SEPTEMBER 12 - SEPTEMBER 21
Our first stop in Bosnia and Hercegovina was Neum. I assume that most of you have never heard of this town and have no idea where it's located. So, here's a map:
Can you see the red dot? Well, that's Neum. It's actually the only coastal town that belongs to Bosnia and Hercegovina. If you're travelling along the Croatian coast and heading south to Dubrovnik, you'll have to cross the Bosnian border (through Neum) and then back to Croatia. If you want to be away from the crowds in Dubrovnik, Neum is only 60km away and it's much more affordable. You have access to the same sea, the same amazing seafood, but at quarter of the price. Either way, it's a pretty special place for me. As a child, I used to spend my summer vacation here with my family. The last time I visited was more than 7 years ago - it was time to go back!
Our bus ride was short and sweet. I think it's probably one of the easiest ways to travel around the country unless you have a car. I think our ticket from Dubrovnik to Neum cost us $12/each. Super cheap!
Not too long after we got dropped off in Neum, my two cousins, who were looking as handsome as ever, came to pick us up. I was really excited to see them! We arrived at my cousin Ante's home, and sure enough, at least 10 family members were waiting for us!
We had a huge meal and caught up with everyone. We planned to stay only 1 night but we decided to stay 2 because we were having such a great time. If you ever decide to visit Neum, check out Vila Maslina Neum!
The next day we mostly just lounged around at the villa which is literally steps away from the sea.
After baking in the sun for a while, a bunch of us got ready to visit the village where my grandmother was born called Brocanac. On the way, we picked some grapes, figs and olives! It couldn't get much better than that!
Later that evening Mike started to feel really ill. With a high fever and an upset stomach, he was going to be bedridden for at least 24 hours. Because he was so sick, we ended up staying 3 nights in Neum. I was happy to spend more time with everyone but because we were on a schedule it meant that our time in Sarajevo and Serbia was cut short.
Luckily, plenty of sleep and drugs revived Mike. He started to feel a lot better the next day, so we deided we would try and catch the bus to Sarajevo. We packed up our stuff and my cousins dropped us off at the bus station. Once we got there, the bus was at least 30 minutes late and there was no room for us or the other 15 people waiting at the station! This didn't surprise me at all. Welcome to Bosnia and Hercegovina! It was also the only bus going to Sarajevo for the day, so we needed to get on somehow. My cousins worked some magic and we got on the bus! I cannot thank them enough. :)
After a long bus ride we arrived in Sarajevo, my hometown. It's only 210km from Neum to Sarajevo - 3.5 hours by car and a BRUTAL 7 hour bus ride. We couldn't wait to get to my aunt's house and take a nice, cold shower. My aunt, Olja, arrived not too long after us and she was ready to make dinner. She was worried that she didn't have enough food in the fridge, meanwhile, the fridge was packed with enough food to feed a family of 6. Thanks Olja!
Look at this amazing lunch?!?
We only had about 8 days in Sarajevo and we wanted to use this time to hang out with my aunt and take a break from moving around every couple of days. It gets exhausting, believe it or not. I know...what a hard life we lead at the moment!
Some days we did a lot of nothing and other days we went from one landmark to another. I've already seen most of the tourists attractions in Sarajevo, but since it was Mike's first time, me and my aunt took him around the city.
Things to see in Sarajevo:
Can you pronounce the name? Probably not, but not to worry. If you ever visit Sarajevo, just ask anyone for the old baazar and they'll point you in the right direction. The word actually derives from the Turkish language, - "baş" meaning primary or main, and "çarşı" meaning baazar or market. Baščaršija is a bustling, old corner and the historical centre of the city. As you walk around the pedestrian courtyards, you will get a whaft of cevapi and Turkish/Bosnian coffee. There's no way you will be able to leave without trying at least of of the two things. In Baščaršija, you can find anything from trinket stalls, cafes and restaurants. Unfortunately, there is so much construction at the moment and the area doesn't look as nice as it normally does.
You also can't miss the Baščaršija Mosque which was built in the 15th century.
You will also come across Bezistan, an Ottoman-era bazaar filled all kinds of goods.
2. Zemaljski Musej (National Museum)
I've actually never been to this museum and I thought it would be nice to check out. It's been under construction for the last three years but we were lucky enough to be in Sarajevo for the reopening. The actual building is beautiful. It has four pavillions containing the departments of archeology, natural history, ethnology and a library. In the middle of these pavillions is an outdoor garden where you can see some medieval tombstones.
I was not suppose to take any photographs inside, but i just pretended I didn't see the sign. :)
The Sarajevo Haggadah is also held at the museum. It is an illuminated manuscript and the oldest Sephardic Jewish document in the world. It was issued n Barcelona around 1350, containing the traditional Jewish Haggadah. Some people have estimated it's worth at $7 million dollars. The manuscript is in a separate room protected by a sophisticated, high security system. This is the closest you will get to it!
Miljacka is the main river in Sarajevo. Even though you can't swim in it, you can go for a relaxing stroll or bike ride along the river.
