Bosnia is a country that most people I know wouldn’t think to visit, this is unfortunate because my experience there was fantastic. The country is healing from a horrific war that took place only just 5 years before I was born.
It needs to be explained that this country is called Bosnia and Herzegovina because the area in the south is known as Herzegovina. It has populations of predominantly Muslim Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs who mostly live in the Republica Srpska. The triangle on the flag represents the three ethnic groups which inhabit the country, anyway let me tell you why it’s one of my favourite countries in Europe.
My time in Bosnia started waking up hungover having to walk to the Dubrovnik bus station, the bus took a few hours and there’s a part of Bosnia which is coastal called Neum which we crossed through and then I had my passport checked at the next border. I also had to show my vaccine paper to a border guard in a shed who took one look at it and gave it back to me and told me to go.
After about an hour I arrived in Mostar and a Dutch guy on the bus happened to be to staying in the same hostel as me. I stayed in Hostel Mirror which I recommend as the owner Tifa was very nice and funny, she compared me to Albert Einstein all because I knew a few phrases in Bosnian. She recommended us to go to a restaurant to try some Bosnian food for lunch which I had never had before. I tried dolma which was vegetables and rice wrapped in leaves which was pretty good. The Dutch guy and I then went for a pint at a place with an incredible view of the Old Bridge or Stari Most which is the most famous site in Mostar. The original Stari Most was built by the Ottomans in the 1500s, however it was sadly destroyed by a Croat paramilitary during the war. Much of the traditional aspects of Mostar have thankfully been restored, however the evidence of a recent war is everywhere, there are memorials, loads of graves and derelict buildings riddled with bullets.
While having a pint with a view of the Stari Most, we were waiting to watch someone jump off it, it seems that a lot of divers wait around by the bridge asking for money before they jump. Furthermore around this part are a lot of great shops to buy food and souvenirs and you can even buy objects left over from the Bosnian War such as helmets. I must also mention that Bosnia is a really affordable place a pint only costs a pound and a decent meal can cost £5. I went with the Dutch guy and 2 Turkish guys to a restaurant called Divan and it only cost me £6 for a plate of ćevapi with a bottle of Cockta.
What must be said about Bosnia is that although there is a sizeable Muslim population, you can still drink alcohol freely and it doesn’t feel much different from the UK, but it is important to respect the local culture. Bosnia also felt very safe, however there were a lot of professional beggars around Mostar. One of them followed me into the bathroom of the train station and when I was going out told me I needed to pay to use the bathroom, I could tell he didn’t work there. Best way to deal with these people is to just ignore them as they aren’t looking for trouble. The people here are also very friendly and welcoming and most people speak a decent level of English.
There are some sites around Mostar which are definitely worth visiting, however it’s pretty much impossible to get to them without a car, so the owner of the hostel sorted me out with a tour guide who showed me around in her car. We first went to Počitelj which is an old village built by the Ottomans and you can climb up to the tower which feels quite daunting as it has been left as it was built hundreds of years ago.
Then we went to the Kravica Waterfall which I highly recommend, if you come here, I suggest bringing trunks as you are completely allowed to swim in the water there. Medjugorje is a site of importance to the Catholics as there was supposedly a sighting of the Virgin Mary in 1981, it has statues with Catholic symbols and the iconic church. Then I went to Blagaj which has a monastery built by the Ottomans in 1520 which faces the Buna River. I recommend going out of your way to see these sites and the best one in my opinion is Blagaj as it is very picturesque.
On my last day in Mostar, there was a diving competition on the Stari Most sponsored by Red Bull in which I watched people jump off the bridge, I even met a guy who was preparing to do the jump and fair play to him for doing it.
I had to get the train to Konjic at 5 and getting the train in Bosnia was quite an experience. The train station in Mostar looked like it was built during the time of Yugoslavia and there was no fancy technology. To buy a ticket, I had to pay £4 at the booth and the guy gave me ticket which was a stamped piece of paper. The train itself was even better than Scotrail and the views of Bosnia you get are breathtaking on the way to Sarajevo from Mostar.
