one of the most historically interesting cities in Europe. This is where the Western and Eastern Roman Empire split; where Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Ottomans met, lived and warred. Surrounded by mountains on the Sarajevo plain, the city has physically recovered from most of the war damage (Yugoslav Wars from 1992-1995), and is very cosmopolitan. However, look up occasionally to see bullet holes visible on buildings that haven’t been repaired.