10 Ways To Enjoy Europe's Undiscovered Jewel: Bosnia & Herzegovina
One of my most treasured destinations yet, Bosnia & Herzegovina is a gem of Europe that you should be sure not to miss.
Here are ten ways to get the most out of your trip to this truly wonderful piece of the world.
1. Drink as much as you can. Coffee, that is. Upon arrival, my Bosnian host told me that “Every man and woman in Bosnia has a routine and that the routine is determined solely by when and where he or she stops to have their coffee. Coffee in Bosnia is a way of life. Find a cafe in old town that the locals are lounging at and order a traditional Bosnian coffee. Take cues from the natives - nibble on the sugar cube before sips rather than drop it into the coffee itself. Most importantly though, relax and enjoy yourself - this is what it’s all about.
2. Explore the abandoned Olympic bobsled run. In 1984 Sarajevo was alive with the people and spirit of the Olympic Games. Today, the stark remains of the bobsled and luge tracks create a post-apocolyptic scene. A massive man-made track, bullet-ridden and adorned with graffiti now sits quietly in regrown forest. The image of it all gives you a unique picture of the before and after effects of war. Beware that if you take a taxi up to the track, you will need cell phone service or hiking shoes in order to find a ride back to town - this is no tourist attraction. (For further peace of mind, check out my article on GoEuro about staying safe when traveling solo to beautiful but misunderstood destinations like Bosnia.)
3. Appreciate the peace. Sarajevo is known as the Jerusalem of Europe. Start in one spot and you can see a mosque, a catholic cathedral and an orthodox church before your eyes. Despite it’s the atrocities of war, Corats, Serbs and Bosniacs have chosen to co-exist peacefully once again. Spend as much time as possible educating and honoring the horror that took place here just twenty years ago. It seems to me that Bosnia is a stunning symbol of hope given our world’s current state of affairs.
4. Spend long days amidst the fairytale beauty of Mostar. Though it’s hard to believe - Mostar was another frontline of the Bosnian war. Yet in a mere twenty years the country has managed to restore the majority of the village to it’s enchanting old self. Some rumble and ruin still remains, but it onl adds to the incredible character of this place. Spend days sunbathing by the cool river water and nibbling on unbelievably ripe and fresh local fruit. Enjoy traditional Bosnian food al fresco in the evenings and smoke sheesha with new friends under the stars. This is a taste of the sweet life.
5. Get a view from above. My host in Mostar, Taso of Guest House Taso, was lovely and generous (like just about every Bosnian I had the pleasure to meet) and upon hearing of my blog asked if he could show me something special. A mere five minutes later, we sat perched up on the hills looking down over the twinkling lights of Mostar and gazing into the moon’s bright face - another beautiful way to encounter the city. If you’re lucky enough to stay with Taso, tell him Helen recommended the secret tour!"
6. Visit Blagaj. A wildly picturesque village, Blagaj is also home to a sacred and historical tekke - a sort of Dervish monastery - that dates back to 1520. Perched above the blue spring water of the Buna River and below a towering golden rock face, this place certainly lends itself to a sacred environment.
7. Cool off at the Kravice Waterfalls! I’m a water baby so I might be a touch biased here, but to me this as about as good as it gets. Breathtaking waterfalls cascade over rock and vine into cool, refreshing, teal pools below. Don’t even think about coming here and just taking a photo. Dive in and explore until your lips turn blue. Under the mist of the falls, you deepest worries will fade into obscurity. After enjoy a delicious Bosnian- style barbecue and a well-earned cold beverage at the water’s edge.
8. Enjoy one of the most scenic train rides in Eastern Europe. For a mere 9 marks you can board a small train in Sarajevo and cruise though the stunning countryside to Mostar. For three hours you’ll feel as if you’ve climbed through a worm hole and back into the untouched beauty of the old country.
9. Admire the stunning town of Pocitelj. Steeped in history, this masterpiece fortress was the thriving centre of the region for hundreds of years. Since the war, only 30 residents remain. It’s unbelievably beautiful, and filled with both heartache and healing. This is a place where days could melt into weeks undetectably.
10. Hunt for antique treasures. Hidden amongst the souvenir shops filled with less than authentic goods, are a few antique stores where you can find your own little pieces of treasure. If you fall hard for Bosnian coffee, then perhaps opt for a hand-made serving set from one of the local craftsman would suit your fancy. Happy hunting!
To read more about my personal experience in Bosnia, and to view my full gallery from this stunning destination, click here.