First Chapter: Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
I started to hitchhike from Novi Sad to the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo.
Friends warned me hitchhiking would be difficult in this country, but quite the contrary people were so friendly, therefore I never had a long wait. I just heard of Bosnia and Herzegovina in context of the war in ex-Yugoslavia.
But as soon as I entered the country, I was dazed by unspoiled nature in Bosnia like lush green mountains and crystal-clear turquoise water. Like their neighbours in the Balkans, Bosnia and Herzegovina can boast with rich culture, history and landscapes. In the latter case, their outstanding landscape surprised me beyond my expectations.
There are three official languages in BiH, they are actually all the same: Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian.
The country comprising two entities: The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (mostly Bosniaks and Croats) and the Republika Srpska with mostly Serbs. I thought the British government system would be difficult, but Bosnia and Herzegovina might have the world’s most complicated system. During the Free Walking Tour with my crazy and half-drunk guide, he explained in a country with more than 60 parties and over 100 ministers you can easily lose track.
Sarajevo is such a refreshing and lovely city, I guess it might be my favourite capital city in the Balkans. If you ever have the chance, go to Sarajevo!
The food is delicious and cheap, you already catch the odours from a mile away. I know many people associating Sarajevo with the Bosnian War and trying to understand the brutal Yugoslav War is not easy. Nowadays, the city is so peaceful and pretty. Just by seeing the bullet holes strewn buildings, visiting memorials and the videos I watched at Sarajevo Tunnel will give you a small sense of what happened in Sarajevo back then.
Sarajevo Tunnel was built as an underground tunnel in 1993 during the siege of Sarajevo by the Serbian forces. In order to supply food and medicine for people on the other side, the tunnel was also called the “Tunnel of Hope”. Now it is a museum which reminisces the visitors of the desolate circumstances back then.
Another memorial you shouldn’t miss is Sarajevo Memorial for Children killed during the Siege.
Terrifying ten thousand of civilians and children were killed during the siege in 44 months, mostly by snipers from the mountains surrounding the city.
The huge black-white images of the museum Gallery 11/07/95 are poignant to understand the massacre in Srebrenica and the horrendous dimensions of Bosnian war. Entrance fee is 12 Convertible Mark (7$).
Not enough goosebumps? I bet you will, once you walk over the Ottoman bridge “Latin bridge” and right at the end the archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife were assassinated, kicking off the First World War.
Many people helped me once I look drained or confused, especially cute old people tried to approach me in English, French or even Japanese. Moved by their kindness, I appreciated my time in BiH even a little bit more. Lucky as always, I arrived in a middle of a snowstorm in Sarajevo, equipped with a rucksack full of summer clothes. The winter weather in the capital slapped straight into my face and every step to my hostel was a torture even with 5 T-shirts one upon the other.
Nevertheless, it didn’t get me down: After my check-in I started to explore the city. In great walking distance are Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque, Sacred Heart Cathedral (the biggest cathedral in BiH) and Ferhadija pedestrian street. All around the Old Town district, where you can sightsee Bascarsija and Sebilj Fountain.
In bulk of the population of Sarajevo, Husrev-Beg is highly venerated due to his major contribution to the structural development, health and school system plus the constructions of many important buildings in Sarajevo. Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque is one of the most representative Ottoman architectures in the Balkans and regularly visited by tourists.
Grab some fruits at the traditional market “Pijaca Markale” before you might wanna visit Svrzo’s House.
Svrzo’s House (entrance fee is cheap) and the Yellow Fortress (no entrance fee) were two of my personal highlights.
When the Ottomans ruled over this area, Svrzo’s House was built. The brochures at the entrance give you more information about the wooden house. Living quarters for men, women, servants and the kitchen are a good insight into the lives of the people who used to inhabit the house.
The only good advantage the snowstorm offered me, was the view on the top of the Yellow Fortress.
You are still not convinced by Sarajevo? Do me a favour and convince yourself of the beauty of this city, if you are close by.
Another fact: Sarajevo was one of the last travel destinations of Princess Diana in August 1997, before she died on 31st of August in Paris.
