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Sarajevo's Old Town
Destination Bosnia:
Sarajevo's Storied Bridge to
World War I
(Dispatch #5)

Story and photos by Tom Weber

panoramic view of Sarajevo

'll 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.

ruins and other images of war dot the Sarajevo landscape

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.

Dino, Insight Vacations' local expert

"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."

historic markers on the spot where Gavrilo Princip assasinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sofia

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 all wars'."

the iconic Latin Bridge

Moving quickly out of the historic line of fire, we make our way across the Miljacka River via the iconic Latin Bridge.

Sarajevo's City Hall with its Neo-Moorish 

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 Baščaršija neighborhood.

items for sale at Bascarsija in Old Town Sarajevo

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.

inside a shop at Bascarsija

Baščaršija – repeat 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.

Dino and more shops at Bascarsija

"The alleyways took their names from the kinds of crafts that were being made and showcased," Dino tells us, "like Kazandžiluk, or Coppersmith Street," as we pass by storefronts filled with polished copper items for sale, including pens made from brass bullet casings.

the Sebij in the middle of Pigeon Square, Old Town Sarajevo

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.

a storefont, a grill in a little restaurant and the minaret of the Gazi Husrev-beg mosque

The Baščaršija 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.

inside the Ottoman-era Gazi Husrev-beg mosque

"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."

ornamented ceiling of the Gazi Husrev-beg mosque

The Gazi Husrev-beg mosque takes its name from the 16th century provincial governor of Bosnia, who financed its construction in 1531.

more views inside the Gazi Husrev-beg mosque

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.

the ornate courtyard of the Gazi Husrev-beg mosque

Departing the mosque, we exit through its courtyard where an ornate šadrvan (fountain) stands. Used daily to cleanse oneself before entering the grand Islamic house of worship, the sweet-tasting spring water is surprisingly drinkable.

the symbolic east-west demarcation line on a flagstone alleyway in Old Town Sarajevo

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.

Insight Vacatoions' Sarajevo and Dalmatian Riviera brochure

For complete information on Insight's premium and luxury-escorted itineraries, including 113 journeys throughout Europe, just click HERE, or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

authentic cup of Bosnian coffee

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?"

Related Articles:
Dinner 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

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Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973…beer was excellent!

--- David

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Hi Tom,

I must say, you're photographs are always amazing. They are top notch. You bring so much class to Traveling Boy. It's photographs like yours that make me want to go out and do my own traveling. Please don't get tired of sending us your amazing adventures. It's such a delight for the soul.

--- Raoul, Whittier, CA

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Hi Tom:

I'm also an American living in Italy. I've read with interest your blog and articles. I'd like to speak with you regarding residency and citizenship for Americans in Italy as you do seem to have a great deal of knowledge on all of these subjects. Would it be possible to give you a call on the phone? If so, please let me know how to reach you. If not, I can ask my questions via email.

Thank you!

--- David

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Hey Tom – Wow! Love those photos – they are so super that they make me A) Want to start eating NOW. B) Go there myself. C) See all that pristine beauty that looks so restful and peaceful. Great story, superb pix!!! Bravo!!

--- John, Los Angeles, CA

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Feedback for Destination Southwestern France: Saint-Émilion

Good job, Tom, and timely info. St. Émilion is in the list of places Jim Hayes and I will visit in September 2014. If we get the chance, we will exploit your experience to enhance the trip!

--- Bobby Harper, Dameron, MD

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Feedback for Vicenza Walks – Monte Berico

I lived in Vicenza for 4 years in the U.S. ARMY from 1963 to 1967. A wonderful place to explore. Palladio’s works are amazing. Have been back twice since and find new places to visit. My favorite is MONTE BERICO where I have some wonderful photos of my family.

--- Dr. Albert Pizzi, Hanover, MA

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I liked the new TB particularly the Vicenza article that took me back as a youth when we lived in Naples and travelled up there for a baseball tourney (U.S. Military Bases dependent schools played each other.)

Took me back to the plaza.

--- Bill

Feedback for A Canterbury Trail (Sutri)

Very interesting note. I have wedroned which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?

--- Pawel

You can find out more info on walking tours of Via Francigena at this site: Thanks for stopping by and commenting..


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Good article, enjoyed reading it. Saved your recommended sights for future use.

--- Dardenne Prairie, MO

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You're going to be great at this Tom. Congrats.

--- Donna Vissa -Montreal

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