Travelling from the countryside to the city, we saw that Bosnia & Herzegovina still need many years to rebuild itself from the after-effects of the 1990s war. Even so, its people are so cheery, sincere and helpful. If you seem a little lost in the car or on the pavement, the locals will come up to you and ask if you need help even if they are laden with grocery bags. If you ever find yourself in this resilient country with only a day to spare, zero in on the 4 spots below to make the best of your stopover.
1. Stari Most in Mostar
If you search for images of this old bridge online, you will be inundated with fairytale-esque photos. The above photos are our versions of it in winter. To take them, we had to shoot from a modern bridge along the river.
When we arrived at this old town, it was like we had dropped into an exotic location in a James Bond movie. This old town was unlike any we have ever been to in Europe. Beautiful Ottoman-style architecture and interiors lend such a wondrous vibe to the town.
Be there really early and you can revel in its serene beauty all by yourself. For an early meal, do consider Divan, a restaurant that opens rather early. We had enjoyed its cevapi, ground beef with fries which are actually baked potates, hurmasica and coffee with milk.
Don’t be shocked if you see people diving off Stari Most as it is common for the local men to practice for the annual summer bridge-diving competition.
2. Blagaj Tekija in Blagaj
Only a 20-minute drive from Stari Most in Mostar, Blagaj Tekija also known as Blagaj Tekke stands by the source of Buna river, at the base of a cliff. It is a Dervish monastery that was an important monument of the early Ottoman period and is still in use today. All it takes is 4 KM / €2 per pax and modest clothing to have a look-see inside.
If you don’t have much time, we recommend just standing at the bridge across the rushing river and take in the view of the architecture nestled at the base of the mountain. It was both awe-inspiring and soothing for the soul.
There are restaurants on both sides of the river that offer good views while you take a breather.
3. Tunel Spasa and Sarajevo Tunnel Museum in Sarajevo
Tunel Spasa, also known as Tunnel of Hope, is a symbol of Siege of Sarajevo because of its role in ending it. After the war, the private house whose cellar served as the entrance to Tunel Spasa was converted to Sarajevo Tunnel Museum.
For a small fee of 10 KM or 5 KM if you show your student card, you can visit the museum and even have a taste of walking in the tunnel. There were some visitors who had a local guide and the guides shared their own experience during the war which added that touch of gold to our visit (we stood around listening in…lol!). Given its size, this will be a quick visit, but watching the video, walking in the tunnel and looking at the house’s heavily shelled facade make a memorable experience.
Do note that the museum only accepts the Bosnia & Herzegovina currency. Don’t fret if you don’t have any on you. You can exchange currency at the souvenir shop next to the museum. To check the museum’s operating hours, click here.
P.S. If your time is really tight and you don’t have time to check out all 4 spots mentioned in this post, we would suggest to give this a miss then – just because the other 3 are just too awesome!
4. 4 Sobe Gospodje Safije in Sarajevo
If you have the time for a meal in Sarajevo, do not give 4 Sobe Gospodje Safije, also known as The 4 Rooms of Mrs. Safija, a miss. Located near the old town, this beautiful restaurant is a 25-minute drive from Sarajevo Tunnel Museum. Closed on Mondays, it is open from 10am to 12am.
While you peruse the menu, the waiter will offer you the selection of a mocktail and grappa to kickstart your meal.
For all its finesse in executing fine-dining standards for the food and service, it was a really affordable meal. We paid 150 KM for 2 soups, 2 entrees, 3 main courses, 2 beers, 1 glass of light rose wine, 1 thick hot chocolate and 1 dessert. Every morsel was delicious but the Tuna Fillet in Cuttlefish Ink Crust was to die for. Yum!
Additional Note: Galerija 11/07/95
According to TripAdvisor, Galerija 11/07/95 is a highly-rated new museum which we were not able to explore due to their shorter operating hours in winter when we visited. Also known as Gallery 11/07/95, it is the first memorial museum in Bosnia & Herzegovina aimed to preserve the memory on the Srebrenica tragedy and the people whose lives were lost in the genocide. As we did not visit this museum, we are unsure if this can fit into a one-day itinerary but it sure seems interesting to explore.
By: Chocolate & Marshmallow