Sarajevo: where a Serb, a Greek and a Spaniard were looking for a gluten-free restaurant…
Only two days ago, I had returned to Madrid from Serbia, to leave again, on Monday, from Barcelona to Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. These trips for work, sometimes, serve as an outpost to meet countries like these. This is helpful to plan future trips with Isa, in summer. Most likely, we will soon make a road trip through these countries… to go sightseeing and find new restaurants… if there are any!
I flew to Sarajevo – making a stopover in Munich – flying with Lufthansa and, as expected, neither of the flights could offer gluten-free food… luckily, they were short flights and I was prepared: I had brought some pastries from La Celiacoteca and some gluten free sandwiches to eat during the stopover in the Munich airport. The last time I had been there I had not found anything gluten free…
Upon arrival at destination, Katina, one of our followers on Facebook, had commented on some recommendations in the photograph of the airport screen: the first recommendation was about taxi drivers, with whom one had to be careful as a tourist; the second were some gluten free restaurants in Sarajevo.
Djurica and Nikos would not arrive until after six in the afternoon, so I would have time to stroll around Sarajevo finding those gluten free restaurants. Kanita had warned me that in Sarajevo it is quite complicated to eat gluten free, but she had recommended me a couple of restaurants where it was possible to eat gluten free. I would start with lunch at the No Gluten Factory at 12 Mehremica trg.
Another challenge in Sarajevo is to communicate with people, since most do not speak English… thanks to the hotel receptionist, I was able to arrange a taxi to go to the Sarajevo City Center. I could not speak with that man, but it was fun to arrange a pick-up time at the same point where he left me.
Some of the buildings in the city reminded me of the mountain villages of Andorra, Italy or Austria. With sloping roofs and stone buildings, the center of Sarajevo was very crowded. You can tell that the city is growing because there were two shopping centers, one in front of the other.
As I walked towards the No Gluten Factory I saw that, as in Serbia, there were still buildings marked by war and, near the hotel, it could be seen that it had been a communist country.
When I arrived at the restaurant, I was surprised. It was more like a small bakery, with a table next to the door. I started talking to the girl behind the counter and she explained that everything was gluten free.
They had all kinds of breads, prepared sandwiches and pizzas in portions. It was a magnificent day and, while going up to the restaurant, I had seen a park that invited to sit in the sun. I did not doubt it! I ordered two pieces of pizza, asked her to heat them up, I took an apple juice from the fridge and, after paying, went straight to the park. It was the first time in my life that I bought a piece of pizza to carry in a paper bag. I would never have thought that the first time would be in Bosnia!
I savored the two pieces of pizza, one of ham and cheese and another with ham, cheese and mushrooms sitting in the park, while watching the people passing by. When I finished, I spent some time there enjoying the good temperature and thinking about when I could travel with Isa… by car it is quite far… more than 2,000km! Thinking about the other trips we have made, it is feasible, we just have to find a date that suits us both… let’s see if it’s soon!
Then I walked back to the Sarajevo City Center, a shopping mall similar to those in Spain, with several floors of shops and restaurants on the top floor. I was looking for the other restaurant Kanita had recommended. It’s called Le Pont and it’s in the Sarajevo City Center Shopping Center. It was super easy to find it. I just had to look up to hit a big sign that said “GLUTEN FREE”.
I went up to the floor where it was and, although according to the sign on the door, it would have to be open… it was closed. “Hmm… strange” I thought! There was no one to ask so, I looked at the other restaurants and went back to the street. I had not found any other restaurant serving gluten free.
While I was still walking, I saw that in the other shopping center there was a Vapiano like the ones we had seen in Austria, Germany and Hungary. I went to ask and nothing… there was nothing gluten free there. Neither pasta nor pizza. There was not much time left for the taxi to arrive, so I walked slowly back to the pick-up point.
I would return later, with Djurica and Nikos, to dine at Le Pont.
My colleagues arrived on time, at 6 o’clock in the afternoon. After a while, we went to city center with Djurica’s car directly to the Sarajevo City Center, where we parked with the intention of going to the Restaurant Le Pont. As I understood, this is a vegetarian restaurant. I did not care if it was the only gluten-free option in the city. But there was no gluten-free option, because it was still closed… we asked again, in Bosnian, in the other restaurants but we had no luck either…
We went back to the car and moved to another parking lot closer to downtown. Nikos wanted to go to the scene of the Sarajevo attack on June 28, 1914, where they murdered Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Duchess Sofia Chotek.
That was a week of a lot of history. A few days ago I was in the Belgrade Castle, in front of the point where the Austro-Hungarian monitor had started the bombing of the city. Now I was at the point where everything had started… Very interesting!
After sightseeing, the odyssey of finding a restaurant where I could eat gluten free began… it seemed like a joke: a Serb, a Greek and a Spaniard, looking for a gluten-free restaurant in Bosnia.
We entered 8 restaurants to ask, showing the gluten-free travel card in Bosnian and Turkish. In most of them, when we saw the kitchen, we already knew that I could not eat there. It is not that we went into the kitchen, it just used to be a visible grill in the dining room… full of “typical kebab sice” bread… at least they were sincere and they told us that they could not offer us anything without gluten!
We were discouraged and Djurica and Nikos hungry because they had not had time to eat lunch that day. I did too, but I felt bad because they could eat anywhere and they were struggling to find a restaurant where I could also eat.
Finally, Djurica entered a Muslim restaurant called Kolobara Han, on Calle Sarači 52. He spent some time talking with the waiter and showed him a gluten-free travel card in Bosnian. He took it to the cook and, after a while, came back saying that they could prepare something for me.
Finally! While we were sitting at the table, we ordered the drinks. If you go to this restaurant, remember that it is Muslim, so if you ask for beer, it will be alcohol free. They do not have gluten free beer though. That was just for your info.
They did not give me a menu. What they could prepare for me was something I would not find there: steak and chips. Then we had to ask them if the oil was “clean”. To avoid offending them, we did not use the word “clean” when we asked. We all know that restaurants do not usually like it when you ask if the oil is clean, referring to whether they have fried something with gluten (e.g. croquettes or onion rings) in the oil where the potatoes are fried.
According to the waiter, I did not have to worry because they would do it separately. In the end, he brought me the plate with salad… when he left it on my table, he told me that the chips were frozen and floured, so I could not eat them. Good luck they realized! I thought… if not, I would have had a very bad night… and not even think how horrible it would have been the next day…
While we were eating, I saw that they were taking out a rice dish for another table and when the waiter turned to ask if everything was okay, I asked the waiter if he could bring one for me.
In the end, we found another restaurant where to eat gluten-free in Sarajevo! The next day, returning from Mostar, we would dine there for sure!
You can see the pictures of the trip here.
BY CLICKING ON THE MAP OF GLUTEN FREE RESTAURANTS YOU FILL SEE ALL RESTAURANTS WE DESCRIBED IN THIS POST LOCATED IN THE MAP OF GLUTEN-FREE PLACES:
AND HERE WE LEAVE THE CELIAC TRAVEL CARD IN BOSNIAN:
P.S.: Please keep in mind that in this blog I share my trips, anecdotes and experiences about gluten free travel around the world. It is possible that, in any of my trips, I go to some restaurant not trained by the associations where the risk of being contaminated with gluten exists. I kindly ask you to also take into account that the list of references can change. Please, always double check before eating in the restaurants we recommend. Thank you very much!
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