View from the hills of Sarajevo

15 Lessons I’ve Learned While Traveling in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina is definitely a place, where you can learn a lot. I fell in love with this Balkan country mostly because of its long painful history. Who could ever think that they’ve survived the war twentysomething years ago? And with that still tries to develop and move on. Traveling in Bosnia and Herzegovina was full of learning for me, rather than beautiful monuments

It was inspiring, even more, to hear stories from people our ages, who already survived the war. How their minds and values have changed over that. And I want to share those learnings with you.

1. How to get from the airport in Tuzla to the city? It’s not that easy…

I think it was made by purpose. I mean, yes, there are not that many flights there. Yet, we didn’t find any direct bus from the airport. Basically you go out and you see, how people either take cars or…walk. So it’s very profitable for taxis. I know also, that WizzAir is arranging some transfers, but we didn’t use it, so I cannot help here.

But for approximately 1 euro you can get bus #11, which will drop you to the city. You need to walk around 800 meters from the airport. City center bus stop is called “Med A Stanica” and Airport – “Dubrave Aer”. It goes a bit random in time, so prepare to wait. But there is also a timetable on page 3. Here you can find the point on the map, where the bus station is located:

2. Bosnian people are extremely friendly to backpackers

Even though few know the language. Our first night in Tuzla we were trying to find out Airbnb. Robo went somewhere farther and I stayed to wait for him. There was an older couple passing by. The guy was very much smiling and asking me to come with them. I was scared and thought he wants something bad, so I wasn’t moving. In the end we understood, that they want to help us. They didn’t speak English, but they understood where did we want to go. And they helped us. With the smile on the face.

Not only they kept trying to help us even we were refusing at first. They asked a worker at our accommodation to translate to us, that they had their own coffee place here close and they invite us there. Also, the guy said, that he wanted a hug from us for help. It was very sweet!

3. Fee for entering bus platforms

I don’t know why is this rule existing but we’ve already met it before in another Balkan country – Serbia. We’ve bought our bus tickets from Tuzla to Sarajevo online. We’ve printed it (which is also important, because usually, they don’t accept online versions). And once we came to the bus station, we had to pay 1 KM (0.5 euros) each to enter the bus platform. Maybe, this money goes to maintain the bus station.

4. The charm of Tuzla’s city center

Tuzla is enough to walk for 2 hours. You can make a great circle, covering salty lakes and from there head to the center. In there I recommend slowing down. Get into its narrow streets, check architecture. Tuzla has also more than 40 mosques of different styles.

Walk around, get ice cream, and coffee on some terrace. We did that and watched the life of citizens. How weddings were passing by with loud music and celebrations. How kids were playing near the fountain. How tourists were buying magnets and taking a picture of every house. how dogs are lying on the floor, suffering from hot weather.

5. Sarajevo has Europe and Asia in it

When traveling in Bosnia and Hercegovina, you will find out that the city center of Sarajevo is divided into Eastern and Western parts. It takes one step to move from Austria-Hungary to the Ottoman Empire, from grand houses to small shops with wooden roofs. There is even a point marked on the floor on the main street. It’s incredible how different can be cultures and how it can get used to living together.

6. What does the flag of Bosnia mean?

As we were told on one of the Free walking tours, the Bosnian flag doesn’t pretty much mean anything. But they’ve mentioned, that number of stars on it can vary, that it’s not set officially. As per Wikipedia, the Bosnian flag has some meaning. The three points of the triangle represent three main ethnic groups: BosniaksCroats, and Serbs. Also, colors are associated with peace and Bosnian culture.

P.s.: definitely recommend you to join these Free walking tours. No paid promotion, but they’ve made our trip! Guys grew up in wartime and they shared the story of the city from their own perspective. It will definitely give your trip an atmosphere.

7. Bosnian coffee is not a Turkish coffee

Here in Bosnia, they have a big coffee culture. You may find a lot of locals and tourists sitting on terraces, drinking coffee. From the first look, you can say, that Bosnian coffee is the same as Turkish. Yet, Bosnian doesn’t like this comparison. There are many smaller differences in preparation and serving. You can find more about it in the BBC article.

8. Sarajevo suffered a lot

At some point, some of the Balkan countries were one Republic – Yugoslavia. And then one by one they started to declare independence. Yet, in comparison with Croatia or Slovenia, for Bosnia and Herzegovina, it didn’t end as happily as they would want. The civil war started.

But few people know that Siege of Sarajevo that time lasted for 1425 days. It was the longest siege of a city in modern military history. Lengthier even than the German Siege of Leningrad (St Petersburg) in the Second World War.

