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Bosnia & Herzegovina: Bihac, Bjelasnica, Blagaj, Bosanska Krupa, Cardaci, Cardaklije, Ilidza, Jahorina, Jajce, Konjic, Kravice, Martin Brod, Medugorje, Mostar, Ostrozac, Plivska Lakes, Pocitelj, Sarajevo, Strbacki Buk, Travnik, Trebevic, Vlasic, Vrelo Bosne
Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina: Soaked in history
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Sarajevo, the largest city was founded in 1462 by an Ottoman commander Isa-bey Ishakovic. Since its inception Sarajevo had its first water supply and a public bath. In 1885 the first horse-drawn tramway started operating in the city and 10 years later the electric tramways. Just goes to show how forward-looking the city was.
Bosnia & Herzegovina, commonly called Bosnia or BiH, has a very rich culture and historic heritage dating back to 12,000 BC. The country has seen it all. Roman period; Middle Ages; Ottoman period, Austro-Hungarian period and the period between the two world wars. During the aggression war on Bosnia & Herzegovina in the period 1992 until 1995 the cultural heritage suffered extensive damage and a large portion of it was destroyed. Some very important monuments were demolished.
Thankfully, it's all behind us now. Reconstruction of many monuments are well under way and the people with diverse beliefs and practices have all mingled in one. At the time of writing, the country had a population of about 4 million consisting mainly of three communities. Bosniacs (Muslims); Bosnia Serbs (Orthodox Christians) and Bosnia Croats (Catholic Christians).
Along with the culture came the cuisine. Essentially, I can call the country a meat-eater’s paradise. Its two very popular dishes are the Cevabi and Burek. I will believe if someone tells me that a Bosnian’s day is not complete unless they have had at least one of the two! Of course, vegetarian options are available albeit limited. And other thing that’s hard for Bosnians to live without is their coffee – Bosanska Coffee, locally called Kahva. It’s a ritual to have one. And I had many during my days out there. You should too.
Speaking from a tourist perspective, Sarajevo, the Capital city of Bosnia & Herzegovina should be the entry point. Sarajevo is well connected by air with direct flights from a few European cities as well as from the Middle East. Moving forward, more countries are establishing direct connectivity with Sarajevo. Those driving can well enter BiH from the country's neighbours including Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia. Indian nationals holding multiple-entry Schengen visas can enter freely from any Schengen State; else they would need to get a visa, prior to their arrival. I reached Sarajevo from Dubai. Few others in our delegation arrived from Istanbul while a few from Munich.
The country’s political structure consists of two entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Srpska as well as the District Brcko. During my visit, I had the opportunity to meet with Dr Mladen Ivanic, Member of the Presidency from the Republic of Srpska; Mr Mirko Sarovic, Dy. Chairman and Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations; Mr Josip Brkic, Dy. Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Mr Bruno Bojic, Vice President, Foreign Trade Chamber and many other dignitaries who are instrumental in forming the country’s political and economic policies.
Off the 10 days that I was there, 2 days were reserved for meetings with dignitaries. The other 8 days, I was on my own with car and driver-cum-guide Faruk to explore the beautiful country. I was based at Hotel Hollywood in Ilidza, a suburb of Sarajevo.
Sarajevo is surrounded by mountains. Namely, Jahorina, Bjelasnica, Igman and Trebevic. These mountains are places of popular resorts for the citizens of Sarajevo and were also the location for XIV Winter Olympics.
When in Sarajevo, a walk through the Old Town is an absolute must. It’s a travel through time… taking you back to the old world charm – cobbled streets, narrow alleys, souvenir shops, chevabi places, bakhlava (dessert delights) stores, sheesha-smoking joints, kahva houses and of course the mesmerizing landmarks - the Bascarsija, Gazi Husrev-Bey’s Mosque, the Sebilj, Sacred Heart Cathedral, the Orthodox Church and not to forget the Clock Tower that shows time according to the lunar calendar.
Around the Old Town are other famous buildings and monuments. Notably, the City Hall, the Library, Academy of Fine Arts, National Museum, National Theatre, Army House, Principov Bridge, Latin Bridge and the Sarajevo Museum.
And for the shoppers in you, there are some malls too.
Note: I have used a Standard English keyboard and I lacked the knowledge to use special characters that would have made it easy to correctly pronounce Bosnian names. Like me, many readers are likely to make pronunciation mistakes, for which I apologise. I seek your pardon. During the 10 days that I was there, I picked up a little (thanks to my guide Faruk) but I am far away from perfecting the art.
