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Heading East

I was in Goražde last weekend. It’s a cute provincial town in East Bosnia. Many would say a forgotten one. Forgotten by the state that doesn’t invest in it and forgotten by the Bosnians who rarely visit it. I remember mentioning to an acquaintance of mine who lives in Sarajevo that I’m going to Goražde, on one of the previous occasions, and she said: What on earth are you going there for? I thought there wasn’t anything in Goražde. Well, there is!

Touristic Signalization

As it’s quite common in Bosnian towns, a river dominates in the landscape of Goražde. In this case Drina, considered as one of the most beautiful rivers in the Balkans, fast, clear and powerful. It divides the city’s centre in two halves, joined by two long bridges. During the winter months, with freezing winds blowing down the stream, these become real obstacles to those who have to cross them on foot on a daily basis. But in the warm summer afternoons, I find them great for relaxing walks interrupted only by moments of staring at the slow water flow beneath. I have a fond memory of my boyfriend and me running into each others arms on one of these bridges, from the days when he served the army nearby, couple of years ago. It pops into my mind every time I step onto the bridge, making me smile all the way across it.

The right Drina’s bank is where all the reputable caffees are located. All in one street of corse. The korzo. I like Cafe M with it’s cozy chairs and romantic lanterns the most. Rush serves the best pancakes. Warm patisserie can be found at the bakery right next to the Bridge of Alija Izetbegović. I haven’t tried many restaurants, but I liked the place called Soma, a bit hidden off the main road on the left Drina’s bank, close to the city’s Gallery. It’s a pension and restaurant with nice open summer garden, serving tasty Bosnian and Italian dishes. Very cheap, too. In fact everything in Goražde is, comparing to Sarajevo and some other big towns.

Pure Nature

As you get further from the centre, along both sides of the river, a few small buildings and colorful little houses are replaced with walking paths. River sides are friendly and easy-rechable. These present a kind of fishermen’s paradise. A bunch of trees hide the grass from sun here and there, making wonderful picnic spots where locals like to gather around roštilj (grill) in the weekends. I believe many young couples in Goražde have their very own secret romantic place there to visit during the hot summer nights, too.

During the winter, Goražde is as sleepy as any other smaller town in Bosnia and Herzegovina. But in the summer, it’s full of people. Like the Dalmatian coast, as one woman I overheard passing-by described it. It’s when many Bosnian-born foreigners visit their relatives in town and The Festival Of Friendship fills every suitable corner of Goražde with freelance singers and performers from all over the world. People of Goražde have shown to be great hosts, welcoming and always willing to help.

Hip-Hop Jugglers

A bit off the main roads, certainly off the main tourist maps (which is starting to change), Goražde is a society of it’s own, very close and at the same time very open to newcomers. Friendly and unspoilt, a true piece of Bosnian soul.

Plava Prizma

Yesterday my friend got married and set off to the sunset with her new husband. My other friend caught two wedding bouquets at two weddings at the same day. I managed to be all dressed up and really happy in spite of the low temperature and dark clouds that covered the city. So, when she proposed a cappuccino at one of the restaurants I’ve been longing to visit since the day it opened, I was sure that a great Saturday afternoon is coming my way.

My friend has organized and prepared a weekend seminar for some foreign colleagues of hers and apparently learned some interesting facts about Radon Plaza Hotel. There’s another restaurant, although not as good as the one we were heading to, in her opinion. The massages in wellness are worth the price, as one of her colleagues who tried them has said, and the two of us definitely have to try them once. She has seen the pool only on photos, like me, but she agreed it looks fantastic.   

Since the first step, I discovered that Radon Plaza is so much more than a regular everyday place for a simple person like me. I was overwhelmed with luxury every step of the way. And boy, I was glad to have with me a friend who has been here before, because otherwise it would be pretty complicated to figure out how to use the elevator and on which floor the restaurant itself was (even if I am a person who usually figures things out very quickly). Since it’s on top of the building, I presumed I’d just push the button with the highest number once I get to the elevator, the way it’s done in normal buildings. So, in case you end up in the kind of trouble I was lucky to avoid, you should enter the floor’s number before you actually get into the elevator and the letter you will then see on the screen is the letter of the elevator you’re supposed to get into to get where you’re heading. Oh, and the restaurant is on the 15th floor.

