I almost don’t want to tell you about Bosnia & Herzegovina. It feels like a secret little corner of the world where things aren’t tourist trodden and prices are cheap as hell. I met only a handful of other travellers while here, including some Texans in a mountain village complaining about warm Coca Cola.
I mean, it’s not completely void of tourism. It’s in the Balkans, after all. But things were especially quiet on my visit because of the recent flooding in the north. None of my routes were affected, and to be honest, Bosnia & Herzegovina needs your travel dolla bills more than ever. The rustic bathroom, however, was up to their standards.
Anyway. Here’s why I fell in love.
Mostar is like a Balkan fairytale land
Mostar was our first stop, and lord almighty, it was a pleasant one. Here’s the famous Bridge, restored since the Yugoslavian War when it was blown up by Croat forces.
We often sat at the embankment by the side of the bridge to watch divers jump into the river. NOTE: This isn’t a particularly good idea. People die.
Mostar itself was a small town of friendly folks and little souvenir boutiques crammed with knick-knacks and jewelry and leather purses. Our favourite hang out was Black Dog Pub, where a DJ resembling Comic Book Guy spun trance-like hits for a small audience.
We didn’t get much drunk here. Back at our hostel we took beers onto our rooftop deck and got yelled at by a Bosnian celebrity for “being too loud.” It was midnight and we were completely sober. When we crept back downstairs she flung open her door and screamed at us, then chased myself and the girls downstairs and tried to break into our room. I wish I could make this stuff up.
Mountain villages with really nice people and fancy mushrooms
We spent two glorious nights in Bjelašnica, home to Ski Resort Babin Do. From there we did a mountain tour with a local guide from London to the tiny village of Lukomir.
Once you ignore the pungent scent of cattle manure, take a look around. The roofs here are made from beaten down tin barrels, and each house has a tiny plot of farmland. We paused to talk to a sweet old lady overseeing the work in the fields. She had one tooth and wore those crocheted pants with a baggy crotch down to the knees, and a headscarf. She was thrilled to hear that most of us were from Australia. Bosnians REALLY like Australians.
We stopped into the village’s only cafe, with items like honeycomb on sale. There was a basket of chanterelles on the table. As you know, they’re quite rare and expensive. (Or if you’re like me, you didn’t know, but now you do.) This caused bit of a mushroom frenzy among everyone, and on the way home, our guide pulled over to chat with some locals scouting the hillsides.
An elderly lady reached into her car’s backseat and loaded up a plastic bag of ‘shrooms. When our guide got back to the car, I asked him how much they cost. They could sell for a FORTUNE out here.
“They were free,” he said. “People are nice.”
CHEAP FOOD and all the meat in meat-land
The food in this part of the Balkans has been bit of a shock since I left Greece. In Bosnia & Herzegovina, it’s all about the cevapi. It’s a kebab dish of grilled minced meat served in a pita with onions, sour cream, kajmak, ajvar, cottage cheese, and red pepper. Hungover? THIS IS YOUR CURE.
The best place in the UNIVERSE for cevapi is at Cevabdzinica Zeljo in Sarajevo. Oh my god. WHAT IS THIS MESS OF AWESOMENESS.
Lamb is also cheap here. Stop thinking about it as a baby animal and more along the lines of the most delicious thing you’ve ever put in your face. It’s especially great in goulash form.
That goulash and a beer came to about 5CAD. I’m not kidding. Everything is so insanely cheap in Bosnia & Herzegovina, I can’t believe it’s over-trodden with backpackers.
One afternoon in Mostar, we stopped at a nondescript restaurant on the main street. The kind of touristy place snobs like us cringe at and flee from. A gypsy child tried to steal our pita. BUT: the food was out of this world, and the price was so low that we tipped generously upon leaving. The lively waitress burst out of the restaurant and yelled at us, “STOP! NO! You can’t pay me this much!” Then she proceeded to crack open beers for us all and sent us on our merry way. That actually happened.
I had the best tour group EVER
I have to admit, one reason this trip was so incredible was because I happened to be on the best tour group EVER of all time, with Med Experience. Until then, the only group tours I had done were with bloggers on press trips. Not saying anything against those trips, but travelling with non-media people was SO MUCH BETTER. Oh my god! We stuck together like GLUE. I cannot express how much I love these people.
Here we are at at one of the Olympic ski hills in Sarajevo.
Here we are at Neretva Rafting. Our guide didn’t speak English so we had to figure most things out for ourselves. We bonded mega-hard over the following week. I wasn’t particularly enthused about group travel until this trip. These folks totally changed my mind.
Kravice Falls & Blagaj Tekke Monastery
Places like Kravice Falls exist in the world. Did you know?
And then places like Blagaj Tekke Monastery.
Sarajevo is stunning and has the craziest history
Did you know that Sarajevo was the site of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination?
And that the city was under siege for YEARS during the Yugoslavian War? (I swear, I can’t stop talking about this war thing.)
The city has recovered wonderfully. Its scars and pockmarked buildings are still evident, but you’ll wander the streets and be inspired. I loved the outdoor market of metalworkers — the din of metal on metal. And the ingenuity of the artisans who take empty shotgun shells and bomb casings to make artwork.
And again: it is cheap, cheap, CHEAP!
I’m a sucker for a good mountain range, from Bjelašnica mountain and beyond.
These are around Lukomir.
I lagged behind pretending to take photos but mostly I was struggling with my fat out-of-shape self.
There’s always more to say. The kindness and modesty of the people, the affordability, the landscape, the history. Bosnia & Herzegovina has won me OVER. I worship you.