A Greatest Travel Experience: Discovering Bosnia and Herzegovina
If you asked me 10 years ago if I’d ever go to Bosnia I would have said ‘no way’ — probably would have said that about Russia too actually. When I thought of Bosnia I thought of war, killing, rough countryside — why would anyone want to travel there?
Well, sure enough a few years ago I decided it was the perfect time to see what Bosnia and Herzegovina looked like now. Europe had become a bit tourist-heavy for me and I was seeking something a bit different. Bosnia called. I answered.
I figured it was one of those instances where getting around the country may be a bit difficult, so I took on a small group tour (not something I usually recommend) and it was great.
Bosnia and Herzegovina shocked me from its beauty to the raw honesty in its cities.
Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mostar was absolutely stunning. Cobbled roads, quaint buildings and an incredible arched stone bridge that frames the city into a new light. The river running below is an incredible green colour and the surrounding trees all feel like a whole new hue of colour that isn’t seen in nature.
The food was cheap and incredible — highly recommend trying the terracotta pots! The people were warm and friendly and it felt safe.
There were a few buildings that still displayed signs of war, rebuilding is costly and this isn’t a wealthy country. In a way, these buildings stand as a reminder of what happened in the country, a reminder of terrible things that we need to be careful to avoid in the future.
Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina was a city of two sides. Remains of war are even more obvious and raw, yet the city thrives and is moving forward to the future.
Going for a city walking tour by a local that grew up here dodging bullets and war in general was eye opening. The local war museum was basic and to the point, but I don’t think I would have wanted it any other way. Sometimes the dark past just needs to be out there open and not prettied up to be understood for what it really was.
This is the spot that really got me. It got under my skin, wrapped around my heart and was possibly the most eye-opening destination I’ve ever been to…
I didn’t know anything about the genocide here before I visited Srebrenica.
I think that is why this spot hit me so hard. I knew about most other genocides and worked with charities involved with survivors of various ones. I knew about the war in Bosnia, but I didn’t know about Srebrenica somehow.
I have vivid memories etched in my mind of this beautiful lush countryside and a little village with buildings dotted amongst the green. There’s one building in particular that sits across from a cafe that I ate lunch at. An old man sits on his chair of a 3 story building staring out. The building has the lower two floors blown out. Many of the windows are gone. He lost two of his sons to the war and one moved away. My heart bleed for this man and the story behind him and so many others that were put through such a terrible experience and all those that are lost and still can’t be found.
I felt I was blind about what really happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 90s before I travelled here in 2012. Even more, I can’t believe I held such a horrible view of such an incredible country for so long.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is definitely an up-and-coming country and it won’t be long before its top of tourists destinations. I’m just pleased I visited it before it becomes too westernised and tourist hungry. It is a country that made me cry more than I think I ever have before (uncontrollably in the case of Srebrenica). It is a country that left me speechless by its sheer beauty. It’s a little gem to hold near and dear and hope peace prevails for a long time into the future.
If you’d like to hear more about my time in Bosnia and Herzegovina visit my post called: A Surprising Destination: Bosnia and Herzegovina » or on my sister site – my photographic narrative of War in Bosnia and Genocide in Srebrenica »
This is one of my 30 Greatest Travel Experiences before I’m 30. It may not have been the happiest, but it was definitely an incredible experience that I’ll never forget.