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  • Writer's pictureMona Shah

Bosnia and Herzegovina - Craggily beautiful and intriguing

Must Visit Places: Sarajevo, Mostar, Pocitej, Stolac, Trebinje, Visegrad


Situated in the heart of the Balkans, Bosnia and Herzegovina remains one of the last great undiscovered regions of the Southern Alps. Visiting this country was similar to Serbia, almost like going back in time. It is not very developed, but with more positivity and lots of hope. This is the site of the horrible wars of the 1990s when Serbia relentlessly attacked its former Yugoslavian state, based on ethnic racism and hatred. Even decades later, you can see signs of war, physically and emotionally. Separatists continue to threaten to destroy Bosnia-Herzegovina. A look back indicates the tiny western Balkan state has work to do in becoming a full democracy, with the rule of law, wide spread prosperity on its journey to being integrated into the EU.


Sarevejo



We drove in from Zalibir through mountains and tunnels. You don’t see the city as you are approaching it, and then suddenly it looms large in front of you. With its Ottoman style old town it is easy to fall in love with the stunning town with its friendly coffee culture and quirky hybrid of architectural styles hailing from different eras in the city’s rich history. You will hear the Muslim call to prayer juxtaposed with Catholic and Orthodox church bells playful tinkling. 


We stayed in an Airbnb in Old Town. The language barrier almost had us checked into another apartment nearby until we realized it was not the palace we had booked! We did find the right one, and it had a great parking spot right in front! 


I highly recommend starting your trip to Sarajevo with a wander around the old bazaar to get a feel of the city. As you walk down Ferhadija street you’ll find an inscription on the tiles that says “Sarajevo – Meeting of Cultures”. It marks the place where the main two cultures shaping the city’s character merge.


Baščaršija is the city’s historical and cultural center. When it was originally built in the 15th century, it laid the foundation for Sarajevo. Now it’s the city’s biggest attraction and a popular meeting spot for locals and tourists alike. You can shop/haggle, eat some great kebabs and falafel and pita and get lost in its many winding alleys and cobblestone streets.


Parts of the city are like a living history museum, and you can take walking tours to see areas with bullet holes and mortar shell explosions. But before the 1990s war, Sarajevo has another infamous bit of history. Here is where the Latin Bridge is located–an Ottoman-era bridge over the river Miljacka in Sarajevo. The northern end of the bridge was the site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by Gavrilo Princip in 1914, which began the July Crisis that ultimately led to the outbreak of World War I.


Sarajevo is where East meets West, where mountains meet city and where tradition meets modernity. But it’s the tragic parts of its past that have shaped how Sarajevo is today. During the 1990s war, Sarajevo was under siege for 1,495 days by the Serbs and their allies.  This is the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare!







We can safely make this claim: We came on this trip for Dubrovnik but we left with our hearts in Sarajevo.


The next morning we left for Mostar. 


Mostar



The Sarajevo to Mostar drive takes about just a bit over 2 hours. Mostar is very compact, meaning you can tick off many of its key attractions on foot in one day: Stari Most, Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque, the Museum of War and Genocide, the bazaar, and Kajtaz House. With cobblestoned streets, old stone buildings, and its beautiful bridge spanning the picturesque Neretva River, this town is a must visit.


The star attraction of Mostar is Stari Most, a 16th-century stone bridge overlooking the strikingly blue Neretva River. The bridge is often considered the most photogenic spot in all of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Grab a seat at one of the restaurants along the river for spectacular views, you can’t go wrong with any of the restaurants there, pick one that gives you a table with the best view of the bridge.


Trebinje



Trebinje was a really beautiful small town. It’s situated in a scenic valley along the Trebišnjica river and is surrounded by looming hills in most directions. Trebinje is easily navigable on foot, with rare tourists roaming the town center. We mostly saw locals, socializing, smoking and drinking. It has a very nice family feel. 


As we walked around  Freedom Square (Zelena Pijaca)  we noticed that the architecture here is unusual, as this old town, also known as Kastel, was built by the Turks during the seventeenth century.  The beautiful Hercegovačka Gračanica Monastery offers up the best panoramic views in the town of Trebinje and the Trebišnjica River below, surrounded by rugged mountains. Just outside the Old Town, you will find the pedestrian Jovana Duvacica street and Trg Slobode square – both are another hub of cafes and restaurants in Trebinje.


Trebinje’s walled old city is so tiny that we very nearly missed it! But what this old town lacks in size, it more than makes up for in rustic charm. Running right through the center is the Trebišnjica River – the world’s longest sinking river (we had no idea what this meant either but apparently the river runs for 116 miles, largely underground!). The iconic 16th century Arslanagić Bridge is the most famous monument from the Ottoman period in Trebinje.


Visegrad

A quiet, romantic riverside town, with a tragic past with mountains and an amazing atmosphere. The Mehmed Paša Sokolovic Bridge in the Bosnian town of Višegrad is an excellent example of classical Ottoman architecture and civil engineering.


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