Difference between revisions of "Bosnia and Herzegovina"
Latest revision as of 15:29, 20 March 2020
Until recently, the idea of a Bosnian-Herzegovinan nationality mainly applied to the nation's Muslims, also referred to as Bosniaks. Bosnia and Herzegovina's Croatians and Serbs looked to Serbia and Croatia for guidance and as the mother country and both had aspirations for political union with either Serbia or Croatia once the Yugoslav state began to fall apart in the early 1990s. This of course spelled disaster for the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina and as a result Bosnia and Herzegovina became a blood bath in 1992. Bosnia and Herzegovina was attacked by the Serbian-led Yugoslav National Army and insurgent Bosnian Serbs, and in 1993 Croatia with insurgent Bosnian Croat forces joined in the aggression. In the end the Croatian-Bosniak alliance fought the Serbian forces on the ground whilst NATO attacked the Bosnian Serbs from the air. A peace treaty followed with a heavy handled role of the U.S. Clinton Administration helping seal the deal in Dayton, Ohio. The result was that Bosnia would comprise two entities and a District of Brcko. Things have rapidly improved since then but the two regions of Bosnia still have a long way to go towards complete political and social union. As of now, it could be said Bosnia-Herzegovina functions as one country with two or even three different parts. However, the central government lies in Sarajevo and there is one common currency, the Bosnian Mark (KM).
Bosnia and Herzegovina's declaration of sovereignty in October 1991, was followed by a declaration of independence from the former Yugoslavia on 3 March 1992 after a national referendum.
The Bosnia-Herzegovinan Serbs responded with armed resistance aimed at partitioning the republic along ethnic lines. In March 1994, Bosniaks and Croats reduced the number of warring factions from three to two by signing an agreement creating a joint Bosniak/Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 21 November 1995, in Dayton, Ohio, the warring parties signed a peace agreement that brought to a halt the three bloody years of ethno-religious civil strife (the final agreement was signed in Paris on 14 December 1995).
The Dayton Agreement retained Bosnia and Herzegovina's international boundaries and created a joint multi-ethnic and democratic government. This national government was charged with conducting foreign, economic, and fiscal policy. Also recognized was a second tier of government comprised of two entities roughly equal in size: the Bosniak/Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Bosnia-Herzegovinan Serb-led Republika Srpska (RS). The Federation and RS governments were charged with overseeing internal functions.
In 1995-96, a NATO-led international peacekeeping force (IFOR) of 60,000 troops served in Bosnia to implement and monitor the military aspects of the agreement. IFOR was succeeded by a smaller, NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) whose mission is to deter renewed hostilities. SFOR remains in place although troop levels were reduced to approximately 12,000 by the close of 2002.
Bosnia and Herzegovina ranked next to Macedonia as the poorest republic in the old Yugoslav federation. Although agriculture is almost all in private hands, farms are small and inefficient, and the republic traditionally is a net importer of food. Industry has been greatly overstaffed, one reflection of the socialist economic structure of Yugoslavia. Tito had pushed the development of military industries in the republic with the result that Bosnia-Herzegovina hosted a large share of Yugoslavia's defense plants. The bitter inter ethnic warfare in Bosnia caused production to plummet by 80% from 1990 to 1995, unemployment to soar, and human misery to multiply. With an uneasy peace in place, output recovered in 1996-99 at high percentage rates from a low base; but output growth slowed in 2000 and 2001. GDP remains far below the 1990 level. Economic data are of limited use because, although both entities issue figures, national-level statistics are limited. Moreover, official data do not capture the large share of activity that occurs on the black market. The konvertibilna marka - the national currency introduced in 1998 - is now pegged to the euro, and the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina has dramatically increased its reserve holdings. Implementation of privatization, however, has been slow, and local entities only reluctantly support national-level institutions. Banking reform accelerated in 2001 as all the communist-era payments bureaus were shut down. The country receives substantial amounts of reconstruction assistance and humanitarian aid from the international community but will have to prepare for an era of declining assistance.
Bosniaks (50.1% of the population), Serbs (30.78%), and Croats (15.43%) form the largest groups in the country. Since the break-up of Yugoslavia, Bosniak has replaced Muslim as an ethnic term in part to avoid confusion with the religious term Muslim — an adherent of Islam. Interestingly, the term Bosniak was used for all religions until the turn of the 20th Century, and then was abolished until 1992. Also note that ethnicity and religion mostly overlap; with Muslims (50.7% of the population, mostly Bosniaks and some minority groups), Orthodox Christians (30.75%, mostly Serbs), and Catholic Christians (15.19%, mostly Croats) being the three main faith groups of the country. There are also some Protestants and Jews as well. Nevertheless, the country is highly secular and religion is seen as more of a traditional and cultural identity than a set of rituals and rules. The three groups share the same south Slavic ethnic background.
