...A family-run business since 1961, BećArt (Gazi Husref-begova 30, Sarajevo) is a filigree and silver workshop, which keeps up an ancient handicraft tradition. You will find beautiful jewellery here, where ornaments are made of silver or gold wire. Combining ancient techniques with modern design, the Becar family aims at preserving and continuing this endangered tradition....
At midday in Sarajevo, muezzins call from minarets as church bells echo through the Dinaric Alps. Street cars rumble past hookah smokers and cafegoers. Chic women click-clack down cobbled alleyways. The city’s charisma is intoxicating, but the hustle and bustle belies a tragic past. In 1992, Bosnia-Herzegovina’s capital went from a beacon of diversity, with Yugoslav Muslims, Christians and Jews worshiping within feet of one other, to the site of a nearly four-year siege claiming more than 11,000 lives. But much has changed over the last decade or so. The creative spirit that Sarajevans fought to preserve is very much in evidence these days. Neighborhoods, cradled in this valley and ringing the foothills, are fertile entrepreneurial grounds and a testament to the epochs that came before. Cafes, theaters, boutiques and restaurants have sprouted among buildings in myriad styles, including Ottoman, Secessionist, Communist and modern. And locals and visitors alike are rediscovering the surrounding mountains on the slopes that hosted the 1984 Winter Olympic Games.
1. Secessionist Seduction
Sarajevo’s circuitous history lesson begins with dinner at 4 Sobe Gospode Safije (the Four Rooms of Mrs. Safija), which occupies a house built in 1910, during the city’s 40-year Hapsburg Empire epoch, by an Austrian count for a local woman named Safija. Their cross-cultural love was taboo, but this Bosnian-European restaurant, restored to early-20th-century splendor and filled with period pieces, is routinely shortlisted among the city’s best. Pair the grilled veal with rosemary and anchovy sauce (28 Bosnian convertible marks, or KM, $20 at 1.40 convertible marks to the dollar) or the sea bass with ginger (21 KM) and a bottle of local red Blatina (35 to 65 KM) or white Zilavka (35 to 45 KM).
2. Theater of the Soul
In the same neighborhood, below the former Olympic stadium, get in before the lights dim at Sarajevski Ratni Teatar (the Sarajevo War Theater, or Sartr). Established a month after the siege began, Sartr put on hundreds of shows during the war and became a symbol of defiance. “Being creative was the only way to survive during the war,” said Nihad Kresevljakovic, the theater’s director. “In that way, Sarajevans know that culture and art are really basic human needs, like food and water.” The black-box repertory (tickets from 5 KM) still channels those exposed-nerve instincts into empathetic works — musicals, dance, documentary theater and dramas — on the city’s most creatively free stage. Coming productions include “The Secret of Raspberry Jam,” which provides an intimate look at Sarajevo.
3. Fish Kitsch
For a nightcap, head to Zlatna Ribica (Golden Fish). Cater-corner to the Eternal Flame honoring World War II victims, this cafe and bar is Sarajevo’s kitschiest drinking hole. A wall of mirrors reflects a softly lighted tangle of refitted candelabras, decanters, overstuffed armchairs, musical instruments, Christmas lights, tiny TVs flickering black-and-white images, and a bowl with goldfish swimming at the junction where the bar’s two rooms meet. In the background, jazz plays. During winter, try the secret-recipe mulled red wine (5 KM); in summer, order the house-made sangria with oranges and cherries (5 KM).