Reading Comprehension Text and Exercises


The Jerusalem of Europe

The capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo, is one of the historically most interesting cities in Europe. It is the only major city on the continent to have a mosque, a Catholic church, an Orthodox church and a synagogue all in the same quarter. Due to this incredible diversity, Sarajevo is often called "Jerusalem of Europe" or of the Balkan peninsula, where it is located.

Reading Comprehension Text and Exercises, Sarajevo

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A Brief History of Sarajevo

  • The modern city of Sarajevo arose in the 15th century as an Ottoman fortress. However, there are findings of much earlier settlements by the Romans and Slavs in the Sarajevo area.
  • During its early history as a city, Sarajevo sheltered many Sephardic Jews who came from Spain and Portugal. At the same time, most local Christians converted to Islam, which is why this period of history was the origin of Sarajevo's cultural diversity.
  • After four centuries of the Ottoman rule, Sarajevo was annexed to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
  • In 1885, Sarajevo became the first city in Europe to have a full-time electric tram. This tram network is still fully functional.
  • In 1914, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was next in line to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was assassinated in Sarajevo. This led to World War I when the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia. Since the empire lost the war and ceased to exist, Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the newly founded kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Yugoslavia).
  • In 1984, Sarajevo, as a part of Yugoslavia, hosted the Winter Olympics.
  • After the Yugoslav wars, in 1995, Bosnia and Herzegovina became an independent country and Sarajevo its capital.


Apart from Istanbul, Sarajevo is the only Muslim capital in Europe. That said, walking around the historic district of Sarajevo, called Bascarsija, and hearing the call for prayer from a nearby mosque is often a unique experience for tourists. In Bascarsija, you can visit the old bazaar (market) and shop for woodwork, sweets or jewelry.

The most iconic monument is a wooden fountain called Sebilj. Built in the 18th century, Sebilj still offers drinkable water to travelers. It is also the place surrounded by so many pigeons that the area itself is called Pigeon Square. There are many sellers offering corn to those who would like to feed the birds.

In Bascarsija, you can also visit Morica Inn, the only preserved Ottoman inn (a house providing accommodation for travelers) in the city. Built in the 16th century, this place once accommodated up to 300 guests and 70 horses. It was reconstructed in the 1970s, and it now houses a carpet shop and a traditional restaurant.

Sacred Heart Cathedral

The Sacred Heart Cathedral is the largest Christian cathedral in Bosnia and Herzegovina, built in the 19th century. It was modeled after the Notre-Dame of Dijon, a cathedral in France. As Yugoslavia began to fall apart in 1991, the cathedral became the scene of peace demonstrations.

When it comes to the stunning interior of the cathedral, the main altar (a type of table used in Christian churches) was made of Italian marble, while the windows were brought from Vienna. The church also offers a mass (religious ceremony) in English every Saturday.

Eternal Flame

At the very entrance to the central walking area of the city, you can find the Eternal Flame, a memorial to the victims of World War II in Sarajevo. This memorial was revealed in 1946, a year after the city was liberated.

It consists of an open Flame that never burns down and an inscription dedicated to the victims, decorated in the colors of the flag of Yugoslavia. This monument is valuable to many people who are nostalgic about the old times when Yugoslavia was one country.

Vrelo Bosne

The most popular day-trip destination for those staying in the city center is Vrelo Bosne, a public park on the outskirts of Sarajevo where the River Bosna's spring is located.

In this park, you can also find a Roman bridge which was built in the 16th century from the original Roman ruins. Being hidden from the busy streets of Sarajevo, the park can be entered on foot or by horse carriage.

Traveling in a carriage is a unique experience because the horses will take you down the long main avenue, along which you can see older and more traditional buildings and peek into Sarajevo's Austro-Hungarian past.

Comprehension Exercises

Vocabulary Questions

  1. What does "nostalgic" mean?
    1. feeling happy and slightly sad when you think about a past event
    2. feeling very anxious about your future
    3. not being able to sleep at night

  2. What does "eternal" mean?
    1. lasting forever, without end
    2. an idea that might happen in the future
    3. recently created, young

  3. What does "peninsula" mean?
    1. a piece of land surrounded by mountains
    2. land completely surrounded by water
    3. land nearly completely surrounded by water on all sides except one

  4. What does "inscription" mean?
    1. a signature placed at the end of a document
    2. words that are written somewhere or cut into something
    3. a long, historical poem

  5. What does "annex" mean?
    1. to buy property
    2. to give territory to Germany
    3. to add territory to one's own city or country

Collocation Questions

  1. The cathedral was ___________ after the Notre Dame of Dijon.
    1. copied
    2. modeled
    3. imitated

  2. At Vrelo Bosne, you can ___________ into Sarajevo's Austro-Hungarian past.
    1. peek
    2. sneak
    3. spy

  3. In the city, you can hear calls for ___________ several times a day.
    1. devotion
    2. faith
    3. prayer

  4. Having been under German occupation, Sarajevo was ___________ in 1945.
    1. released
    2. let go
    3. liberated

  1. Archduke Franz Ferdinand was ___________ in Sarajevo.
    1. eliminated
    2. assassinated
    3. killed in an accident

  1. Under the Ottoman Empire, many Christians ___________ to Islam.
    1. converted
    2. turned
    3. brought

  1. Sebilj is the most ___________ monument in Bascarsija.
    1. representative
    2. iconic
    3. picturesque

  2. Vrelo Bosne is located on the ___________ of Sarajevo.
    1. outside
    2. edges
    3. outskirts

  3. In 1914, Austro-Hungarian Empire ___________ war on Serbia because of Archduke's assassination.
    1. declared
    2. announced
    3. expressed

  4. In 1991, the area around the cathedral was the scene of peace ___________.
    1. exhibitions
    2. presentations
    3. demonstrations

Wh Questions

  1. How long has the Eternal Flame been burning for?
    1. for 100 years
    2. since 1946
    3. for 12 months

  2. Where did the architects of the Sacred Heart Cathedral find marble for the church?
    1. in Vrelo Bosne
    2. in Vienna
    3. in Italy

  3. Whose assassination in Sarajevo led to World War I?
    1. Kaiser William II's
    2. John Lennon's
    3. Archduke Franz Ferdinand's

  4. When was the current Roman Bridge at Vrelo Bosne built?
    1. in the 16th century
    2. in the Roman times
    3. after Bosnia's independence

  1. What can you buy at Morica Inn?
    1. horses
    2. carpets
    3. cars

Evaluating Statements

  1. Based on the information in this lesson, which statement is true?
    1. Sarajevo belonged to the Ottoman Empire but never to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
    2. Throughout the history, Sarajevo belonged both to the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

  2. Based on the information in this lesson, which statement is false?
    1. At the Pigeon Square, tourists can buy corn and feed the pigeons.
    2. At the Pigeon Square, tourists are not allowed to feed the pigeons.

True or False?

  1. Based on the information in this lesson, is the following statement true or false?

    "Many tourists find it easy to go to Vrelo Bosne because it is right in the center of the city."
    1. True
    2. False

  2. Based on the information in this lesson, is the following statement true or false?

    "The Sacred Heart Cathedral looks like another older church in France."
    1. True
    2. False

Answer Key

1. A | 2. A | 3. C | 4. B | 5. C | 6. B | 7. A | 8. C | 9. C | 10. B | 11. A | 12. B | 13. C | 14. A | 15. C | 16. B | 17. C | 18. C | 19. A | 20. B |21. B | 22. B | 23. B | 24. A

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