After returning from Bosnia, I am left with many mixed emotions about my overall experience. The entire summer feels like it was some sort of drawn out dream. There were highs and lows from the 8 weeks I spent in Sarajevo. Exploring the city with its rich history from the periods of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires was special. The beautiful mosques of Baščaršija, the regional delicacies and folk music were all a pleasure to be immersed in. The days in which I learned about the Bosnian war and met genocide survivors were challenging to get through, however I am incredibly grateful to have had them as part of my overall experience. There has never been another time in my life when I have felt so close to a historical catastrophe. Even meeting holocaust survivors and visiting concentration camps in Germany, Austria and Poland cannot compare to what I experienced in Bosnia. It was extremely difficult to stomach seeing the human remains of those who were mercilessly slaughtered in the hills during wartime and listening to stirring accounts from civilians who ran for their lives through the forests to escape horrible fates. This however, allowed me to sympathize much more with the people of Bosnia than before my arrival in the country. I previously knew very little about the Bosnian war, other than bits and pieces of information I saw on the news discussing the anniversary of its ending in the mid-1990’s. The harrowing experience allowed me to catch a deep glimpse into the nation’s past.
On a different note, exploring the lush countryside and mountains of Bosnia & Herzegovina was unforgettable and the views we encountered are worth a return trip in the future. Our first excursion was to Lukomir, the highest altitude and most remote village in the entire country, where we endured a 3 hour hike in the mountains in the intense Bosnian heat. The epic landscapes we found ourselves in made it feel as if we were fantasy characters trekking through Middle Earth. Rivers, valleys and dense forests were everywhere to be seen around us. Our final trip to Kravice Falls was the perfect, lighthearted way to end our series of excursions after coming into close contact with Bosnia’s dark history. I didn’t know what to expect when heading to this landmark, but when first setting eyes upon it, I knew this was something special. On a beautiful day late in July, our group experienced a cathartic release swimming in the refreshing waters by the falls and enjoying a few cool beers in the sun.
Bosnia is a fascinating place when it comes to its intense recent history, eclectic Slavic & Ottoman heritage and majestic landscapes. I can certainly imagine myself returning to the Balkans in the future to learn more about the culture and past of the region, while enjoying some delicious Cevapi and Rakija. Until next time!