Bosnia trip report

Bosnia September-October 2010

September-October 2010

Monday, September 29

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIH) Trip is sponsored by government agencies of USA – USAID, Norway and Turkish airline to help Bosnia to develop infrastructure . Part of the project is tourism. From Bosnia side, it is sponsored by TK airline, which has 49% stake in Bosnia air and local tourist companies.

So I am a part of first team of press and tour operators arriving on a fam trip to Sarajevo Sep 29-Oct 6.

I only been there once in Mostar, it was our last trip with George. Should be bittersweet and emotional. Never been in Sarajevo but from what I've read, very significant history and religion. in the city there are synagogues, mosques, Benedictine monasteries, Catholic and Orthodox churches abound.

Since trip was sponsored partially by Turkish airline , we flew on this airline. This is my second time this year flying. I like Turkish air. Their food is good. In bathrooms, they have live flowers. The flight from JFK was delayed 1 hr. But somehow we’ve made it on time. They fed us dinner which was passable.

Connected in Istanbul to Sarajevo, 2 hr flight, uneventful. In Sarajevo we got through passport control and we’ve met the other members of the group and our hosts: Explore Bosnia – Vlado and Sasha. We have impressive 11 people group: press, tour operators/wholesalers and travel agents. I've been honored on this trip to meet pioneers of adventure travel: Richard Bangs is one of the founders for Mountain Sobek Company. Now he is producing PBS TV shows Adventures with purpose www.adventureswithpurpose.tv . He is traveling with his wife Laura Hubber, who is BBC correspondent and have long time connection as a foreign Correspondent in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They also have 3 year old Jasper who turned out to be the best well-adjusted young traveler I've ever seen.

Other well known adventure tour operator is George Wendt, the owner of rafting company O.A.R.S. www.oars.com . It is recognized by National Geographic Traveler, Outside, Men’s Journal and Sunset along with NBC, CNBC, Forbes Traveler and SmarterTravel.com for serving up some of the “Best Trips on the Planet””.

Other press representatives included editors from Afar magazine www.afar.com and ExOfficio catalog www.exofficio.com who planned to do their marketing campaign around testimonials of BiH, photography and other content.

We originally were booked at only one 5* hotel Europe in Sarajevo. But Vlado apologized and said because of Sunday elections, politicians took over hotel so we are moved to Europe Garni hotel Arts, 3*. It turned out to be very comfortable and it is next door so it will fit. OK for us but for future clients, Europe would be preferred.

We had nice lunch. Bosnia has excellent quality water, it is drinkable and tap water tastes better than US purified water. We had wonderful chicken soup, salad and assortment of different boureks – pastries with savory filling – cheese, spinach and meat.

Then we have met our guide Muhamed for introduction of Sarajevo, about 1 hr tour walk around the center. The weather was rainy. We returned to hotel to rest for 1 hour and went for a dinner to local restaurant La Comida which just opened few days ago. Very good food served family style. Excellent wine from Bosnia. The main course was roasted veal with potatoes and carrots. Very good. Excellent bread. Chicken soup again. Desert was Balkan style – something resembling Turkish deserts. They also gave us souvenirs with a bottle of rakija (was served as aperitif).

Went back to hotel for well deserved sleep , with flying, I am without sleep almost 48 hrs. Slept through the night so I am over jet lag.

Tuesday, September 30.

In the morning, we started with War Tunnel Museum. We were driven through the city and Muhammad told us the history of the war and geography of the city.

History.

Under Tito, the Yugoslavia was united. After he died, the country disintegrated into small ethnic territories. The period of political turmoil and conflict marked a rise in ethnic tensions between Serbs and other ethnicities of the former Communist Yugoslavia as territorial claims of the different ethnic factions often crossed into each others' claimed territory.

After Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence in 1990, the Serbs attacked. In the beginning, the Yugoslav Army which secretly joined forces with Milosevic, deployed troops on the hills around Sarajevo on the premise that they wanted to protect city from the enemy. What the citizens did not know that the enemy would be the same Yugoslav army, under command of Milosevic man in Bosnia, Radovan Karadic. Karadic was responsible for stirring up nationalistic sentiment. The plan was to create a Greater Serbia, but annexing territories from other countries including BiH. The hatred started to steer between local Serbs that Bosnia was Serbian land. Former neighbors started hate and fear each other. Very soon political situation escalated into physical conflicts. An ethnic cleansing policy was pursued by Serbs. Many Bosniaks and Croats were killed, expelled or taken to concentration camps. Although BIH was already recognized as an sovereign country by UN, Milosevic and his army did not accept it and the killing continued. The president of BIH appealed to UN to intervene and stop killings, UN observers came but they did not stop the Serbs. BIH government knew they need to defend themselves. The other problem presented was an embargo on weapons imposed by UN on the former Yugoslavia worked against BIH.

The situation in Sarajevo was hard. The Serbs occupied surrounding suburbs. After airport was occupied, city became shut off. We saw sniper alley which patrolled by snipers and once people would go on that main alley, Serbs would shot one person but only wounding. Then they wait for helpers to get wounded and shoot them all. In addition to sniper killing and bombing, there was no water, food, medicine, electricity, gas. Hospitals, schools and other vital buildings were bombed.

There were breaks in bombing when UN observers entered city occasionally to inspect situation however nothing has been done to stop atrocities in twentieth century in the middle of Europe.

In the city citizens still tried to live normal lives. Children and students studied with candlelight, there were concerts and even pageant “Miss of Surrounded Sarajevo”. Youth still managed to linger at clubs at cafes at candlelights . Recommended reading: “Cellist of Sarajevo” .

Finally UN took control of airport in 1992 but Serbs demanded airport to be used only for UN purposes. It was of importance to Bosnian army since it was located between city and free territory. Any Bosnians who took food to their families were stopped . Some UN soldiers helped people to cross but these were rare occasions.

Therefore this situation led to a solution to build a tunnel under airport. The tunnel started to build in Jan 12, 1992 by Bosnian army. Bad weather condition, lack of tools made this project almost impossible and it has to be done in secrecy. Nevertheless, the work continued. The diggers worked in 3 shifts, 24 hrs per day. The underground water was taken in canisters out since there was not electricity to use pumps. Electric lights were installed supplied by generator. Despite these and other obstacles, tunnel was completed in July 30, 1993 when 2 men digging from opposite side, were able to connect hands. On that day, Sarajevo got a small path connecting the city with free territories . This tunnel was of great importance for the country from point of military communications, food, and humanitarian add to the city. It saved the city from total occupation and saved lives.

The war ended in August 1995, when finally the international community in form of NATO, intervened. But this was after loss of 200,000 people in BiH, including 11,000 Sarajevans of which 1,600 were children.

The world might also remember massacre in Srebrenica where about 10,000 men and boys were killed.

The NATO military campaign put the end to the war. In November of 1995, USA organized negotiations in Dayton, OH, which led to sighing of the Dayton Accords, which was the end of the war.

So we walked the tunnel. The Kolar family owns the house and they gave their house to BiH army to use in the building of the tunnel and this was their great contribution to the defense of Sarajevo and BiH. The exhibit also showed the story of Kolar family and how their women helped soldiers with food and men with digging and other chores.

So far it still a private museum because there are some complications with government taking ownership but Sarajevo people hoping that it will become significant government owned museum.

We returned to the city, silent, letting our impressions to settle. Our minibus passed landmarks of the modern city: Twin Towers, rebuilt after the war and now is finance center of the city. Bright yellow colored Holiday Inn used to house Olympic athletes and later war correspondents. We were shown sniper alley where occupiers were terrorizing citizens. We stopped for coffee at Tito’s café where it was sunny, pleasant, people enjoyed outdoor time off like nothing was happened 15 years ago. We did see the monument to UN which is, laughingly is a large can of canned meat.

