A forbidden love affair between a beautiful Bosnian woman and a handsome Austrian count is the backdrop for tonight’s icebreaker dinner as members of the newly-formed “band of merry media” — 18 travel writers and photographers invited by Insight Vacations to sample a portion of its Bosnia Herzegovina-Dalamatian Riviera itinerary — get acquainted, cling glasses and break bread at one of Sarajevo’s upscale restaurants: 4 Sobe Gospođe Safije (Four Rooms of Mrs. Safija).
Originally built as a home in 1910 by Count Johan Von Herberstein for his beloved Safija, the love of his life, this Bosnian-European fusion restaurant, located in the hilly and trendy neighborhood of Bjelave, has been restored to early 20th century splendor.
Filled with lots of period pieces, the Four Rooms of Mrs. Safija celebrates that legendary and taboo love affair between a Muslim woman and a Christian man during Sarajevo’s transition from Ottoman to Austro-Hungarian rule in the early 1900s, and stands today as a monument to love, beauty and fortitude.
Built up, not out, the house is a three-story epicurean landmark, with a restaurant, lounge, wine and tapas bar and a seasonal summer garden outside. But, enough about the decor. How’s the food?
Regularly cited by international food critics as one of Sarajevo’s very best restaurants, my fellow travel scribes and I pretty much have the run of Mrs. Safija’s four rooms and the superlative kitchen as we touch knife to fork and enjoy this Insight “signature,” get-acquainted, three-course dinner.
Over a glass of bubbly rosé, I select the Bey’s chicken soup — Bosnia’s national soup — a sea bass fillet in a saffron sauce, and a filo dough-style apple strudel with vanilla ice cream. Not to be overlooked, all of these mouth-watering dishes are complimented by fine white and red wines from the house cellar.
Count Johan may have fallen head over heels for the lovely Safija, but our newly-formed “band of merry media” is definitely smitten by these four rooms and the kitchen. Uh, any chance we can have seconds?
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See you tomorrow morning at 10:00 when we’ll hook up with Dino, Insight’s “Man in Sarajevo,” for an informative stroll around the Baščaršija, the old Ottoman bazaar.
Until then, laku noć (good night).
©The Palladian Traveler