Traveling with kids. You can plan an itinerary, which usually involves museums, or you can try to explore the city and hope that because people live there, you’ll eventually find kid friendly restaurants or playgrounds. Or you can ask the experts. And thank goodness for our experts in Sarajevo.
So far, we’ve discovered several playgrounds on our own, most of which more closely resemble the playgrounds of my youth with rusty swings, wooden see-saws and those finger-pinching teeter-totter swing sets. There is also graffiti. The kids are usually ok with all these things because they prefer swings to scenery. I’m ok with them playing with the same structures I did, learning such important life skills as how to avoid splinters and knowing when the shiny metal slide is too hot to use.
And we would have been perfectly content with these playgrounds, including the tiny one near our first hotel, but our local guides suggested we go up Kosovo street for the open view, which was, indeed, amazing.
My guide also suggested the indoor playground at the nearby BBI mall. It took me and the girls about 15 minutes to find it (I forgot which floor it was on so we essentially walked through all 6 storeys because I didn’t know the Bosnian word for playground (Igralište for those of you keeping track!) but it was glorious! The kids took off their shoes and ran off before I could even check them in. And then I enjoyed two whole hours in the room next door drinking coffee without anyone elbowing me in the stomach or stepping on my toes.
And then, after all that, our friends took us to Sunnyland. Only, I didn’t know it was Sunnyland; I only knew we were going up the mountain where the Olympic bobsled event was held in 1984.
It was only a ten minute drive, during which we crossed country borders a few times (there’s two autonomous nations that make up Bosnia-Herzegovina: The Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska), and arrived on Trebević mountain with its breathtaking views of Sarajevo. And the roller coaster. Squirrel loved riding it with her father (for four year olds and up) while two-year old Goose immediately took to the high-ropes playground like the spider monkey that she is.
In the middle of this high-ropes course is a long pipe slide that snakes down the hill and underneath the playground structure. Squirrel disappeared down the tube and there were a few tense moments when she didn’t appear immediately, but we could hear her squeals and yells and she seemed to be having fun somewhere inside the pipe. Eventually she emerged. Goose insisted on going down too, and Dad helpfully volunteered me as her escort. Thanks Dad!
Normally, I love slides, but this one was a very long pipe that went down what seemed like a fairly steep hill. And I don’t really like small enclosures. As Goose and I careened into the first curve, my instinct was to slow down so we didn’t hurdle out the other end, taking out any small children along our way.
I essentially came to a complete stop and had to scoot down the rest of the pipe with half a dozen children piling up behind me! Greta half-stood, half-crawled out the end while most parents seemed confused as to why I was in the pipe in the first place. And unfortunately, I had to repeat the trip of shame several times for Goose, who enjoyed every minute of it. Dad followed suite, and a certain British diplomat may or may not have done the same with his small child after watching us and our indignity.
But wait, there’s more. Our friends took us further up the mountain to Hotel Pino. There the girls picked flowers, threw sticks in a creek and played in another smaller playground as we waited for our lunch reservation. And the food was well worth the wait: flavorful beef and potatoes, while the kids had chicken and pomme frites. And stole my carrots.
And that was just our first day up the mountain. I honestly thought that we had seen what we needed to see — it was a full day of playing in the fresh mountain air — until our AirBnB host took me and the girls up there again a few days later. Because it was evening she took us into one of the cafes, and low and behold, there was an amazing indoor playground there too! It included a trampoline, a ball pit, lots of climbing, air hockey, and a separate place for parents. It was overwhelming and marvelous!
After jumping, climbing, playing basketball, air hockey, riding cars, and more jumping and climbing, our host took us farther up the hill where there is a petting zoo and places to picnic. And the road up the mountain keeps going up. Who knows what magic awaits further atop the mountain! We would have kept going and exploring, except that it was starting to get dark on the mountain and the kids were exhausted from all the climbing and jumping. They sure slept well that night! The next morning, and the morning after that and the morning after that they woke up and asked if they could return to Sunnyland, with Goose asking more than once if she was old enough now for the roller coaster. Soon Goose. Soon.