In the following pages, I have briefly described the towns and locations that I visited. Since I was on photo-mission, I will let the pictures do the talking. I have produced an eBook on BiH that can be freely downloaded from prakashbang.com/ebooks. Just under 24 MB, you will get access to my route taken and driving distances.
The places that come up are in the order they were visited.
Sarajevo Image Gallery Photo viewer
Set on the banks of River Lasva, Travnik was the capital of Ottoman viziers from 1699 to 1851. After the conquest, the Ottomans continued its constructions to convert the town into a strong defensive fort from which they could control the passage in the Lasva valley. Today the Travnik Fort offers panoramic views of the town below and the mountains beyond.
Travnik is the birthplace of the Noble Laurate Ivo Andric. His house is now a museum that showcases Bosnian furniture, various photographs, Travnik chronicles and a library.
In the centre of Old Town is the Sulejmanija Mosque, also known as the Colourful Mosque, which has been standing proud since the 16th century.
Travnik Image Gallery Photo viewer
Vlasic is a mountain in the very center of the country. Its highest peak is Paljenik with an elevation of 1943 metres. The region is famous for its pastures, cattle-breeding and cheese. It is believed that the Romans, around 1000 years ago, got the cheese recipe into Vlasic. Basically it's made from sheep's milk and then left to ripen for two to three months. Pairs well with Bosnian wine.
In addition to the cheese, there are two other trademarks associated with Vlasic - the Tornjak dog and Pramenka sheep. The Tornjak is believed to have existed for more than a millennia, bred to guard from wolves and bears. I did have the opportunity to interact with a shepherd and pat a 2-month old Tornjak.
The mountain is a major center for winter tourism due to its excellent accommodation for skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports. It is also a popular destination for summer and eco-tourism with many hiking trails and pristine wilderness areas.
Vlasic Image Gallery Photo viewer
Tourist settlement – ethno village Cardaci is located in Vitez. With unique surroundings on the banks of the river Lasva, it covers an area of 6 hectares, and includes rich summer and winter offers, as well as hospitality facilities. It’s built exclusively from natural materials, in ethnic style and modeled on the old Bosnian house. Overall the location gives great importance to the past, tradition and family values.
In the 15th century Jajce becomes a royal city where the last Bosnian king Stjepan Tomasevic was crowned. At the beginning of the 16th century the Ottomans conquered Jajce. And at the end of the 19th century, the Austro-Hungarian government establishes its rule and builds the largest hydroelectric power station in this part of Europe. The Pliva River runs through the town and flows into Vrbas River. The Pliva waterfall is right in the centre of town and indeed Jajce’s most important attraction, not to forget the Jajce Fort the Esma Sultanija Mosque and St. Mary’s Church.
Jajce Image Gallery Photo viewer
Only 5 kms from Jajce there are the Great and Small Pliva Lakes, between which there are watermills that are called Mlincici locally. Around the watermills are inviting landscaped gardens.
Another beautiful etno village just about 35 kms before Bihac. A little off the road, this ethnic village takes you back in time the way folks lived their lives. Sprawling landscapes and traditional hospitality will motivate travelers to spend a night in one of their rugged cottages. If short of time, a traditional kahva is surely a welcome.
The town of Bihac was first mentioned in 1260 in a document of Bela IV. But, it is assumed that Bihac emerged much earlier. In the inner core of the city there exist several objects which belong to the historic heritage of Bihac. A walk in the old town shows the 19th century Antun Church; the Turbe; the Kapetan Tower and of course the Fethiye Mosque built in Gothic style which was earlier a church! A few kms from Bihac was our historic hotel Kostelski Buk, on the banks of River Una with a waterfall of its own.
Bihac Image Gallery Photo viewer
Along the Una River, a 35-kms. picturesque drive brings us to the pretty town of Bosanska Krupa. On the foothills of its fortress is a heart-warming confluence of a catholic church, an orthodox church and a mosque. This mingling of faiths is quite a common sight across the country. From atop the fortress witness beautiful views of the river, the watermills, the old town and the mountains beyond.
12 kms from Bihac on a mound on the left bank of River Una was built Ostrozac. Its fort from the Middle Ages is mentioned in the 13th century. In the 16th century the fort was conquered by the Ottomans and it became the headquarters of the Ostrazac captaincy.