We went for lunch at a nice restaurant in the hills overlooking city . Afterwards we returned to the Old Town and our guide Mohammed showed us the rest.

We visited synagogue and Jewish museum, walked through old Ottoman part of the city, Bascarsija. It borders with Austro-Hungarian part. An Orthodox Church, Catholic Cathedral, a mosques and synagogues all within minutes walking distance from each other, make Sarajevo second only to Jerusalem.. .

We walked the bridge on Skenderija which was built by the project of Gustave Eiffel. Then we passed National theater. We came to the place of assassination of Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne Ferdinand and Archduchess Sophie (1914) which set off World War I.

It was amazing to discover this European city located on crossroads of East and West, old caravan routes, so one can still see the remnants of old hospitality – Caravan Serai which used to house horses and travelers. Sarajevo is a true representative of the country’s rich history. 

Jewish Heritage.

Sarajevo has the largest active Jewish community in the country.

Sephardic Jews came to the country during the Greek-Persian wars, and continued through Roman period. The strong way of immigration started in the end of 15C when Sephardic Jews were expelled from Spain and they came to BiH. Their biggest center was Sarajevo. Before WWII, the third biggest Jewish Temple in Europe was built there. During Holocaust, around 11,000 Sarajevans were killed or perished on concentration camps. Out of which 9,500 were Jews – 90% of Jewish community of the city.

There is unique manuscript which was written in historical fiction book “People of the Book” by Geraldine Brooks. Sarajevo Haggadah is the oldest Haggadah originating in Barcelona around 1350. It is also considered the most beautifully illustrated Jewish manuscript in existence and one of the most valuable books in the world. The cultural value is in the story of its survival. It was brought by Spanish Jews supposedly from Barcelona, and was sold to the national museum of Sarajevo in 1894. It was saved by muslims during 3 last wars. Since December2002, the Sarajevo Haggadah is again at National Museum.

In 1995, senator Jon Lieberman wanted to celebrate Passover with Haggadah in Sarajevo but due to the siege, was not able to enter the city.

I visited museum and we talked to the curator. Unfortunately, I only saw a copy. I bought beautiful art book which illustrated Haggadah.

We talked to the Jewish community and learned that it was decided to show original 4 times of the year – for Passover, Museum day (sometimes between May 15-19) and two more dates in summer to be determined. So it is possible for groups or individuals to see original. We will work on group departure to organize to see Haggadah.

We visited first synagogue circa 1582 which was active until WWII. In 1966, the Jewish museum was opened. The synagogue reopened in 2002. Jews before and after Holocaust lived very comfortably in BiH and got along well with Muslims and Christians. Currently there are 700 members of Jewish community in Sarajevo and about 1000 total in the country. Before the WWII, it was 7000 member community. Before the WWII war, there were 2 Ashkenazi Synagogues and 37 Sephardic. Now Sarajevo has 2 synagogues. No kosher food available. Rabbi comes twice per year from Israel for Pesach and Rosh Hashanah.

We walked in Old town, enjoying good weather. Near market, there are crowds of men playing giant chess. They let me in and I took some photos. They played 4 people teams against each other.

We got limited time to wonder around and Laura introduced me to her friend Suzanne who is an artist and has gallery in old town. I admired some of works at her gallery and then we went to Edo shoe shop where Laura told they make great custom shoes. I picked two models. The leather was nice and soft like Italian and Spanish shoes. But unlike Italian and Spanish prices, two custom made shoes cost me 330 KM (approx $230 usd)., The lady in shoe shop told me they will be ready in 4 days.

We went back to hotel and had little time to refresh for dinner with USAid representatives. It took place at Kebi restaurant with a nice view of the city. For some reason there were fireworks (Vlado explained he arranged it for us J ). We sat with USaid Bosnian workers and listened to their stories of war survival and current political situation. There are two Government Entities : The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republic of Srpska (Serbs), and also Brcko district being administered by both. Here is a link to Wkpideia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosnia_and_Herzegovin...

