Before I left for Sarajevo, I had just watched The Grand Budapest Hotel and was reeling from enthusiasm for the film. Little did I expect to find a Bosnian reincarnation of M. Gustave in a little Villa found through Booking.com. He even had Gustave’s sprightly dancing feet, always approaching us with a smile, a bearer of good news. My friend and I had our own personal concierge. A retired restaurant owner, he was proud of his collection of star-studded photographs of his more famous guests such as Bill Clinton and Michael Douglas during the 90s which lined the walls of his reception area. He picked us up from the airport, drove us to our restaurant and the bus station, made dinner reservations, made breakfast, carried our luggage, called the bank, and did all this speaking to us only in German. He was not phased when I spoke German back. Vila Una was located in the residential areas up in the hills between our New York Times recommended (these recommendations can be hit or miss but mention nytimes and I will usually go along) restaurant Kibe and the main Bazaar and city center Baščaršija. We either had to walk down or walk up to reach the two.
We walked down the hill and the first shop we went into was the bazaar’s most famous.
We were greeted with another photograph of Bill Clinton. We saw him everywhere in Sarajevo. It was the only shop in which the salesman was wearing a suit. He was damn good, a true professional. After my friend had decided on two of the smaller purchases, he brought out the biggest possible purchase (I thought, oh man you’re pushing it and my friend was already protesting) she could have made and offered her a discount if she also took the huge coffee maker (right under his tie in the photo above). And she bought it, as a gift for herself !
We spent the day doing a private car tour of the Tunnel Museum, the remains of the 1984 Sarajevo Olympic sights and a viewpoint known for snipers. I didn’t feel the majesty of a great civilization like I did on top of the Acropolis, but I felt the bravery of a resilient and tolerant people although I couldn’t help thinking, why did you build your city in a valley surrounded by mountains… A gentle and kind people aware they got seriously fucked but are not out to fuck others.
I asked the driver to stop the car for these photos. Sadly my iPhone camera was not enough for these shots. This is when I felt sad over its limitations. Rolling mountains, alternating between all shades of green and blue depending on the foliage was a theme driving through Bosnia.
Near the Olympic sights
A sniper’s view. Amazing, killing people while looking at this view.
Our last dinner in Sarajevo was at this beautiful and modern restaurant Kibe, further up the hill from Villa Una.
After a delicious dinner, feeling light-hearted and happy we started our walk down having been driven to the restaurant by our “concierge.” During our two days, I had yet to see any cemeteries (other than the old Jewish cemetery) having expected them everywhere. Then suddenly they appeared, the makeshift cemeteries from the war. They were further up in the hills, behind backyards, where people lived. They crept up like slender white ghosts surprising us in the night. Reminding us of their presence, when I had almost forgotten.