When my great friend B moved to Sarajevo last year, we knew that it wouldn’t be long before we visited her and her family. An investigation into flights quickly revealed that there are no direct flights to Bosnia from the UK, however, so some creative travelling was going to be in order to make a visit happen.
We went to Split two years ago and absolutely loved it, so flying there from Bristol would enable us to hang out there again (and go back for dinner at the amazing restaurant we found.) Then plans started to fall into place – if we were going all that way, why not fly home from a different airport and visit multiple cities? S and I have recently come to the conclusion that we’re just not one-place holiday makers – we get bored if we have to stay in the same place, and that in fact our ideal holiday is made up of multiple city breaks so we can wander, drink coffee and explore to our hearts’ content. So we worked out that we could fly back from Austria, and that we could visit Belgrade, Budapest and Vienna after Sarajevo. Then I read a great review of Mostar, and we added that in as a convenient break in between Split and Sarajevo.
We only had a day in Split but we ticked off everything we wanted to do — found the amazing restaurant again where we had seafood, a delicious potato and kale dish and enough white wine to sink a ship, ate ice cream in Diocletian’s Palace while listening to the live music and had a drink in a bar in the old city. We also climbed to the top of the park (no mean feat in 32 degree heat), where they had the most beautiful views of the harbour.
Adding in Mostar was an excellent choice, as not only did we get to visit this charming city with its historic bridge (and its random statue of Bruce Lee), but also go on a day trip to the Kravice waterfalls. Located about 90 minutes south from Mostar, these are very similar to the waterfalls at Plitvice that we visited last time we went to Croatia, except you can actually swim in these ones during the summer when the water level is low. And on a 35 degree day, the ice-cold water was a welcome treat.
We ended up seeing these waterfalls touted all over Bosnia and Serbia, so they’re clearly a huge tourist attraction in Bosnia, but even in the height of summer it wasn’t unpleasantly busy. There are a few bars and coffee shops right on the shore so you can buy food and drink, and it was very pleasant to sip espresso while watching people bob past in the water. In fact, swimming in Kravice was one of the nicest things I have ever done on holiday and is my definite must-do if you visit this part of the world.
Sarajevo was an interesting city — a real mix of east and west, a place that’s still scarred by the war 20 years ago but one that’s definitely looking to the future. It’s hard not to go there and think about the war — I was ten when it broke out, and I remember reading Zlata’s Diary as a teenager, but until our trip I didn’t really have any comprehension of how bad it was and that the city was under siege for three years. We did a private tour of Sarajevo with a guide and one of the places she took us to was the Tunnel of Hope, the tunnel that was dug under the airport in order to get supplies into the beleaguered city. Visiting there was very poignant and it was there that it really hit home about how terrible those years were. And as you can see from the photo below, graveyards are sadly a prominent feature of the city.
The war isn’t the only thing of course, and it’s important not to focus solely on that. We also visited the bob sleigh track from the ’84 Winter Olympics (soon to be renovated) , saw where Gavrilo Princep had set the wheels in motion for World War 1 and stuffed ourselves on the Balkan speciality, cevpici — sausages in bread, with onions. Not healthy in the slightest, but pretty tasty!
Of course our main purpose in Sarajevo was to hang out with B and her family, which we did in bucket loads, with lots of coffee sipping, pizza eating, board game playing and beer drinking.
Belgrade was my least favourite place of the trip, but it still had its charm. I loved the Bohemian Quarter – it’s just one street, but packed full of restaurants and bars where you can do some quality people watching while sipping on cheap beer (the most popular brand of which was practically named after me!).
Due to a problem with our bus from Sarajevo to Belgrade we ended up only having one full day there, so we made the most of it with a free walking tour with Belgrade Walking Tours. I can highly recommend this — it was a great way to get an overview of the city and our tour guide was really knowledgeable. She also touched briefly on the hardships of the 1990s, and we learned about the hyper-inflation that happened in Serbia during that time, and were given a copy of the 5 million dinar note that ended up being legal currency!
Part two to follow…