I have truly loved many of the countries I’ve been to so far, but I think I’m convinced enough to say that Bosnia and Herzegovina is the country I’ve enjoyed the most so far. I know, it’s quite the claim, but I’m prepared to back it up.
I visited three places, Jajce, Sarajevo, and Mostar, and this post will only be about the first and third. Sarajevo gets its own post.
Right now I feel like I have far too much to say, but I’ll start with a word of advice to any potential travelers, because I’ve encountered more people than I’d expect who didn’t know this before visiting. Don’t go off path when you’re exploring. Due to the recent war here, (much more on that later), Bosnia and Herzegovina has a very real landmine problem both in the countryside and in the outskirts of its major cities. There are over 28,000 locations in Bosnia and Herzegovina with landmines, and people still get injured or die, take it seriously.
Luckily, my Eurail pass was valid for Bosnia and Herzegovina! The one and only drawback was that there were no trains for it to be valid for! Oh well, it was almost expired anyways. I took my last train from Ljubljana back to Zagreb, where I got a bus to Jajce. I originally intended to visit Banja Luka, but a combination of there being no hostels in Banja Luka, and an employee at my Zagreb hostel telling me to go to Jajce instead, helped me decide to go to Jajce instead. So, not on a train and not headed to Banja Luka, I found myself being driven among mountains, through gorges, and amongst some of the most beautiful scenery I could have imagined to a town I’d never heard of before.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a majority Muslim country, and not counting Eurasian Turkey, the third percentage wise in Europe after Kosovo and Albania.
So there were mosques everywhere. Isn’t it interesting that across the road from this mosque in Jajce there is a Christian memorial?
It’s almost like these religions can coexist! Maybe Jajce is special, we’ll check back in when we get to Sarajevo.
I arrived in Jajce in the pouring rain, and tried to locate my hostel. The location given in the booking on my app was incorrect, and I found out later that it only showed the street, as the hostel didn’t have a number.
I found it eventually, and not only did I have the 6 bed room to myself, I had the entire hostel to myself! It was nice to have my own space again, if only for a few days. I began walking around Jajce, and quickly became thankful that I got that way too expensive rabies vaccine.
There was more than one pack of stray dogs wandering around, but they didn’t bother me.
There were a few things I was looking forward to seeing in Jajce, and the Pliva waterfall was my first priority.
If I can convince you to seriously consider Bosnia and Herzegovina as your next travel destination as seriously as you’d consider France or Spain, I’ll be happy.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a complicated country in many ways. To begin, there is an entity inside of the country called the Republika Srpska, of which the capital is Banja Luka. Ethnically the Republika Srpska is overwhelmingly Serbs, with Bosniaks and Croats making up most of the remaining population. The Serbian flag minus the cost of arms is used and the entity has its own police force and healthcare among other things.
Jajce is actually located in Bosnia, near the border with the northern part of the Republika Srpska.
The former capital of the Kingdom of Bosnia in the 14th century, Jajce was the home of the last king of Bosnia before the Ottomans came and made him an ex-king.
It cost around $2 Canadian to go down to the platform in front of the waterfall. Already loving the town and Bosnian prices, I was happy to pay.
Me getting drenched from paying to stand in front of a waterfall.
On my next day in Jajce, the castle was the goal. It’s always easy to find the castle. Find the steepest roads and travel up.
I remember spending the morning group chatting with my dad and sister, since Jajce has WiFi almost everywhere, and this being about the elevation where it cut out. I had a good excuse for my temporary absence though.
I don’t know if I got lucky with the time I chose, but I got the castle entirely to myself.
Spent the morning talking with my family, spent the afternoon feeling like the King of Jajce. It was a good day.
I know it’s good to take safety precautions, but I am really enjoying seeing places like this where there are no fences and signs warning people of the existence of a cliff.
I saw this dog from the walls, and we started at each other for a while. Hoping I made a good impression, I continued on my walk.
After happily enjoying the breeze, view, and illusions of grandeur, I went back into town.
I may have stumbled across a gang initiation here.
On my last day in Jajce, I still had one major site I needed to get to. Since I’m traveling for so long, I try not to take taxis at all, and while that usually results in a very tired Owen falling through the front door of the hostel, which is always built on a hill, it has given me an excuse to go on some amazing walks.
This one was an hour walk from town, and if I was told that part of my trip would be a two hour walk by myself in northern Bosnia, I would have been very surprised.
Yes, it really is this beautiful. Is this what you expected of Bosnia?
The road was slightly under construction at one point. A cliff decided not to be a cliff anymore.
It would be reasonable at this point to wonder how the destination could compare to the journey, when I’ve been walking along the river, past waterfalls, surrounded by these hills, but here we are.
The watermills of Jajce!
I was amazed by the beauty here, and surprised that you were allowed to walk among them.
They aren’t in use anymore, but it looks like they could be. The wheel in the above picture was turning pretty fast.
Do you want to visit yet?
Jajce was the first of my three Bosnia and Herzegovina destinations, and I’m sure it’s not a mystery why I’m ranking it so highly.
From here I am going to skip over Sarajevo to Mostar. Mostar is the capital of the region of Herzegovina, and my final stop in Bosnia and Herzegovina. One of the major reasons I loved it here was the people, who were very friendly. When I arrived at my hostel, I spent four hours sitting on a balcony with one of the employees drinking complimentary Bosnian coffee.
I even got free lunch. This hostel was amazing.
I wandered into town eventually to see what it’s most famous for, the old bridge.
The original bridge was destroyed during the war, but they rebuilt it afterwards.
The old town was pretty small, but nice. The bridge really is the heart of it all.
As if I needed any other reason to love Bosnia and Herzegovina, the hostel had a piano that I was allowed to play! It had been a while, but they had a Clementi sonata book lying around so I got some playing in.
I actually saw someone jump into the water from the peak of the bridge!
I spent one afternoon planning further into my trip next to this smaller river and bridge.
Mostar was a very relaxing place to end my time here, and I got way too used to the prices and lack of busy tourist areas.
I thanked this Mostar resident for allowing me to walk his roads. He was very gracious.
Sarajevo is next. It will be sad but, I hope, worth reading.