Bosnia: Underrated and Overhated

Center of the Old City

Center of the Old City

Ever think “What should I do with my life?” or “Where should I go this summer?” If you said yes to the first question, I suggest you get a job you hippy. If you said yes to the latter question, I suggest you go to Bosnia. Few people I’ve met in my travels who have been have regretted it. Actually, I’d have to say I’ve never met anyone who has regretted it. It is one of the most under appreciated places in Europe and I just don’t think that is goshdarn fair.

Bosnia has a lot going for it. For one, they have great food. Greasy, fatty, artery clogging, deliciously-drenched-in-it’s-own-grease food. They have this one meal called Cevapi (pronounced CHE-vap-y), that resembles little breakfast sausages but has it’s own unique taste. They put it in a pita with a little bit of raw onions and this mix between cream cheese and butter. Everything comes separate and you kind of create your own pita with everything they give you. Every place that we went to served it differently but our trusted Croatian guide took us to the “right” place (as he put it) for cevapi. Don’t dare ask for beer with this though, as it is customarily served with a kind of yogurt milk…thing. I could get into the food but not the yogurt drink. Gave our guide the equivalent of an industrial strength milk mustache. We spent a couple of days in Sarajevo and enjoyed most of it, excluding the torrential downpour that actually put out the Olympic eternal flame. Eternal my ass.

cevapi

Bosnia was decimated by war in the 1990’s. The history of the war is interesting but rather detailed and I’d prefer to spare you the misery of reading a term paper. One thing though that said something of the spirit of the Bosnian people were the bombed out buildings, riddled with bullet holes, all over the country. It is a testament to what had happened and serves as a reminder to all their people. There are pretty deep pockmarks on a lot of the sidewalks that are from grenades and pipe bombs. Their history is still a bit of a raw subject and I would avoid conversation on the topic unless you know that the person you’re talking to won’t jump up and go Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises on your ass.

Don’t expect an immediately friendly response from every Bosnian you encounter. Generally, people in Eastern Europe don’t open up right away to people that they might perceive as tourists. If you show interest in their country however, they might be inclined to let you in some interesting facts that you wouldn’t normally have found out. Bosnia, specifically Sarajevo, has a vibrant nightlife, with techno, electronic, and trance clubs pounding out the beat till the sun comes up. One thing that can be said for some of the Bosnians that I’ve met is that there is very little that can keep them from partying the night before. One fellow I met at a bar was working at 7:30 AM the next morning but was pounding rakija(pronounced rah-ki-ya) with me just the same. So you’ll almost always find someone that is down to party over there.

The best part of bar hopping back there was that everything was so cheap. If you stray into an obviously tourist area then you are likely to find some jacked prices but stray off the beaten path and you’ll find some really interesting places with some of the core character of the people built into them. Those are the places that are worth seeing. They are usually the cheaper place to go to as well. Just try not to be an obnoxious tourist and don’t challenge a local to a drinking contest…seriously.

Ryan Evans

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