The Story about Life and Business in Bosnian Capital in the 1890s

Many writers have written different books about Sarajevo, but all of them have one sentence in common: “There is no other place in the world where people are so hospitable, as the people of Sarajevo.” Here you can read a text written by Henrik Renner, titled “How are life and business going on in the capital of Bosnia”. The text was written in 1896 and published in the book “Through Herzeg-Bosnia, lengthwise and crosswise”, which contains many stories recorded during Henrik Renner’s trip through Bosnia and Herzegovina.

New roads in Sarajevo are covered in gravel, with pavement on both sides. Stores like those in Europe, with large windows, show Western merchandise, large Vienna cafes (Café Europe, Café Kunerth), where you can find all kinds of newspaper, call for sweet relaxation. Only the old town remains unchanged. Those sixty or more little streets are still the genuine Turkish streets. In low shops opened to the streets the merchants sit with their legs crossed, waiting for buyers. Spaniards have already moved to large shops in other parts of the city. Locals still know no competitors and envy, and if it happens that they do not have what you need, they will send you straight to their neighbor merchant.

No merchant ever managed to buy a store in the old town. They say it would be really hard to get because this is the land of waqfs and the locals would never allow foreigners to settle in the old town. Every resident there must be a local, and religion is no question to be asked. I do not know if that is true and I would rather say that Europeans are not inclined to settle in those holes where there is no proper place for merchandise, let alone for standing upright. However, even if it were true, I would not bear a grudge against the waqf directorate for that.

In the covered halls, merchants serve their customers and friends, offering them black coffee, cigarettes or pipes. They place a rug in the store and sit there, with a mangala during winter time – a brass vessel with burning coals where hands could be warmed up. A cat is usually a pet here. Merchants always have time, and when they sell they are not in a rush. This silent life is only interrupted when it’s prayer time, because according to the law they go to the nearest mosque to pray then.

(Source: Tarik Jazic – www.tarikjazic.wordpress.com)

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