|A “Sarajevo Rose” in Sarajevo, Bosnia|
It’s amazing how often I got that question when I told people our plan to visit the former Yugoslavia, and honestly its not hard to understand why people ask. For much of the early 90′s, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the countries surrounding it, were eclipsed by war. Although Tito had held the many ethnic and cultural groups together during his time, after his death multiple factors contributed to divisions within the area. First, Slovenia declared (and won) its independence, shortly followed by the adjacent areas. Unfortunately, unlike the Slovenian independence, the other revolutions did not end quickly or peacefully. Most people don’t realize how far Bosnia and Herzegovina has come since then.
Does it look War Torn?
The answer to this is yes and no. Without a doubt there are signs of the war everywhere. The picture above shows a Sarajevo Rose, a mortar scar on a street in Sarajevo that has been filled with red resin to commemorate the lives lost at that spot. Walking through the capital city, its impossible not to see the holes left by bullets.
The hills around Sarajevo are also a testament to the recent war. Our hostel guide took us on a very personal tour to tell the his story of the war his family survived. The unmarked and multiple landmines left over from the war are also still a very real problem for the country.
However, its also impressive how much has been rebuilt and repaired. Instead of ignoring the recent history, those living in Sarajevo have taken steps to memorialize those they lost and preserve information in museums. In the next decade I am sure this progress will continue and Bosnia and Herzegovina will become a top tourist destination.
What is this “and Herzegovina” thing?
The official name of the country is Bosnia and Herzegovina to fully represent all the people living in the area. Although, its commonly shortened to just Bosnia, that term actually only refers to half of the country. A common abbreviation for Bosnia and Herzegovina is BiH.
What can you see in BiH?
Although I was greatly looking forward to visiting BiH, even I was surprised by how beautiful the country was. In my opinion, it outshined it’s more famous neighbor, Croatia. I regret that we didn’t have more time to spend exploring the northern parts of BiH, but as it was, the few days we spent there were some of my favorite from that trip.
- The city of Sarajevo has a charming old town as well as many beautiful and significant historical sites. (For example, it’s the sight of the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, which started World War II.) It’s also possible to visit a section of the famous Sarajevo War Tunnel, which served as a life line for the city during the Bosnian War.
- We had some adventures on our drive from Sarajevo, but that didn’t stop us from admiring the natural beauty of the rivers and mountains along the way.
- The pictures of Mostar don’t do it justice. This small BiH city is home to a famous and striking historic bridge spanning a jewel toned river.
- On our drive down to Dubrovnik, we were able to visit a historic Turkish house set against a dramatic backdrop as well as stop for a swim at Kravice Falls, a giant natural waterfall.
Yes, I found BiH to be very safe and the people were super friendly. The hostels we stayed at were very similar to those I have stayed at in other European cities. Public transportation isn’t as widely developed, but we were able to rent a car and drive from Sarajevo down to Croatia without any problems. But, no the currency is not the Euro in Bosnia and Herzegovina. (Although, the Euro was accepted by our Hostel and other tourist operations during our stay.)