Leaving some money in Sarajevo. Bosnia. 2009

Before leaving on our trip I knew that I wanted to buy something from the old bazaar in Sarajevo as I knew that Sarajevo is one of the last remaining places in Western Europe were there was still a Turkish influence.

Whenever I travel I like to buy something really nice from the area where I’m visiting. 

I’ve always thought that the cheap souvenirs that are on sale in so many places aren’t worth buying and that it was much better spend much more and buy something really good. The trouble with Western Europe is that it’s a first world place and anything very nice is going to cost real money of the kind that is just too rich for my blood.

Sarajevo, because of it’s recent history of war, is a country that is struggling to get back on it’s feet and it felt particularly good to leave a chunk of money there. Places like France and Germany don’t need our money like Sarajevo does. Needless to say, I still try and get the most I can for whatever I spend and when we decided to buy a hand embossed metal tray in the Turkish style by the noted coppersmith Sahib Bašcauševic (mentioned in the UNESCO book on Traditional arts and crafts of Bosnia and Herzegovina) I was ready to haggle to get the best deal.

Sahib Bašcauševic’s work is sold in a store located in the old bazaar by the very cultivated and self assured Mido.

Mido

Mido is one of those types of people who really knows his stuff and doesn’t mind telling a person when they are in the wrong. When I said I was interested in silver plated copperware instead of the tin plated stuff, he asked me why and when I said, “because the silver plated copper was better”, he calmly but forcefully said to me, “you are wrong” and then went on to explain why.

I can imagine that not too many people can handle such a response and would’ve tossed their plaits and stormed off in a huff. Knowing that I don’t know everything helped me cope with Mido’s directness and I was glad that I stuck around to get the skinny on the advantage of tin plating over silver plating.

Apparently hundreds of copper goods can be coated with a very fine coating of silver with just a few coins electrically and very quickly, but the trouble is that the silver wears off very easily. Tin plating is much harder to do because it’s manually applied with some skill and is much harder wearing. Mido then went on to explain that although many foreigners buy his copperware for decorative purposes, it’s all actually made to be used and the value of an item was based not only on the skill of it’s decoration but also on it’s utility and not just a few microns of a semi-precious metal like silver.

When it came to haggle, Mido made it clear that he wasn’t going to knock much off the price, pointing out that the tray I wanted took over a week to produce by one of the best craftsman in the country. I did get Mido to drop his price a bit but when I pressed him to take another $25 off, he said, “that sort of money won’t make you a poor man and it won’t make me a rich man so let’s stop here”. He was right of course in the face of such truth I just paid up. To be honest, I didn’t mind at all because it was a pleasure dealing with someone who was so straight up and we all pay for things that we value more than the money that we hand over.

Sahib Bašcauševic's work

5 thoughts on “Leaving some money in Sarajevo. Bosnia. 2009”

  1. A lovely momento from your trip. The story was great, especially Milo’s line about the $25 not making much difference to either of you… How true, but how easy it is to get hung up in the competition of it.

  2. What beautiful workmanship! Like Donald I particularly like Milo’s haggling wisdom. I’m hooked on your travels and your dedication to keeping us so well updated.

  3. Donald and Epic

    Mido was amazing and we’ve been sweating about it’s arrival back home. We mailed it from Ljubjana and it cost us about $100 because it was so big and heavy. We didn’t want to cart it around with us because we’re worried that the car might get broken into or we might damage the tray. I just recieved word toady from back home, that the tray has arrived safely.

    As for blogging as I travel, I’ve noticed that it’s helping me remember things better as all the travel can seem a bit of a blur sometimes.

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