Vlachs were an important population of Herzegovina in ancient times. They were the heirs of Eastern Roman Empire. After slavicization in the IXth and the XIth centuries they were islamized under Turk occupation. Their heritage contains numerous necropolises with tombstones with petroglyphs at Radimlja, Boljuni, Gorica, etc. They do not have an organization to defend their heritage subjected to cultural appropriation.
Hot summers and cold winters; areas of high elevation have short, cool summers and long, severe winters; mild, rainy winters along coast
Mountains and valleys.
The country is politically divided into two "entities"; the Federation of Bosnia and Hercegovina with a predominant Bosniak/Bosnian Croat majority population (about 51% of the territory) and the Republika Srpska (RS) with a Bosnian Serb majority population (about 49% of the territory).
Nationals of all European Union member states, Albania, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino, Serbia and Switzerland may enter Bosnia and Herzegovina visa-free for up to 90 days within a six-month period with either a passport or a national identity card.
Nationals of Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Macau, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Oman, Panama, Paraguay, Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City and Venezuela, additionally persons holding British National (Overseas) passports may enter Bosnia and Herzegovina visa-free for up to 90 days within a six-month period with a valid passport.
Valid multiple entry visa holders and residents of the European Union, Schengen Area or Monaco can enter Bosnia and Herzegovina visa-free for a maximum stay of 15 days. However, they must arrive directly from a European Union or Schengen Area member state, Monaco, or a third country that has a bilateral readmission agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is not available for holders of passports issued in Kosovo.
Any person not covered by one of the visa exemptions listed above will need to apply for a visa at an embassy or consulate of Bosnia and Herzegovina in advance.
More information about visa exemptions and the visa application procedure is available at the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs .
Sarajevo Airport  (IATA: SJJ) is in the suburb of Butmir and is relatively close to the city centre. There is no direct public transportation, and taxi fares to/from the airport are often more expensive than intended for the short distance. One option to save cash is to take a taxi to the tram terminus at Ilidža (ill-EEJ-ah) and board the tram for the last part of your journey, cost 1,80KM). Alternatively, call another taxi company than Sarajevo Taxi (which has a monopoly on the taxi ranks at the airport and 99% of the time will rip you off from the airport) to pick you up at the airport parking lot. Just wait by the entrance to the parking lot near the terminal and flag your taxi driver down when he approaches. The most popular taxi company that (almost) always uses the meter is Crveni (Red) Taxi - 033/760 600.
The national carrier of Bosnia & Herzegovina, B&H Airlines, shut down in June 2015 due to unpaid debts to the Federation government.
Croatia Airlines  connects Sarajevo via Zagreb at least twice daily, and from there connections are possible to Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Munich, Paris, Zurich and several other European cities.
Some of the other airlines which operate regular (daily) services into Sarajevo include:
For other services, check the Sarajevo Airport  website.
Tuzla International Airport (IATA: TZL) is, as of 2020, the second largest airport in the country, and has been getting more and more passenger traffic every year since 2015, when it was given a hub status by central European low-cost carrier WizzAir. The airport has since opened numerous international destinations, mostly to central Europe and Scandinavia. Unfortunately, your options for connecting on towards other cities are limited at best. There exists a WizzAir shuttle bus service operating to and from Banja Luka and Sarajevo, but tends to run late at night and very early in the mornings. There are also rental car agencies operating in the airport. In short, Tuzla airport is a great option if you're traveling only to Tuzla (read more in the dedicated article) or are planning to rent a car to drive around the country yourself. Otherwise, look for other options.
Banja Luka and Mostar also have international airports, but their service is extremely limited, consisting of flights to Belgrade from Banja Luka via Air Serbia, and from Mostar to Italy on seasonal charter flights.
Train services across the country are slowly improving once again, though speeds and frequencies are still low. Much of the rail infrastructure was damaged during the recent conflict, and lines have been opened on a priority basis, though not to the high level of service pre-war. The train services are operated by the two separate entities (based on the political division of the country), which results in the locomotives being changed rather often.
suspended till further notice due to cuts in Croatian train budget
Bosnia is a beautiful country to drive in as the scenery is often spectacular.
However, due to the mountainous terrain, atrocious driving by many road users (including dangerous overtaking on narrow highways), and generally poor condition of the roads around the country, do not expect speeds will be fast - especially given the relatively short distance 'as the crow flies'.
The US State Department's advisory on Bosnia and Herzegovina as of 2019: 
When finished, this highway will connect the northern part of Croatia with the coast as well as the new highway from Zagreb to Split, which eventually will extend to Dubrovnik. Also, main roads in the country (named "magistrale" in local languages) are normally in great conditions. If you leave main roads you might find problematic roads, but driving even there should not be a big problem. The only problem for foreigners can be aggressive drivers who do not show any respect for speed limits and other rules. Drive carefully and you will not face any problems.
As of 2009, the main routes from the coast via Mostar to Sarajevo, and north from Sarajevo to the Croatian Border at Slavonski Brod/Slavonski Šamac, have been restored and are of excellent quality. By 2015, 100km of motorway has been opened, from Zenica-South to Tarčin, bypassing Sarajevo, and from the Croatian border at Bijača to Medjugorje. Three more sections are under construction, and the entire stretch of the European Vc corridor motorway in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is due to be completed by 2022.
