So I expected Sarajevo to be cool sometimes, warm sometimes, and rainy. I hadn’t expected it to be snowy! But there was plenty of snow on the ground when I arrived.
Coming in from the airport, I played count the hijabs from the bus. In the stretch during which I counted, it was 36 women with no head covering and six with head covering. Of those six, four were young women at the same age walking together. Since I have been in the center of town, I might say that a slightly higher percentage are wearing scarves, but that could be because I notice when I see them more than when I don’t see them.
I suppose this links in to something that I was wondering about Sarajevo. Several blogs I read in advance told me how proud Sarajevo is of being a multicultural and multiethnic city, and that the reputation it has from the war and the siege is undeserved. So I looked up the demographics. Prior to the war, Sarajevo was half Bosnian Muslim, a quarter Serb, 16% “Yugoslav” 7% Croat, and 6% other. In 2013, the percentages were 81% Bosnian Muslim, 4% Serb, 5% Croat, and 10% other. That doesn’t sound like great news from a religious diversity perspective. I hope to learn more about this.
As we came in we passed several mosques. I’m trying to remember if this is my first time, other than the one day it snowed when we lived in Jerusalem and I headed over to the old city, that I have seen a majority Muslim area in the snow. (I was going to say mosques in the snow, but I know I have seen them in the United States!)
Another thing that I knew but hadn’t focused on; wow is this a valley surrounded by mountains! The city itself is along a river and is only maybe five blocks wide in each direction before you start heading uphill. That makes it absolutely gorgeous.
I am staying in a house up one of the hills, and once I got down into town I turned right at the Catholic cathedral walked along a street that reminded me of Istiklal in Istanbul (European 19th century five story buildings along a pedestrian street).
Then I crossed a line that is paved with tile work saying Sarajevo meetings of cultures west and east. And just like that I was in something much more like an old town in Turkey. Winding streets, 2 to 3 story wooden buildings, multidomed brick structures that implied to me hamans or caravanserai or other Ottoman complexes. Shops fairly close on either side of the street; not quite a North African medina, but not a boulevard either. I passed two mosques, one of which I hope to visit during the day, and a madrasah, with a sign in English saying there was a museum.
On the recommendation of my Airbnb host, I went upstairs in a building that housed a restaurant and clearly it was an old caravanserai. Now it is offices; The one I recognized was “avokat” – lawyer. After a good traditional dinner, I headed for the hike up the hill to my place!