Travels through Sarajevo and Other Cities in Bosnia
By Victoria Aitken
I’ve been traveling to Bosnia for many years since 1984, my grandmother had a house on the Adriatic coast in then what was a small, tiny fishing village called Rogoznica, it’s now a world-famous marina full of super yachts.
I would spend the summers there throughout my childhood during the months of July and August. Swimming in the sea and eating my grandmother’s amazing cooking of gibanica, Sarajevo is one of the most underrated cities in Europe, it’s very beautiful. The town is a mix of Austro-Hungarian architecture and Ottoman.
Sarajevo is a multi-cultural city where Christianity Islam and Judaism coexisted for centuries.
Start in Bascarsija
I would first recommend starting in Bascarsija the ottoman part of town, it’s the historical part of the city and the cities foundation. Beautiful cobblestone allies, mosques, traditional buildings, and various merchants selling beautiful antique tea pots to local supermarkets to souvenir shops.
The cities city hall where where Franz Ferdinand visited the city hall with his wife where the assignation attempt happened that started World War one. Sadly, a century later the city hall books were destroyed in during the siege of Sarajevo in 1992.
I had with me books such as Shadow play by Tim Marshall the inside story of Europe’s last war, but the best book was Sarajevo Marlboro the writer’s eye for detail is amazing and where better to read than in the amazing coffee shops Sarajevo has to offer. Sarajevo is an amazing city I was there on business and explored business ideas with Zoran Puljic at Mozaik start up studio.
Emerging Green Energy Across Bosnia
They have amazing creative ideas coming out of the start-up studio. And I also had a meeting about the various green energy projects across Bosnia there are many of them. It’s a pity but most investors are scared to invest in Bosnia but some of the smartest ideas and start-ups come out of Bosnia.
I also visited the Museum of Icons part of the complex of the old Serbian Orthodox church in Sarajevo the lady who runs it took me around the icons and also opened up the church doors and explained the structure of the church.
And the food is incredible– ćevapi Bosnia’s national dish of grilled mincemeat my grandfather used to make it on an open grill. The towns services are just like any other western European town I went to a Pilates class, I went for drinks on top of towers, went to the Apple store to get my laptop fixed.
The main town is mainly walkable but there’s also trams which cost less than a euro to take. The shopping malls are fantastic only half the price from other European cities. I went on the Neno and friends free Sarajevo walking tour.
Highlights included the market which had a Sarajevo Rose is a type of memorial in Sarajevo made from concrete scar caused by a mortar shell’s explosion as the market had a dangerous explosion and many people died.
Tunnel of Hope in Sarajevo
I went to the Sarajevo war tunnel – called the Tunnel of hope. It’s a bit further on the other side a town but a tram goes directly close by and it’s an opportunity to explore another side of the town. The tunnel was constructed at the start of the war.
The museum is very well structured full of videos of escape how people had to live underground and go under the airport and survive in the mountains and walk for days in the hills to safety it was the only safe way out of the city and many brave souls took this journey.
Bosnia Travel Tip
Visiting in winter is highly recommend you can take a city break and ski at the same time – Jahorina mountain is only 15 minutes away as is Igalo where the 1984 Olympics took place.
Since the bus to Medjugorje from Sarajevo stops in Mostar of course I stopped overnight. And its only 15 mils from Mostar. I first went to the Stari most the famous old bridge people do diving competitions off the bridge and its beautiful to walk around the old town in the maze of streets.
I met with my friend Jovana for lunch in a super nice traditional lunch spot called Restaurant Šadrvan. My hotel, hotel Eden had an incredible swimming pool. The weather was breezy, and it was the perfect one day stop off.
As the bus pulls up to Medjugorje the landscape is beautiful even the name of the town means between two mountains. Although I’ve travelled to Medjugorje many times, it was always with my mother and sister.
This time I was alone and remembered a woman I knew called Donna who has a company called Paddy travel www.paddy-travel.info who helped arrange my pilgrimage, millions have traveled to this holy site to seek healing and guidance. Donna was a total Medjugorje warrior and gave me great advice on private transfer and which busses to take.
She took me for lunch and gave me advice and guidance about Medjugorje and introduced me to priests to talk to an English one called Father Leon was very helpful. It was amazing, the power of prayer everything came together. The town itself has a main street with various restaurants, my favorite two being. Restaurant Dubrovnik and Victors for Pizza.
The main landmarks around the town are apparition hill where the virgin Mary appeared to visionaries, in June 1981 since then Catholics have made pilgrimages to the site famous for its peace and serenity and also its miracles.
The Mt. Krizevac (cross mountain) where the villages built a huge cross in 1933 to commemorate the good harvest and commemorate Jesus. There are also Stations of the cross on both hills, and the St James church the main church which has daily English-speaking mass led by Father Leon.
All of these landmarks are within walking distance and form a triangle of the town. Before preparing a pilgrimage it’s important to pack good walking shoes, and also cash as most places only accept cash in any currency.
It was so beautiful Medjugorje: The beauty in the mountains, the organic the vineyard and red rocky ground under cloudless sky where most stars were visible at night away from the pollution of cities. Every day I walked barefoot up apparition hill, while reciting the Rosary. the way my mother used to do when we were children.
I was lighting candles, as well as for my father who was sick, and I was also praying for my enemies all for my issues to be sorted and for guidance. It’s a very holy place and the holiest of all places in the world.
I even told my father since he’s not Catholic that: “If there’s anywhere being closer to God here is the best for you – the fact the visionary who prays for priests had you in his prayers with the Virgin Mary at the apparition”.
However, Medjugorje suffered it had hardly any pilgrims visiting during lockdown and lack of flights and tours being arranged, most of the guest house and hotel owners are only seasonal from Italy or elsewhere so most of the guest houses were closed due to troubles post covid.
But one was open – I was pretty much the only guest along with a family from Los Angeles, it was called Villa flowers, who grow their own food and vegetables. It was very comfortable with an amazing breakfast of eggs, and salad. The hosts were unbelievably kind to me going out of their way and even now send me photos and videos from Medjugorje:
They were so kind and drove me to the bus station sometimes – my father said that his physiotherapy course is an ordeal equivalent to climbing up Mount Everest in bare feet. Medjugorje helped me have faith. All religious are welcome even various Muslims from Sarajevo come to visit.
If you want to book a tour to Medjugorje: www.paddy-travel.info
If you want to learn Croatian while on pilgrimage call Marianna on +38763464128
How to Get to Sarajevo
From neighboring counties there’s various buses and comfortable ones too such as flix bus and flights between the former Yugoslavia countries are cheap.
I also flew another time on air Serbia in under an hour from Belgrade.
From Croatia there are buses for Split, Dubrovnik, and Zagreb.
On the way on this trip, I took a Wizz air flight to Sarajevo very cheap much cheaper than going via split to Medjugorje. There’s a bus every day from Sarajevo to Medjugorje at 5.45 am, 7.30 Am 14.30 and returning at 8.15 and 16.00 enough to go for the day.
Where to stay in Sarajevo:
I stayed in Hotel Hecco Delux right in the centre.
And also, Hotel Sana had a fantastic breakfast.
Victoria Aitken has published numerous articles in The Sunday Times, London Magazine, The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday, The Daily Telegraph, and The Guardian. In the UAE she has written for The National , 7 Days Magazine, The Khalejee Times, and is a contributing editor to www.holidaygoddess.info which was a made into a book and was a best seller in Australia.