Bosnia was my least favorite place I have traveled to on this trip. It’s interesting because I have since met a ton of travelers who loved Bosnia and raved about their experiences there. It really proves just how much experiences are defined by the people you meet, the food you eat, your accommodations, your personal vibe, the weather, your mental state, etc.
I don’t regret traveling to Sarajevo and Mostar. I was with great company and had a great time. It’s just that I had a better time in Turkey, Croatia, Budapest, Prague, etc. A lot of it came down to the vibe. There weren’t as many people out on the streets. It was kind of deserted when I was there, especially in Sarajevo.
It’s inevitable not to feel the effects of war. There are bullet holes in what seems like every structure in the both cities, dilapidated buildings, tons of graves and memorials…. It’s sad.
It’s hard to believe the Bosnian War happened in my generation. Tens and thousands of women were raped, nearly 100,000 lives were lost and millions were displaced between 1992 and 1995.
A little history: The war/genocide was both a territorial and religious conflict. Bosnia, a predominately Muslim country, declared its Independence from Yugoslavia in 1992. Shortly after, Bosnian Serbs (with the baking of the Yugoslav Army) attacked key cities and targeted Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and Croatian civilians in an effort to take over and form a dominant Serbian state. The result was the most devastating war in Europe since WWI. Here is a brief but more detailed summary of the war if you want to read more.
Besides the vibe I got from both Sarajevo and Mostar, I hate to say it, but I was really put off by the local food. Bosnian cuisine is largely comprised of stews, meats, breads and cheeses. We used Lonely Planet’s restaurant recommendations and Travel News Publications to pick our restaurants, and it may have been a product of the dishes we ordered, but we were all severely underwhelmed with the flavor and quality. By the end of the few days we spent in Bosnia, we were all craving fresh vegetables and fruits, good quality meats and cheeses. To be fair, the bread in Bosnia was yummy. They have a great Burek (cheese and meats rolled up pastry dough). Everything else was pretty questionable.
All that said, here were some highlights from my time in Bosnia:
I enjoyed walking through Sarajevo’s beautiful Old Town or Baščaršija. The cobblestone streets are lined with with tons of souvenir shops and restaurants.
We drank a lot in Sarajevo. One night, we headed over to Grapperia to taste the local brandy/moonshine known as Rakija. There were easily 20+ flavors to choose from (fig, plum, apricot, raspberry, etc) – my favorite was honey because it was the sweetest and least strong. Some of the flavors were a bit too strong for us…
I really enjoyed drinking sangria at this quirky bar called Zlatna Ribica. The kitschy decor of mismatched furniture, antiques photos and books, and old broken TVs made this place very unique. Highly recommendable.
On the last day, we did go to one nice restaurant called Kibe. Kibe Restaurant offers a nice view of all of Sarajevo and they actually serve yummy food. I personally can recommend the salad and the Rose Water. It was a nice meal to end on before leaving Sarajevo.
I also really enjoyed our AirBnB’s decor in Sarajevo.
We walked around Sarajevo a good amount. It was nice to just explore a bit…
I LOVED the bus ride from Sarajevo to Mostar. I think it would be amazing to rent a car and stop at your leisure as it is incredibly scenic.
The Stari Most or the Old Bridge is the most famous landmark in Mostar. It was destroyed in the war in 1993 but was reconstructed using the traditional construction methods/materials when originally built in in the mid-1500’s under the Ottoman Empire. It is a UNESCO Heritage site – very beautiful. Although we didn’t see any jumpers, this bridge is a famous site for competitive and professional bridge-jumping and diving. There are also local guys you can pay to jump off the bridge as a tourist attraction.
On the whole, I thought Mostar was a prettier city to walk around in versus Sarajevo. It’s much smaller though so there wasn’t tooooo much to do. I did enjoy the architecture.
And the different graffiti art….
Bosnia in the News
This month marks the 20th year since the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovnia was signed to bring the Bosnian War to an end. I have read articles on UN.org and The Guardian about Bosnia heading in a bad direction after two decades of “peace.” Unemployment rates among the youth are high. There is still a strict ethnic division between the Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats. Bosnia has made huge strides but it still has a long away to go.
I read a handful of travel publications and blogs to decide where to go or what to do in a city. If anyone is interested in a trip to Bosnia, these links were helpful for me:
- 36 hours in Sarajevo – New York Times
- Adventurous Kate (a female solo travel blogger) and her experience in Bosnia
- A Little Adrift (another travel blogger) and her experience in Bosnia
- The Bosnian Aussie (another blogger) who raves about Bosnia