Betsy Wuebker, PassingThru.com
"Our favourite iconic European building is the Sarajevo City Hall, now the National Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Known as Vijećnica, the building, which is located in the old Turkish quarter, is exuberant and eclectic in design and colour. It is best described as Neo-Moorish in style, with Islamic and other multi-cultural influences as befitting the city’s meld of Eastern and Western elements.
“Completed in 1894, this building served as the City of Sarajevo’s Headquarters until 1947, when it became the National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and housed the Academy of Fine Arts. As such, Vijećnica was the centre of the republic’s culture. Prior to the 1990s war, the library contained more than 150,000 rare manuscripts in a collection numbering more than 1.5 million volumes.
“Vijećnica is where Archduke Franz Ferdinand attended a reception prior to his assassination nearby in June 1914. This event is widely held as the spark which ignited WWI. In 1992, Serbian forces shelled it from the hills overlooking the city. Under sniper fire, librarians and private citizens bravely attempted to save priceless books, but the majority were destroyed by fire.
“The effect of this tragedy was a near-complete destruction of the written culture of Bosnia over the course of its history. One of the most poignant moments in the war was when award-winning cellist, Vedran Smailović, played among its ruins in protest.
“After a four-stage renovation which took 18 years, Vijećnica reopened in 2014 with a completely reconstructed interior, and replacement paintings, sculptures and books. Libraries worldwide had contributed to the restoration and rebuild. Vijećnica is a must-see when you travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina.”