Laheri53 Book Café
by Mojdeh Feili
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a gem of a country that hasn’t been discovered by a lot of tourists yet. Last summer I went on a massive road trip through south-east Europe and discovered so many amazing places. From this trip, I would love to share some of these places with you. Bosnia and Herzegovina has a violent past, especially when it was a part of Yugoslavia. Even though this past can still be felt and seen walking through the streets and driving through the country (abandoned buildings which nature is reclaiming and bullet holes everywhere), the people are so warm and welcoming that you would think years of war wasn’t as recent as the end of the 1990’s. The kindness of these people is unmeasured, and it almost felt like I was in Iran or Morocco, where the warmness glows off of people. I don’t know if it has anything to do with the many ethnic Muslim people, also referred to as Bosniaks, who live here; a secret Europe hasn’t been sharing with you all. There are so many beautiful mosques here that you keep looking out for the next one to surprise you. What was more beautiful than these amazing buildings was the cohabitation and the sharing of space that the Muslims and Christian do in this beautiful looked-over country. Our camping site near the city of Mostar was literally between a mosque and a church, where every day we would hear the church bells and on Friday the azaan (call to worship). The latter instinctively brought me back to Iran to such an extent that I could almost smell my home country.
After Mostar, we visited Sarajevo and walking through this beautiful city, I was not prepared for where my phone would accidentally lead me to. Somehow, Google Maps had decided that I wanted to go to a book cafe; it appeared out of the blue. We needed some rest and craved something to drink, preferably coffee of course, so we decided to check it out. When we went in, I fell in love with this place immediately. It feels so quaint with the mismatched furniture and all the wooden interior. When you walk upstairs you get an even more homely feel with benches that are so comfortable that you just want to read and drink a hot beverage. There are books stacked all over the place, so you feel right at home if you are a book nerd like me. Of course, this was the single day I did not bring a book with me to read as we hadn’t intended on taking a long break anywhere. I started browsing the books, noticing most of them were in Turkish, and picked up a national geographic magazine. That is just how amazing this book cafe is, it makes you want to read even if you don’t have anything with you.
Already guessing, the owner of this place, Baver, is also Turkish. This was, of course, plenty of reason for me to order some Turkish tea instead of coffee. Although Turkish coffee is amazing, there is nothing better than Turkish tea (except for Persian tea which is almost the same). Baver was so nice and welcoming that I tried to ask him a couple of questions. Even though his English and my Turkish were not on the same level, we managed with the help of Google Translate. It turns out that this amazing book café owner is still studying back home in Turkey and his father is the actual owner of Laheri 53. Despite that, Baver treats his customers like royalty and has the most inviting smile on all the time. It seemed to me that this place would have a lot of regular customers who come back to feel at home and chat with Baver. If you are ever in Sarejevo, which I definitely recommend visiting, don’t miss out on stopping here for some amazing ambiance and even better tea.