Second Chapter: Mostar
Like no other city, Mostar reminded me somehow of King’s Landing in Game of Thrones. Sarajevo was great, but Mostar is better.
Seriously, I can’t count the abundance of photos I took from Old Town and Stari Most, which spans the Neretva River. Even the ruins in Mostar are captivating. I could have spent easily 2 weeks in Mostar, it is overwhelming.
Tourists all over the world come to Mostar to have a glance over the infamous Ottoman bridge from the 16th century called Strari Most (Old Bridge). His brother, the mini version of Stari Most, the “Crooked Bridge” is located nearby in the Old Town.
Jocelyn and I decided to book a tour on the next day to visit the surroundings of Mostar:
Medjugorje, Kravica Waterfall, Pocitelj and Blagaj Tekke.
Actually we were not really impressed by Medjugorje. Neither the church nor the hike to the location of the alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mary could have convinced us. I am sorry for everyone who made a better experience than us, but we were more taken by the Kravice Falls.
On the top we had miscommunications with our broken-english-speaker driver, who told us he would wait on the top of the mountain. So we hiked up to the top and had to realize there is even not a god damn parking place.
Jocy lost her patience and devised the plan to hitchhike back. But our funny driver fortunately waited for us at the same point he dropped us before. Jocy thought we would stuck forever in Medjugorje, a place she was pleased at least.
Compared to Medjugorje we felt like we have landed in paradise after we caught our first glimpse from Kravica Waterfalls, a 25 metres (80ft) high waterfall.
Summertime is the perfect time to swim and picnic in this area, I cursed the cold April weather in Bosnia and the chance I missed to linger in the waterfalls.
It couldn’t get better, but it got better! Welcome to the historic site of Pocitelj, located on the left riverbank of Neretva.
The walled village with some parts of strone-contructions can be dated back to medieval and Ottoman time.
Convince yourself by some pictures I made.
Tip: If you are not the fittest person on Earth, tell your driver to drop you off at the top and walk downhill instead of vice versa.
Some ruins are just waiting to be discovered and explored by tourists.
Blagaj Tekke, the last stop on our day trip is a great one-time-visit, but after the waterfalls and Pocitelj we were quite tired and couldn’t enjoy as much as we wanted to. Compared to the other attraction we had to pay at the Dervish House. (Actually there is an admission fee for Kravica but somehow we bypassed it).
So, the Dervish House was built in the early 15th century and welcomed every stranger who was in need. Especially people who hiked for days and are in search for a thirst-quenching source, could find shelter at Blagaj Tekke. The complex of the tekke includes tombs, rooms for prayers, a kitchen, musafirhane (guest room), hamam (bathroom), courtyard and washroom.
On my last day I visited the Turkish House in Mostar (similar to Svrzo’s House in Sarajevo) and hiked on the Hum Mountain, where the big white cross on the top is standing.
The hike was good, but sometimes I had the feeling it would be pretty easy for hijackers to kidnap me on my way to the top. See how terribly paranoid I am when I have to hike alone in the mountains!
But the view on the top over Mostar is fantastic plus it is a very easy hike for every age. So go for it!
No city travels are completed without any troubles: I ate something rotten on my last night in Mostar. And with a freaking bad food poisoning on the bus to Tuzla I could be a keen competition for someone who has a buckled back. Every second I was worried to vomit on my seat. Why always me?!
Later, Jocy let me know that she had a food poisoning as well.
Last and most boring chapter: Tuzla
My first day in Tuzla I did nothing except sleeping and resting. The second day I walked from my hostel to the Panonsko Lakes in the center for about an hour just to realized that there was nothing. Nothing!
All the way with my damn stomach cramps and terrible sweat from fever. Cool, just because it wasn’t the right season. Therefore, the 3 Lakes weren’t filled up.
I can’t say much about Tuzla except it is the third biggest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina after Sarajevo and Banja Luka.
I don’t have pictures either.
By the way, the coffee consumption in Bosnia and Herzegovina was surprisingly high. Did I try their coffee? Yes and I liked it very much.
Do I still crave to return to Bosnia and Herzegovina and do I tell every backpacker to go on a trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina? Yes, I do!