Sarajevo to Banja Luca, Bosnia & Herzegovina
The clear, blue rivers guided us to the capital, Sarajevo, where we parked about seven kilometres out of the city and caught a tram to the centre. We jumped off when we thought we had reached the old town but it turned out we still had to walk about two kilometres. Our mission was to find the tourist office, for which there were absolutely no signs. After asking a few locals we located it on our third attempt, down a road that had been pulled up and was being relaid. Really appreciate English being an almost universal language.
While sitting at a cafe to study the map we ordered a sandwich to share as a snack. Our "snack" ended up being the biggest focaccia we had ever seen, served with a mountain of fries. It was fantastic (and only €2) but not at all what we needed. Lesson learned: cheap prices does not equal small sizes.
Our first stop was the Sarajevo museum, but it had closed about 10 minutes before we arrived. All we could see was a plaque to mark the spot where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, starting World War I. With this failed attempt at being touristy Danny decided he wanted to find the brewery; I did not. Not for the first time we went our separate way for a couple of hours.
I somehow managed to complete a "religious buildings" tour of Sarajevo: two mosques, two cathedrals, a church and a synagogue. Bosnia is a mostly Muslim country but it appeared that they catered for everyone. Being a Saturday, the streets were filled with people dining at outdoor cafes, which reminded us a bit of Melbourne in summer. There weren't many souvenir shops around but I found plenty of regular shops, leading to the purchase of a semi-expensive pair of sandals. On the whole the old city was a lovely place to spend the afternoon. It was still very run down, and contained a lot of evidence of past wars but still had an upbeat feel to it.
Danny was not impressed by the beer.
Danny prepared dinner as usual, but halfway through the cooking process we ran out of gas. The veggies were ready but we had nothing to go with them, so we resorted to toasting bread in the sandwich toaster and eating veggies on toast. We were not really sure what we were going to do about the gas, because we had not seen another gas bottle our size anywhere, nor one with the connection we had. That's one way for Danny to get out of cooking duties.
Sunday morning is a terrible time to drive out of a city. This is because Sunday morning is market morning, and the map said we needed to drive straight through one to exit the city. With hundreds of people milling about it took us 15 minutes to drive one kilometre. Patience is a virtue I wasn't blessed with.
Once out of Sarajevo we drove to Travnik, a small town with castle ruins on the hill. We climbed the hill, entered what was left of the castle and took in the views over the green countryside. The next town, Jajce (pronounced 'Yigh-seh'), was almost exactly the same: castle remnants on a hill. The town of Jajce was much prettier though. There was a large waterfall on one side of a hill and remains of several ancient buildings dotted around the town, capturing our attention longer than Travnik did.
On our way back down we stopped for more burek. Danny chose cheese again but I ordered meat. It tasted just like a pasty without the veggies, loaded up with onion and pepper. Heaven.
Our final stop was Banja Luca, the capital of the republic of Srpska, which is part of Bosnia but also isolated from it. The people are mostly Serbian and I think they see themselves as separate to the rest of B&H. The countryside was beautiful, driving through a valley with steep mountains covered in forest on either side. The town was also picturesque; it seemed much more modern and well taken care of. Plus there was no evidence of war damage like in other towns.
As we still didn't have any gas we went out for dinner, finding the one restaurant open on a Sunday night. We were the only customers. We decided to splurge a bit, as the menu was cheap and we needed to use up our convertible mark (Bosnian currency). We both ordered an entree, a main, a glass of wine plus a beer for Danny and all up it came to €30. Amazing value. We then ventured upstairs to their cafe section, where we shared a dessert and drank another glass of wine each: €10. Eastern Europe is awesome! We were extremely full, however, and in pain for the rest of the night. Danny distracted me from the agony by surprising me with the Carlton vs. Sydney AFL game he had downloaded. Gotta love a come-from-behind win.
With a tiny amount of convertible mark left, we stopped in at the petrol station on the way out of the country. Here you are probably thinking we spent our last money on petrol or some essentials. Nope. We splurged on juice, fizzy drinks, sweets and chips. We forgot about keeping some loose change in case we encountered a toll road, but luckily that didn't happen. Overall we would say Bosnia and Herzegovina was incredible, well off the beaten path and definitely worth the visit.