Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosna i Hercegovina) is a Balkan country in Southern Europe that was formerly part of Yugoslavia. It borders Croatia to the North, West and Southwest, Serbia and Montenegro to the East and a small portion of Adriatic Sea coastline on the South.
Within Bosnia and Herzegovina's recognized borders, the country is divided into a joint Bosniak/Croat Federation (about 51% of the territory) and the Bosnian Serb-led Republika Srpska or RS (about 49% of the territory); the region called Herzegovina is contiguous to Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro (Montenegro), and traditionally has been settled by an ethnic Croat majority in the west and an ethnic Serb majority in the east.
Ports and harbors
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 referendum boycotted by ethnic Serbs.
The Bosnian Serbs - supported by neighboring Serbia and Montenegro - responded with armed resistance aimed at partitioning the republic along ethnic lines and joining Serb-held areas to form a "greater Serbia." 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 years of interethnic 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 Bosnian 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 The Former Yugoslav Republic of 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 hosted a large share of Yugoslavia's defense plants. The bitter interethnic 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 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.
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; Natural hazards : destructive earthquakes.
The main carrier to Bosnia & Herzegovina is Bosnia Airlines. Croatia Airlines also connects Sarajevo via Zagreb, and connections are possible from Amsterdam, London, Milan, Munich and several other cities. Major airlines connecting Sarajevo with the world are KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) and the German carrier Lufthansa. One of the ways to get to Sarejevo by plane is to take either one of the more expensive regular flights (like Lufthansa). Another is to take Croatian Airlines, which offers reasonably priced flights via Zagreb. Also Malev runs an affordable service from Sarajevo to Budapest, from where there is a large number of connecting flights.
A Train Service runs from Sarajevo to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, and onto the rest of Europe. The train leaves from Zagreb around 9h in the morning and arrives in Zagreb at 18.30h. Ticket costs 24 EUR one way (return ticket holds some discount).
You can go with your own car; this is certainly the fastest way (about 4 hours from Zagreb to Sarejevo) - however, generally roads are in quite a bad condition, and mechanics far between.
A coach service runs from Sarajevo to Split on the Croatian coast via Mostar. There is a good connection between Zagreb and Sarejevo (about 8 hours one way, cost 26 EUR) and between Belgrade and Srpsko Sarajevo (ethnic Serbian suburb of Sarajevo).
There is also a daily bus service from Dubrovnik to Sarajevo, stopping at Mostar.
The best way to get around (if you are not with your own car, that is) is with bus or train. It is quite up to your preference, prices do not differ very much, neither do the travel times (bus might be slightly cheaper). However, the bus network is more extensive and buses run more frequently than trains.
The language spoken in Bosnia & Herzegovina is internationally-recognized as the "Serbo-Croatian" language. It is variously called Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian and Serbo-Croatian by the respective groups.
See Bosnian Phrasebook (Bosanski), for more.
Prior to the succession of Bosnia and Herzegovina from Yugoslavia in 1992, the official language in use was Serbo-Croatian, a South Slavonic language related to Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Slovenian. As it was spoken in Bosnia, Serbo-Croatian differed very slightly from the Serbo-Croatian elsewhere in Yugoslavia in accent, grammar, and orthography. After succession, the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina officially named this variant of Serbo-Croatian as "Bosnian," but since Croats & Serbs of the new country sought separation, that proclamation was only good in Bosnian-controlled areas. At this point, the official language of Bosnia became Bosnian, and most Bosnian Muslims and other pro-independence Bosnians accepted this appointment. However, many of the Croatian and Serb inhabitants of Bosnia refused to recognize Bosnian as the official language, and insisted upon calling their own language either Croatian (Hrvatski) or Serbian (Srpski), respectively. In spite of the difference in names, all three variants of the language remain mutually comprehensible, and differ primarily in the usage of a select few words and grammatical structures. The situation is not unlike that of Australian or Canadian English and the English spoken in the UK.
