Saturday, August 26, 2006

Lonely Planet: Western Balkans (Bosnia)

I've always wanted to visit the Balkans, but being um, "financially challenged" has sort of temporarily put a damper on those plans. ;)

But, that minor glitch didn't prevent me from reading the Lonely Planet's guide to the Western Balkans. There generally aren't too many travel guides to the Balkans (at least none that I have seen) and this guide was the only one at my library that had Bosnia in as well.
My library also has some travel/pictorial guides about Yugoslavia written in the early 1980s, which are pretty interesting to look at.


Some general overviews:

1. A Baklava World Tour: I love Baklava; I've had Baklava at Greek restaurants and at a Lebanese restaurant; according to the book, Baklava is also a national dish of Bosnia, and I suspect some other countries in the Balkans as well. I would love to take a 'world tour' so to speak of countries where Baklava is a major dish. :)

2. What-no Tuzla?! I was scanning through the Bosnian section of the book; and I noticed there is no mention of Tuzla. Now, I realize that Tuzla is the Jan to Sarajevo's Marcia, but still, there are some things to do and see in Tuzla; such as the largest salt lake in Europe and several rock festivals. Maybe it is just because I have a soft spot for Tuzla.

3 Coolest place in the Balkans. The writers of the book really love Slovenia; and after reading their description of the country, it is hard not to love it too. I'm especially taken by Metelkova, which is a former army garrison and current commune, ultrahip section of Ljubjana. It sounds hip, cool and interesting.

Anyway, the book covers the countries of: Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro (still part of S-M at time of publication) and Slovenia. I hope to cover the other countries, or at the very least, cover the countries part of the former Yugoslavia. Right now, I'd like to focus on Bosnia, since that is the focus of this blog.

If anyone has had first hand experience with the places mentioned in this book, I'd love to hear your opinions etc. In general, I wish the book included a few more 'hidden gems' and out of the way places that tourists don't usually know of.

Just Desserts: This is surely to raise my dentist bill, but besides baklava, I'd also like to try "tufhije" which is an apple cake topped with walnuts and whipped cream, it sounds delicious.

After scanning through the book, here are a list of the number one sites, events, I'd like to visit and see in Sarajevo:

Historical Building/place:National Library

Museum: National Museum: Includes artifacts from the Neolithic era to the modern period.

Shop: Bosnian Handicrafts: Get handicrafts and help a good cause, money goes to help organizations that helps refugees.

Eatery: To Be Or Not To Be: I love the title, and the food sounds quite good, including, salads, seafood and grills.

Bar/Nightclub: Sloga: According to the book, the best example of the country's nightscene pre 1992, and plays folk music, old Yugoslav tunes, rock music and more.

Place to stay: Green Hotel: A Budget hotel, with a sauna and a gym.

Place I could spend all day at: BuyBook: bookstore with titles in English and a coffee shop to boot.

Other Places I'd like to see Gazi-Hursrevbey Mosque, Orthodox Church and Museum, Catholic Cathedral and former Jewish quarter. The Old Town part of Sarajevo.

Top Event I'd like see Sarajevo Film Fest

Other Sections of Bosnia...

Historical Building/Place: Mostar Bridge

Natural Wonder: Kravica Waterfalls: I've seen pictures of it, and it absolutely magnificent.

Shop Tepa Market. Fresh fruit market.

Eatery Dubrovnik: Italian wine, food and a dance floor! (complete with an accordion player)

Bar/Nightclub: Club Cafe Banja in Mostar. Located on a roof terrace of the oldest baths and according to LP, is one of the only places in Mostar where young people from the East and West get together.

Place to stay: Omer Lakise: positive: cheap and homey. Negative: one bathroom for 8 potential guests in 2 bedrooms.

Place I could stay all day at: Old Town in Mostar: cafes, vendors and restaurants.

Other places I'd like to visit medieval castle in Travnik.

Now on to Croatia!

17 comments:

Owen said...

Yes, it's a shame we have to make do with books and the internet, but aren't we lucky all the same to have so much served up to us at home! I trust you're keeping an eye on YakimaGulag's blog, she comes up with some nice video clips, like the Sevdah Reunion playing in front of the bridge at Mostar and the Thompson "tour".

Owen said...

If you want to do a bit of travelling around Croatia go and have a look at some of Ed's great posts at http://balkanbaby.blogspot.com/ (you'll have to go back two or three months before he set off on his great trek around the rest of the Balkans)

Yakima_Gulag said...

Places to see in Sarajevo region, who could leave out Vreo Bosna and the Roman baths in Ilidža? It's a fairly cheap day trip, if you look at seesaw's Sarajevo Photoblog, I think it's linked to in Jugoslavija, and DEFINATELY linked to in Ed Alexander's Balkan Baby, you can see pictures of all the places to see in Sarajevo.
The Thompson 'tour' yeah, even if they don't pass my political sniff test, sometimes they have really beautiful footage in their videos.
One of their videos simply appalls me though, it was about Jasenovac and is simply awful! I would not want it on my blog! They actually performed and showed some of this before a big soccer match.
I'm not offended by all his work, but that is something that pisses me off!
I think the reason Lonely Planet doesn't have much about Tuzla is that beautiful as that city is

Yakima_Gulag said...

