Bosnia & Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina by a local
Have you ever heard of Bosnia and Herzegovina? A country with a thousand year history, where East meets West, traditional meets modern, and where you can pass by a church, a mosque, and a synagogue in a span of a couple of minutes. Hidden from the world in plain sight, Bosnia is waiting for visitors with open hands and full heart. Go explore Bosnian culture.
1. An eclectic mix of different cultures
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a small country in south-eastern Europe, full of natural and man-made curiosities and beauties. If (or should I say when) you come to visit it, you will surely be overwhelmed by the eclectic mix of different cultures that left their mark on Bosnia through the history. Roman, Slavic, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian... and simply Bosnian, of course.
2. Bosnian history
If you are interested in Bosnian history, you are very lucky. It has a rich and interesting story, and it can be explored everywhere. You will notice the differences in architectural styles, there willl be completely different buildings next to each other. Or you can ask people you meet, everyone will have some interesting story to say. Just be careful if the topic is the last war, you might hear some quite contrasting stories depending on the person you ask.
If you decide to study Bosnian history in a more official way, though, there are many museums you can visit. One that you cannot miss is the National Museum (known as Zemaljski muzej in Bosnian) in Sarajevo. It has archaeological treasures from the Roman period, a comprehensive look at the dynasty of Bosnian kings and queens, an accurate representation of a house from the Ottoman period, and so much more.
Another one that I would recommend is the recently opened Museum of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide in Sarajevo. It is brutal, be prepared (!), but very eye-opening and important, because those events are something that must not be forgotten. Bosnia may have survived, it may have risen again like many times before, but it did not happen without many painful sacrifices. On that note, if you can, visit Srebrenica and its Genocide Memorial in Potočari. As I said, it is something that really must not be forgotten.
3. Beach, Lakes, Mountains and Rivers! Bosnia and Herzegovina have it all!
Photo cr: Lili Popper
If you decide to relax a bit after these experiences, there are many, many places you can go to. Want to visit the beach? Neum is a town in Bosnia that has access to the Adriatic sea, and there are many beautiful lakes that you can go to too, such as Boračko jezero, the place very dear and close to the author of this text. Maybe hiking is more of your thing? Or skiing, if you come in the winter? The Olympic mountains surrounding Sarajevo, and many other amazing mountains all over the country, are there for you. Maybe you would like to go river rafting? Guess what, you can do that too here, on Neretva, a river in Herzegovina.
4. City life
Tower bascarsija showing islamic prayer times
But what if you are more of a city type? That will not be a problem at all. Bosnia has something to offer for everyone. Even when there are no official big events happening, in cities and towns there will always be something to do and see, some concert, a play, even a party. Or you can just take a walk, enjoy the combination of nature and city that Bosnian towns have, never letting the concrete take over the nature.
In Sarajevo, you can go visit the place where Gavrilo Princip shot Franz Ferdinand and caused the World War I to start. You can visit Baščaršija, the part of the city built in Ottoman period and still looking the same, or, if you get to know someone local, just ask them to show you their favourite places, those will probably be the best places you would not have noticed otherwise.
And do not forget that if you get bored of walking, a taxi can take you everywhere in the city for rarely more than 10 KM (5€). Or you can use public transport, the tram ticket for one ride costs 1.6 or 1.8 KM (0.8-0.9€), and it goes through the entire city in a straight line. If you wanna see Sarajevo from above, there is Avaz Twist Tower with an amazing view from the top floor, or, even better, White and Yellow Fortress above Baščaršija (the White Fortress being another one of those places very dear to the author).
5. Bosnian unique cuisine
There is also something else Bosnia is famous for, and that is its unique cuisine. Whether you want something sweet or savoury, your tastebuds are guaranteed to explode. The main two dishes you must try are ćevapi (also known as ćevapčići), small minced meat type of kebab (if you are in Sarajevo, please eat them at Željo or Željo 2, and do not trust anyone who says they are better somewhere else), and pita, a thin pastry filled with different things (cheese, meat, potato, spinach, pumpkin) and rolled in a circle.
On that note, unless you want every Bosnian to have a heart attack, do not call all pitas 'burek'. Burek is the one with meat, others have their own names.
After that, try some of the traditional Bosnian sweets, such as baklava and hurmašica, but be careful if you are not used to very sweet stuff. Most of the traditional Bosnian sweets are coated with agda, a sugary water, and it makes them very strong. Oh, and do not forget that you can drink tap water everywhere, it is completely healthy.
6. Local tip: Best cultural festivals
Photo cr: source website Mess
I mentioned official events before, and you must be wondering, which ones could those be? Well, you can simply sit and choose. Probably the most famous one is Sarajevo Film Festival, the most famous film festival in the region. During August, the entire city is transformed thanks to it, and you can find good movies, good parties, and world famous celebrities all in one place.
If you are more of a theatre type, you can come in October and visit MESS, the famous theatre festival with a long and successful history (2018: 23 plays from 17 countries and 4 continents, with the participation of 500 artists). If you would maybe prefer a bit of anything and everything, during summer there is a month long festival called Baščaršija Nights, with exhibitions, concerts, plays, workshops... every day it is something different. During the winter, a similar festival is held, called Sarajevo Winter.
7. Bosnian culture: Strong, proud, unbreakable.
Old bridge (Stari Most) in Mostar
When you visit a country for 'ćejf' (a Bosnian word you cannot quite translate, but it means joy, fun, something you do for yourself because it makes you happy), you should always try to, before anything else, relax and have fun. In Bosnia, that will not be hard for you, people are truly warm and welcoming, and there is so many things you can see and do.
Of course, it is a good thing if you decide to learn and experience more serious things along the way, but please, do not look at Bosnia as a war torn country with a tragic history, look at it as a phoenix, rising from the ashes everytime it is brought down on its knees. Visit it, and you will feel what I am talking about.
Bosnian spirit is something you can feel surrounding you, strong, proud, unbreakable.
P.S. If you happen to visit Sarajevo, drink water from one of the street fountains. There is absolutely no legend saying that if you drink water from any of them, you will always return to Sarajevo. Nope, no legend at all.
Written by Miriel from Bosnia & Herzegovina
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