After a few days in Croatia, Dan and I had to decide about what to do next. We could slowly make our way to the south, where we were to meet a couple friends of mine. But, as nice as it was, I didn’t really feel like spending 10 days in Croatia. Fortunately, there was a country right next door that I had heard good things about: Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The hardest part of the journey was just getting to the border. Driving inland from the Croatian coast meant going way up, and our van doesn’t really like going through hills. We took a break or two along the way and made it to the border. The crossing was super easy—almost no lineup, and the guards didn’t even stamp our passports.
The Bosnian countryside is beautiful. We drove along the main highway between Bihać towards Sarajevo. After driving on major expressways through most of Europe, it was a bit shocking to be going only 80 km/h the whole way. The whole way to Sarajevo was a mix of small, tree-covered mountains and wavy pastures. It was also interesting to see the signs change from Latin to Cyrillic text and back again as we went through different regions.
Thanks to the slow, hilly ride getting to Bosnia, we weren’t able to make it to Sarajevo in one night. It took us a while to decide where to camp. On one hand, we were well equipped to camp in the bush somewhere. On the other, we had heard that some places in Bosnia weren’t safe due to landmines. But the only campground around cost about 15 euros a night, way more expensive than normal.
We arrived in the town of Jayce to look for another option. First we made the mistake of driving down a walking street, and were fortunate enough that the police let us off with a warning. Then I went to a bakery to buy some bread for breakfast. The lady working there didn’t speak much English, but somehow she guessed that I spoke Swedish, and she did too! She was at least able to tell me that there weren’t any other campgrounds around town. We ended up camping in some empty green space by a lake and woke up to this amazing view.
I really liked Sarajevo. The city is surrounded by hills—the downtown is in a valley and the suburbs look down on it. And there are so many different faces of the city. Modern, shiny shopping malls, but also some abandoned buildings right in the downtown. Buildings from the 1984 Olympics, but also the history of the three year siege during the Yugoslav wars. One thing we noticed was that there were very few parks to sit in, because so many were partially converted into cemeteries during the siege. Another great part about the city: cheap, filling street food called Ćevapi. It’s a big, hot pita with fried sausages, chopped onions (raw), and melted cheese.
Our fourth night in Bosnia was on the way south towards the bottom of Croatia. We hoped to spend the afternoon hiking in a national park. Since we weren’t in a rush we picked up a hitchhiker along the way, an older man who didn’t speak any English. He was amusing and chatty (even without English) until he started drinking, but he got to be annoying so we stopped at a restaurant and told him we weren’t going any further. (Then we drove away.)
Hiking in the park didn’t work out so well either. There were no maps, but we stopped at a lodge to ask for some advice. The best trail was an hour uphill off the main road, and it wouldn’t have allowed us to get to Croatia the next morning. Instead we drove down the highway to a lake, dodged some cattle and sheep on a smaller road, and camped outside a small town. So quiet and peaceful.