Petrol stations can be hard to find in some spots - often the best place to fill up is on the edge of towns and cities rather than in them.
Border crossings normally pose few problems.
Mechanics who speak English may be hard to find, and licensing may be an issue so ensure that you are allowed to actually drive there. Police regularly set up road blocks on the road and don't be surprised to be pulled over to check your papers and have a chat! Drivers should carry with them their "green card" liability insurance, drivers license and ownership documents, which may be inspected at border crossings. Be sure to have the rental document (sometimes handwritten) that shows the actual dates that the car is contracted for. During a recent driving tour of the Balkans, border guards at a Bosnia and Herzegovina border crossing were the only ones requiring this document for entry. Be careful if you extend the car rental period via phone as the contract may not have the correct dates for entry
Buses are plentiful in and around Bosnia. A list of bus stations and timetables in Bosnia can be found here 
Most international buses arrive at the main Sarajevo bus station (autobuska stanica) which is located next to the railway station close to the centre of Sarajevo. However, buses from Belgrade, the Republika Srpska entity and Montenegro almost always use the Lukavica bus station in Istočno (Eastern) Sarajevo (the Serbian neighbourhood of the town). Note, however, that the "Eastern" bus station is actually west of the city center, near the international airport and the Dobrinja trolleybus terminus.
Frequent coach services run from Sarajevo to:
International bus services are nearly always in modern, luxurious 5-star coaches - the only exceptions to this are normally the local buses operating slightly over the border (max. 3 hour trips).
Due to the Bosnian war in the 1990s there are bus companies serving the Bosnian diaspora, which provide a cheap and clean way of getting to the other side of the European continent.
Ferries are available from Neum to other cities on the Adriatic connecting to Croatia and other countries. There are no international ferries across the Adriatic to Italy, but these do operate from Dubrovnik and Split.
Similarly transport is available along the inland rivers and lakes, some of which is privately run.
Driving is a good way to get around Bosnia and Herzegovina, but you do need to plan your trip carefully. There are many roads throughout the country that will take you to your destination. All of the main roads are paved, but their condition varies from great to quite bad. Speed limits vary and are not very consistent, but they are enforced rather heavily, so stick to them no matter how illogical they may seem. Police checkpoints are also common, and you are more likely to be stopped if you're driving a car with foreign plates, since many officers hope for a bribe to avoid the hassle. Local drivers are notorious for their aggressiveness and lack of patience, especially younger men. Be on your guard when driving. Overtaking on blind curves, driving 50% over the limit, honking, flashing, and an occasional middle finger are all something you will experience from the locals. Driving at night can be dangerous for numerous reasons. Road markings that are incomplete in many places, the lines that are sometimes invisible, being blinded by other drivers' high beams, improperly lit roads, improperly marked sharp turns and spotty road condition all add up to the nerve-wracking experience that is driving in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also note that the death rate on the roads of Bosnia are one of the highest in Europe. All this may make it seem like the roads of Bosnia are a death trap, but if you plan ahead and practice safe driving, It shouldn't be too big of a concern.
Bosnian bus network is generally well-developed. Service runs between all the bigger cities, from where you can connect to practically every smaller town. The buses are relatively cheap, and all intercity buses should be air conditioned. Some new buses are equipped with Wi-Fi. Note that toilets will most likely be locked, so make sure to do your business at the bus station, or during rest stops. One big disadvantage is that it's difficult to find information on schedules and prices beforehand. Information that you find online may be outdated. This is especially true for services to and from small towns. You should have at least a basic knowledge of the language, as you'll probably need to ask around for information.
Trains are infrequent and slow. Many train lines were damaged in the war, and have not yet been rebuilt. There is also a lack of carriages and trains to provide frequent services - even on the busy lines like Mostar-Sarajevo and Sarajevo-Banja Luka. However, the rides are scenic, especially that Mostar-Sarajevo stretch, and trains tend to be magnitudes cheaper than taking the bus
The main roads in rural Bosnia are a dangerous place for bicycles. You can have a wonderful experience riding on smaller, regional roads, where traffic isn't heavy. Inexperienced riders should be cautious, as Bosnia is very much a mountainous country, and some roads prove to be too difficult for beginners. Avoid riding at night. Note that there are few, if any, dedicated bicycle trails in the country. As with what has previously been discussed, plan everything carefully and in advance, and you should be alright.
The best way to get around with public transport is with bus and train (Federation , RS ). There is a dense network of bus lines, all run by relatively small private companies. Be aware that if you buy a return ticket for a line which is served by more companies, you can only make the return trip with the company you bought the ticket at.
Hitchhiking is fun in Bosnia as you will get rides from local people who you won't much encounter through hospitality exchange networks as couchsurfing. Be careful though for landmines, and if you're not sure, stay on the paved road, and ask locals ("MI-ne?").
