Up-and-Coming Europe: Sarajevo

by  Karen Gardiner | Jan 29, 2014
Saravejo / Leonid Andronov/iStock

June 28 marks the 100th anniversary of the event that effectively began World War I: The assassination, in Sarajevo, of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.  It's the event that triggered a chain reaction that dragged Russia, Germany, and then France and Britain, into war exactly one month later.

The 1990s brought new conflict to the region, as evidenced by Sarajevo's still bullet-scarred buildings, but the city is rising once again and has become one of Europe's most up-and-coming destinations. Once part of Yugoslavia and now capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, here are a few reasons to visit this burgeoning European city...

Visit the reopened Vijecnica:
On June 28 of this year, the anniversary of the assassination, the Vienna Philharmonic will give a concert at the Vijecnica (City Hall and National Library) to mark its official reopening. On August 25 and 26, 1992, during the Siege of Sarajevo, the Moorish/Austro-Hungarian-style building was pounded by heavy artillery and incendiary bombs, leaving it largely destroyed. Later, an unforgettable scene occurred when cellist Vedran Smailovic, dressed in white tie and tails, sat in the rubble and protested the continuing violence by playing Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor.

See where history was made:
Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated across the street from the Latin Bridge, where a small plaque commemorates the event. Gavrilo Princip, his assassin, used to have his own memorial here; his footprints were carved in stone and mounted in the sidewalk. It was removed during the war in 1992-95.

Get a taste of Sarajevo's art scene:
Sarajevo's art scene is ever-changing, with new galleries popping up in repurposed spaces. Ars Aevi, a contemporary art gallery, was founded in 1992 during the war as a means of cultural resistance to violence. The gallery, which is currently closed and awaiting a new space, has a collection that includes work by the likes of Michelangelo Pistoletto, Jannis Kounellis, Joseph Kosuth, and Robert Kushner. For the time being, the collection is housed in a temporary space. A brand new museum, designed by Renzo Piano, is expected to open in 2014.

Take an educational tour:
One of Sarajevo Insider's most popular tours, the three-hour-long Times of Misfortune (€27) tour, focuses on the 1992-95 war. The tour begins with a panoramic view of the city from the ancient White Fortress before returning to town to visit the Cemetery of Heroes and the Olympic stadium, which was itself destroyed by shelling and bombing in May, 1992. The tour ends by driving along Sniper Alley toward the Tunnel Museum, where, in 1993, residents dug a 2,600-foot subterranean passageway that became the only means of getting food, aid, and weapons into the besieged city.

See the city's diverse influences:
Sarajevo is famous for its religious and cultural diversity. Mosques, churches, and synagogues coexist within steps of each other, and its buildings display Slavic, Turkish, and Austrian influences. Baščaršija, or "Turkish town," is the city's old bazaar and historical center. It dates back to the 15th century. The area features charming cobbled alleyways and several notable mosques, such as Gazi Husrev-beg, a fine example of Ottoman architecture and the most important Islamic site in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also of note is the Emperor's Mosque (Careva džamija), across the Miljacka River. This was the first mosque to be built, in 1457, after the Ottoman conquest of Bosnia.

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