Several international congresses and journals of linguistics have refused to change their definitions, and maintain that "Serbo-Croatian" is the official name of the language; the languages spoken in Croatia, Serbia & Bosnia and Herzegovia are all one language, and the differences in nomenclature are attributed to nationalism and ethnic intolerance. Many regional dialects had been spoken throughout the region prior to the 20th century, and no consistency existed in either the spelling nor the pronunciation. The modern "Serbo-Croatian" language was a work of Serbian linguist Vuk Karadzic, who combined segments of all dialects. It is thus justifiably called "Serbo-Croatian." Prior to Karadzic, many dialects of the so-called "Croatian," such as Ikavski or Stokavski, had used far more vowels than in the modern literary "iekavski." The word for Croat, for example, "Hrvat," had, prior to Karadzic's structural rules, been "Horvat," with the additional "o" between the "h" and the "v." The Serbian dialect, "Ekavski," tended to combine more consonants in a row without inserting vowels in-between. Additionally, all the dialects (over ten major ones) had been under influence of foreign languages. Croatia, having been under Austro-Hungarian rule, had incorporated some (although extremely minor) structures of German, while segments of Bosnia & Herzegovina, under Ottoman rule, adapted certain Turkish words. Karadzic was a part of the "Pan-Slavonic" movement of the 19th century, which sought to unite all Southern Slavonic people into one nation. His linguistic work, to write morphological and spelling rules, created the modern language, which he coined "Serbo-Croatian," since it incorporated the most sensical portions from all dialects. This modern form of the language was spread with Karadzic's translation of the Old Testament into the new literary language, and his version of the rules became the official form of the Serbo-Croatian language. Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina utilized "iekavski" dialect, while most portions of Serbia used "ekavski" dialect. Other dialects remain only in local diction, and are not appropriate in official discourse.
The so-called differences between the so-called "Croatian," "Serbian" and "Bosnian" dialects follow fairly standard rules, not unlike in many other languages. They are usually present in words with vowel dipthongs, where, eg. the word for milk "mlijeko" in iekavski dialect, becomes "mleko" in Serbian, which uses the ekavski dialect. When the same eg. is applied to the word "lijepo" [pretty], the structure becomes predictable, since ekavski simply drops the long dipthong to "lepo." Such variances are present in many other languages, as in the Greek, where the word for "sea" in Attic Greek "thalatta" becomes "thalassa" in the Doric dialect of Greek.
Because, therefore, Serbo-Croatian was a synthesized version of numerous dialects of the same south-slavonic language of the Serbs and the Croats, Karadzic's language was coined "Serbo-Croatian" and over time became the official language of the former Yugoslavia. With the split of the country, the slight regional differences seemingly became more pronounced and noticeable in the cultural psyche of Bosnia's three major ethnic groups, but this was not due to actual differences but the psychology of war.
See also: Bosnian phrasebook
The official currency is the Konvertibilna Marka (convertible Mark), at a fixed rate of about 1.95 towards the Euro (1 EUR = 1.95 KM). Be sure to get small bills, as anything above 20 KM will most likely get you into trouble when you want to pay due to lack of small change. You can pay almost everywhere with Euro bills, and will be able to change them almost everywhere (shops, taxi) - at a rate of 1 EUR = 2 KM; for changing, up to 50 EUR should be fine in most cases; for paying, up to 10 EUR.
Credit cards are not widely accepted - ATMs are available in the bigger cities (mostly VISA system, sometimes Maestro), though they will most probably provide you with big bills (>=50 KM) that you will again have trouble paying with.
Sarajevo is fine for buying clothes and shoes of good quality and relatively cheap.
Mostar has an excellent shopping mall on the Croatian side with some typical European-style clothes shops and jewellers.
The most available food in Sarajevo are Cevapi (normally 2-4 KM), the ubiquitous Balkan kebab, and several variations of Burek (around 2KM), a greasy pastry made filo dough and stuffed with meat, cheese or apple. If you get to Mostar, however, try to grab a plate of trout, which is the local speciality (A particularly fine restaurant serving locally farmed trout lies by the wonderful Blacaj monastery, a short bus ride from Mostar).
Local food is heavy on meat and potatoes, and light on vegetarian alternatives. Even traditional so-called vegetarian dishes like beans or Grah are cooked with bacon or smoked meats. Fast food, with the exceptions of cevapi and pita (or burek) consists of, unlike in other parts of Europe, pizza, hamburgers and hot dogs. Pannini sandwiches are served in most coffee shops popular with youth, and Bosnian coffee, reminiscent of Italian espresso, is a must-try for any coffee afficianado.
