Bosnia is not a road many people would take.
I hadn’t heard many appealing things about the place. There were no must-see attractions that people had mentioned on their bucket lists. I had only seen the war movies. And I had perceived it as an unappetising place. Yep, it sure didn’t sound like Paris, drinking coffee and munching croissants.
However, these are days of easy travel, and the world is getting very small. It’s hard to find a different culture without queuing behind hundreds of tourists to view a stone bed that was once a brothel. It’s hard waiting patiently for a bus tour group to idle by. Especially the noisy crowd following its flagged leader.
I wasn’t expecting much in the war-torn former republic of Yugoslavia. But, “The road less travelled”, was the enticement.
The Bosnian bloke who lived across the road from us in Sydney, Australia, was a nice guy. I thought maybe I’d meet someone like him. Who cares that we may find ravaged land, destroyed buildings and our room hotel full of bullet holes? After all, it’s all about the people. But Bosnia? I was still unsure but wasn’t going to let horror or fear hold me back. Plus, many an intrepid traveller had already been touring the not so off the beaten path for the last few years.
Zagreb to Sarajevo by train
We started our intrepid adventure from Zagreb, Croatia. We had heard it was a cheap and easy trip by train from Zagreb to Sarajevo Bosnia. Ultimately, it was a 500-kilometre 10-hour train trip of watching the countryside zip by. The smokers were joyfully puffing away. Thankfully not in our compartment.
Editors Note (last update August 2023) – As of 2017 this route is still suspended. If you wish to travel from Zagreb to Sarajevo Bosnia, you can still do it by train part of the way. You can find route information at The Man in Seat 61.
In the meantime, please keep reading and Don’t Miss the best things to do in Sarajevo Bosnia. You will find the list at the bottom of this travel story.
Our Bosnia road trip
The old train travelled along the windy hillside, passing rivers, villages, big vegetable gardens and simple yet functional houses. Not the flashy boastful ones people seem to like in the West. It’s a locals train with many stops. People come, and people go. Firstly, there are the Croatian people who are returning from their trip to the city. As we approach Bosnia, we start seeing more Bosnians. They all say hello, they all say goodbye.
As we cross the border into Bosnia, a man in our compartment chats to a woman opposite him. My travel companion who knows some Slavic language interprets.
The man sadly says, “There were once upon a time many people living here.” as we pass a seemingly empty town.
The woman replies, “Yes, it’s damned land. Cursed, Cursed.”
Hey, Guys how about a glass half full. I saw many apple and plum trees. They were weighing the branches of the trees down.
Though, as we rattled along towards Banja Luka (a city where many people were made homeless during the Bosnian War), other thoughts went through my mind. And, they are pensioners and old enough to know the full brunt of the war. Not to mention, they lived through a time when neighbours opposed neighbours.
Arriving into Sarajevo, Bosnia
The GPS on my mobile says we are four kilometres from Sarajevo when the train slams on its brakes. A whistling noise screams, and we look out the window. A group of people are running across the tracks. The conductor runs in full flight along the narrow carriageway. Shall we run too, l ponder?
After twenty minutes, we find out it was just a blown brake line that slammed the brakes on. We are on our way again.
We arrive at the Sarajevo train station. It looks decrepit and like a bit of a slum. We get on the old decrepit-looking tram. Hmm, glass half full, glass half full. I repeat to myself.
Stari Grad (the Old Town)
We get off at Stari Grad (the Old Town). It feels like we have landed in the European version of Morocco. East is meeting West intermingled with the Balkans. There are fruit shops with divine variety, whole roasting lambs on a barbeque pit, coffee shops, old mosques and a Middle Eastern-style bazaar. I am feeling the culture. It’s smacking me in the face as we sit down to join the locals for espresso and baklava. We reluctantly leave the lively atmosphere to check into our hotel.
Our hotel room is of a very high standard (for only 20 euros a night) with a private bathroom and with cable tv. (With many English channels, supposing the culture shock became too much.) It’s one hundred metres from the Middle Eastern-style bazaar – Bascarsija.
After a pleasant night of rest, we step out into the colourful old town and wander along the old streets of Bascarsija. We feel a buzz in the air. There are only a few signs of war, a few bullet holes in buildings here and there. There are plenty of young people laughing and chatting over a coffee at one of the many cafes. We find there are many friendly people in Sarajevo Bosnia.
Eating and feeling content to wander
Surprisingly, Sarajevo Bosnia is also a place you could eat yourself to death in. As the BBQ aroma wafts towards us, we find a restaurant that has outdoor seating in the sun. We sit down with the locals eating chevapi and salad.
Have you ever had chevapi? They are kebabs of minced meat grilled on the BBQ and are a crowd-pleasing food. They are traditionally found in The Balkans. And, they are delicious.
We are feeling content and happy and spend the next 4 days in Sarajevo touring the old town, visiting churches and old buildings and eating copious amounts of food.
Well, Sarajevo Bosnia, you were a pleasant surprise. What an amazing Sarajevo trip. Thanks for making my world bigger and better.
Take a trip to Sarajevo Bosnia. You will have an incredible time and a heartwarming introduction to Bosnia.
Don’t Miss these best things to do in Sarajevo Bosnia
One of my favourite things to do in Sarajevo Bosnia is walking along the city streets to admire the architecture. I love stopping wherever I please for a coffee and cake or a meal. But don’t miss these highlights during your Sarjevo travels.
Devour the sights and smells in the historical and cultural centre of Sarajevo Bosnia. I am sure you won’t miss it, as this 15th-century bazaar is the major tourist attraction in Sarajevo.
The Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque
It is in the centre of Bascarsija. This beautiful, richly decorative mosque is one of the worlds best examples of Ottoman architecture.
Gazi Husrev-bey Bezistan
A covered market built in 1555. It is a colourful, lively place and a great place to get souvenirs.
This is a historic Ottoman bridge. It is the place of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. (Thus starting World War 1.)
Cathedral of the Nativity of the Theotokos
This Serbian Orthodox Cathedral is one of the largest churches in the Balkans.
Sarajevo City Hall
A most stunning Austro-Hungarian–era building.
It’s the National dish and delicious. I would travel to Sarajevo just to eat this meal again.
Hope you enjoy your Sarajevo trip. No doubt you will be heading to Mostar next. In this case, make sure you don’t miss the best things to do in Mostar.