Wednesday, 20 August 2014
So you're going to Bosnia?
Since low cost flying really took off in the early "naughties" European city breaks have become the travel version of the power nap for time pressed tourists.
I've done a fair few in my time, whizzing off to locations as diverse as Paris, Vienna, Bordeaux, Aachen, Munich and Venice - only to whizz right back again just a couple of days later. To date most of the destinations, where not squarely on the usual tourist trail, were at least places that others had been to or were thinking of visiting. Bordeaux is, of course, world famous for the wine lands which surround it, so even if people hadn't thought of going there themselves it rarely seemed to strike them as too outlandish an idea to go.
But try telling people that your next mini holiday is to bosnia and Herzegovina.
Silence seems to be the first reaction of most, followed by a somewhat mystified enquiry into the purpose of such a trip, concluding inevitably with a sincere yet misplaced urge to be careful in such a "dangerous country".
Granted, BiH, as I shall refer to the country henceforth for the sake of brevity and to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to the inconsistencies in my spelling, is no stranger to conflict. However, the scenes of snipers in the hillsides and international boots on the ground are now over seventeen years old, and the biggest threat to the majority of tourists is petty crime, sun stroke and over indulgence in Bosnian hospitality.
So, what exactly are we expecting BiH, and especially Sarajevo and Mostar, to offer us in return for our hard earned time and money, and what can we do for BiH? First up, this is an incredibly scenic country, with steep mountains and shimmering streams providing the perfect backdrop to many a photograph. The country also has huge historical and political interest, having stood on the road between west and east, Christianity and Islam, new ideas and long held wisdom, for all of its existence. But most importantly of all, BiH is, as far as the literature I have read is concerned, a friendly and hospitable place, where travellers are welcomed and looked after, and where the most important task of the adventurer can be realized, namely the sharing of knowledge, the identification of similarity and the celebration of diversity.
And what can we do in return? In the very least we can tell the world of our travels, of the nature of the country, and help to chip away at the two decades old myth that this is a state to be avoided.
But, before any of that, we need to get ourselves packed and on the plane.