Tourism and Culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Thierry Domin
First published June 25, 2003

The fine season is coming soon. Leave, R&Rs or days off are good opportunities to enjoy a country that offers a large diversity of beautiful landscapes, from the small access to the Adriatic Sea in the South, to the beginning of the great Hungarian plain, in the North. In the middle, the Dinaric Alps overhang small valleys and huge plateaux.

But landscape changes very fast: what a difference between the karstic north western 'polje' (plateau) and the high peaks at the Montenegrin border.
Following a river from its source to its confluence with bigger ones is always a very beautiful trip, allowing you to admire the different states of its course: sources of the Bosna River and the Buna River (with its famous dervish cloister). Onrushing, when lined by sheer cliffs, like the Sutjeska. Cascading, like in Jajce, Kamenica, Drvar or Skakarac. And slower, when the valley gets wider. By the way, rafting is an activity that has developed in BiH, especially in the Bihac and Mostar areas.
In the course of your trip, you may discover numerous lakes ('jezero'), such as the Bilecko, Busko, Plivsko, Deransko, Boracko or Ramsko; or the long and tortured Jablanicko, to name only few. All are beautiful in every season, and some are equipped for fishing, canoeing, sailing, or even water- and jet-skiing.
Historical monuments
The most ancient traces of life date back to the prehistoric ages. In the valley of Bregava River, they discovered rupestrian (rock) paintings, and Butmir was a famous Neolithic site. There are other ancient monuments of the country: the cyclopean walls of Osanici (near Stolac), or the gravestones from the Bogumilism period (12th and 13th centuries). On the road from Nevesinje to Ulog, such a cemetery is located in the middle of nowhere.
Some of the bridges crossing the rivers are renowned, such as the Visegrad one on the Drina River; the one in Sarajevo where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914; or the Arskanagic Bridge over the Trebisnjica River. Some are very ancient, as the Rimski Most (Roman Bridge) south of Sarajevo. Unfortunately, the most famous of all, the Mostar's 'Stari Most' (Old Bridge) was destroyed during the war but is now in the process of reconstruction.
Castles ('dvor') are also noteworthy. Most of them were built between the 12th and the 15th centuries, before the arrival of the Turks. Such castles are located in Ostrozac (near Bihac), Jajce, Gradacac, Bobovac (near Vares), Pocitelj or Doboj. Don't miss the opportunity of visiting the old town of Vranduk, with its middle-age fortifications.
Finally, the Austro-Hungarian era from 1878 to 1918 saw a new change in the style of the big towns. Viennese architecture is characterised by large windows, frontage decorations and lightly coloured walls. You will be able to admire such buildings in bigger towns such as Sarajevo or Mostar.
Numerous towns have kept their Turkish influence: dwelling houses, workshops, caravanserais (the 'parking place' for the camels of the caravans). The Muslim religion brought mosques and 'medersas' (Islamic schools). Examples of this kind of architecture especially exist in Cantons 1, 3, 4 and of course in Sarajevo, where a walk in the old town ('stari grad') Bascarcija is worth.
If travelling in the area of Glamoc, you will notice the specific turban-shaped tombstones of Ottoman dignitaries. Some of them have a diameter of more than a metre. The more high-ranking the people, the larger the turban.
Speaking about religions, you also will discover other cult buildings: Basilicas from the beginning of the Christian era, like in Nereki, Klobuk, Dabravine, Majdan; Catholic Churches or chapels in Bosnian-Croat areas; and Orthodox Churches, with their typical bulb-shaped towers. And you will perhaps have the chance to visit one of those well-hidden monasteries, either Franciscan (Roman Catholic) or Orthodox, like in Gomionica.
Don't forget the fourth religion of this country, the Jewish one, with two synagogues in Sarajevo and the Jewish cemetery of Stolac.
And finally don't miss the opportunity to visit museums, such as the National Museum in Sarajevo and its two Millennium long expositions.
So, forget the camp and discover BiH.

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Photos: Archives

Archduke Frantz Ferdinand was assassinated June 28, 1914, at the (left) end of this bridge downtown Sarajevo.

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The old Turkish quarter in Mostar offers a wide variety of local curios.

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The sources of the River Buna, some kilometres south of Mostar.

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The most famous bridge in this country was the one in Mostar. Unfortunately, it will take some more months before you will be able to admire it again. This photo dates back to pre-war times.