Last year I toured the Balkans with Ethan, and it opened my eyes to seemingly ignored region of Europe; one rich with culture, history and diversity.
Each country has its own charms, from the Ottoman influence in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Roman influence in Croatia, Serbian in Montenegro, and Austrian in Slovenia. One day, we were in the mountainous city of Sarajevo, where it was snowing, and then a couple of hours later, we were in the idyllic 20°c seaside jewel of Dubrovnik.
The diversity makes the region is unpredictable, which is why it’s such an exciting place to visit.
Here’s a map of the places we went:
I pin everything on a map to remember where I went, but that’s a story for another time. I’m going to tell you the good places and the bad places, tips and whatever have yous if you’re thinking of making an unforgettable Balkan trip.
Bosnia and Herzegovina was my favourite country on the tour. It is completely different from other European countries, and even the other Balkans, perhaps on account of it not being an EU member. I can’t recommend the country enough.
Highlight: Well, I mean, it’s gotta be the old bridge. The ‘stari most’ is beautiful at every angle. There is no ugly way to look at it. It is truly magical. I will never forget it.
Verdict: I regret nothing about visiting Mostar, and neither would you. The old town is magical, (ironically the most recently developed part of the town), and outside of it, abandoned tower blocks really hammer into you the reality of the Bosnian war. For someone who was not alive at the time, it feels far away, and you can truly sense the effect it had on its people and cities here. Oh, and the ćevapčići is awesome.
Tips: The McDonalds in the commercial centre has treadmills in it to encourage fitness. That’s a first! After a workout at McDonalds, you can get an ice cream by the bridge for 50 cents per scoop!
The Mostar-Sarajevo journey is incredible. It’s astoundingly beautiful.
Highlight: Seeing the strip of lights the mountain suburbs at night. A magical view.
Lowlight: None. I really, really loved Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Verdict: My favourite city on the tour. It has history, such as the old quarter and the Latin bridge, a mix of Ottoman, Austrian and Yugoslavian influences, with the Muslim call to prayer and Christian church bells happening at the same time every hour. It’s a city of meeting cultures, a crossroads and often a juxtaposition of itself. It’s a must visit city.
Tips: Go to Saraj bakery! It’s the best one we could find, right on the corner of Baščaršija pigeon square, and less touristy than those right inside the old town.
Lots of balkava types, and bajadera to die for. Try bombice, literally these rich chocolate balls, and bajadera, a soft, turrón-esque chocolate and nut cake. We had four nights in Sarajevo, and I think I had four bajadera cakes. No regrets.
Just across the road is Pekara Edin bakery, whose bread is to die for. Try their böreks, and a loaf that looks a football, segmented into five tear away rolls. You can eat that bread plain, and it might be the best meal you’ll have all day. This restaurant Dzenita kicks ass. Our meals there were incredible. It’s very affordable too. £5 for a damn good steak!
Taxis are super cheap. You’ll need one to see the war tunnels, as it’s out of town.
If you have been travelling for a while, and need a wash of clothes, for a good price you can get all your stuff washed, dried and folded at the Laundrolounge in a couple of hours. It’s run by Juliet, an Australian expat, and she was so helpful and nice. She’ll give you even more tips!!
Anything else for Bosnia and Herzegovina?
One last photo! This was our parting gift to ourselves from Sarajevo, and I don’t think my tummy will ever forget it. Do yourself a favour, and try everything. On the culture side of things, we did the Srebrenica museum, and it’s harrowing, though a must-do to learn more about the war and history of the country.
I would not hesitate to revisit Bosnia, and next time would go where others had recommended us; Banja Luka, Kravica Falls, and Jahorina, (we were going to go skiing there, but the buses didn’t line up!). Do check out those places, and there’s many more I’ve omitted or don’t know. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a magical country.