Before the elevator stopped, I had just enough time for a glimpse of how good my friend and I looked in a mirror. Then the door opened and we were greeted by a slow music, loud just enough to hear the words of the song and a smiling waiter who took us to one of the tables for drink (which don’t have any prepared plates like the eating tables as I learned later). As soon as I sat down on my chair, I was amazed with the spectacular, 70 meters high, view of my own city. I never saw it from that perspective. And I must admit it really looks magnificent.

So, it took only a few seconds before Plava prizma (The Blue Prism) became one of my favorite places in Sarajevo. A bunch of ideas about wonderful lunch that I’ll surprise my parents with, a romantic dinner that I’ll take my boyfriend to, and cake-breaks I’ll try to include to my out-of-town guest’s city tours rushed into my head even before I opened the menu.

And after I did, I wasn’t disappointed either. The prices are a bit higher that at the average restaurants I usually go to, but that was expected. Since I wasn’t hungry, I just scanned through the appetizers, meat dishes and Italian food (and some other things I don’t remember), where the average price of the portion was 20-30KM (10-15€), until I got to desserts. Blue Prism pancakes sounded like a sweet calorie-bomb I craved for, and combined with Nescafe chocolate cappuccino they were an inspiration for a good few hour’s conversation with my best friend.

But the experience didn’t end there. The most interesting thing about Plava prizma is the fact that it’s the first rotating restaurant in this part of the south-eastern Europe, as the Radon Plaza’s website says. I believe it took us an hour and a half to rotate a whole circle. We admired the long main road that goes to the city center, laughed at the typical Bosnian houses in the hills that look as if someone has spilled them from the sky without any order and I tried to see my building which was impossible because one of the hills blocked my view for a few millimeters. I remembered how much I love Sarajevo, in spite of the fact that it goes on my nerves sometimes.

Before I knew it, hours have passed and it was time to go. My friend and I decided to come back to Radon Plaza more often, because we enjoy it and deserve it. And that is how the few hours of conversation with a friend in a rotating restaurant overlooking Sarajevo made me realize that things I often take for granted are extraordinary when seen from another point of view and what I sometimes consider luxury is in fact something I should afford to myself more often.

Una Regatta

The most famous and higly appreciated rafting/kayak regatta in Bosnia & Herzegovina is the one organized each summer on Una river. This precious, breathtaking river is under protection of the government and one of the possible National Parks of the future, more ecologically aware Bosnia&Herzegovina.

35th International Touristic Una Regatta, organized by Tourist Community of Una-Sana Canton, will take place on Una river, July 25-28 2007. This year’s program includes three stages of various difficulties.

Basic information:

Camp sites:  Kulen Vakuf, Štrbački Buk, Bihać and Bosanska Krupa

Experienced kayakers and divers will provide help.

Registration fee : 55,00 KM includes the following:

  1. insurance
  2. tourist tax
  3. minor repairs of equipment and things
  4. transport of equipment and things
  5. first aid

Participants can bring their own camping equipment or rent it at each camp site.

Meals and food are provided at convenient prices at each camp site.

Rich cultural and entertainment program will be organized at 8PM at each camp site.

Program:

First day – Wednesday, July 25th 2007
Opening Ceremony: Kulen Vakuf

Second Day – Thursday, July 26th 2007
First stage: Kulen Vakuf – Štrbački Buk
Water difficulty: 2-3
Start time: 1PM

Third day – Friday, July 27th 2007
Second stage: Štrbački Buk – Bihać
Water difficulty: 3-4
Start time: 9AM

Fourth day – Saturday, July 28th 2007
Third stage: Bihać – Bosanska Krupa
Water difficulty: 2-3
Start time: 9AM

Note : Participants take part at their own risk!

