“Here in Sarajevo, boys don’t ask girls out on a date,” observes Karin, our stylish Insight Vacations‘ (Insight) tour director-slash-concierge, “instead, they ask them if they’d like to go for a coffee.”
“Coffee?” we ask, dumbfounded.
“Yes,” she replies matter-of-factly, “coffee or kafa.”
Cheekily, I ask Karin if she’d like to go for a kafa with me. Without blinking an eye, she says, “Sure, and I know just the place.”
Unfortunately, I’m not alone, as the other 17 members of the intrepid “band of merry media” — travel writers and photographers invited along by Insight to sample a portion of its Bosnia and Dalmatian Riviera itinerary — join this “date in search of a caffeine fix,” and quickly fall into step right behind Karin.
Near the so-called demarcation line, that section of the city where the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires of old merged, stands the Hotel Europe, Insight’s five-star digs in Sarajevo. And, inside the hotel is the elegant Bečka Kafana (Viennese Café) where our party of 18 takes a load off to savor traditional Bosnian, not Turkish, coffee.
Bosnia has a long tradition of coffee drinking that borders on the ridiculous and dates all the way back to the Ottomans who, in the 15th century, introduced the daily ritual of slowly and deliberately sipping tiny cups of Joe. Consuming coffee is an obsession that’s woven deep into the cultural fabric, and that’s why coffee, above all other potations, has been anointed Bosnia’s national beverage. No kiddin’.
Bosanska kafa begins with the roasting of raw coffee beans. The beans are then ground to a fine powder — even finer than Italian espresso — the old-fashioned way, in a hand grinder. Boiling water is poured into a gently heated copper pot called a džezva, the finely ground coffee is added and stirred, the pot placed back on the stove to boil again just below overflow so that there’s plenty of foam, and then brought to your table.
Coffee is served in the džezva, which holds three cups of java, that’s presented on a round tray with an empty, ceramic fildžan (small cup) and a dish full of sugar cubes and a rahat lokum, a Bosnian candy that we stranaca (foreigners) might irreverently call Turkish delight.
Now, stir the coffee once allowing more foam to rise to the top and then wait a few minutes for the sludge to settle on the bottom of the pot.
Skim off a spoonful of foam, pour the coffee into the fildžan and then introduce the foam into the cup. If you like sugar in your coffee like I do, don’t plop the cube down into the cup, instead, take a bite of it, place it under your tongue and then take your first sip of Bosanska kafa.
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See you back on the motor coach in about 15 minutes, or whenever I slowly and deliberately finish my third cup of kafa, as we head to the outskirts of Sarajevo for a chilling walk underground through the Tunnel of Hope.
©The Palladian Traveler