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Tourism and Culture

Before starting any trip to the locations mentioned in this article, you must always remember the two main dangers in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH): the roads, and the mines. Too bad for those, who want to take short cuts: there is a real risk in doing that, and it is not worth it.
First of all, BiH offers a large diversity of beautiful landscapes, from the small access to the Adriatic Sea in the South, to the beginning of the great Hungarian plain, in the North. In the middle, the Dinaric Alps surround small valleys and huge plateau. But what a difference between the karstic landscape of the north western 'polje' (plateau) of the country and the high peaks at the Montenegrin border.

Nature

Water is present everywhere in BiH. Following a river from its source to its confluence with bigger ones (or to the Adriatic Sea for the Neretva) is always a very beautiful trip, allowing you to admire the different states of its course: sources of the Bosna River and the Buna River (with its famous dervish cloister). Onrushing, when lined by sheer cliffs, like the Sutjeska. Cascading, like in the towns of Kravica, Jajce, Kamenica, Drvar or Skakarac. And slower, when the valley gets wider and the river reaches its mouth. By the way, rafting is an activity that has developed in BiH, especially in the Bihac and Mostar areas.
In the course of your trip, you may discover famous or less well known lakes ('jezero'), such as the Bilecko, Matura, Vijaka, Sanicani, Busko, Plivsko, Deransko, Boracko and Ramsko; or the long and tortuous Jablanicko, to name only few. In fact, each municipality has its own lovely lake. All are beautiful in every season, and some are equipped for fishing, canoeing, sailing, or even water-skiing and jet skiing (preferably in the summer).

Historical Monuments

Where there is water there is also life. No wonder communities settled from the very ancient ages, mostly for trade purposes, on banks and shores. The most ancient traces of life date back to the prehistoric ages. In the valley of Bregava River, they discovered rupestrian (rock) paintings, and even in Butmir there was a famous Neolithic site. Nothing new there!
Bridges were built for crossing the rivers or to expand the cities. Some of those bridges are renowned, such as the Visegrad one on the Drina River, or the one in Sarajevo where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914 or the Arskanagic Bridge over the Trebisnjica River. Some are very ancient, as the Rimski Most (Roman Bridge) south of Sarajevo. Unfortunately, the most famous of all, the Mostar's 'Stari Most' (Old Bridge) was destroyed during the war but, thanks to the Word Bank, it is now in the process of reconstruction.
You will also surprisingly discover other ancient monuments of the country: the cyclopean walls of Osanici (near Stolac), or the gravestones from the 12th and 13th centuries, from the Bogumilism period. On the Jurancon Route from Nevesinje to Ulog, such a cemetery is located in the middle of nowhere, with stones weighing several tons surrounded by short grass.
Castles ('dvor') are also noteworthy. Most of them were built between the 12th and the 15th centuries, i.e. before the arrival of the Turks. Such castles are located for instance in Ostrozac (near Bihac), Jajce, Gradacac, Bobovac (near Vares), Pocitelj or Doboj. Don't miss the opportunity of visiting the old town of Vranduk, with its middle-age fortifications.
Finally, the Austro-Hungarian era from 1878 to 1918 saw a new change in the style of the big towns. Viennese architecture is characterized by large windows, frontage decorations and lightly colored walls. It's of course in bigger towns such as Sarajevo or Mostar that you will be able to admire the same buildings as in Vienna and Central Europe. All that was built after this period is devoid of any interest, except perhaps the two anti-fascist monuments of Sarajevo and Banja Luka where the main events of WW2 in former Yugoslavia are sculpted in low relief, just as if it was a cartoon strip

Religious Monuments

The Ottoman Empire brought many changes to the aspect of the towns, some have kept the Turkish influence: dwelling houses, workshops, caravanserais (the "parking place" for the camels of the caravans). It also brought the Muslim religion, with its mosques and 'medersas' (Islamic schools). You will see a lot of examples of this kind of architecture, especially in Cantons 1, 3, 4 and of course in Sarajevo, where a walk in the old town ('stari grad') Bascarcija is very interesting. If travelling in the area of Glamoc, you will notice the specific turban-shaped tombstones of Ottoman dignitaries. Some of them have a diameter of more than a metre. The more high-ranking the people, the larger the turban.
Speaking about religions, you also will discover other cult buildings: Basilicas from the beginning of the Christian era, like Nereki, Klobuk, Dabravine, Majdan; Catholic Churches or chapels in Bosnian-Croat areas; and Orthodox Churches, with their typical bulb-shaped towers. And you will perhaps have the chance to visit one of those well-hidden monasteries, either Franciscan (Roman Catholic) or Orthodox, like in Gomionica. It is sometimes difficult to find, but the visitor is always welcome.
Don't forget the fourth religion of this country, the Jewish one, with the synagogues of Sarajevo and the Jewish cemetery of Stolac.

Culture and Gastronomy

Don't miss the opportunity to visit museums, such as the National Museum in Sarajevo and its two Millennium long expositions. Less well known is the museum of the Second World War, located in Jablanica which has a locomotive that took part in the Battle of the Neretva in front of it. Another interesting museum is located in Jajce.
And at the end of your drive, take a break and enjoy the local gastronomic delights. There are a lot of delicious Balkan specialties, halfway between the Occidental and Middle Eastern cooking. Don't miss 'cevapcici', 'burek', 'dolmes', 'bamia' and all sorts of oriental pastries. And drink (in moderation) a local beer or a glass of local wine. The best vineyards are located in the Herzegovina region, where southern sunshine allows for perfect grape ripening.
So, forget the camp and discover BiH. You will never forget it

 

 

Thierry Domin

First published in
SFOR Informer#124, October 17, 2001

 

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Copyright 2001 The Razors Edge
Updated : 11 August 2005