I couldn’t find any information about whom to contact, so I pressume it’s one of those Bosnian-specific Just-Show-Up-At-The-Place events. Tourist agencies should have some contacts though.

Fairs

Many fairs are organized all year round in various places in Bosnia&Herzegovina. Some of them became very popular and very respected throughout the years. My personal favorites are Book Fair and Tea Fest, both in Sarajevo.

Here’s a simple list of most famous fairs:

January 

February
09-11, Vlašić – Vlašić expo tours

March
14-18, Banjaluka – Grames 2007 and Demi 2007
15-19, Sarajevo – Interio 2007
27-31, Mostar – Economic Fair, Wine Fair and Book Fair

April
05-08, Lukavac – Lukavac 2007, Tourism, hunting and fishing fair
05-10, Sarajevo – Auto-Moto Fest 2007
13-16, Sarajevo – Sport Fair 2007
15, Bijeljina – Dog Exhibition
18-23, Sarajevo – Books & Teaching Appliances

May
02-05, Banjaluka – Flowers and Fashion Fair and Medico 2007
07-11, Bijeljina – Book Fair
09-11, Banjaluka – Education Fair
09-11, Sarajevo – Das Ist Moda 2007
10-13, Banjaluka – MST (International Tourism Exibition) and Finance Fair
15-18, Zenica – ZEPS Intermetal
22-26, Banjaluka – Food and Beverage Fair
22-26, Sarajevo – Building & Reconstruction 2007
29-02 June, Tuzla – PROMO, Globallocal

June
06-10, Banjaluka – Furniture Fair
08-12, Sarajevo – Children’s Fair 2007
13-17, Sarajevo – Tea Fest

July

August
27-01 September, Derventa – Open Door
29-02 September, Gradačac – Plum Fair

September
05-09, Sarajevo – Bee Fest
06-09, Bihać – EKOBIS 2007 [pdf]
07-11, Banjaluka – Agros
11-16, Banjaluka – Book Fair
17-19, Prozor – Plum Days
18-24, Banjaluka – Book Fair and Media Fair
20-23, Bijeljina – Interagro 2007
25-29, Doboj – Doboj EXPO 2007
27-30, Banjaluka – Beer Fest 2007

October
12-17, Banjaluka – SAM Car Fair
15-30, Sarajevo – MESS
16-21, Zenica – ZEPS 2007, General B&H Fair
23-26, Sarajevo – Info 2007 and Medicop 2007
27-29, Trebinje – Mediterranean Days
Zenica – Agrozoo, Fair of agriculture and a small animals

November
02-04, Jahorina – Jahorina 2007
08-11, Banjaluka – Lorimes
15-19, Sarajevo – Intertursa 2007, Agrofood 2007
15-19, Sarajevo – Agrofood 2007

December
05-09, Brčko – Agriculture Fair
15-20, Banjaluka – Children Book Fair
17-27, Sarajevo – New Year Bazaar
Zenica – ZEPS BAZAR, New years sale fair

And some additional links you might find useful:

Banjaluka Fair
Bijeljina Fair
Brčko Fair
Doboj Fair
Glas, Banjaluka
Mostar Fair
SKC Skenderija Sarajevo
ZEPS, Zenica

An acquaintance of mine, from TravellersPoint, was in Sarajevo around New Year. I gave him a few advices about accomodation and places to see. Here’s what he wrote when he came back from the trip:

Sarajevo was wonderful! Except the WC on the bus station, I can’t think of anything wrong with your city.