All along Bosnian travel roads and recreational places, you will notice advertisements for Janjetina or "Lamb on the spit." This is a very tasty treat, usually reserved for special occasions. A whole lamb is cooked on a spit (a large wooden steak), by rotating over a coal fire for a long time. When you order, you order and pay by kilogram, which runs around 25KM (not bad since this is enough for several people).
No matter what food you order, you are bound to be served bread, commonly consumed throughout Europe with all savoury 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 mixed tomatoes, lettuce, onions and bell peppers, often with feta cheese. A Caesar salad is not a known thing 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 canned spread, something like a brucheta spread, made of roasted peppers & eggplant, which are ground and seasoned with pepper and salt. 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, like cream, which is removed, salted and canned. It has a smoky, salty cheese taste, with texture slightly drier than cream cheese.
Bosnian food generally does not combine sweet & savoury foods, and you will never encounter such a thing as a Caesar salad with mandarin oranges. The delineation between fruit and vegetables is strong, with fruit used only for desert-type dishes. You will, as such, never encounter any dish where sugar is added unless it's a desert. The food is generally heavy on flavours of fresh produce, which needs little or no added spice. As such, this is not a cuisine heavy on spicy or hot dishes.
Smoked meats are a staple of Bosnian cuisine, more so than the stereotypical foods of pita & cevapi. Amongst the non-Muslim populations, pork rules, and prosciutto, smoked neck, smoked ribs, bacon and hundreds of varieties of smoked sausage make this a real BBQ country. The meat is usually salted and then hung over a heavy smoke made by a wood fire. Often, apple, cherry and walnut trees are used for smoking, and the meat is incredibly flavourful. Since the Muslim population generally does not eat pork (although a large segment is not religious), smoked beef alternatives exist.
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 ham and sausage thinly cut and beautifully presented with cheese, ajvar, hard-boiled eggs and freshly cut tomatoes, cucumbers or other salad vegetable. Bread is always served. One surprise may be how few bread varieties are commonly eaten. 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 refuse to call "French." To them, it is just "Hljeb." More luxurious breads are made during special times, especially around Christmas, when the Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs make something called Pogaca which is a very soft butter bread. Supposedly, many other varieties exist, although I never tried any.
In every-day cooking, Bosnians eat lots of stew-type meals, like boiled cabbage made with sausages and bacon, beans prepared in a similar fashion and a fairly-runny variation of Hungarian gulash. All are made with garlic, onions, celery and carrots, followed by a vegetable, smoked meat and several cups of water. This is then cooked until the vegetables are falling apart. A local spice called "vegeta" is incorporated into almost every dish, and the same spice is used throughout the region, as far as Poland. It is the North American equivalent of a chicken oxo cube, or, in other words, condensed chicken broth mix. These type of stew meals will cost you next-to-nothing, and are very hearty filling meals.
As for deserts, 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. I also enjoyed "Ledo," a type of packaged ice cream made in Croatia but sold throughout the region. You should also try some local deserts, such as Krempita, a type of a custard/pudding desert that tastes something like a creamy cheesecake, and Sampita, a similar desert made with egg whites.
Whatever you eat in Bosnia, you will notice the richness of the flavours you thought you knew. The cuisine of the country has not yet been ruined by commercially-produced produce, so most foods are 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 Kiwis. Cheese is also incredibly favourful and rich all across Bosnia & Herzegovina, and generally all foods are as fresh as it gets. Enjoy!
In Bosnia and Herzegovina you can choose from the great number of hotels, hostels, motels and pansions. At the sea side town Neum, you can book hotels from 2 to 4 stars hotels. In the other cities, many hotels are 3 stars, 4 stars and some of them are 5 stars. In Sarajevo, best hotels are: Holywood, Holiday Inn, Bosnia, Saraj, Park, Grand and Astra. Reservation possible via net, or by contacting Centrotrans-Eurolines travel agency in Sarajevo, phone number: +387 33 205 481, languages spoken: English, German, French and Dutch.
If you plan on traveling off the beaten path in Bosnia, be aware that the nation is still in the process of many of the estimated 5 million land mines left around the countryside during the war of 1992-1995. In rural areas, try to stay on paved areas if possible, and never touch any unarmed explosive device.
Bosnia is safe to travel to, as long as you stay on paved roads and marked routes. There are app. 600.000 land mines in Bosnia. Areas around Sarajevo are extremily hazardous, so be carefull.