If you are looking for detailed army maps, you can find a list on the site of the army: 
Bosnian people under 30 tend to speak really good English, especially in the cities, as English is a compulsory subject in all primary and secondary schools, which is helped by widespread use of the Internet. Knowing German also might be useful, but is not nearly as widespread as English. Russian was being taught in urban schools up until the 60s, so some of the older folk might speak it. Some younger people might just speak some Turkish, but being able to reliably find such a speaker is a gamble. The ability to speak other Slavic languages (especially Slovene, Macedonian or Bulgarian) can also get you decently far, if you speak slowly and clearly.
Since Bosnia and Herzegovina was a part of both the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian empire, a large number of Turkish and German words entered the language. Most are falling out of use, but some are still commonplace and they can be used for getting a small head start.
With that said, knowing at least a little bit of Bosnian (or Croatian/Serbian for that matter) will be immensely helpful. Locals will indeed appreciate any sort of effort, and are much more likely to try harder to help you. In the very least, learn basic numbers, and how to pronounce words correctly. This could be useful in taxis, and in shops, bakeries, cafés and the like.
Rafting on the Neretva river, the Una river and the Tara with the Drina river, with some shorter courses on the Krivaja river, the Vrbas river and the Sana river.
Kayaking and canoeing
The Neretva river and its tributary the Trebižat, the Unac river, also the Krivaja river and its tributary Bioštica river are great kayaking destinations with a lot of whitewater on the Krivaja river. The Pliva river and its lakes Veliko and Malo (5km from Jajce) are great canoeing destinations, also the middle and lower Una river, the Trebižat river.
The famous Rakitnica canyon of the Rakitnica river, tributary of the Neretva river, offer great canyoning adventure, but even extreme canyoning route can be found in the Bjela river another tributary of the Neretva river. The Unac river and its canyon offer great canyoning route.
Also close to Banja Luka you can explore the canyons of the Svrakava and Cvrcka rivers.
Bosnia and Herzegovina was the 1984 host for the Winter Olympics, and it still takes pride in its winter sports potential. Especially around Sarajevo there are challenging venues. During the war of the 1990s many Olympic venues were severely affected, but at present all is put in place to give the skier a great experience.
Close to Sarajevo there are the Bjelasnica, with over 8km of ski trails, the Jahorina (20km) and Igman mountains. Close to Travnik is the Vlasic Mountain with 14km. Other resorts are Blidinje, Vlasenica  in the east and Kupres in Western Bosnia.
Bjelašnica and Jahorina are also beautiful for hikes during summer.
Hiking is great in the unspoiled nature of BiH. A good guidebook is Forgotten beauty : a hiker's guide to Bosnia and Herzegovina's 2000 metre peaks - and other selected adventures by Matias Gomez.
The most fly-fishing areas in Bosnia are in the North-West of the Bosanska Krajina, around the river Sana. Fly-fishing fanatics can go on a tour by the different trout-hotspots; Bihać, Martin Brod, Ribnik, Sanica and Sanski Most. In several of those towns there are resorts specially geared towards the needs of the angler.
The official currency is the konvertibilna marka (convertible Mark), divided into 100 feninga. Originally pegged 1:1 to the Deutsche Mark, it is presently pegged to the Euro at roughly 1.95 to the euro (1 EUR = 1.95583 KM).
Coins come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, and 50 feninga and 1, 2, and 5 marka with banknotes in 10 (orange), 20 (grey), 50 (red-violet), 100 (brown), and 200 (blue-green) marka. There are two sets of the KM10, KM20, KM50, and KM100 notes with distinct designs for the Federation and the Republic of Srpska; however, both sets are valid throughout the country.
Before you leave the country, be sure to convert back any unused KM into something common (Euros, dollars) as most other countries will not exchange KM.
Credit cards are not widely accepted - ATMs are available in the most cities (VISA and Maestro). Try to not pay with 100 KM bills, as smaller shops might not have enough change.
Most towns and cities will have markets and fairs where any number of artisans, sellers, and dealers will offer any kind of stock. Different foods are readily available, both fresh and cooked, as well as clothing, jewellery and souvenirs. At the markets you are able to negotiate with the seller, although that may take some practice. Like in most such venues prices may be inflated for foreigners based on a quick 'means test' made by the seller. Often those who look like they can afford more will be asked to pay more.
Large shopping centres you'll find in most cities and towns.
Sarajevo is fine for buying clothes and shoes of cheap quality and relatively cheap price. The main shopping streets of Sarajevo are also great for black market products including the latest DVDs, video games and music CDs. Most tourists who visit Sarajevo no doubt leave with a few DVDs to take back home.
Visoko and the central Bosnia region are very well known for their leather work.
Banjaluka has seven big shopping malls, as well many small businesses, and you will be able to find a large variety of goods.
Mostar has an excellent shopping mall on the Croatian side with some typical European-style clothes shops and jewelers.
