Bosnia With Kids and My Decision to not Discuss the War

Sarajevo

“We are going to Bosnia with kids.” It doesn’t have the appeal of Italy, France or some place exotic like Panama. It is one of the most underrated travel destinations. Unjustly so. Because it’s beautiful, the food is delicious, people friendly and it’s all very affordable.  But I get it. While the war has been over for years, I still remember it and on my every visit my eyes settled on graves and other remnants of the past events ignoring anything else. This time around we treated Bosnia as just a touristic destination. Because we need it.

Bosnia

lingering on the remnants of war

Let me explain. I grew up in close proximity to Bosnia yet I remember the events of the war only as a backdrop to my happy and carefree childhood turning into adolescence.

While there were friends and family members affected with both war in Croatia and Bosnia, my  bubble never burst. I was more preoccupied with my school. For a ten year old the things I regularly heard whispered around me were too incomprehensible.

I couldn’t understand how it was even possible.

Years after the war my couple of visits to Bosnia were short yet long enough for me to realize I had been affected by the events in the past. Because my eyes would involuntarily search and linger on remnants of war: graves, the damages to the buildings, signs for villages mentioned on the news. I didn’t enjoy the touristic sights unperturbed, I barely recognized them. It weighed heavily on me, the wonder how it was during the war, how people felt, I’d remember stories I shouldn’t have heard, realized that it could’ve been me had life panned out differently,…

Sarajevo
Bosnia on the one day list

No wonder that we rarely considered Bosnia as our travel destination. The history there was turbulent, but what did we know about the daily life there now. Would it be safe, would we be welcome? We had many questions due to the discrepancies of how Bosnia is portrayed in the media and the fear of the unknown.

Bosnia was on the one day list. Especially since we met our now friends who own a picturesque bed and breakfast Vukov Konak in the mountains above Sarajevo. We have been promising them a visit since we met years ago.

At the end of October our oldest had her school holiday and we took time off to be with her, with no idea what to do or where to go. For days we were in a perpetual circle, like a dog chasing its tail, trying to decide between the countries nearest, Austria or Italy. This time around neither sounded too appealing. The solution had to be something out of the box.

“Bosnia,” we first whispered when we threw it in the mix along with Macedonia.

We shrugged it off immediately.  But a few days later and one of us would bring it up again. “Bosnia, Sarajevo.”

Finally we decided to check with our friends if they had a room for us. They did and it was decided. Bosnia it was.

Vukov konak
Author: Nepu Sahinpasic
trip to bosnia unique in its own way

We felt safe because we were visiting our friends. We knew we’d be welcome. And we knew that up there in the mountains the Nature would be all consuming. It would leave no place for us to dwell about anything else.

It was just so.

The trip to Bosnia was a vacation, just like visiting any other country, but special in its unique warm way. It is beautiful and full of incredible sights. The center of Sarajevo is filled with interesting architecture and many historical buildings, like the old Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque.  The many shops make you slow down and take time to enjoy. You can easily spend hours at the Baščaršija, Sarajevo‘s old bazaar.  Especially if you combine it with lunch.

We were excited about our meal – čevapčiči. There are many places you can enjoy them. Just don’t make the mistake of asking the locals where the best ones are served, because as we found out, it causes a heated debate, with everyone championing their own place and you still end up non the wiser.

And yes the locals are famous for their warm welcome and everyone treated us like we were long lost friends. I enjoyed how some people on the street addressing us, praised our girls and how they always got something extra when we are at a restaurant…

We loved it on the mountain with our friends, where the nature is breathtaking. We enjoyed exploring Sarajevo, where people seem to be in the rush until they meet friends and order coffee in the center.

On our way back home we stopped at the incredibly unique town of Jajce, wondering how a waterfall can drop in the middle of the town.

With our mouths open in awe we drove through the canyon of the river Vrbas, wishing we had time for a few more stops.

The four incredible days we spent in Bosnia were just like any vacation should be, relaxing, fun and full of new sights.

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the whole picture one day

This is the Bosnia I want to go visit again. One we promised to come back and discover in the Spring when everything is in bloom. Those are the images I want to be the first thing I think of when I hear Bosnia mentioned. It’s not that I could ever forget everything else, but it would be unfair for this amazing place to only be judged and tainted by the past.

The past should never be forgotten, or we risk repeating it. But facing it demands courage and an emotional distance. When it comes to Bosnia, I at the moment lack both. But I’ll get to the point where I can acknowledge the good with the bad and appreciate Bosnia even more. I’ll be able to see the whole picture. Until then…

Comments

  1. Kirsten

    I loved reading this article. My brother-in-law is from Sarajevo and my sister and her family travel there most summers. I imagine it exactly as you described, amazing people, food, natural scenery, with an underlying horrible history that should not be forgotten. I hope to visit some day soon with my family and I hope more people will come to recognize and appreciate the country’s beauty.

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