It was brought to my attention the other day that my Balkans trip took place almost half a year ago. Like what. I mean, here I am telling everyone I just returned from Europe. And then after the obligatory "gosh, time flies!" exclamations, I was like "haha oh crap, maybe I should actually finish documenting the dang thing - however will I live if only half of the trip lives on in posterity" ya know what I mean?
We wanted to make our final day in Sarajevo count, and after shaking ourselves awake, we trekked over to Old Town. Each morning, Cassandra took us on a different route; this one led us right past the historical Holiday Inn (at long last re-opened under different management after being heavily bombed as the acting journalist hub during the war).
Leah and Hanna often joke (*slash are deadly serious), "remember when you guys starved us every morning of our vacation." So here's the thing when you're traveling with others: you merge multiple lifestyles onto a single itinerary and sometimes, that's... trouble.
Cassandra and I need coffee first thing in the morning, but that one cup of coffee can sustain us for an entire morning and early afternoon. Sure, we like our breakfast and brunch, but we'd survive without it. Not so for Leah and Hanna. They need more sustenance before 11am. For the first half of our trip, Cassandra and I often forgot to factor in breakfast which led to a lot of huffy mornings with passive-aggressive "I'm fine" and straight up aggressive "can we EAT yet" type statements.
But then on this final day in Sarajevo, I think we sort of overcompensated. We started off with a pitstop at a hole-in-the-wall French bakery close to the national theater for a pastry.
By the Serbian Orthodox church near Old Town, older gentlemen congregate every morning to play life-size chess. It's certainly a sight to behold–two players (in this case it was that younger man to the left in a dapper brown suit versus this spry guy in the plaid, jacket casually slung over his shoulder the entire time) swiftly moving pieces one after another–stopping only every once in awhile to ponder an especially tough choice. Egged by hollers of encouragement and dismay alike, the competitors played like it was a performance–and the four of us stood at the sidelines, enthralled.
After Mr. Jacket Over Shoulder smugly made the winning move, the four of us went on our merry way, bypassing a lively local farmers' market en route to breakfast.
If cevapi is the one thing you should not leave Bosnia without trying, then burek is surely a close second. Buttery layers of flaky phyllo dough, these filled pastries are a gift to taste buds everywhere. We sampled burek (meat-filled), sirnica (cheese), zeljanica (spinach), and krompiruša (potato) varieties at Buregdzinica Bosna, groaning in pain and yet not pausing for a second in the act of shoveling one bite after another into our mouths.
Feeling drowsy from the early wake up call and a morning of nothing but rich, heavy food, our next stop was a teahouse called Sevdah Art House, which was tucked in a courtyard away from any sort of hustle or bustle. Enjoying the quiet reprieve, we sipped on bitter Bosnian coffees and shared some baklava and a dessert known as tofahije, boiled apples stuffed with ground walnuts and cream.
Yes, we were so stuffed we could barely breathe much less think about more food, but the fact of the matter was that we were leaving Sarajevo the next morning and were in a total "must. eat. ALL. the. things!!!!" state of mind. No pain, no gain(ing 10 pounds) as they say.
From the get go, we told Hanna and Leah that souvenir shopping in Sarajevo is unreal. Beautifully crafted and unique goods that genuinely feel one-of-a-kind, trinkets and treasures in Sarajevo are also incredibly reasonably-priced.
Our favorite shops include:
Morica Han: absolute favorite shop in Sarajevo. This bazaar has everything from Persian porcelain and kitchenware, colorful textiles from India, and my go-to: rugs! Every size and style that you could imagine. Rumor has it that this is where Richard Gere buys his rugs. I have two in my personal collection: one from this visit, and one from the year before; both times, I lovingly rolled up the rugs and stuffed them into a too-small suitcase, electing to toss out less important possessions such as shoes and my graduation dress even!
Copper Art and Design: right across the street from Cajdzinica Dzirlo, that adorable cafe I've told you about. While you'll find all sorts of Bosnian coffee sets in Old Town, and on 'Coppersmith Street' in particular, I urge you to check out this little shop that's a ways off from Old Town center. Slightly more expensive, their sets are truly handcrafted and very high quality. They let you mix-and-match pieces until you're satisfied, and will even personalize it with engravings or a special design.
Kazandžilu / Coppersmith Street: speaking of Coppersmith Street, you should definitely check it out! Heavily saturated with all sorts of souvenirs, there's something for everyone. It's also a good place to understand the extent of "war tourism" where you can purchase things like pens and toys made of real bullets from the war. Both years, we've bought engraved copper bracelets from Kazandžijska radnja vl. Namik Husejnović on the corner.
We reserved this last day for souvenir shopping after spending the days prior scoping out goodies that we want and vendors who sell them. This resulted in pleasant shopping experiences that felt less transactional and super special: the vendors we picked, while sometimes pricier, all sold very high quality wares, were very knowledgeable in their craft, and ended up generously gifting us with extra trinkets (rings! teacups!).
After carefully selecting mementos to bring home to friends and family, we strolled along the bank of the river, admiring the views of the national library (the striped building) and basked in the sun that we hadn't seen in awhile.
Sights seen, souvenirs purchased, arms laden with heavy shopping bags, and Sarajevo sufficiently explored, we decided to end our final evening in the city with great food and even better views, which I'll share with you next time!
Do you have a favorite shopping destination in the world? I'd personally love to drop some dollars in Southeast Asia!!