(As of August 2015)
If you have a temporal (tourist) residency status and you buy goods worth more than 100 KM you are entitled to a PDV (VAT) tax refund. PDV consist of 17% of the purchase price. The refund applies to all goods bought within three months before leaving, except petroleum, alcohol or tobacco. At the shop, ask the staff for a tax-refund form (PDV-SL-2). Have it filled out and have stamped (you need your identity card/passport). Upon leaving BiH, the Bosnian customs can verify (stamp) the form if you show them the goods you bought. A PDV refund in Marks can be obtained within three months, either at the same shop where you bought the goods (in that case the tax will be refunded to you immediately), or by posting the verified receipt back to the shop, together with the account number into which the refund should be paid.
Be aware that upon entering another country you might be obliged to pay VAT over the goods exported from Bosnia. But there is always a free amount, mostly a few hundred Euros; EU: €430. Also, the procedure at the border might take a bit of time, so it is not wise to try this when travelling by train or bus, unless the driver agrees to wait.
The most available food in Sarajevo is Cevapi (normally 3-7 KM), the ubiquitous Balkan kebab. Two prominent variations exist - the "Banja Luka" Cevap, a larger kebab with a square shape, and the Sarajevo Cevap, smaller and round. If not had before, every visitor should try an order of Cevapi at least once. There are several variations of pita (around 2KM). A cheap, tasty and readily available snack is "Burek", a pastry made of filo dough and stuffed with meat (simply Burek), cheese (Sirnica), spinach (Zeljanica), potatoes (Krompirusa) or apple (Jabukovaca). Some examples are better than others, however, and it can be a greasy affair. If you get to Mostar, however, try to grab a plate of trout ("pastrmka," which sounds like "pastrami"), which is the local specialty (a particularly fine restaurant serving locally farmed trout lies by the wonderful Blagaj monastery, a short bus ride from Mostar).
Local food is heavy on meat and fish, and light on vegetarian alternatives. Even traditional so-called vegetarian dishes like beans or Grah are cooked with bacon or smoked meats. Stews often contain meat but can be created without. Rice and pasta dishes are readily available and a traditional sourdough soup filling called Trahana is hand made in most regions and a staple during the fasting month of Ramadan. Fast food, with the exceptions of cevapi and pita (or burek) consists of, like in other parts of Europe, pizza, hamburgers and hot dogs. Panini sandwiches are served in most coffee shops popular with the youth, and Bosnian coffee, reminiscent of Turkish coffee, is a must-try for any coffee aficionado. Oddly, apart from these fast food options, Bosnian restaurants serve few Bosnian specialities - what people eat in their homes is very different from what they will eat if they go to a restaurant.
All along Bosnian roads and recreational places, you will notice advertisements for janjetina or "lamb on a spit." This is a very tasty treat, usually reserved for special occasions. A whole lamb is cooked on a spit, by rotating over a coal fire for a long time. When you order, you pay by the kilogram, which costs around 25KM (not bad since this is enough for several people). Families, on special occasions, make such roasts at home.
No matter what food you order, you are bound to be served bread, commonly consumed throughout some parts of Europe with all savory foods. Both soup and salad are commonly served with entrees, chicken & beef soup with noodles or egg dumplings being the most common. Salads are typically composed of mixed tomatoes, lettuce, onions and bell peppers, often with feta cheese. A Caesar salad is unheard of in Bosnia, and generally most vinaigrettes are of the Italian variety, balsamic vinegar and olive or corn oil. You may also come across many condiments. Ajvar is a jarred (or home made if you are lucky) spread, vegetarian, something like a bruschetta spread, made of roasted peppers & eggplant, which are then ground and seasoned with pepper and salt, then slow-cooked. It's a staple of many Balkan countries, with the Macedonian varieties ("Biljana") being most popular and widely available. Many pickled foods are also served as condiments, such as pickled peppers, onions, cucumbers ["pickles"], and tomatoes. Kajmak is a dairy spread, with consistency and taste like cream cheese. It is made of milk fat, which is removed, salted and packed, usually in a jar. It has a smoky, salty cheese taste, with a texture slightly drier than cream cheese. Kajmak from the town of Travnik is a highly regarded local specialty which is also exported as far as Australia.
Bosnian food generally does not combine sweet & savory foods, and you will never encounter such a thing as a salad with mandarin oranges. On the other hand, many a fine chef will experiment with sweet and savory tastes like the 'Medeno Meso' (Honey Meat) made in pre-war Banja Luka by a well known chef. The delineation between fruit and vegetables is strong, with fruit used only for dessert-type dishes. You will never encounter any dish where sugar is added unless it's a dessert. The food is generally heavy on fresh produce, which needs little or no added spice. As such, there are few spicy or hot dishes, and dishes advertised as "spicy", such as stews like paprikas or gulash are usually spiced with paprika and not chillies, and do not carry overt pungency. In some regions, and depending on whether it is restaurant or home food, textures and colors can be important also.
