Bosnia & Herzegovina

SARAJEVO (Bosnia & Herzegovina)

Sarajevo history is turbulent like no other city in the world.

The city was started in ancient times but it was the Ottoman Empire who ruled the entire province for more than 400 years that established it as metropolis. Actually the word Sarajevo is derived from Turkish word “saray” (city). But Austro-Hungarians (Habsburgs) who have ruled Sarajevo as well, have left remarkable impact on the city, its people, architecture, culture and cuisine and even the religion. Austrians developed industries and mining for Bosnia has rich deposit of ore and coal. They developed the infrastructure and first railroad was built by Austrians.

But Austrians did not realize that resistance and dissatisfaction among some ethnic groups in Bosnia was brewing. On June 28, 1914 shots were fired at Austro-Hungarian archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife on a bridge in Sarajevo as their parade was crossing it. This incident has brought mankind to one of the biggest human tragedies, the World War I.

Sarajevo had its glorious moments as well. In 1984 the 14th Winter Olympic Games were held in this city and the mountains surrounding it. Even though badly damaged during the last Balkan conflict of 1991-95, remnants of winter sports facilities are still remarkably in good shape and continuous use.

Unfortunately, less than 10 years later, Sarajevo again suffered one of its biggest tragedies. During the Balkan War 1991-95 it was many months under the siege by warring frictions and many of its citizens lost life. Bullet and grenade marks can still today be seen on many buildings and sites.

But the people and Sarajevo survived and stayed together, all the way to the end. Today Sarajevo is peaceful city with many different religions living next to each other on relatively very small territory and that is why Sarajevo is also called European Jerusalem.

MOSTAR (Bosnia & Herzegovina)

Mostar was built by Ottoman Empire in 15th century and it was considered as the most-western Turkish settlement. The old, one-arch stone bridge (after which the city got its name for the word “most” in local language means a bridge) over the river Neretva was long time considered as the bridge (figuratively) between the East and the West. The Bridge, the pride of the city and its citizens, stood for centuries and endured many battles and wars including the WW 2 but unfortunately the last Balkan War of 1991-94 bridge did not survive. It was bombed and badly damaged and the entire mid section was knocked down in the river. This was a shock to locals, they felt like someone cut the main artery in the neck or stack a dagger in their hearts. Thank to the funding by UN, all original stones were lifted from the bottom of the river and the Bridge was restored to its original glory. Mostar citizens are proud again and daily rituals are conducted at the bridge again. In the summer, youngster jump from the top of the bridge which is about 20m/65ft high. There are numerous little cafes and restaurants located around the bridge.

MEDJUGORJE (Bosnia & Herzegovina)

If you are Catholic, we are sure you heard the name Medjugorje (pron: me-dyu-gor-yeh). Since 1981 it has become a popular site of religious pilgrimage due to reports of apparitions of the Virgin Mary to six local Catholics children.

The name Međugorje literally means “between mountains”. At an altitude of 200 m (660 ft) above sea level it has a mild Mediterranean climate. The town consists of an ethnically homogeneous Croat population of over 4,000. The Roman Catholic parish (local administrative and religious area) consists of five neighboring villages: Medjugorje, Bijakovići, Vionica, Miletina and Šurmanci.

Following reports of apparitions, successive bishops of Mostar ruled the claims groundless. In March 2010, in view of continued public interest, the Holy See announced that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was forming an investigative commission, composed of bishops, theologians, and other experts, under the leadership of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope’s former Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome. There is still no official ruling from Vatican on this case.

Weather you believe or not, the fact is than millions of pilgrims have flocked to this village since 1981. Local church conducts daily service in many different languages. There is at least couple of thousands of pilgrims any given day. The entire place has sprawled and new hotels, restaurants and roads have been built to accommodate influx of visitors. Naturally, many souvenir shops have followed the development and the place looks „very touristy“ as one of the visitors put it.