The first half of today was spent driving from Banja Luka down to Sarajevo. When I saw Google Maps telling us it would take 3 and a half hours to drive 120miles/190km I realised we weren't going to see much, if any motorway on this drive. About 25 minutes outside Banja Luka we left all the traffic behind, and turned onto a mountain road which took us on a wonderfully scenic route through the forest, along rivers, and up and around mountains. I later found out this mountain range is called the Dinaric Alps which we are going to see a lot more of as we move down into Montengro. It would be no mean feat for a rich 1st world country to build a motorway on this route (likely involving a lot of bridges and tunnels), let alone here in Bosnia. The peaceful mountain driving ended about 1 hour outside of Sarajevo, when the route took us through some towns and industrial areas, before some motorway for the final stretch into the city. One thing that was quite striking as we crossed from the Srpska (Serb) Republic into the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina where the church in each village we drove past became a mosque. These aren't the kind of grand mosque you might think of from Abu Dhabi or Istanbul, but small mosques to serve a local community, i.e. rather simple buildings with a single minaret.
Once in Sarajevo we decided to have another go at a free walking tour with a baby and a dog. We had a lovely local guide called Neno who runs https://www.sarajevowalkingtours.com/ and took us around the city for a couple of hours to cover the whole history from the Ottoman times through to the 21st century. This tour was specifically not about the Yugoslavia War, because there is another tour about that which we might take tomorrow. Instead we saw how Sarajevo earns its nicknames 'the Jerusalem of Europe' and the place where 'East meets West', with a huge Ottoman bazaar area which feels like being in the Middle East, a wide main avenue built by the Austro-Hungarians which looks more like Vienna, and roads with a church and a mosque less than 10 metres apart. We also learnt how since the war, the city is around 90% Bosniak in population, though the Bosniaks aren't particularly religious and identify as Muslim, without practicing much. That said, we were walking around sunset and could hear the calls to prayer loudly in the streets, along with quite a lot of people going into the mosques. Another highlight of the tour was hearing the story about Franz Ferdinand's assassination in the streets of Sarajevo. We saw the road he was shot outside of, and learnt the story about how the assassins wanted an independent Slavic State - they more or less got their way after World War 1.
After the tour we had a dinner of local cuisine in the bazaar, which is heavily influenced by Turkish cuisine, with lots of meat and bread. We opted for some delicious meat filled dumplings, and a minced-meat main served inside some fresh bread. All delicious! Though a shame the restaurant had run out of baklava for dessert. We then walked down the main boulevard named after Tito, and saw the Presidential Palace at the end of it. It was a lovely evening for walking since there was a 10km run happening in the streets, meaning there were no cars around.
We really enjoyed Sarajevo and would recommend a visit! Tomorrow morning we hope to learn a bit more about the war before heading off to Mostar for our last night in Bosnia.
Continuing the theme from Banja Luka of Bosnian's loving dogs, Summer also got a lot of attention today in Sarajevo. Children and adults kept coming over to ask for a stroke, and a shop owner in the bazaar even gave Summer a full free dinner!
The drive from Banja Luka to Sarajevo was so stop-start that we ended up getting a lot of energy return to the battery, resulting in a much higher mileage than cruising on the motorway the last few days. When we got near the hotel I could see a 'tesla destination' charger on the map right by our hotel. We went to investigate and it was at a parking bay at the nearby Marriott hotel. I asked in reception if I could use it and they said no problem, even sending someone out to help guide me into the quite tight space; very kind considering we weren't even staying! Then to top it off, the charger was completely free, meaning we did all the driving today for no cost at all.