Bosnia & Herzegovina: The history, the culture and the food
I travelled to Sarajevo from Belgrade by minibus. It was a long journey but one that provided some stunning natural scenery along the way. The journey took about six hours with a stop for lunch on top of a mountain along the way. If you do nothing else when you visit Bosnia, you must sample the local Ćevapi. A delicious sausage style meat cooked tenderly and succulently and served with fries or vegetables. Of all the places I visited on my tour of The Balkans, it was Bosnia's food that I favoured the most.
Sarajevo is a city with a very recent history which comes alive at the many galleries and museums across the city. Nestled in the mountains, it is a beautiful spot where eastern and westenrn cultures really come togeher. The skyline is dotted with the minarets of mosques next to the steeples of churches. It is clear from the restaurants, bars and shops that today's Sarajevo is a beautiful mixture of Christianity and Islam. I loved strolling through the old town with modern waffle houses on one side and shisha-pipe cafes on the others. The bazaar area reminded me of Cairo's famous Khan El Khalili market with its brightly coloured lanterns and handmade rugs. The people were exceptionally friendly and the city had such a relaxed feel to it.
The Museum of Sarajevo is partly located in The Old Town Hall - Vijećnica (a giant orange building that you can't miss). They usually have an exhibition running which can be viewed for a small fee. The design inside is particularly breathtaking with the stain-glassed windows and pillars. The history on display is a little more grounding with photographs and stories of people during the war.
If you are into sampling beer then the brewery is a must-visit place. They have special offers on a range of sampling packages. You can also enjoy some hearty ćevapi to accompany your beer tasting.
Aside from walking around and taking in the architecture, there are several day trips that can be completed from Sarajevo. The Tunnel (which played a huge role in the 1993 war) should not be missed. A very raw insight into how people were able to stay alive due to the selfless risks taken by others. We hired a tour guide from Sarajevo who accompanied us to the tunnel and was able to give a first-hand perception about the events which took place and how she and her family had survived. It was a very moving but insightful day.
You can also visit the Olympic Village from the Winter Games which took place in 1984. There are different areas to see and many of these boast views of the city.
There is also a hilltop fort from which you can see how the city has been rebuilt and expanded over the years. There is also evidence of the war where buildings have not been repaired. This was a very eye-opening sight to see.
Because of its people, architecture and food, Sarajevo has become one of my most favourite cities in Europe. Moving south, you will find yourself in Mostar, the world-famous UNESCO sight. Scroll down to read more.
Despite being a world famous UNESCO heritage site, I had absolutely never heard of Mostar until I turned up one evening. We took a minibus for the two hour journey from Sarajevo. This ended up being a little longer due to a flat tyre but it gave a good opportunity to chat with some locals about life in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Upon arriving in Mostar, we had a short(ish) walk to Stari Grad (Old Town) from where we were staying in the city centre, where we found the infamous Stari Most (Old Bridge). The bridge is approximately 500 years old and though destroyed, in part, during the 1930s, it has been restored and stands as stunning as ever. No matter the time of day, the views of the bridge were lovely. I recommend sneaking out before sunrise to get the best 'crowd-free' pics of the bridge. Something I failed to do due to a rather wild night involving a rooftop bar and several slippery nipples... but that's another story.
Mostar itself is a must-see destination. Although I had not heard of it, I would have been disappointed leaving Bosnia without stopping by. It was extremely popular with the crowds and there were tourists everywhere. However, walking through the cobbled streets admiring the architecture and browsing the little boutiques are both enjoyable activities. Several of the mosques allow you to climb to the minarets (for a small fee) and take in the view of Stari Most from above. Coming towards the end of my trip and being stingy, I did not climb any minarets but the people who did were content with their photographs. The bridge itself is surrounded by restaurants offering local food and drinks. If you have not already tried the ćevapi then try it in Mostar and you won't be disappointed.
Mostar has more evidence of the 1993 fighting due to some buildings being left in their dilapidated state right next to new renovations. It was certainly very interesting to see and imagine how life must have been just over a little more than twenty years ago.
Mostar's nightlife boasts many opportunities for every visitor. There are eastern backgammon and shisha cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs. We chose to spend the evening in Sky Lounge which is on the one main street as you leave Stari Most. There was no dress code and the place had a relaxed feel to it. Some questionable music was played but they had an extensive range of cocktails on offer. Oh, there are also great views of Stari Grad and surrounding areas from the outdoor seating area at the top.
All in all, like a lot of the other places I visited on this whirlwind tour of The Balkans, I would love to return to Bosnia and Herzegovina to see more of the country. The people, the food and the scenery I saw has definitely left me wanting to experience more. See for yourself by viewing the photos below.