Once I arrived to my hostel, I struggled to find the entrance, but eventually found it and it was £8 for the night in a place which I almost had to myself. It had a balcony with great views of the town. Konjic is a very small town between Sarajevo and Mostar and it also has a bridge that was built by the Ottomans and has been recently restored. Konjic was bombed in the Second World War and because of this, the bridge had collapsed. Outside of the mosque as well is a graveyard with the years of death mostly being 1993, it is truly harrowing and makes me think about the great people this country has lost.
The main reason to visit Konic is because it is home to Tito’s bunker, officially called ARK D-0, it is definitely worth visiting and is truly a fascinating place. Tito had it built from 1953-1979 for him and his family to go to in the event of a nuclear war. If you want to go there, you have to pay a travel agent and get a taxi there and back and be showed around by a tour guide, this is because it is property of the Bosnian army. It only costs about £8 to visit and I definitely recommend going out of your way to go if you’re interested in Yugoslavia.
This place is an underground complex surfaced by a normal looking house and was completely kept secret until the dissolution of Yugoslavia. During the war, the Yugoslav army ordered its demolition however the guards refused to follow through with the orders and because of this it has been preserved as a historical sight.
Around the tunnels, the facility has everything you could possibly need for surviving a nuclear war, a water tank, bedrooms and a meeting room and it all looks like a place from the 70s. After getting back to the town, I found a place that sold ćevapi for £2, it was incredible value for money, but the quality of the meat was not good.
I then took the train to Bosnian capital, I met some other travellers on the train and once we were in Sarajevo, we agreed to meet up for some beers. Once we arrived in Sarajevo it was dark already and the brutalist train station and taking the old Yugoslav tram creating a gloomy atmosphere. I found my hostel and sadly there weren’t too many people there because of the pandemic. I then met up with my friends and we went to a jazz bar which had some good music and pints for a pound.
The next day I started my day with trying a Bosnian coffee which is a very traditional way of drinking coffee and had a baklava which you can easily find in Bosnia. If you drink coffee, you can’t leave Bosnia without trying it.
A place I think everyone should visit in Sarajevo is the Museum of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide, it is truly harrowing and what hits home is that the man working there is a survivor of the genocide. The museum tells you all you need to know about what happened to the Bosniaks in the Bosnian War, there are all sorts of objects which once belonged to innocent civilians such as clothes, watches and photographs. It also explains all the brutalities which were carried out against innocent civilians and has a recreation of a mass grave. This place only costs about £5 to visit and we all should honour the memory of the innocents who died in the brutal war.
Another place I went to related to the war is the Galerija 11/07/95 which is a memorial to the Srebrenica Massacre. It has pictures of people who survived the event and you pay for a ticket and an audio guide which explains all the pictures. If you want to know more about what happened in Srebrenica, then I recommend paying a visit as it only costs around £5 for admission.
Sarajevo as a city is described as the Jerusalem of the Balkans and this name is very suitable as it has so much history to it as much as it is where different cultures have met. There is one side of the city which his architecture from the period of Austria-Hungary and on the other side there is a complete change of scenery in which it feels very Turkish with a bazaar, mosques and places you can smoke shisha. The Bascarsija is the cultural centre of the city with a bazaar and an iconic Ottoman fountain. The tight lanes are very interesting to walk around and you can buy loads of souvenirs here. I decided to buy a Bosnia football shirt as I like the design.
Sarajevo is also the place in which a very significant historical event happened, in 1914, Gavrilo Princip shot Franz Ferdinand which led to the First World War. You can go to the exact spot where this took place and there is a small museum which costs a pound to go into explains how the historical event took place.
It’s worth mentioning that Sarajevo’s weather feels much colder than neighbouring areas, even though I was there at the end of August it felt like jacket weather. I definitely feel like I need to go back to Sarajevo as even though it’s small city, there were some things I didn’t see. As you can see, I really enjoyed my time in Bosnia and highly recommend that you visit, if you’re look for an affordable destination with history and nice people.
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