Sarajevo 2009

view from hotel in Sarajevo

As a perk for completing my Master's program with honors, I got to go to Sarajevo for the Medical Informatics in Europe conference. The conference was fun, including talking about the effect of cultural differences on health care policy with one of the guys in charge of said policy in Estonia. But conferences are distinctly lacking in fungus, bugs, or architecture, so I don't have any pictures from there. What I do have is a picture out of our hotel window, the night we arrived.

view from hotel: daytime

Sarajevo is a mountain town. The fighting is long over: the town was under siege for four years: the longest siege in military history. This ended in 1996. Sarajevo was, and still is, one of the most religiously diverse cities in Europe. Before the war, Sarajevo was roughly 2/5 Muslim and 1/5 each Orthodox, Catholic, and Jewish. These cultures did not just live side-by-side, but actually intermixed. Enough so that many in Sarajevo simply did not believe that the war would come to them. During the war the UN sent troops to protect the airport, but they were under strict orders not to get involved in the local conflict - leading to bizarre situations where civilians were slaughtered at the feet of the UN troops. The airport, however, did prove key to allowing the residents of Sarajevo to survive the seige - by digging a tunnel to the airport, they were able to get food into the city. The war left its legacy a scattering of snowy-white cemetaries throughout the city, but a surprising amount of the city's Ottoman-era architecture survived the onslaught.

pathway to cemetery

The main road from our hotel had this little bridge and a park alongside it...

building shell

Just past it we came across the brick building, which you can see from our hotel window (2 photos up). It does not seem like it was destroyed so much as half-constructed and then stopped. We aren't sure what happened with it.

view from behind building

The view from behind the brick building.

explanatory text

Sign next to the cemetery - this is the cluster of white which is visible from our hotel room.

eric on the stairs

Eric walking up the stairs through the cemetery.

displaced Islamic markers

A section of very old, leaning gravestones.


A hooded crow, looking appropriately grim in the cemetery. These black-faced, gray-bodied crows appear to be the norm in the southern countries (we also saw them in Italy). There were 3 of them here, but the others flew away when my camera booted.

minaret and gravestones

A field of white gravestones with the minaret of a mosque in the background. It was starting to rain, as you can probably tell.




More signage.


The courtyard mentioned in the sign.


Free water.


A restaurant which became our favorite Sarajevo dinner spot, mostly because they actually had vegetarian items on the menu. The food was also good, inexpensive, and plentiful... but vegetarian was really the key factor. The minaret belongs to the mosque behind it. The speakers are for the Call to Prayer. We were visiting during Ramadan, so the call came in the pre-dawn light and again at dusk. We decided that, although the hotel breakfast was at 6am rather than before dawn, this was well within the spirit of the event.

Emperor's Mosque

The Emperor's Mosque was the first mosque in Sarajevo, built in 1462. The original was damaged or destroyed by fire, and the remains were reconstructed in 1566. It is not clear which parts are original (from 1462) and which were rebuilt a century later.

a building in Sarajevo

Sarajevo's old town is largely intact. Many buildings, like this one, are reminescent of Rome. Many, like this one, are also in need of repair.

sign Ferhadija mosque

Tourist information for the Ferhadija mosque.

Ferhadija mosque

The dome and minaret of the Ferhadija mosque. It wasn't possible to get back far enough to take a photo other than in parts.

Ferhadija mosque

The portico of the Ferhadija mosque, showing the coppery domes.

apotheek in Sarajevo

This balcony is held up by a pair of Hercules. This is just a random building in old Sarajevo, currently an apoteke (pharmacy).

catholic cathedral

Just a few streets away from the mosque stands Sarajevo's Roman Catholic Cathedral, the Cathedral of Jesus' Heart. It was built in 1889. Like the mosque above, it isn't quite possible to get far enough back to get the whole building in one shot.


More of Sarajevo's contrasting buildings - one statue which survived, one which didn't.


Statue in a toga, a modern streetlight, and script in what appears to be Arabic over the door.

Cheers bar

And of course the American influence... sort of. Note The dark wood and elephant gives a decidedly Ottoman flavor.

Ottoman marketplace

Much of the old city looks like this: low, dark, Ottoman-era shops selling everything from bread to hand-pounded copper to French perfumes.

mosque cat

In addition to a large population of the faithful assembling for the call to prayer, the mosque seems to support a good population of mosque cats.

down the street

Looking from the Ottoman shops into the rest of the old city.

Gazi Husrev-beg's Mosque

The Gazi Husrev-beg's Mosque in the heart of the old city, dating from 1531. Gazi Husrev-beg was a governor in Bosnia and funded much of the architectural development of Sarajevo.

Gazi Husrev-beg's mosque

A closer view of the dome and gate.


The Sebilj, a wooden fountain on the square outside of the mosque. It was built in 1753 and moved to Sarajevo in 1891. It seems to be one of the better-known monuments of Sarajevo.

copper market

Another of Sarajevo's well-known attractions: the copper market.


Not all of Sarajevo's beautiful buildings have recovered.


Uphill from our hotel, this rock wall was calling Eric from the time we arrived.

view of the city

So, while I was at the conference, Eric followed the road up hill to see what lay above.

Sarajevo Sarajevo
Sarajevo Sarajevo
Sarajevo graveyard

Answer: a view of the city, and a graveyard with waterways laid out in the shape of the crescent moon.


In the Miljacka river, running through the center of the city, tossing in a piece of old bread summons an enormous cloud of fingerling fish. It is kind of amazing that a river which has been at the center of a city for this long is healthy enough to support such a population. Normally the water is quite clear - they had recently moved some equipment through the river before I took these photos. As the bread broke apart, so did the cloud of fish.

fish fish
grave markers

These very old grave markers stand in small green spaces throughout the city.

grave marker grave marker
music sculpture

We happened across this sculpture in a park on the way to the airport. I haven't been able to figure out what it is, other than someone on Flickr saying it is by a German, went on tour in Europe, and ended up here. I haven't been able to find a title or artist for it. The Flickr photographer didn't like it, I think it's pretty nifty. Niftiest is that it appears that it's meant to play: there are places to pull on levers which would operate bellows which should make it make sound. But it's all locked and disengaged, so that there's no way to find out.

music sculpture music sculpture
music sculpture music sculpture
music sculpture music sculpture
music sculpture music sculpture
music sculpture + minaret

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