Scampering on the map of Europe is one of my biggest motivators. Not only does it sharpen my geography of the region, but also keeps the curious in me alive.
Last month I took a closer look at the map of Bosnia and Herzegovina before attending an exhibition of photographs from there, in Kolkata. A small country landlocked between Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, this one caught my eye last year when I was researching on the countries that Indians can travel to with a Schengen visa. (I have a long-term Schengen visa hence the search.)
The country’s landscape, cultural influences and history were particularly interesting. If I were to ever travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) these would be my primary objectives.
Sarajevo, the capital, is like a glimpse into the country’s past. It has remnants from the Ottoman Empire, World War I and II and the Bosnia War of 1992-95. It also showcases why Sarajevo is called the European Jerusalem—spoilt with synagogues, churches and mosques.
Baščaršija, Sarajevo’s old town, especially fascinates me. Loosely translating to ‘main commercial street’ in Turkish, Baščaršija is a unique bazaar which houses some of the oldest Balkan oriental architecture. I would love to take a walking trail to explore Kazandžiluk street (Coppersmith’s street), Morića Han (only surviving Ottoman time Han-hostel in Sarajevo) Vijećnica—burned library, Imperial Mosque, Il Kal Vježu (old temple narrating Jewish history), and Cathedral of Scared Jesus Heart.
Počitelj, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is perhaps the most charming old town in the country. It is about 30 kilometres away from Mostar, the cultural capital of Herzegovina, and the architecture here clearly exemplifies the Ottoman and medieval period.
Seasons and adventure
Mostly mountainous, B&H attracts adventurers from Europe. And while looking at photographs of Herzegovina’s mountainous countryside, I can only imagine what it would be like to hike to Ramsko Lake and Natural Park Blidinje with its centrally located Lake Blidinje—the largest mountain lake in the county.
Even the fortified town of Bobovac entices me with its history and landscape. The hike to this medieval town begins at Karlveja Sutjeska and this trail, by the river, is believed to be more than 600 years old. After crossing an 18th century house, Mehmed Il el-Fatih mosque and a monastery, hikers reach Bobovac Fortress to conclude their walk.
Art and crafts
It would be a shame to not explore the vibrant traditional art and crafts of B&H. From textiles, leather and metal work, wood and stone carving, pottery, carpet weaving, to religious art, every skill supersedes the other.
Sarajevo is known for its tinsmith craftsmanship. Perhaps this craft can be traced back to the sixth century when the Jews brought it in. Essentially, dishes and utensils, and stoves and lanterns were made using tin. However, it has now diversified to make its way as a favourite souvenir for tourists. In fact, many walking tours are designed around neighbourhoods that specialise in the craft and when I do visit I would like to try a hand in it too!
Good to know
-Convertible Mark, referred as KM locally and BAM internationally, is the official currency.
-Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian are majorly spoken in B&H though English is a popular foreign language.
-Indians with valid Schengen visa can enter and stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina upto 15 days, upon every entry per period of 180 days, if visa has been previously used to travel in one of the Schengen area.
Have you been to this European beauty? Leave me tips in the comment section.