Bosnia and Herzegovina

For many centuries, this area of the Balkans saw the peaceful coexistence of a diverse range of humanity, but during the 20th century became a catalyst for European conflict. During the 1990s the break up of the Yugoslav Republic inflamed tensions in the country, with the ethnic Serbs pulling one way and Bosniaks and Croats pulling the other, favouring independence. A bitter and violent civil war ensued, during which approximately 100,000 people were killed and a million displaced. The country has now recovered somewhat from this tragedy, and in exploiting its natural beauty and cultural diversity has developed one of the fastest growing tourist industries in the world.

Language

After the secession of Bosnia from the Yugoslav Republic, the national language was declared to 'Bosnian'. This is practically the same as Serbian and Croatian, with a few dialectical changes. People speaking one Slavic language can easily make themselves understood in the other Balkan nations. English is on the rise among students and the middle classes, but it would still be worth learning a couple of common phrases.

  • Hello - Dobar dan (formal)
  • Hello - Zdravo (informal)
  • My name is... - Zovem se...
  • Please - Mo
  • Thank you - Hvala
  • Yes - Dah (formal)
  • Yes - Yah (informal)
  • Do you speak English? - Da li govorite engleski?

Currency

The 'konvertibilna marka' is fixed to the Euro at a rate of 1.95 km per Euro. You will find Euros very easy to exchange and in cities most shops, hotels and taxi drivers accept Euros. If you are converting cash to the KM, be careful of taking high denomination bills. Most shops will not accept 50KM notes, and some won't accept 20KM. This is due to the large amount of counterfeit currency in circulation.

Weather

Bosnia can experience sweltering hot summers, temperatures around 35 degrees Celsius are considered normal in July and August. In winter on the other hand, temperatures regularly plunge below zero and much of the country is covered in snow. Whereas Bosnia is cut off from the Adriatic Sea by the Dinaric Alps and has a continental climate, Herzegovina is more influenced by the sea and can have very wet winters lasting from October until May. The summers are slightly cooler than in Bosnia, but still have a pleasant average temperature of 26 degrees Celsius.

Attractions

The Bijambare Caves are a short distance north east of a Sarajevo and are easily accessible from the Sarajevo-Tuzla highway. An area of outstanding natural beauty, the caves are surrounded by coniferous forest, clear lakes and lush meadows. This is an ideal area for hiking, caving or just a relaxing day in the countryside with a picnic.

The Bjelasnica-Igman Ski Centre This area was once a major European ski resort, and held the 1984 Winter Olympics skiing events. It popularity declined severely through the 1990s due to the war in the Balkans, but is now experiencing a resurgence of interest and investment. The area is extremely beautiful, and is covered in snow from October until April.

the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina is an educational experience that deals with all aspects of Bosnian culture, history and nature. Its collections and various exhibitions reflect the historical success of human diversity in Bosnia, as well the tragic nadir of the area in the 1990s. Entrance to the museum costs 5KM for adults, 1KM for children and students. It is open in the week from 10.00 until 17.00.

Shopping

Brass Alley in Sarajevo's Old Town is a good place to look for souvenirs. The alley is lined with several small, independent metalware shops that generally stock their own, or locally sourced produce. A popular item is the copper Turkish style coffee set. You can also find intriguing items made from disused shells and spent rounds fired in the war.

Bascarsija is the Turkish quarter of Sarajevo and contains a bazaar that sells all kinds of metalwork, jewellery and pottery. Each street is dedicated to a different craft, and many of the shops accept credit cards, unlike the rest of the country.

Nightlife

Sarajevo and Banja Luka have great bar scenes, with many of the cafes and bars busy until the morning. There is an emphasis on social interaction and conversation rather than loud music and clubbing, although there are clubs available in the larger cities. Cinemas don't usually dub films, leaving the dialogue in English, so if you fancy a sit down in a comfy seat for a couple of hours you could head to the movies, and pay around 50p per film.

Driving

Most areas of the country are navigable by road, although some of them are poorly maintained and were not properly repaired after the war. Street lighting outside of towns is rare, and driving at night can be dangerous as it is not uncommon to come across drunk drivers. This is despite the fact that the legal blood alcohol limit is 0.03%.

Food and Drink

Bosnians typically prepare meat by smoking or curing it. Among the non-Muslim population, pork is the most popular meat, with beef being the alternative for Muslims. The cuts of meat are soaked with salt to remove all water and then rubbed with a mixture of pepper, garlic, paprika and onion. The cut will then be smoked for up to three months through apple, walnut or cherry wood. At the end of this period, the meat is totally dry, with a rich, aromatic flavour. These meats are then used as breakfast or luncheon meats, or served to guests as meza. Bread is the staple of the Slavonic diet, and there are many varieties available, although the most common is Hljeb, a simple French-style baguette.

The Ottoman influence can be tasted in this region by the popularity of Turkish coffee, which is extremely popular, and sold in cafes and bars. In non-Islamic areas beer, particularly Sarajevsko, is popular.

Tourist Information

Branilaca Sarajeva st, no 21/II,71 000 Sarajevo

All car hire locations in Bosnia And Herzegovina