Friday, 4 January 2013

New Year 2013 in Sarajevo

Who would have thought?

It is 2013 already. Another New Year's Eve has gone just as quickly as it had come.

Now, we're not interested in being all 'mopey' and sad about it. We want to know: how were your celebrations?
The stage is set and in place outside Sarajevo's BBI Centar
hours before New Year's Eve celebrations are due to kick off.

Were they what you expected to be? Was it all just the same as other years? Did you do anything?

Personally, I am not much of a New Year's Eve fan.

There have been some occasions where I have gone all-out and celebrated in style -- spending hundreds of Aussie dollars on tickets to world-famous DJs -- but there have been plenty more times where I have been content to sit at home and save my money, or even spend the night on the job!

However, unlike the previous twenty New Year's during my lifetime, I found myself located on the other side of the world on this occasion. In the city of Sarajevo, no less.

Alright then, do I sit inside and put my feet up all night? Heck no! I go out and experience how this city and its people celebrate this event!

So, a number of us, including my fianc√©e and a Bosnian friend visiting from Melbourne, reserved a place at Sarajevo's Celtic Pub at 10 BAM a pop.

With other drinking locations across the city asking for up to 50 BAM for entry, with a mere complementary glass of champagne to boot, we made the economical decision to look elsewhere -- eventually settling for the traditional Irish pub located near the Eternal Flame in Sarajevo's down-town area.

Arriving at 9:30pm, we made our way towards our reserved table in the downstairs section of the double-storey precinct.

Celebrations were well under way when we showed up, though I was a little surprised with how much space there was in the place.

I had been there before on a cold Saturday evening during February with the place absolutely heaving.

So, why was it not the same for a big occasion such as New Year's Eve? Did others also view the whole celebration as a bit over-rated?

My surprise was further exacerbated when sections of the Pub began clearing out as the clock neared midnight, with some people leaving behind half-finished pints of beer.

"What the?! Why pay 10 marks and leave before the big event? ..and why leave beer behind!?" were the thoughts going through my head.

The Celtic Pub Sarajevo was our setting
for the evening.

Perhaps a number of these people had attempted to sneak a quick toilet break before the clock ticked over into 2013. After all, it was here in the over-crowded restroom where I was stranded as we welcomed in the New Year. Typical, eh?

Once midnight had passed, people began pouring back into Celtic Pub. Oh, and I mean pouring!

Now the place was actually heaving, making it obvious that many of the Pub's guests had strolled outside and down the street to where a public countdown and fireworks were going off outside Sarajevo's BBI Centar.

Unlike back in my homeland, the temperatures outside were close to freezing, so the locals(*) wasted no time in racing back to the warmth of the bar!

(*On that note, I should point out here that I was also a little mystified to find the Pub's patrons on the evening were almost nothing but Bosnian locals. This is only surprising due to the fact the Celtic -- ta da! -- Pub is a location often frequented by foreign tourists; whom, bar yours truly, were nowhere to be seen on this particular night.)

As the hours went by, we each grew increasingly tired (not helped by the shoulder-to-shoulder conditions inside the bar, either), eventually calling it a night at around two in the morning.

Slightly tentative about asking the waiter for the final bill, I was pleasantly pleased to discover we had only spent a combined total of 185 BAM on drinks. Damn, I spend more by myself on a 'quiet' night out at a Victorian pub!

Following a quick pit-stop at the adjacent cevabdzinica for a burger and cevapi, we headed out onto Sarajevo's central walking strip, which was busy with groups of people walking in all directions despite the coldness and time of morning.

Whilst waiting roadside for around 25 minutes before striking gold with an available taxi (Melbourne, anyone?), we were entertained by a number of locals setting off fireworks which had been freely purchasable across the city's central streets in the days prior.

Although Sarajevo police had publicly warned they would not tolerate such behaviour, it seems most pyromaniacs were not fazed.

Bringing in the New Year with company. ('Black squares'
are present to disguise identities as I have not yet asked
for permission to publish them.)
After paying the meagre 3 BAM taxi fare (again: Melbourne, anyone?), we arrived back at the apartment we were calling 'home' for the evening, where I finally sat and chucked my feet up, just as I had done on this date over many years previous.

So, looking back on it all, how do I rate my 2013 New Year experience in Sarajevo?

Although it did little to alter my opinion that New Year's Eve is an over-rated celebration, it was another nice experience for me in this country.

The fireworks, the street decorations and the people bustling down the street at all hours combined to create a memorable and inducing atmosphere.

Very few signs of trouble were spotted and, for the most part, it seemed like everyone across the city were enjoying themselves.

On top of all these factors, I barely had to dig into my wallet, meaning I would definitely head out if I find myself in Bosnia on a New Year's Eve once again.

Will I do the same in Australia? Probably not.

Finally, this needs a mention: Despite the fact I will remember the 2013 New Year in Sarajevo for quite some time, it is probably fair to say it paled in comparison to previous celebrations in the city, such as when the year of 1996 was brought in.

Back then, "U2's" Bono celebrated New Year's Eve and peace in Bosnia at a restaurant in the then-wartorn capital. Among his companions at the dinner was the Bosnian foreign minister.

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