Travel

In Sarajevo, Copper Souvenirs Have Been an Obsession for Centuries

Coppersmiths hammer in the city's heart.

Photo by Kiana Hayeri for Thrillist
Photo by Kiana Hayeri for Thrillist
Photo by Kiana Hayeri for Thrillist

If you were to get lost in Sarajevo’s Ottoman-era Old Town, amongst the sprawl of cobblestone streets and hidden alleyways, you might find a little garden or family-run restaurant. You could breathe in the smell of shisha from rows of outdoor cafes, or pop into a tiny bakery to buy a baklava or burek. Perhaps you’d hear a clanging sound and follow it-and trust me, that’s the right thing to do in Sarajevo-all the way to Kazandžiluk, better known as “Copper Street,” where vendors have been hammering and selling handmade copper items since the time of the Ottomans.

The city’s metalworking practices date back to the 1500s, pioneered by local artisan and goatherd Sagrakči Hajji Mahmud. The first coppersmiths of Sarajevo began their craft making kettles for the Turkish army, and their practice eventually expanded to creating hundreds of everyday household items out of metal and copper. The coppersmiths settled on Kazandžiluk Street in the 16th century, and have been there ever since.

Over 300 years later, a dozen or so families of coppersmiths remain in business. The Jabučar, Baščaušević, Huseinovic, Kobiljak, Hidić, and Brkanić family shops can be found here, just to name a few of the households that are part of keeping this art alive in Sarajevo. These shops have often been in the family for more than a century, the craftsmanship passed down between generations. Coppersmith Adnan Hidić, for instance, learned from his father, who also learned from his own father. And as the coppersmiths continue to create for local and international tourists, the plan is to get the next generation involved.It’s worth perusing the shops, each filled to the brim with shiny, intricately engraved copper and metal souvenirs. During my last visit, I pore over etched copper plates, tea sets, dining trays, and rows upon rows of handmade džezvas (traditional long-handled coffee pots). Coppersmiths like Hidić also craft smaller items, including rings, bracelets, bookmarks, and magnets, for tourists to take home. But if you can find room in your suitcase for a larger item, you’ll be bringing home something truly special; a coppersmith tells me than a large plate takes seven days to craft.

While many things on Kazandžiluk Street are done the old way, some things have certainly changed. While mines in Bosnia and Herzegovina were active when the copper trade began in Sarajevo, a number of local mines have closed down over the last few decades. As of late, most of the copper used here comes from the Majdanpek mine across the border in Serbia, and some of it comes from Germany and Chile.

Photo by Kiana Hayeri for Thrillist
Photo by Kiana Hayeri for Thrillist
Photo by Kiana Hayeri for Thrillist

But obtaining copper hasn’t always been possible, and local coppersmiths have had to get creative to survive. With the 1994 war lingering in the not-so-distant past, physical evidence like military shells and bullets can still be found throughout the city and the surrounding countryside. And from discarded shells to bare grenades, coppersmiths have made use of the materials by turning them into beautiful objects. Even bullet casings are transformed, carved, and crafted into ballpoint pens.

“My favourite thing to make is the mortar shell vase,” says Hidić. “After the Siege of Sarajevo, we had approximately half a million shells all around the city, but we didn’t have the money to buy and import copper. So in order to earn money to buy copper again, we collected these shells, made them into flower vases, and sold them.” As a result, he explains, “something that was once used for killing, was now giving life.”

In the shop, my guide Arna (who leads a walking tour with local agency Meet Bosnia) points out a row of shiny metal items on a shelf. You can hardly notice them, as they blend in with the other copper pieces that sit on either side, but she notes that we are looking at repurposed military shells. Now, they stand in this little shop, being sold as flower pots.

Photo by Kiana Hayeri for Thrillist
Photo by Kiana Hayeri for Thrillist
Photo by Kiana Hayeri for Thrillist

When I’ve finished exploring Kazandžiluk Street, I treat myself to a cone of Egyptian vanilla-flavored ice cream (Arna’s recommendation) before heading up to the Yellow Fortress to catch the sunset.

Along the way, I pass Pigeon Square, followed by Kovaci Cemetery, also known as the Martyrs’ Memorial Cemetery for those who perished in the war from 1992 to 1995. I make it up to the Yellow Fortress for magic hour, and sit and take it all in. Staring out at the stunning, sunny panorama of Sarajevo in front of me, I consider how it reflects its own lengthy and resilient history, weathering the ends of two major empires (Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian, in that order), two World Wars, the birth and death of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the 1984 Winter Olympics, and the Siege of Sarajevo. A mortar shell vase or copper džezva might serve as a similar reminder of how this place has become the vibrant city it is today, a symbol of a much larger story. And throughout all of it, in the heart of Sarajevo, the coppersmiths have hammered on.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.

Jennifer Richardson is a contributor for Thrillist.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Related

Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.