4. Vjecna Vatra (Eternal Flame)
If you're strolling around the city centre, you'll eventually stumble upon the Vjecna Vatra, which is a memorial to the military and civilian victims of WWII. The flame was inaugurated on April 6, 1946, the first anniversary of the liberation of Sarajevo from the four years occupation by Nazi Germany and the Independent State of Croatia. Even during the recent war, from 1992 to 1996, the flame was never extinguished.
5. Old Orthodox Church
You don't need to spend more than 20 minutes here, but it's a pretty nice old building to see. The church was built in the mid 16th century, but some believe that an even older church stood in the same place. Throughout history, the church has been burned many time but it's always been rebuilt.
6. Sacred Heart Cathedral
This is the largest cathedral in Sarajevo and often referred to as the symbol of the city. It's often a meeting spot for many people because everyone knows where it is!
7. Vrelo Bosne
This is a beautiful public park that we didn't have a chance to visit this time, but if you ever visit this city, it's worth checking out!
There's definitely more to see in Sarajevo and the rest of Bosnia and Hercegovina especially if you love he outdoors.
Restaurants to try in Sarajevo:
1. Velika Bašta
My aunt has mentioned this restaurant a few times before and I really wanted to try it out. It's one of her favourite and we were about to find out why. The decor is very simple and you almost feel like you're out on a picnic because you're surrounded by fruit trees and flowers. It's pretty awesome actually!
Each of us had a plate of fish, potato salad and veggies. It perfect actually. I was happy to take a break from eating burek and pita all time time!
Now try and pronounce THIS word. You probably can't.
This restaurant is very well known in the city and most people agree that they serve the best cevapi in the city. As far as I'm concerned, you can't eat bad cevapi in Sarajevo, but either way, Ćevabdžinica Željo is where you want to go if you want to try the national dish of Bosnia and Hercegovina.
After walking around the whole day, the three of us spotted a few seats on the patio and grabbed them as fast as we could. It's usually really hard to find a seat, so I guess we were lucky. Here's a picture of my plate which includes cevapi (minched meat made from beef), lepinje (homemade flatbread) and kajmak (a dairy product which is most similar to cream) and chopped onions. It almost sounds too simple and too good to be true, but you have to try it to see what all the fuss is about. It's SO good!
3. Four Seasons
When I first heard that Lidija (a very good friend of my aunt and mom) was taking us to Four Seasons for lunch, I thought it was the hotel. It looked pretty fancy and it was on the penthouse floor of a new building, but it had nothing to do with the Four Seasons hotels. The decor was modern, the service was excellent and the food was delicious! Each of us ordered a seafood dish but none of us got the same thing. I decided to go for the grilled calamari. Great choice and thank you Lidija! :)
4. Turkish/Bosnian coffee anywhere in Bascarsija
I love my coffee and Sarajevo is just the place for coffeeholics. You can get your espressos, cappucinos, machiatos and mochachinos anywhere, but you can't miss out on the traditional Bosnian coffee. What's the difference between Turkish and Bosnian coffee? Nothing at all, or so I've been told. I believe the Greeks drink the same coffee and they call it Greek coffee. Whatever you want to call it, it's damn good!
I also love to order some baklava with my coffee, which is a very rich pastry made out of phyllo dough and filled with nuts and soaked in syrup. This one place we went to even had baklava covered in nutella. Whaaaa?!
If you walk around the city centre, you will also come across the Mother and Child War Memorial which is dedicated to 1,600 Bosnian children that died in the war. Their names are printed near the memorial on the four metal structures.
On one of our last nights in Sarajevo, I started to feel a bit under the weather and sure enough I came down with a fever. It was bound to happen. I can't figure out if I caught a bug or if my body started to feel run down. Whatever it was, it made me feel like crap. I pretty much slept through the whole next day.
Once I started to feel better, Mike and I started planning our trip to Belgrade, Serbia. It wasn't going to be much of a trip because we had only 2.5 days to spend there and lots of family to see. Unfortunately, we booked a few flights ahead of time so we were on a bit of a schedule. I looked into changing our flight from Belgrade to Istanbul, but it just wan't worth the money. It didn't fit the budget. :( Oh well. We just had to make the most of it.
We thought about taking a bus to Belgrade, but my aunt convinced us to take a van since it's much faster and more comfortable. I don't even remember what it cost because she paid for it. In fact, she pretty much refused to let us pay for anything while staying with her. So, we agreed and we booked the van! We were off to Belgrade!
Here's the breakdown of how much we spent for 10 days:
Domestic Transportation: $25
Tourist Visa: $0
Daily Average (per person): $10
*Excludes one-way bus ticket from Dubrovnik to Neum ($12.50 each)
**Currency exchange 09/12/2015: $1 (CAD) = 1.3 Marka
As you can see, we basically didn't spend any money in Bosnia and Hercegovina. Even if we didn't stay with family the whole time, we could have travelled in this country for very cheap. If you ever visit, get out of the cities and check out the beautiful mountains, lakes and rivers that Bosnia and Hercegovina has to offer. It's a dream place for those who love the outdoors!
Also, don't forget to check out the full gallery below!