In between the muezzin’s first and second calls to prayer from atop the minaret that front’s my digs at the 130-year-old Hotel Europe in the heart of Sarajevo’s Old Town district, I gather up my camera gear and map, zig-zag through the bustling alleyways of the Baščaršija, the old Ottoman bazaar, and arrive at the bottom of Ulica Kovači (Kovaci Street). From here, it’s all uphill.
With time on the clock until I’m “sworn in” as a member of the latest edition of the “band of merry media” — 18 intrepid travel writers and photographers invited by Insight Vacations to sample the sights, sounds and savors of Bosnia and the Dalmatian Riviera — I lower my head, lean forward and start my steady, slow-paced climb to Jekovac Cliff and the Yellow Fortress.
One of five bastions built in the early part of the 18th century to fortify old Sarajevo from attack, the Yellow Fortress, or at least what’s left of it, is where a canon is fired daily at sunset to mark the time for breaking the fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan.
Canon fire aside, the Yellow Fortress also provides a bird’s-eye view of the metro valley down below and, no pun intended, is the perfect perch to get off some nice panoramic shots. Lens caps off, let’s get busy.
On the way back down to the Baščaršija, I pass through the Martyrs’ Memorial Cemetery in the Kovači neighborhood that’s dedicated to Bosnian soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for their city during the siege of Sarajevo between 1992-1995.
The Martyrs’ Memorial Cemetery is Sarajevo’s main, final resting place for military war dead and is considered hallowed ground by Bosnians.
I’m in Sarajevo to see the sights, as many as I can in the short amount of time allotted, but I’m also in town to sample authentic Bosnian cuisine, as much as I can possibly consume.
With the aroma of meat sizzling on charcoal grills wafting about on just about every street corner, I can’t resist and find the perfect place to satisfy my midday craving at Bosanska Kuća (Bosnian House), an alcohol-friendly steak house on Ulica Bravadziluk.
Billed as “the best restaurant in town,” I’m ushered upstairs to a smoke-free room decorated in classic Bosnian style, order a carafe of robust regional red and get down to business straight away.
I order some tasty ćevapčići, a national Bosnian dish of grilled minced-meat sausage links and diced onion stuffed into somun (pita bread), and two skewers of succulent pileći ražnjići (chicken kebab). To add insult to injury, I find room — no, I make room — for a plate of palačinke, chocolate-filled crepes, and a džezva (small copper pot) of Bosnian coffee.
Lunch, overall, is delicious, but as I pay the bill I remark to the wait staff that today’s coffee was not quite as good as the one I enjoyed last night. Without blinking an eye, one of the waitresses points to one of the female cooks and boldly pronounces, “See, If you don’t make good coffee you’ll NEVER get married.”
Wisely, I flee the scene before vows can be exchanged.
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See you tonight at 7:00 down in the lobby of the Hotel Europe where we’ll get acquainted with the other members of the newly-formed “band of merry media,” hop aboard the Insight motor coach and officially jumpstart this adventure with dinner and drinks in one of Mrs. Safija’s rooms.
©The Palladian Traveler