What to Truly Expect When Traveling Bosnia
What we loved…
When traveling Bosnia you will encounter a number of unusual tourist attractions. They have the world’s largest pyramid…or do they? Scientists are still debating if it’s a manmade pyramid now covered by earth or if it’s a strangely shaped mountain. Actually, there are a few of these mysterious pyramids. Underneath them is a series of unexplainable underground tunnels with healing air and water. You can also visit the old tunnel dug underneath the airport that acted as the only way in or out of Sarajevo during the 4 year “Siege of Sarajevo” , part of the Bosnian war in the 90’s. There’s even a perfectly preserved ancient dervish monastery. Where else can you climb a debated pyramid, heal in mystical tunnels, get a firsthand look at a the scary truth of war, and enjoy waterfalls at an old dervish home?
Tiny towns – awesome history
Sarajevo is probably the most well known and easily the most populated city in B&H, but the real gems of the country are the adorable little ancient towns like Mostar. Mostar is arguably the most charming of all European fairytale towns. Complete with cobblestone streets and the cutest of all stone bridges arching over the turquoise Neretva River. Počitelj, is a 14th century cliffside town. A quick climb along the fortified wall gives you excellent views of the ancient Mosque and quaint stone city, as well as sweeping views of the river-cut valley below. These are just 2 examples of a number of architecturally adorable and historically significant towns you’ll stumble upon when traveling Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Bosnia has all kinds of yummy foods on offer, but burek is the star of the show. Imagine a delicious flaky pastry stuffed with all sorts of goodies, but usually either homemade cheese or seasoned ground beef. No matter what the filling, burek is the perfect quick breakfast, snack, lunch, or dinner. Bosnia definitely has the best burek in The Balkans. I can’t imagine traveling Bosnia without this savory pastry.
What we didn’t love…
Ripping Off Tourists
Ugh! Nobody wants to be ripped off. No one likes feeling taken advantage, but you’re likely to have this feeling when traveling Bosnia, especially in Sarajevo. Restaurants love to place appetizers on your table, say nothing about it, then charge you a pretty penny for them whether you eat them or not. Hidden fees are another favorite of restaurants, cafes, and shops alike. If you’re a tourist, you’re a target. You can prepare for it, fight it, or accept it, but you can’t avoid it.
The Bosnian War
I commend Bosnians for picking themselves up after a wretched genocide suffered at the hands of Serbia and Croatia just 22 years ago. It’s so depressing to look around and know that every single Bosnian was closely touched by the war. From talking to locals, the economy is starting to make a comeback and job opportunities are starting to come back, but the war is still not completely in the past. They have done a wonderful job rebuilding their war torn cities. They’ve even erected a number of well done museums to help remind us of what the country and its people went through. I can’t even imagine how horrific it must have been to have lived through the Bosnian War. My heart goes out to them.
Mostar – adorable yes, authentic?
Wait, I just stated that Mostar is one of the things we loved most about traveling Bosnia. Let me explain! Mostar is great, but there’s just something that doesn’t feel truthful about it. It isn’t exactly what it appears to be. It’s not that the bridge and old town have been reconstructed after the 90’s bombings that bothers me. It is horrible that they lost such a valuable part of their history and culture. What they went though is terrifying.
They put a lot of effort into rebuilding Mostar as close to the original as possible. They even used original construction methods. It’s not the physical reconstruction that makes Mostar seem inauthentic. It’s how the new old town feels. Mostar’s old town is too clean and perfect, like Disneyland. Everything feels placed there to look beautiful and to mask the dirty truth.
Just a few blocks away, where most tourists never venture to, squatters keep warm by fires inside bullet hole riddled abandoned buildings. Old town, however, provides a prettier, less honest truth for the droves of tour buses coming in for the day. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my perfect Mostar experience. I didn’t like feeling like I participated in some scandalous coverup. Old Town is a tourist utopia, but war recovering locals live ‘behind the scenes’ in the real Mostar .