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Bosnia and Herzegovina: Ottoman Sarajevo

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Ottoman Sarajevo | Bosnia and Herzegovina | Europe

[Visited: May 2014]

It has been dubbed the most eastern place of the West and the most western place of the East; indeed, Sarajevo is where east meets west, and probably the best example in Europe. I could not wait to see it, and when I walk out of my hostel on a sunny early summer morning, I am smack in the middle of the Baščaršija neighbourhood, a word of Turkish origin which translates to the main bazaar. I start exploring the Turkish part of Sarajevo at the Pigeon Square, so dubbed because of the many pigeons coming here to feed, but officially called Baščaršija square. For a short while, I sit at the wooden fountain Sebilj, planning my exploration. I hit off to the streets of the bazaar itself, where I could easily imagine being in Istanbul. Almost everything I see, perhaps apart from the calendars with Marshall Tito on the cover and the postcards from Sarajevo, could also be sold in the Turkish metropole. Especially impressive are the large brassware coffee pots on the street.

Picture of Ottoman Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Baščaršija square, often dubbed Pigeon square, with Sebilj fountain the middle

The bazaar holds small squares, where people sit down to smoke a hookah, or sheesha, playing backgammon, or just chatting and enjoying the rays of sunshine on their face. I walk the streets of this old part of Sarajevo until the tourist hordes take over, and I move to other parts of this unique city. But I will be back several more times; after all, I am staying in the Ottoman area. There are mosques, madrases, shops and restaurants, all underlining the Ottoman heritage of the city. What makes Sarajevo so interesting, s that, just around the corner, there are also orthodox churches, a synagogue, a cathedral, and classical buildings from the Austro-Hungarian period. Sarajevo is a mix of cultures, religions, history - and all can be explored on foot. The Pigeon Square was my starting point, and I continue to come back here, refill my bottle with water, sit at the Sebilj fountain to do some people-watching (a remarkable amount of Turkish visitors here), and continue exploring the attractive city.

Picture of Ottoman Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Courtyard of the Svrzo house, example of Ottoman architecture in Sarajevo

On the morning of my departure, I walk up the neighbourhood above Baščaršija square, past some more remarkable Ottoman-era buildings, until I reach Svrzo house on Glodina street. This is considered the best preserved Ottoman house in the Balkans. It was built by a wealthy family in the Ottoman era, in the late 18th century. You enter through a courtyard. Walking through the wooden house, you visit the quarters of the visitors, the men, the women, and servants, as well as the kitchen and other general areas. You can finally see why those Ottoman houses have the first floor protruding onto the street: it is easy to keep an eye on the street. The quarters still have some traditional items in them, books, showing the well-educated nature of the family living here. Some have beautiful wooden ceilings. Moreover, there is a surprisingly big courtyard, which allows views from the house from the outside.

Picture of Ottoman Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Small square in the Baščaršija district in Sarajevo
Picture of Ottoman Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina): The bazaar of Sarajevo revokes images of Istanbul
Picture of Ottoman Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Typical Ottoman style house in a street in Sarajevo
Picture of Ottoman Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina): The centre of Baščaršija, or Pigeon, Square is this wooden fountain called Sebilj
Picture of Ottoman Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina): The Svrzo house is one of the most traditional Ottoman houses in Sarajevo
Picture of Ottoman Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Colourful lights for sale at the bazaar of Baščaršija
Picture of Ottoman Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Red fez for sale at the bazaar of Baščaršija
Picture of Ottoman Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Cobble-stoned Pigeon Square seen from the old Sebilj fountain
Picture of Ottoman Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Pigeon Square is the starting point of any exploration of the Baščaršija quarter
Picture of Ottoman Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina): The shops in Baščaršija, the Turkish quarter of Sarajevo mostly sell items that can also be found in Istanbul
Picture of Ottoman Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Small hookahs for sale at the market of Sarajevo

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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