Places to see in Sarajevo region, who could leave out Vreo Bosna and the Roman baths in Ilidža? It's a fairly cheap day trip, if you look at seesaw's Sarajevo Photoblog, I think it's linked to in Jugoslavija, and DEFINATELY linked to in Ed Alexander's Balkan Baby, you can see pictures of all the places to see in Sarajevo.
The Thompson 'tour' yeah, even if they don't pass my political sniff test, sometimes they have really beautiful footage in their videos.
One of their videos simply appalls me though, it was about Jasenovac and is simply awful! I would not want it on my blog! They actually performed and showed some of this before a big soccer match.
I'm not offended by all his work, but that is something that pisses me off!
I think the reason Lonely Planet doesn't have much about Tuzla is that beautiful as that city is, it's not percieved as being as ready for visitors as Sarajevo or Mostar or even Banja Luka.

Owen said...

More armchair tourism in Bosnia - as well as Seesaw's jewels at Sarajevo Photoblog http://miljacka1942.blogspot.com/ there's also Jazzy's Tuzla Daily Photo at http://tuzladailyphoto.blogspot.com/
and I came across some lovely trips up in the mountains on the Gallery page of Fikret's Hiking Adventures at http://www.bosnian-mountaintourism.com/gallery/

I presume you've done Daniel's link to Green Visions at http://www.greenvisions.ba/gv/
plus Bosnia Adventures and Explore Bosnia.

Balkan Ghost said...

I was very pleased that LP came out with Western Balkans in time for my recent trip. I think they should have chopped out Albania, which they like, just so the book could go by the clearer title of "Former Yugoslavia." But why stop there? They could have chopped out Croatia and Slovenia, which are already covered by shelves of travel books, then focused more on Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia, all places in desperate need of English language travel coverage. I noticed that outside Belgrade, Serbian coverage was nearly non-existent. Budva, among others, needed coverage for Montenegro. For Bosnia I was happy to see Jajce and Mostar's detailed coverage, but lots of great places were left off. Srebrenica is a reason why lots go to Bosnia, but nothing in the book. The bridge Tito destroyed while fighting the Cetniks near Jablanica didn't make it. And THE BEST restaurant experience in Sarajevo, Princess Park, didn't make the book. Shaina, great point about Tuzla. Yakima has a good point but Tuzla certainly deserves a mention as a nice place to explore.

The book's weakness was in trying to cover too much. I wish they'd focused on the places that hadn't been covered in other literature.

Owen said...

And for a shop in Tuzla with beautiful knitwear and rugs produced as part of the work of recovery and reconstruction have a look at http://www.bosfam.ba/o_nama_en.htm

Shaina said...

@ Owen: I have checked out the "Green Bosnia" site; beautiful. :)

@ Yakima: I've read and enjoyed both Seesaw and Ed's blog. The Roman baths sounds interesting.
My impression was that the writers were trying to cover a lot material and territory, so they focused on more "classic" tourist spots, like museums, etc.

@ Balkan Ghost: I agree with you on the weakness of the book; although like you, I'm just really glad the book came out.
What type of food does the Princess Park serve?

Balkan Ghost said...

Shaina, Princess Park serves traditional Bosnian food, lots of meats, cheeses, fresh salads, and Sarajevsko pivo, and Crnagorski wines. It's a little more upscale than other places but a bargain compared to restaurants in the states.

It's the best place to see the sun set on the city. Gorgeous for pictures, nice outdoor setting, and very romantic. Incredible view.

Get there from taking the road up the hill from Sarajevsko brewery. Easiest to take a taxi there from downtown; should be under 2 KM.

cd said...

I’ve always curious about who you are, whether you’re Bosnian or a Balkan of some sort. Recently, I thought that maybe you’re studying (academically) to be a lawyer or a policy maker, etc... based on your blog content. This post kinda answers part of my question.

Oh by the way, many many thanks for this post since I will use the content as a reference for future topics on my blog. I’ve been having a major blog block and going on a “lazy” strike; I do not know what to write for my blog anymore.

1.I had a Baklava overdose in Bosnia as people there ate them as the Americans do cheese cake. I don’t like sweet so it’s not a food for me.
2. My roommate and her friend, who was from Tuzla, said there was nothing about them. It was wet all the time due to something with the salt-mining industry.
3.here is your tufhije: http://www.beyondsarajevo.com/pages/eating.php . YOu do have a thing for sweetness.

4. Croatia’s Dubrovnik and Split were oh-my-gosh a surprising discovery. I almost skipped these towns b/c I thought I would return to Sarajevo. Simply amazing. You should at least visit Dub. When you are in Mostar. They are near. My friend, a local Czech once said “I don’t why these tourists keep going to Prague when they can travel to Dubrovnik.” I also liked Montenegro. Taking buses there was so funny. I went to Albania on a whim and had one of the funniest travel experiences in my life.
Travnik has no castle. Do you mean the one in Jaice, which is a nearby town?

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