You might not realize it at first. But with Free walking tour about siege look at the city became completely different. You see a lot of shot holes in houses. You see red flakes on the floor. A reminder of shells fallen to these places. You see small footprints and names around the monument. A reminder of more than 1000 children died during Siege.

One more thing war brought to Bosnia – mine problems. There are still more than 80,000 unexploded mines around the whole country. Every year it kills some people. Even though the government is trying to clean it, the problem is still there.

9. The popular shopping mall as a shooted place?

We’ve discovered BBI Center Shopping Mall long before we knew the history of this place. Of course, it was recently built and it’s just a normal shopping mall. But In the Siege time, the square where the mall is located was the most dangerous square in the city. It is a huge open space that easily could be shot from the hills surrounding Sarajevo. People used to say: if you go on that square – you go to die.

10. How Bosnian accepted NATO’s help

NATO was supporting Bosnia and Herzegovina during the civil war. Back that time any help was needed and appreciated. But now people are reflecting on what happened.

With that, they built a sarcastic and iconic ICAR Canned Beef Monument. The inscription on the plinth is “Monument to the International Community by the grateful citizens of Sarajevo”. But everyone is just laughing at it. NATO was supporting citizens with barely-edible canned food. There were legends, that even cats and dogs rejected to eat it. That it stayed from the Vietnam war, being over 20 years expired. That half of it contained pork, where the country is half-Muslim.

11. Bosnian Romeo and Juliet story

She was a Bosniak, and he – Bosnian Serb. They were not supposed to be together, but oh well…Love happened. Admira and Bosko. Bosko’s family managed to leave Sarajevo before the war, but he decided to stay with his love. Admira was living in Sarajevo with her family.

One day they decided to run. They managed to bribe the Army to let them go out of the city. It was a normal practice and many people have escaped like that. But something went wrong for this couple.

On the agreed day they came to Vrbanja bridge, from where they could run out. Entirely exposed they started to walk on that bridge. Until Bosko didn’t get a shot in his head. He felt down dead immediately. The second shot got to Admira. She felt down but managed to crawl over her love and hug him. They both died on that bridge. And their bodies were untouched for a week.

Up until today, it remains a symbol of suffering and absurdity of the war. There are poems, songs, and documentaries made on that story. The picture of their dead bodies got through the whole internet.

12. The mixture of cultures, religions, and nationalities

The war has ended. Now all the cultures are leaving together on one land and they do it pretty peacefully. The official languages of Bosnia and Herzegovina now are Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian. Sarajevo’s religious tolerance is refreshing and envious in the modern world.

Who would have thought Sarajevo, after the conflicts in the 1990s, would be one of the only cities in Europe to have a mosque, church (both Catholic and Orthodox), and a synagogue in the same neighborhood?

13. Mostar is a great place to chill

And jump from the bridge as well. All in Mostar is about this Old bridge, a UNESCO heritage and one of the most popular sites here to check. Almost all the time you can see some half-naked guy standing on the edge of the bridge. Life promotion is so-called.

But you can also jump. Just approach the guy, pay for it around 25-30 euros and 24 meters are all behind you. But you will have to train first.

Apart from jumping and the Old Bridge, city can be watched in 1 hour. So I recommend you to slow down as in Tuzla. Get some unnecessary souvenirs on the market. Get some coffee, ice-cream. And enjoy. It’s amazing if you catch good weather there.

Also, I recommend you to go by train if you are heading here from Sarajevo. This railway is one of the most beautiful ones in Europe. You can see all the magic of Bosnian nature.

14. The shot that sparked World War One

Not many people know, that Sarajevo also played a huge role in WWI history. Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne with his wife to Sarajevo. They’ve had some official duties as well as sight-seeing. But it didn’t turn out as they planned.

Bosnian assassins were prepared to kill them. After failed attempts and wrong decisions, one of them, Gavrilo Princip, managed to make it. The assassination led directly to World War I. Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia, which was partially rejected. Austria-Hungary then declared war on Serbia. And that triggered a war between most European states.

15. Cheap and tasty national food

I’ve mentioned many times how I am in love with Balkan cuisine. I will repeat it one more time here. What I definitely recommend to try when traveling in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the burek. We’ve got our in Buregdžinica Bosna in the old town. For 1.5 euro you can get yourself extremely full of different types of burek. We came back there before our flight and took it as a snack with us.

PS1: Let me know in comments, if you’ve been in Bosnia and Herzegovina and what you liked there the most!

PS2: If you like to read about our learnings in different countries and about different cultures, continue to one of the following articles:

15 Lessons I’ve Learned While Traveling in Barcelona

15 Lessons I’ve Learned While Traveling in Macedonia

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