The House of Defiance

A Story of Ters

In explaining the meaning of Bosnian word ters, poet Abdulah Sidran explains ters is ”a man who is always right, but nobody else understands it”.


Author: Sarajevo Navigator

One of the most famous Sarajevo people with a ters epithet was a man named Benderija (officially Avdaga Benderlić). Thanks to him, one of the most interesting symbols of Sarajevo - Inat kuća (The House of Spite) still stands, opposite Vijećnica - City Hall.

The story of Inat kuća and Benderija begins during the time when the Austro-Hungarian authorities started planning the construction of Vijećnica on Mustaj-paša mejdan – Mustaj-Paša Square (in the period between 1892 - 1894). In order to prepare the site, it was necessary to tear down two hans (inns) and Benderija's house.

No price for a peace of mind

Everything was ready for the building of the beautiful Vijećnica - City Hall, but there was one big problem - Benderija refused to give permission for his house to be torn down. Pleas and promises did not help the matter. Benderija defiantly sent a message to Austro Hungarian authorities: ”The emperor in Vienna is powerful, and he has my respect, but he does not have the money that would buy my rahatluk (peace of mind.)”.

Since pleas did not seem to work, the authorities changed their ways of persuasion, imprisoning Benderija in order to make him change his mind. Yielding under the pressure, Benderlija consented to give up his land, but under the condition that his beloved house be ”moved to the other side of Miljacka, brick by brick.” Inat kuća (The House of Defiance) still stands, right across Vijećnica - City Hall, mockingly defying the monumental structure.

According to the other, simpler version of the story, the owner of the house immediately consented to Austro- Hungarian authorities saying: ”I approve it (begenišem), but carry it (the house) to the other side so I can watch my Miljacka river.”

In any case, it is because of the spite of its stubborn owner that the house was named Inat kuća - The House of Defiance.

Defiance and stubbornness are frequently cited as a common character trait of Sarajevans. Many things are done here exclusively out of defiance. Maybe that is the reason why they live here, and like Benderija, watch Miljacka, admiring her like some others admire The Thames, Seine or Nile.

Exclusive restaurant

Today, Inat kuća is a restaurant serving traditional Bosnian food. The interior was designed by one of the most significant local architects - Amir Vuk Zec.

Separating Inat kuća and Vijećnica - City Hall is one of Sarajevo's oldest bridges – Šeher-ćehajina ćuprija – The Mayor's Bridge. Built in 1620 by Hadži Husein, one of Sarajevo's six šeher-ćehajas (city mayors from the Ottoman period), the bridge had five arches. During the Austro- Hungarian period, following the decision to regulate the flow of Miljacka in 1897, one of the five arches was buried.

There are many legends associated with this bridge. The most interesting one is a story that claims that a large diamond was built into the bridge during the construction, and that a couple of years later a young man stole it to give it as a gift to his sweetheart. At his trial, the judge was extremely touched by this love story that he freed the young man.

Or, maybe that also happened because of defiance. Who knows?