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Sarajevo, Bosnia

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on April 10, 2006. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: Bruges, destination, Dubrovnik, Europe, Istanbul, Kiev, Kosice, Krakow, Ljubljana, RaeJean Stokes, Sarajevo, Tallinn, vacation package.

Sarajevo, Bosnia

"Sarajevo is a city balancing a grave past with resolute determination for the future," says Jay Treloar, who visited in the summer of 2005. "Pedestrians walk past war-scarred sidewalks to Western clothing retailers; burnished skyscrapers rise next to the city's gutted twin governmental towers. The city is in a state of flux but brimming with optimism. The people I met were approachable, proud, and positive. They realize the city's future is theirs to dictate." In short, if you want to see a historic post-war city in the process of bouncing back to its former self, visit Sarajevo now.

Sarajevo has had a rich history since it was founded by the Ottomans in 1461, but it's the city's more recent years that most Americans fixate on. According to a July 11, 2005, article in Newsweek, Sarajevo and in fact all of Bosnia, are still very unstable. The U.S. State Department backs up such claims with a warning about the potential dangers of traveling to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Treloar, however, says: "I felt safe during my entire stay."

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Sarajevo is a city to be approached with care and respect. However, if you're open-minded and love an adventure, it has much to offer. Besides "war tours," which can be arranged with local guides upon arrival, the area offers caves for exploring, outdoor recreation, and architectural monuments that have withstood the test of time. To get the real feel of the city, going with a local tour guide is recommended, especially if you're interested in learning about the Balkan wars.

Like many other up-and-coming cities, you can snag an apartment from a local at the bus station. Or you can check the official listing of hotels, motels, guest houses, pensions, and hostels on the Sarajevo Tourism website.

The city's most famous place to rest your feet is undoubtedly the Holiday Inn, which served as a home base for many journalists during the war. Rest assured, however, that the renovated hotel is now sniper-free. Per-night rates there start at about $115. Private accommodations in local establishments can be had much cheaper, starting around $40 a night.

Reaching Sarajevo is not cheap. Peak-season summer flights from New York start at about $1,400 before taxes and fees. The early spring, late fall, and winter off-seasons are more affordable, however, with flights from around $700, plus taxes and fees. You can also get to Sarajevo via train from many European cities; just be prepared to show your documents many times.

To learn more, visit the Sarajevo Tourism website.

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