Let’s start from the accomodation – hostel Marko Polo is in fact an appartment modified to serve for renting (one double room, two rooms with more beds, shared kitchen and bathroom). Location is great, it’s practically on Baščaršija (which doesn’t include the noise, on the contrary, Logavina is a quiet street – the fact that the Police is few meters away probably has something to do with it :-)). Double room (french bed) is decent, with a few silly things like porcelain giraffe and elephant, which adds to its charm. The owner (Emina, very dear and kind person) is especially proud of big TV with DVD player and Stereo system. The bathroom is ok, and there’s even a washing machine for those who are staying longer. The only little minus is that Emina (or her son) sleeps in the kitchen, so the kitchen is mostly unavailable in the early morning hours. All in all, considering the location, cleaniness and comfortable room, huge range of TV programs and DVD’s to chose from, I think 15 € per person was a good price. An advice: we heard many horror stories about Ljubičica agency, so try to warn any future travellers!

Red, Yellow and Paja taxis are all very cheap as you said.

The most wonderful thing about Sarajevo, except Baščaršija and view from Vratnik, were the people – they’re so kind, good hosts and open for conversations!

I was especially impressed by the lady working in Bosnian cafe Behar. She cooks a great coffee and pours the stories from her sleeves along with it. The ladies at antique bookstore Tarih were also kind and warm, as well as old gentleman in Preporod bookstore. There were many more such people.

I hope I gave you some information you can use to help future travellers.

So, in the spirit of helping fellow travellers and forwarding information from insiders, I would appreciate any comments or reviews like this one.

Road to Mostar

I travelled through Bosnia&Herzegovina a lot. Mostar is one of the places I’ve been to many times. You’d think I’d get bored of the same road I take every time. But I’m not. It goes through canyon of Neretva, Herzegovian beauty, and passes by many beautiful mountains.

Road from Sarajevo to Mostar 1

I haven’t taken many photos of this road though. Any road actually. I usually keep my camera somewhere out of reach while driving and miss many beautiful shots. But browsing through my old photos, I found a few that might be interesting to those who are wondering about the quality of this road.

Road from Sarajevo to Mostar 2

This is one of the best roads in Bosnia&Herzegovina in terms of quality. It’s pretty straight and with less number of bumps and obstacles than the average. There are a few places where stone avalanches (what the English term for this?) are possible during the winter, but they are mostly well secured with proper wires. Speed limit is mostly the usual 60km/h (40km/h on some parts) and I would suggest to anyone not familiar with the road not to drive too much above it.

Road from Sarajevo to Mostar 3

The road goes through quite a few little towns and villages and passes by Jablaničko Lake. The railroad follows it constantly, sometimes on the left, sometimes on the right side. Sometimes it’s above and rarely below the road. There are many cute bridges and deserted old train stations on the way.

Road from Sarajevo to Mostar 4

I think road from Sarajevo to Mostar is one of the most beautiful roads I have ever seen (not that I’ve seen too many :-)). It takes my breath away each time.

Having my own car, I don’t find myself in a situation to need a cab quite often. But I know many people who do. I’m amazed with some horror stories about Sarajevo taxi drivers I’ve heard.

Sarajevo Taxi was the first and, for the long time, the only taxi company in the city. Considering the monopoly it had and a limited number of licences for taxi drivers, lots of them became quite unpleasant to drive with. And to my knowledge, this behaviour has changed only to worse since other companies gained taxi licenses.

It’s not unusual for drivers of Sarajevo Taxi to refuse to take you in just because you won’t drive far enough (which is half way across the city for them). They often charge extra 2-4KM per bag (!?) which they won’t even bother to put in the car or take it out. And you constantly have to stare at the taximeter, or it magically skips a few digits as soon as you turn away from it. Some of these drivers are also rude, bad smelling and smoke a lot, in addition to listening to bad (and loud) music. If these are the stories I hear from locals, I can only imagine the things they’re capable of doing to tourists!

On the other hand, I’ve heard mostly positive things about drivers of other taxis, such as Crveni (Red) Taxi, Žuti (Yellow) Taxi or Paja Taxi. If I remember well, one of the Crveni Taxi‘s drivers returned a significant amount of money to a popular Croatian singer Gibonni who left it behind while driving to the airport.

None of this has to be completely black and white. I’m sure there are some good and some bad taxi drivers working for every company. I just hate it when any group of people starts doing whatever they like just because they can. So, be aware, you naive tourists out there!