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Banja Luka, Bosnia Herzegovina

I lived in the beautiful country Bosnia and Herzegovina. I explored this country and saw all of its treasures. One treasure, Banja Luka, is to the northwest of the country. Banja Luka is the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Unfortunately, I was not given much time to explore this city. However, one cold October 2010 morning with a clear blue sky, I found some interesting sites. I have one picture of the downtown of Banja Luka and along the river banks, an ancient Castle Fortress that has been turned into a park.

Rumors abound that Banja Luka has seven women to every man. I do not know if this rumor is true, but if you come and visit, I assure you that you will not be disappointed.

Bosnia Herzegovina

  • Area of the country spans 19,767 square miles, making Bosnia the 127th largest country in the world.
  • The currency is the Convertible Mark.
  • The capital is Sarajevo.
  • In 2009, the population was estimated at 4.6 million, making Bosnia the 128th populous country in the world.
  • Sarajevo is the largest city, and the financial, manufacturing, and political hub of the country.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina is a federation of two states: The Republic of Sprska and Bosnia and Herzegovina Federation.
  • The tourist destination for foreigners is Sarajevo.

Mostar, Bosnia Herzegovina

Mostar is an old city located in the Western part of the country. This region of the country is called Herzegovina. The climate tends to be dry, soil is poor, and vineyards are scattered throughout the country side. Although this region produces wine, this region tends to be the poorest in an already wretched country. 

The feature attraction is the downtown area where Old Mostar is located. Pedestrians and tourists walk along the old, stone streets, which are too narrow for cars and trucks. The old town is filled with many restaurants, shops, and coffee bars. 

The old town is spread out over a small stream that cuts through the center of the town. A five-hundred year old bridge connects the two halves. The Old Mostar Bridge survived both World Wars I and II, but was destroyed during the Bosnian War.

If my guide is correct, the Bosnian War started in Mostar in 1990. The Herzegovinians first fought the Serbs. Then the Herzegovinians formed an alliance with Serbia, and fought the Bosnians. Herzegovinians are Catholics, the Serbs are Orthodox, while the Bosnians are Muslim. The war was intense and Mostar suffered heavy casualties and destruction. Some of this destruction is still visible today.

Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina

Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina and lies toward the center of the country. Sarajevo is the largest city in Bosnia with a bursting population of 430,000 in 2010. Sarajevo is also country's capital and financial hub. Many foreigners tend to live in this large city, because the access to many amenities.

Most of the tourist attractions are in the old city. The old city is amenable to pedestrians and shoppers with large spacious sidewalks, open malls, and away from the constant roar of traffic. The old city is filled with clubs, restaurants, gift shops, and coffee shops. Many gifts are made by hand, and the tradesmen take great pride in their workmanship.

Although Sarajevo has plenty of attractions, I would not want to live in this city. The city appeared to be disorganized and simply grew too fast. The city is sprawled out and over the tall mountains. Many roads have curves and steep inclines. All over, people are in a rush to get to somewhere, and pedestrians are choked from the constant exhaust of cars and trucks. Cars and trucks are everywhere. Then add a plethora of stray dogs, cats, and beggars. Although Sarajevo has a low crime rate, pick pocketing is an epidemic here. Some consider Sarajevo the pick pocket capital of Europe. The Gypsies work in teams and may have scouts keeping their eyes on the ATM machines. I already know three foreigners who have been picked pocketed.

I do not know if Bosnia and Herzegovina will make it. The country has three ethnic groups who do not like each other. The Serbs are Orthodox Christian and dominate the Northern part of the country. The Bosnians are Muslims and dominate the South, and Croatians are Catholic live in western Bosnia.

These three groups formed a government that can be described in one word: dysfunctional. Government dominates the economic and business environment. The government is determined to stop all progress, and keeps a tight rein over markets and free enterprise. The political situation is so bad; the Serbs (in Bosnia) talked about breaking away and form their own country, the Republic of Sprska (i.e. the Republic of Serbia). They believe the Bosnians are holding them back. Unfortunately, the only group getting rich is the politicians.

Tuzla, Bosnia Herzegovina

Tuzla lies in a valley surrounded by mountains on all sides. Tuzla is the third largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina and lies in the heart of the Balkan Mountains. The Balkan Mountains are majestic and magical surrounded by nature. Although the mountains stand over 1,000 feet tall, the millennia of rain and snows soften the mountains' rough edges. Trees grow over every square inch on this mountainous terrain.

I lived in Tuzla in 2010 and 2011, and had a wonderful time. The cost of living is low, and the food is natural and good. I am actually losing weight without breaking a sweat or a hunger pang in my gut. I spend $400 per month for a two-room apartment that has a new wooden veneer floor and has been freshly painted. The furniture is new. A house cleaner cleans my place once a month, and includes utilities like high-speed internet. The only utilities I pay is the electricity.

Tuzla has numerous coffee shops. Bosnians are heavy coffee drinkers, and one can find a coffee shop on every street corner. The baristas usually make the standard espresso. However, the typical Bosnian coffee is similar to Turkish coffee. Turkish coffee is finely ground and repeatedly boiled in a cezve or in Bosnian language "džezva" which is pronounced "Jez-Vah." As usual, I found two annoyances with the coffee shops:

  • The baristas make cappuccino by frothing the milk, but then they add instant flavored coffee to it. I usually get espresso with milk.
  • Bosnians are phenomenal chain smokers. I have never seen so many smokers in my life. The cigarette companies are making tons of money here. At least 90% of Bosnians are smokers.

The only problem with Tuzla is how everyone knows everyone. Although the city has around 180,000 residents, everyone is packed in densely. Consequently, Tuzla has the small-town feel of 800 residents. Then compound this smallness with the three favorite Bosnian pastimes: drinking coffee at the coffee shops, prolific smoking, and gossiping like a bunch of teenage girls. Of course, Tuzla has few foreigners and they stick out like a sore thumb. Everything a foreigner does in the city may actually get back to his/her employer.