I have already written extensively about how much I love Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially its capital Sarajevo. The nature and the landscapes are incredible and are perfect for hiking, the cultural melting pot that is Sarajevo and the peaceful coexistence of different religions is remarkable and the people are some of the friendliest I have encountered anywhere in the world.
The whole city shows so much potential to become a major tourist hotspot in the region – which I’m on the fence about, for me part of the appeal of the city is the absolute lack of crowds.
What made my stay even better, was the genuine kindness I was welcomed with to the Vagabond Hostel in Sarajevo. Alvina and Aida, the two sisters who run the accommodation, even picked Brendan and me up from the bus station, with an umbrella in tow to protect us and our gear from the downpour and provided us with lots of information to accompany our drive through Sarajevo.
Growing up in a Bed and Breakfast owned by their parents, the two sisters had lots of experience being around travellers from an early age on. After escaping the war in Bosnia to Sweden with their families, Aida decided to study tourism and somehow, a few years later, both of them ended up returning to Bosnia and living in Sarajevo with their respective families. “When all the pieces of the puzzle came together, the decision was made to make our dream come true”, Aida says. Together, Aida and Alvina decided to open the Vagabond Hostel in Sarajevo.
“This hostel and our guests are fulfilling our lives in a very positive way”, Aida explains. “In such a short period of time, we have met so many interesting people from all around the world, and every day, we feel richer because of our new friendships.” Opened in early October, the Vagabond Hostel has only been around for a few months, but is already easily one of the best accommodations in town.
Upon walking through the front door, Brendan and I were immediately offered tea and coffee and we all sat down to talk about Sarajevo, our respective travels and the hostel. Another afternoon, we all simply chatted for hours and enjoyed a Shisha and some Rakija together – the preferred alcoholic drink in Bosnia. The common room of the Vagabond is perfect for having a good time together and meeting people, with comfortable couches, coffee tables and even a big TV on the wall. Although the TV isn’t needed much, there are always some great conversations to be had.
Whenever we decided to venture out into Sarajevo to do some exploring, whoever manned the front desk at the time always asked us where we were going and made sure to send us on our way with some valuable tips. Once we were recommended a Bosnian restaurant in the old town, which offers exploding double burgers filled with a creamy sauce made of butter and cheese – easily one of the best meals I have ever had. I probably would have never found it on my own.
The location of the hostel couldn’t be better as well. It’s located smack in the middle of town, only a few minutes walking distance from the Ottoman-style old town with its mosques, tiny Arabian knick knack shops as well as countless cafés and restaurants. The cathedral and a fairly impressive mosque are just around the corner and there are all the museums, galleries, stores, restaurants and take aways a big city has to offer right outside the front door.
It wasn’t only the multiculturalism of the city, the friendliness of the people or the cheap prices that have turned Sarajevo into my favourite European city as soon as I stepped off that bus – it was also the incredible atmosphere. Another reason why Aida and Alvina have decided to settle down in Sarajevo. “We love everything about this city,” Aida explains, “its atmosphere, the soul and the people who are always ready to give a helping hand and smile when you need it.”
I usually find it hard to really klick with people on the road – but my few days at the Vagabond Hostel have provided me with two wonderful friends. At the Vagabond Hostel, I never felt like a customer, but like a friend or family member, always warmly welcomed and helped. “The guests are our family”, Aida simply says. I know I will always have a home in Sarajevo.