Like in much of Europe, smoked meats are one of staples of Bosnian cuisine, more so even than the stereotypical foods of pita & cevapi. Amongst the non-Muslim populations pork is king, and prosciutto, smoked neck, smoked ribs, bacon, and hundreds of other varieties of smoked sausage make this a real BBQ and dry-cuts country. The Muslims, of course, have equally-tasty lamb or beef alternatives. The meat is prepared by first curing in salt for several days, which removes water & dehydrates the meat, while the high-concentrations of salt preserve the meat from spoiling. After being cleared of salt, rubbed with spices (a Bosnian dry rub is usually very simple, and includes some combination of high-quality fresh peppercorns, hot paprika, salt, onions & garlic, and sometimes with a few spoons of Vegeta, a popular powdered all-spice mix similar to an Oxo flavor cube), the meat is then hung over a heavy smoke made by a wood fire. Fruit trees are well-known by BBQ aficionados around the world to produce the most flavorful smoke and apple, cherry, and walnut trees are the most commonly used in Bosnia. Whereas commercially produced deli meats (of the sort you may buy at your local deli) are most often dry-cured or hung in dehydrating fridges and only then pressure-smoked for a few hours to allow some flavor to permeate the meat, Bosnian smoked meat is painstakingly smoked up to three months. The meat hangs in a "smoke house," a tiny wooden shed usually only big enough to light a fire and hang the meat. Bosnians will only smoke meat in the fall or winter, because the low temperatures, together with the salt curation, allow the meat to hang for months without spoiling. During this time, it is smoked up to 4 times a week, for 8-10 hours at a time, which infuses the meat with the flavor of the smoke and removes any remaining water. The finished product has an incredibly strong aroma and flavor of smoke, with the texture of chewy beef jerky. Depending on the cut of meat, the most noticeable difference between smoked meat produced this way and the commercially produced meat available in North America, is the color inside the meat. Whereas commercial deli meat is usually soft, red, a little wet and fairly raw, Bosnian smoked meat is black throughout with only a slight tinge of pink. Larger cuts of meat, like the Dalmatian prosciutto, do tend to be a bit more pink & softer inside, but the difference is still dramatic, since the Balkan-made prosciutto has much less water, is chewier and overall better smoked. Such meat is most often consumed at breakfast time, in sandwiches, or as meza, a snack platter of meats, cheeses, peppers, Ajvar, and other small bites commonly brought out to greet and welcome guests to one's home. For the visitor, smoked meats are a cheap and incredibly flavorful lunch meat, and can be bought at Bosnian marketplaces from people who usually prepare it themselves. Have a pork neck sandwich with some Bosnian smoked cheese and a salad of fresh tomatoes in a bun of fresh and crisp homemade bread, and you'll never want to leave.
When you visit a Bosnian at home, the hospitality offered can be rather overwhelming. Coffee is almost always served with some home-made sweet, such as cookies or cakes, together with Meza. Meza is a large platter of arranged smoked meats, which usually includes some type of smoked meat (usually pork in traditional non-Muslim homes; Mulim homes usually prefer beef or lamb cuts), and sausage thinly cut and beautifully presented with cheese, ajvar, hard-boiled eggs and freshly cut tomatoes, cucumbers, or other vegetables. Bread is always served. Most cookbooks on South Slavonic cooking are packed with hundreds of varieties of breads, this being one of the most bread-crazy regions in the whole world. Yet, just about the only type of bread in most Bosnians' homes is the store-bought French variety, which the Bosnians, of course, would never dream of calling "French." To them, it is simply bread - "Hljeb" or "Kruh".
However, more of an effort is made at special occasions to produce traditional Slavonic breads, and each family usually bakes its own variation of a traditional recipe. At Christmas & Easter, Orthodox Serb & Croatian Catholic families typically make a butter-bread called Pogaca, which is often braided and brushed with an egg-wash, giving it a glistening finish perfect for impressive holiday tables. During the month of Ramadan, the Bosniak (Muslim) populations bake countless varieties of breads, and the unique and Turkish-inspired varieties are generally more numerous, diverse and dependent on regions and villages than amongst Christian populations, where special-event recipes are more homogeneous and fewer selections exist. Lepinja or Somun (the bread served with Cevapi) is a type of flat bread, probably introduced in some form to Bosnia by the Turks, but has since developed independently and is only vaguely reminiscent of Turkish or Middle Eastern flat pita breads. Unlike the Greek or Lebanese pita, the Bosnian Lepinja is chewy and stretchy on the inside and pleasantly textured on the outside, making it a perfect spongy companion to oily meats and barbecue flavors. The Turks may have begun this recipe, but the Bosnians have taken it to a whole new high.