Quoting: from there:

Bosnia and Herzegovina has several levels of political structuring, according to the Dayton accord. Most important of these levels is the division of the country into two entities: Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina covers 51% of Bosnia and Herzegovina's total area, while Republika Srpska covers 49%. The entities, based largely on the territories held by the two warring sides at the time, were formally established by the Dayton peace agreement in 1995 because of the tremendous changes in Bosnia and Herzegovina's ethnic structure. Since 1996 the power of the entities relative to the State government has decreased significantly. Nonetheless, entities still have numerous powers to themselves. The Brčko District in the north of the country was created in 2000 out of land from both entities. It officially belongs to both, but is governed by neither, and functions under a decentralized system of local government. The Brčko District has been praised for maintaining a multiethnic population and a level of prosperity significantly above the national average.[55]

The third level of Bosnia and Herzegovina's political subdivision is manifested in cantons. They are unique to the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina entity, which consists of ten of them. All of them have their own cantonal government, which is under the law of the Federation as a whole. Some cantons are ethnically mixed and have special laws implemented to ensure the equality of all constituent peoples.

The fourth level of political division in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the municipalities. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is divided in 74 municipalities, and Republika Srpska in 63. Municipalities also have their own local government, and are typically based on the most significant city or place in their territory. As such, many municipalities have a long tradition and history with their present boundaries. Some others, however, were only created following the recent war after traditional municipalities were split by the Inter-Entity Boundary Line. Each canton in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of several municipalities, which are divided into local communities.

Besides entities, cantons, and municipalities, Bosnia and Herzegovina also has four "official" cities. These are: Banja Luka, Mostar, Sarajevo, and East Sarajevo. The territory and government of the cities of Banja Luka and Mostar corresponds to the municipalities of the same name, while the cities of Sarajevo and East Sarajevo officially consist of several municipalities. Cities have their own city government whose power is in between that of the municipalities and cantons (or the entity, in the case of Republika Srpska).

As a result of the Dayton Accords, the civilian peace implementation is supervised by the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina selected by the Peace Implementation Council. The High Representative has many governmental and legislative powers, including the dismissal of elected and non-elected officials. More recently, several central institutions have been established (such as defense ministry, security ministry, state court, indirect taxation service etc.) in the process of transferring part of the jurisdiction from the entities to the state.

Therefore, from conversation we’ve found out, there are duplicated government. Still as of today, there is no national anthem since all sides do not agree on it.

The dinner was served family style and was delicious. There were Russian style dumplings with meat and sour cream sauce. Calf and chicken liver appetizers. Most Bosnian salads include delicious slightly marinated cabbage, great taste tomatoes and cucumbers. Bread and filled pastries are delicious.

Main course – lamb was followed with potatoes and paired with excellent local wine. Desert was caramelized fruit and some turkish type pastries. The director of USAid mission made speech. It was nice evening.

Wednesday, October 1.

We left early morning for countryside for rafting on Neretva River. Laura and Richard brought their 3.5 year old son Jasper and a babysitter Yasmina.

I opted to skip rafting. So did Laura who was taking care of Jasper. Our hosts divided – Vlado went rafting and Sasha stayed with me, Laura and Jasper. The Neretva River is flowing over 100 km from its source to Adriatic coast. Our group was promised great canyon scenery and interesting flora and fauna.

The water in the river in October is cold so the group was outfitted into wet suites. On arrival we were met by rafting outfit owners. The wife prepared delicious breakfast to fuel and warm up rafting participants. We had something like donuts – fried dough, polenta, served with delicious yogurt and homemade sheep cheese, eggs, ajvar (balkan spread) and plum jam. . It was the best breakfast of the trip.

