If you ask me the biggest surprise I’d never have expected on my trip, I’d say it was Bosnia and Herzegovina. To me it was like a brand new treasure that just has been unpacked.
It takes more or less six hours from Belgrade to Sarajevo according to the direction board, but you’d better be patient if everything comes a lot later than it was supposed. in Balkan, buses are the most common transportation to travel around, but their roads are not as good yet as Western europe’s, hopefully they invest and improve them soon, because otherwise it’s going to take so much time to go and come back. Though I always enjoy being myself on the road as I can give myself some free times to rest and take a deep breath.
I loved everything that was given to me in Sarajevo, two random guys offering a free coffee and a free bosnian tea on our way to Sarajevo. I mean it couldn’t have happened elsewhere, they just asked me why I’m going to Bosnia and were inspired by how I move and how I travel. But still, I find this hospitality simply amazing.
Besides, seeking a host in Sarajevo was as easy as winking, very unlike in Belgrade. Couchsurfing requires you to be patient and you need to send a lot of requests in case not being accepted by anyone. But of course, it’s extremely important to read your host’s profile, what kind of things he(or she) is into, what kind of a lifestyle they lead. Thankfully I was invited by Damir, A splendid host. He’s a real calm guy, I don’t think I’ve seen any calmer young men than him, he seems to be a free soul, enjoying performing and working with music, open to anything, loving to meet new people and so on. To be quiet honest, he was completely the opposite of what I had expected. I’m not easily convinced and brainwashed by stereotypes or news provided by superficial medias, but I never thought bosnians would be this hospitable, open minded and kind. Damir is for sure a great example of that. I feel so blessed to have stayed with him.
Damir and I. I spent three nights at his place with his sister Diana, and Paul, another couch surfer from France. He taught me how to play the electric piano. Such a shame that I’m not so talented at music.
There’s a free walking tour in Sarajevo old town, they provide once a day (actually you’ve got to check it because I’m not so sure, you might have more of them in summer season though). Since it was the most freezing period in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I was the only traveler who wanted to join, so basically it was an one on one free walking tour. My guide told me a lot of unknown stories about Sarajevo, we walked through the old town, visited the oldest market in the city, some meaningful museums that I would definitely regret later on if not having visited. Bosnia and Herzegovina is not the luckiest country in the world and they went through with a load of wars in the past and even now their economy is suffering, a lot of people seem to be unhappy with what they are given by their government, despite all that, they always smile, always willing to help foreign travelers and so sweet. I would be super surprised one day if I meet a very unfriendly bosnian person, he or she must be an alien or something like that.
I’ve been repeating it for many times, but I do it once again. I’m more like a coffee person than a tea drinker, but bosnian teas are simply exceptional.
One word to take note of about Sarajevo’s old town (Stari grad, which is an essential word to memorize because it’s used in whole Balkan) is that it’s a walkable place, hence no need to take a tram or anything. I just wished the weather was a bit better then walking around there would have been a lot nicer.
Baščaršija, Sarajevo’s old bazaar and the historical and cultural center of the city. Baščaršija was built in the 15th century when Isa-Beg Isakovic founded the town. As you might have noticed already, Bosnia has been (historically and politically) influenced by Turkey in many aspects from religion, food, customs and dress. I learned that they still undergo various influences from Turkey while Serbia is having a very close connection with Russian federation and Croatia with Italy. So in Sarajevo, don’t get confused even if you see an old turkish bus, because apparently they bring in second handed buses from Turkey.
Mostar is definitely a must go place when visiting Herzegovina part. I’d say that it’s much more touristic and easier to travel than Sarajevo. In summer season, this small city gets full of tourists as they have kept such amazing views and young people often dive there as well.
I had a very frustrating experience when I was on my way to Mostar from Sarajevo. Damir, my host and Paul, the french dude who had made it to Bosnia from Moscow just by hitchhiking, as they had convinced me and encouraged me to give a try it, I made my decision and challenged myself. But wow, the weather was simply horrible for a tenderfoot like me, nobody wanted to pick me up and I was getting extremely stressed out, frustrated and disappointed as well. Those guys had warned me to be as patient as those who waiting for locked toilets, but 30 mins later I finally gave it up and postponed my debut in hitchhiking. What I did afterwards was to take the bus, it hadn’t come for like two hours and my body was being frozen and I was getting hungry after all. So I went to a small bar nearby.
“Dobar dan, can I get a small sandwich please?”
“Yes, you can take it.”
“How much is this?”
“Free for you.”
“We have seen you shivering since about 20 mins ago, don’t hesitate, just eat.”
Seriously, you bosnians must be angels or something 🙂 I don’t easily say it, but you really are. Finally, I got on a bus bounding for Mostar, I still remember this moment very well, It was completely grueling both mentally and physically, I was hoping to be in Mostar as soon as possible.
And here’s the thing. I was pretty sure I could find a very nice hostel even if I don’t book beforehand because it wasn’t a very famous season for travelers. There sure are a lot of cheap hostels in Mostar and the first one I had found was knocked, as not having more energy to walk with my massive back-pack, I tried to call them by using a free call application. Some mins later they contacted me on Facebook and one guy came by. He said that the hostel was out of season, hence if I would like to stay, he would have to take me to his house. I got a bit confused, it’s called a “backpackers hostel” and going to someone’s place doesn’t sound suitable, well okay, I just followed him, if I wasn’t so exhausted i would have gone to some other hostels but it just happened anyways. And thank god, I would have regretted as hell if I didn’t follow him. His mom (called Sabina) and he offered me a very cozy room for only 20 Bosnian marka (10 euro more or less), It was a private room which I had never expected to stay at. They also offered me a bosnian coffee, pancakes and so on. Sabina speaks italian, so we talked a lot in that language, I felt super refreshed after having had a rough evening, but at the end I ended up with smiles and bosnian styled welcomes.
Mostar is A LOT MORE than whatever you expect 🙂
I kinda got fed up with cold weather in Sarajevo, but thankfully Mostar was a lot warmer, I would love to be back here in the summer.
I was thinking of staying in Mostar and getting to know some of Herzegovina but for some reason I changed my mind and had to head to Split, Croatia. It could have been cool if I stayed there for a bit longer though. I will definitely go back to Mostar, not because of the beautiful night view, but the people! They are simply amazing.
Peace and love.