When Singaporeans talk about Eastern Europe, all they think of is Budapest, Prague, or perhaps Croatia (and they don't even know the capital of Croatia is Zagreb and that the other two are captials, not countries).
Instead of these touristy destinations, let me share about a beautiful country that "Most Singaporeans" almost never bother to add into their travel itinerary; Bosnia & Herzegovina. (If Singaporeans know about Bosnia, its probably because of Edin Dzeko, their most famous football player. Either that or they are doing a day trip from Croatia, which doesn't do justice to this magnificent country.)
The cheapest way to get to Bosnia from Singapore is by train from Zagrab, or by bus from Dubrovnik (3 hours) when they are already travelling in Croatia. You could also get a mini bus from Belgrade, Serbia for 25 Euros.
What to Do/ See
1. Stari Most (Old Bridge)
Our first stop was in the famous city of Mostar. (When I say famous, I mean by world standards, not Singaporean standards). A lot of people do Mostar as a day trip while they are in Dubrovnik, just to walk around in the old town and see the "Old Bridge".
Not my photos. I took it from the internet because the one I took was in the rain, and really doesn't do Mostar any justice
Now, we were in Mostar for a couple of days and it really wasn't enough. Sure, you get to walk around the old town, buy souvenirs and have coffee in one of the pretty cafes along the blue river; but you don't get to really understand the country. For that, you have to make your way to Sarajevo, the capital.
2. Kravice Waterfall
Now, this is not my photo (got this off the net too), because the day I entered Mostar, happened to be the start of the "Worst Floods Ever To Hit The Balkans In The Past 100 Years". (http://www.dw.com/en/serbia-and-bosnia-hit-by-record-flooding/a-17640260)
Of course, "the Falls" in Croatia's Plitvice National Park are more famous, but there's no reason this shouldn't be on your list. I wish I had taken my usual "arm photos" with this. (See Gallary)
Photo from Wikitravel
A 10-15 mins bus ride away from the Mostar is the Village of Blajaj. The main attraction here is a mosque built into the cliff with a blue river flowing out from the mountain. The river apparently has trout in abundance and you can enjoy a delicious meal of fish by the riverbank.
Being Singaporeans, we don't have the luxury of travelling in one country for a week or a month; hence I would recommend 3 days 2 nights in Mostar alone to comfortably experience all its wonder.
Food/ Happy Spending
Bosnia has a variety of traditional food (which i won't name all), the cheapest and most famous are the following two.
This is without doubt the cheapest, most delicious traditional Balkan food I have ever tried. Although it is available in the Balkan countries, the "Bosnian Version" of this dish is the most famous. This is grilled beef with spices in the form of mini sausages, served with cream, bread and onions. In fact, we love it so much, we eat it whenever we can! (Costs between 3-4 Euros in Bosnia)
Cevapcici in Macedonia. Slight different from the Bosnian one.
Waiting for my Cevapcici in Serbia, eating this everywhere we go!
Burek served with sour cream
Again, the Bosnian Version of this dish is the most popular. Burek is flaky pastry filled with meat. It can be eaten at every meal but I'd recommend it with breakfast and a tea to wash it down. It's more filling than it looks and one each might be a little too heavy for the Singaporean stomach.
You can choose the traditional "stone coal fireplace" style or the oven baked style. We prefer the traditional style; it tastes more authentic in a way.
Commonroom in Taso's Guest House, Mostar
As you know, it's not really our style to splurge on accomodation, especially when the hostels in the balkans are of such a high standard. Yes, even better than hostels in Australia surprisingly.
Our dorm room at "Travellers Home", Sarajevo
Kitchen/Dinning hall at "Travellers Home"
We stayed in "Guest House Taso" while in Mostar, a homely hostel perfect for meeting other travellers with a fun host. At his recommendation, we also stayed in "Travellers Home" , a 5 minute walk to the old bazaar while in Sarajevo. Hostel prices range from 7-8 Euros for a dorm, 12 Euros and up for a private room.
You haven't been to Bosnia if you haven't been to Sarajevo", said a Bosnian local to us.
Bosnia unfortunately is remembered for the biggest war in Europe since WWII, the Bosnian War. I'm not a history buff, but in terms of recent history; Bosnia and especially Sarajevo is chock full of it.
(No Thanks to the Siege of Sarajevo, the worlds longest Siege which lasted 3 years) For more details of the Bosnian War https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosnian_War
To experience more of the Bosnian Experience, a visit to Sarajevo is a must. With its many cemeteries, bombed out and bullet riddled buildings (like the picture above) you really get a different feel of the country as opposed to just seeing the beautiful bridge and surrounds in Mostar.
(oh, by the way, Mostar was bombed out too.) For more details of The Siege of Mostar https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Mostar
Picture from internet. Not my picture obviously, I was a kid in 1992
Next Post.........Sarajevo (In progress)