After breakfast, the group left for rafting. The owner took me, Laura , Jasper, Sasha and Yasmina to nearby military base where is Tito’s bunker is located. It was started to build in 1955 and finished in 1979. The purpose was to have a bunker in case of any threat for Tito’s government (from East or West). But it has never been used. It has 3 houses in the mountain, connected by tunnels and it is sufficient to accept any time 350 people.. It has supplies, sleeping quarters, food, water , electricity, telecommunications, air control, satellites.. I sat at Tito’s office. . Strangely, I recalled, few years ago we stayed in Bled, Slovenia, Villa Bled, beautiful chateaux which was Tito’s residence. So I thought, maybe I slept in a bed where Tito slept… Now I am sitting at his desk. I’ve been strangely following Tito without even intending it..

The compound is under Bosnian Military but it would be nice to become a museum. Later on, we were told, that negotiations are being discussed but it takes long time with bureaucracy to bring tourists there. It is a fascinating destination for military tourism. For now, it takes just right connections to get to the Tito’s bunker and we have it J . The soldiers were glad to show us around as seems they are not that busy…

After visit to the bunker, we were waiting for out rafting group to come back and we walked banks of the river, enjoying beautiful scenery. The wife of the owner was cooking lunch and while Sasha warned her they we cannot eat much, she dismissed it and prepared large lovely spread of meats and salads.

The rafting specialists returned declared the river the best kept secret in Europe. Looks like everybody had a great time, that was grade 2 rafting. The water was very clear and the scenery was beautiful. Few days Later on trade show, we were shown videos of more challenging rafting expeditions and even canyoning.

We returned to Sarajevo, went for dinner and then to bed.

Thursday, October 2.

After breakfast, we departed Sarajevo for Mostar.

I saw it few years ago when we were in Croatia with George. I wrote about bridge in the blog.

http://sophiastravel.blogspot.com/2007/10/bosnia-in-herzegovina-mostarmedjugorje.html

Now I am looking forward to see it again.

On the way to Mostar, we visited small town Pocitej. It was a small village with oriental-mediterranean style. We also visited Blagaj on Buna River, and had nice lunch on the river there.

We arrived Mostar in the afternoon and checked in nice 4* hotel Old Town, it was right in the center and hotelwas wonderful. Vlado brought up his friend from Sarajevo who is a chef and a president of culinary association of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The chef prepared fish and seafood dinner paired with wines and it was delicious. The owner of Old Town hotel is a sommelier and he explained to us Bosnian wines, it was a lovely evening.

Friday, October 3.

After breakfast, we went to see Medjugorie, It is a major site for Catholic Pilgrims.. It is high in the mountains about half an hour from Mostar. It is a windy road and out of nowhere suddenly appears the site. It has been said that Virgin Mary appeared to local people. Officially not recognized by Vatican but this small village became a center of Pilgrimage and already about 30 Millions of Pilgrims visited that site. The site has shrine and modern Church and big crowds of people and usual souvenir's stands.

After Medujorie, we went back to Mostar, visited few medieval villages on the way . In Mostar, we visited museum of Muslibegovca – which is also now hotel. It is restored old pasha’s house. We were told about customs of living in Ottoman empire and saw the rooms of hotel, it is very nice but a little bit far away from the center of Mostar, maybe 15 min by foot. Then we had coffee break and went to the bridge. Vlado arranged for divers to jump from the bridge – the water was icy cold! We took videos and then departed back to Sarajevo.

We arrived to Sarajevo and checked into hotel Radon Plaza outside of the city . It is 5* hotel with revolving restaurant. Hotel while was 5* but it was kind of strange. We are not sure about classification. Dinner was on our own, so most of us got together in revolving restaurant. We forgot that it was revolving when one member of our group put her purse next to her and it moved.