In every-day cooking, Bosnians eat lots of stew-type meals, like Kupus, a boiled cabbage dish; Sarma, a rolled and stuffed (usually with rice and ground beef) cabbage dish, slow cooked; Grah or Pasulj, beans prepared in a similar fashion; and a fairly-runny but equally delicious variation of a Hungarian goulash. All these dishes are typically made with garlic, onions, celery and carrots, followed by starchy vegetables, cuts of various meats, or smoked ones, and several cups of water. This is then cooked until the vegetables are tender. A regional all-spice mix called "Vegeta", which is widely used and available in most ex-YU countries, is incorporated into almost every dish. This spice is used throughout the region, and is available throughout Europe as far as Poland, but in other parts of the world. It is the North American equivalent of a chicken Oxo cube, or, in other words, condensed chicken broth mix, although Vegeta is completely vegetarian. These type of stew meals will cost you next to nothing, and are very hearty filling meals.
As for desserts, you will drool over ice cream sold in most former Yugoslav countries. There are several varieties, but regional milk and cream must be a contributing factor to their wonderful taste. You can buy ice cream either by the scoop or from an iced-milk swirl machine, packaged in stores or from a sidewalk vendor with a freezer right on the street. Recommended is the "Egypt" Ice Creamery in Sarajevo, famous in the region for their caramel ice cream. Also try "Ledo," a type of packaged ice cream made in Croatia but sold throughout the region. You should also try some local desserts, such as Krempita, a type of a custard/pudding dessert that tastes something like a creamy cheesecake, and Sampita, a similar dessert made with egg whites. Traditional Bosnian desserts are also something to try. Hurmasice or Hurme, is a small finger-shaped wet sweet with walnuts; Tulumbe are something like a tubular doughnut, crispy on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside. And of course, don't forget to try Bosnia's take on the world-famous Baklava, which tends to be somewhat more syrupy than its Turkish counterpart and usually does not contain any rum, like its Greek counterpart. Much of the traditional cooking has Turkish undertones, a colorful consequence of six hundred years of Ottoman rule over most of Bosnia & Herzegovina, and desserts are no different.
Whatever you eat in Bosnia, you will notice the richness of the flavors you thought you knew. The cuisine of the country has not yet been ruined by commercially-grown produce, so most foods are (uncertified) organically or semi-organically grown, using fewer chemicals and are picked when ripe. The vegetable markets sell only seasonal and locally-grown vegetables, and you are bound to have some of the best tasting fruit you've ever tried in the Neretva Valley region of Herzegovina (close to the Croatian border, between Mostar and Metkovic). The region is famous for peaches, mandarin oranges, peppers & tomatoes, cherries (both the sweet and the sour variety), watermelons and most recently Kiwi fruits. Cheese is also incredibly flavorful and rich all across Bosnia & Herzegovina, and generally all foods are as fresh as it gets. Enjoy!
The legal drinking age in Bosnia and Herzegovina is 18 years (changed in 2005). Popular domestic beers are Nektar (from Banja Luka), Sarajevsko, Preminger (from Bihać, made according to a Czech recipe) and Tuzlansko, while the most common imports are Ozujsko and Karlovacko from Croatia, Jelen from Serbia, and Laško and Union from Slovenia. Like in almost every European country, beer is common and popular. Even in Muslim-majority areas, alcohol is common, and those who choose to drink should have no problems in finding alcohol. One important note, the number of bars serving alcohol in Sarajevo has been declining in recent years, so one might have to look a bit harder.
Like most Slavs, Bosnians make 'Rakija' which comes in many a variety and is made both commercially and at home. Red wine is 'Crno vino' (Black wine) and white wine is 'bijelo vino'. Wines from Herzegovina are renowned for their quality. Alcohol is not taxed as heavily as in most Western nations and is often very affordable. Quality alcohol is sought after and valued.
Another popular drinking beverage is Turkish coffee, in Bosnia called Bosnian coffee, which can be bought in every bar, coffee shop or fast food place.
Bosnians are among the heaviest coffee drinkers in the world.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina you can choose from the great number of hotels, hostels, motels and pensions. At the seaside town of Neum you can book hotels from 2 to 4 stars. In the other cities many hotels are 3 stars, 4 stars and some of them are 5 stars.
With one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe (in some areas up to 40%, official rate 17%), it will be unlikely you will find legitimate employment in the country unless you are working for a multi-national organisation or working in Sarajevo where the unemployment rate is a bit lower compared to the rest of the country. The capital city is generally very friendly when it comes to expats, offering many possibilities for them.
If you plan on traveling off the beaten path in Bosnia, be aware that the nation is still in the process of clearing many of the estimated 1 million land mines left around the countryside during the war of 1992-1995. In rural areas try to stay on paved areas if possible. Never touch any explosive device. Houses and private property were often rigged with mines as their owners fled during the war. If an area or property looks abandoned, stay away from it.
Beside this, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a very safe country. Violent crime, especially outside major cities, is almost non-existent. Smaller towns and cities face almost no serious crime, but this is not the case with Sarajevo. Pickpocketing, reckless drivers, thefts and fights are becoming daily news from Sarajevo and some foreigners have been victims, too. Although the chances for you to be affected by this are small, be careful - petty crimes have been on rise in recent years and it seems officials are not able to solve this growing problem in Sarajevo. The city is still much safer than many other capital cities in Europe, but reputation "the safest capital in Europe" is very questionable.