The waterfalls of Strbacki Buk can well be one most important reason to travel all the way to Bihac. Located in the middle of Nature Reserve, the water falls over several large and small cascades creating pretty formations. In summertime, it’s also a rafters’ paradise.
Few kms. further away in the Nature Reserve is yet another set of mesmerizing waterfalls.
In the neighbourhood of Sarajevo is Ilidza which has records of being around for over 4,000 years in the fertile valley of River Zeljeznica. The greens in this neighbourhood are looked upon as being the lungs of Sarajevo. During the Austro-Hungarian period the Long Alley was created along with many other paths for walking. A walk in the Long Alley is highly recommended. For those inclined a ride in a fijaker (horse driven carriage) is also a welcome.
At the end of the Long Alley (you can also drive there directly), is Vrelo Bosne – Spring of River Bosnia. It’s in the base of Igman Mountain. The area is lush green with many pretty bridges across the streams with a pond with swans and ducks.
Bjelasnica Mountain is situated southwest, only 25 km from Sarajevo. Beside is Mount Igman on which most of the Alpine and Nordic disciplines and jumps of the XIV Olympic Games were held. Winter, from November to May, forms snow drifts of a couple of meters in height which are a particular challenge for winter sports lovers. This season is particularly interesting because of the landscape of the mountain under snow, which is somewhat like a white desert covered with rays of sunshine.
Trebevic Mountain is located southeast of Sarajevo. Its highest point is 1,629 meters and builds on Mount Jahorina. An hour and a half hike can bring people to this beautiful mountain from the city centre! Some altitude points provide an excellent view of the surroundings. Trebevic, is an oasis of peace and greenery which makes a significant tourist and recreational center, both in summer and in winter. No wonder, the peaks of Trebevic attracts over 3,500 hikers every week.
Jahorina Mountain is a part of Dinaric Alps. The highest peak is Ogorjelica at 1,916 metres. Summer Jahorina puts in dense grass carpet and with its climate attracts picnickers, hikers, athletes and all those who seek refuge from the summer heat. Various accommodation and sports facilities are often the reason why sports teams come to prepare for the coming sports season or for a meaningful competition. Jogging, walking or picking wild fruits and herbs will certainly be motivation enough for true nature lovers who enjoy the fact that they are surrounded by beautiful green forest, fields and fresh air.
This pretty town sits on the banks of River Neretva. The history begins with the Roman Empire, continuing to the Middle Ages and the Ottoman Empire, when it was an important station along the way. The town’s main attraction is the Old Stone Bridge which was built in 1682 and was considered a masterpiece even at that time. It was damaged in 1945 when the German Army was retreating and was restored in 2009 to its original look.
Konjic Image Gallery Photo viewer
The history of Mostar begins with the Neolithic Age as attested by various archaeological sites. The Old Bridge built in 1566 is today a UNESCO world cultural heritage. It was constructed by the order of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificient. The bridge is surrounded by the old town and its bazaars attract thousands of visitors almost every day. Interestingly, there’s a Curved Bridge on the River Radobolja which was built before the Old Bridge and it is considered that it inspired its creation.
Mostar Image Gallery Photo viewer
Country’s national monument, Pocitelj sits on the banks of River Neretva. Atop the mountain top is the 15th century Gavrankapetanovic Tower that offers beautiful panoramic views of the town below and the Neretva River. The town is home to a hamam, madrasa with a copper dome and the Sisman Ibrahim-Pasha’s Mosque.
Pocitelj Image Gallery Photo viewer
The town has become one of the most popular pilgrimage sites for Catholics in the world. Over 1 million people visit this little town, made famous by its Church of St. James built in 1967. In the church yard there’s a sculpture of Virgin Mary.
Medugorje Image Gallery Photo viewer
Kravica waterfall, often erroneously called Kravice, is a large tufa cascade on the Trebizat River, in the karstic heartland of the country. Its height is about 25 metres and the radius of the lake in the base of the waterfall is 120 metres. Kravice is a popular swimming and picnic area.
Kravice Image Gallery Photo viewer
During the Antiquity era in the area of Blagaj there was an Illyrian fort built in the 4th century. In the 15th century it was the residential place of Bosnian rulers. Later the Ottomans conquered Blagaj and the Tekke was built next to which there’s a cave and the spring of River Buna. Throughout history, various Sufi orders have resided here. Today it belongs to the Naqshbandi order.
Blagaj Image Gallery Photo viewer
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