The service was not that good. Next day, 2 members of our group were leaving for next destination – Scotland, so we said good bye to them. I got back to the room. It was a large room, but somehow very inconvenient. The luggage rack folded when you put suitcase on it. The bathroom was huge but towels racks, hooks, and everything else was not functional. I personally could not reach some hooks to put towels on. Everything was apart so you have to move around bathroom to get staff and use and put away. Whoever designed hotel, did not test it. I personally did not like it. The breakfast was not that impressive for 5* hotel. But maybe we are spoiled with previous day food!

Saturday , October 4.

After breakfast, we left for a day of hiking in Lukomir. It is Bosnia’s highest village at 1,469 meters, with its ancient stecci (medieval tombstones) where nomadic villagers live old way. Some of them leave village for winter, but few hardy ones stay. Our guide pointed mountains to us. We were going to mountain Belasnica. There is another mountain , Treskovitza, but with landmines. BiH using trained dogs, pigs, rats to de-mine, but it is still lot’s of work to do so Treskovitza is not used for tourism yet.

We came to the village of Lukomir, and spend some time strolling there and then started 3.5 hr hike from Lukomir to Umoljany Village, The mountains were spectacular however I had to concentrate more of hiking since I was not that prepared for moderate hiking. Primeval forests were pristine and meadows were beautiful. I made it with encouragement of others. When we walked to the village, we were served lunch there. After lunch, we went back to Sarajevo. Vlado arranged for dinner with the same chef who came to Mostar to cook for us, this time in his restaurant in Sarajevo. I was exhausted though from hiking and together with few more people we left early to rest my aching body. Hot shower and few advils seem to be did the trick.

Sunday, October 5.

In the morning, we were leaving for mountain village Yahorina to overnight there. It was a venue of 1984 Olympic games and located on territory of Republika Srpska. On the way, we wre supposed to visit medieval towns of Bosnia: Kraljeva Sutetska and Bobovac, the place of Bosnian Kings.

However about half of our group got sick with stomach problems. We decided to wait few hours while they will be ready for 45 min trip. Meanwhile, Laura and I went by taxi to town and picked up our shoes and went to the BBI Mall and I bought extra suitcase for my shopping and brochures.

We came back to hotel and left for Yahorina. We checked in into 4* hotel Termag which was newly restored and it was very nice, it has lodge with fireplace, nice restaurant and spa center with a pool. I walked a little around, but with altitude I felt tired. I went back to hotel and enjoyed swimming pool. Then I came to the room, had time until 6pm but I started not feeling well. I had different symptoms than other members of the group so I attributed it to dehydration. I skipped dinner. Actually only 4 people made for dinner, the rest of us stayed in the room with bananas and toast. Vlado reported this to the restaurant owner/chef who prepared food last night and chef sent food to analyze. It came up without problems. The water in Bosnia is very good quality. Therefore , it can be attributed to the some kind of virus.

The rest reported from this day dinner while food was good, the group did not have appetite. The conversation did not flow easy. While our group mentioned War Tunnel, the hosts did want to talk about Sarajevo, we were on the territory of Srpska Republic.

Monday October 6.

We had easy morning, recuperating (the restaurants obliged strange Americans with toast and bananas) J ) and then we went to see Yahorina hotels and to have lunch with Yahorina Olympic Village center hoteliers. It is a good destination for skiing, and new hotels are being built, very good quality. Most tourists as of now are from former Yugoslav countries. It is a very good value for and conditions for skiing. The lunch was delicious. Wines were Serbian, not Bosnian.

We left for Sarajevo and since it was our last night, it was scheduled reception with government and USAid officials and BiH tour operators. The function was taken place in Sarajevo museum. As we came in, we were met by press. Almost everyone we’ve met during the trip – restaurant owners, USAaid officials, hotel owners from Mostar were there. We had lovely cocktail reception. We visited trade show with Bosnian tour operators and got their brochures. There were speakers from USAid mission, ambassador from Turkey, mayor of Sarajevo. It was nice conclusion of our stay in Bosnia.

Hotel we stayed that night was in walking distance from Old Town, 3* Hecco. It was Ok hotel, even this 3* hotel was preferable for location to Radon Plaza.