Do not try to cross the street on the crosswalk and expect people to stop. Bosnians have very poor traffic culture and you might get hurt.
If driving on rural and empty roads, especially at night, and you come across a person asking for help, never go outside your car. There have been cases of people being robbed, carjacked and/or beaten. Larger group will usually hide in the woods next to the road, waiting for their victim, and you can easily be overpowered. If you suspect you could be getting into a trap, ignore the person and try to drive past them, or turn around, and try to find a different road. If you believe the person in question genuinely needs help, stay in your car and call emergency services. Allowing the person inside your car is wise only if they are obviously hurt. Otherwise, play it safe.
All Bosnian employees undergo regular health checks to ensure that they are physically capable to do their jobs and that they will not transmit any disease or injure anyone. People in the food industry are particularly checked and random health and safety checks for the premises are held often. Food providers are held to the highest standards. A Bosnian kitchen is expected to be spotless and food safety is very important.
Tap water is safe for drinking around the country. If you're unsure, buy bottled water, which is cheap to buy.
Air pollution is a big problem during winter. Be aware of the harmful thick smog that blankets cities such as Sarajevo, Zenica, Tuzla, Brčko and Visoko. If you are an asthmatic or sensitive on the lungs, be sure to wear a medical mask as to avoid illness and wrecking your trip. Air pollution is caused by emissions from industry, motor vehicles and burning of rubbish, which is very common around the country. It is worst during the winter time in Sarajevo when soot covers the basin. It is recommended to escape to the mountains on bad days, and to breathe clean air found above the "smogbank".
If getting a tattoo then ensure that the instruments are sterilised. While this may be a common practice, one should still be careful.
Since the food is very rich, some extra exercise may help.
And as discussed above, never walk off dedicated paths in case of land mines.
Smoking is allowed nearly everywhere in the country, and over half the population use tobacco. Therefore, be prepared to endure very smoky restaurants, bars and shopping centers. Even bus drivers often smoke while driving.
You will find the people in Bosnia and Herzegovina to be very hospitable and helpful. Due to hardships they have endured throughout history, they have learned to help each other out in any way possible. Still, there are ways to metaphorically step on someone's toe, unknowingly. This part of the article will help you avoid that.
Avoid speaking about the war, unless a local starts to do so first. There are still ethnic tensions going on inside the country. If you find yourself in the middle of such a conversation, either avoid taking sides, or side with the speaker. It's okay to ask questions if you are genuinely interested, but avoid saying anything that might be misinterpreted.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is generally, a very religious country, being divided into Islam, Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholicism. Avoid speaking badly about religion and don't disrespect it in any way, as most people won't take it kindly. This especially holds true in rural areas (which tend to be more religious), where you can get yourself into serious physical confrontations.
Even though the younger people in cities are western-oriented and cosmopolitan, Bosnia and Herzegovina is still very much a conservative country. Even in cities, wearing flashy or revealing clothing, for instance, will get you a lot of stares. Drinking alcohol is also frowned upon in certain areas. In short, keep a low profile and don't put yourself in the spotlight.
LGBT activities - even though homosexuality is fully legal in the country and even protected by the constitution, you will find that it's overwhelmingly negatively looked at. Try to restrict these activities to private areas, as showing affection in public may even earn you negative comments from others, and weird looks are unavoidable. It's not inherently dangerous, and it's likely you won't get into serious trouble (at least in major cities), but do stay cautious.
One very important thing to keep in mind is to never call everybody in the country Bosnians. Many Serbs and Croats in the country will get very offended. If you need to make a distinction, it's okay to ask, but never simply assume their ethnicity.
If you get into a conversation regarding the language, most people will adamantly claim that Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian are three distinct languages (even though most international linguists disagree on this). Do not refer to the language as Serbo-Croatian, regardless of the fact that this term is widely used and accepted in linguistics. There are some regional dialectal differences, but generally speaking, the three official languages are very close and 100% mutually intelligible between educated speakers. Still, take note of where you are in the country, and your best bet is to refer to the language by whichever ethnicity comprises the majority of the population in that area. Some major cities, like Sarajevo and Tuzla, are much more diverse than others, so pay extra care. Make sure to ask the person you talk to what language they speak, and proceed accordingly.
Do be aware that the two entities have their own separate postal services, so stamps bought in the Federation cannot be used in the RS and vice versa.
There are three mobile phone networks in Bosnia and Herzegovina: BH Mobile (All of Bosnia and Hercegovina), HT ERONET (Mostar) and m:tel (Republika Srpska, Banja Luka). You can buy a prepaid SIM card from any network at any kiosk for 5 KM or less.
The quickest way to recharge your prepaid phone or mobile broadband service is online which is available in multiple languages and works for all providers, or you can visit your nearest newsstand or kiosk.