Tuesday October 7.

We were supposed to leave for airport at 1pm so we had a busy morning. After breakfast, we went to hotel Europa and inspected it. There was a NATO conference in town and hotel was occupied now by NATO officials. After touring, we concluded that it is the best hotel in town and I would recommend to stay there if possible. We also inspected boutique hotel Villa Michele , it has quality of 4* but it still lacks polish of nice 4* European hotels. We were told that other hotels will be opening soon on Sarajevo, so hopefully will be more choices.

Sasha arranged for me to visit National Museum to see copy of Haggadah and talk to the curator. As I described above, even it was a copy, but it was very special experience and definitely a draw to come back and visit Sarajevo and bring my clients to see it. Hopefully when original will be showed.

We left for airport, said goodbye and thanked Vlado and Sasha for this excellently arranged trip. We were soon on the way to Istanbul on TK airlines. We still needed to overnight in Istanbul. We were instructed to go to TK airline desk in Istanbul and they will arrange a hotel for us. A night before I asked airline official at reception but he did not know about our hotel. We were glad when we found out that he was on the same flight with us. This kind gentleman came with us to TK desk and explained them who we are and why we need overnight (guests of Turkish airlines). Before he explained, they were looking at us with empty eyes. In about 15 min, he got us booked to hotel Agun which was listed as 5* hotel, but was of quality of 3.5* - 4*. Very blah. But for one night, it was OK. One of members of our group, Kelly impressed us by calling her contact and they sent for us a driver to take us to fish restaurant in Karakoy. I’ve been there before and it is always festive atmosphere. It was Independence Day and people were eating, drinking, smoking hookah, watching belly dancers, very festive. Afterwards, the driver droves us through Sultanhamet and we took pictures of Blue Mosque and Hagya Sophia. Very nice conclusion of our trip.

Next morning, we left for airport for our flight back to New York.

Conclusion:

We thoroughly enjoyed the country. Most Americans probably just remember images of war and I am happy to report that the war is ended 15 years ago and country is ready for tourists. Until it will become overly populated with tourist like Croatia becomes now, it is time to visit. You will find history from Ancient people Illyrians to Romans to Medieval, to Ottoman Empire to Hapsburgs, to Communism and currently it is dynamic democratic country.

Sarajevo is pleasant European town with Ottoman and Hapsburg architecture, 4 religions are represented here. The food and wine is delicious and natural. Water is drinkable from fountains and clean. In summer, the largest film festival in Europe which started in 1995, brings celebrities to the city every year.

Starting next year, will be possible to see Haggadah 4 times per year. There is also religious sites – synagogues, mosques, churches. Medjugorie is on the few pilgrim sites for Catholics in Europe.

Natural attractions are excellent and boast one of the best rafting in Europe. World Rafting championship was held last year. Skiing conditions on Olympic mountain Yahorina would satisfy serious athletes and the cost is less than other Alpine European resorts. There is a bird sanctuary, The Hutovo Blato Nature park with unique migratory bird species and there are primeval forests.

The country is young and vibrant and unspoiled. People are friendly, they love children. So it would be a good destination for families. This small country amazingly, can be explored in a week or more. But if you want to combine Bosnia and Herzegovina with other destinations, Croatia is nearby. Also Turkish airlines flies to Sarajevo from Istanbul so it can be easily combined with stopover in Istanbul and Turkey.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Explore Bosnia and their reps: Vlado and Sasha for an excellent trip arranged for us. It was a great introduction to the country. They went above and beyond to make us welcome and catered to our different interests (from adventure to shopping to religious travel). They were flexible, open and shared their stories of their lives, culture, food preference and politics. It is impossible to understand the country without their people and they were great ambassadors of BiH. I look forward to visit BiH again with clients or on my own and use their services.

Come and experience Bosnia! Contact us sophia@sophiastravel.com for custom made itinerary, 

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