Situated in the heart of the Balkan peninsular, Bosnia–Herzegovina has long been a cultural junction between West and East. It is here that eastern Byzantine and Ottoman powers met and mingled with the Western influences of Rome, Venice and Austria. The thick forests and deep gorges have always provided protection for the waves of ancient tribes that have one time or another called Bosnia and Herzegovina home.
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In 1992 Bosnia and Herzegovina became, for the first time since the 15th century, an independent state once again. In many ways this new country struggles for an identity of its own, having been embraced by its larger and more powerful neighbours for over half a millennium. Covering just over 51,000 square kilometres and including a tiny 22km slice of the Adriatic coast, its diverse cultures and traditions are mirrored in the amazing spread of Alpine and Mediterranean flora and fauna.
As of 2015, the population of Bosnia Hertegovina was a mere 3.8 million people. The country that lies nestled between Serbia to the East, Croatia to the North and West and Montenegro to the South, has a fascinating recent history. It was in Sarajevo that sparked the commencement of WWI; when Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in 1914. More recently, the Croat-bosniac war has left visible signs of violence throughout the streets of Mostar.
The capital city, Sarajevo, epitomizes this sacred mélange of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. This quickly changing city has been reborn into one of the most fascinating cultural bastions in Southeast Europe. The Sarajevo Film Festival, jazz fest, alternative theatre and dozens of other cultural manifestations have attracted curious guests from every corner of the globe.
Tourism has been very much a building bridge in Bosnia–Herzegovina in both rekindling old regional ties and forging new wider links, particularly with the growth of ecotourism and adventure tourism niches. As of 2013, there were 530,000 international visitors welcomed to Bosnia Herzegovina – a big step up from 2010 with only 365,000 visitors.
While travelling in Bosnia and Herzegovina, make an effort to get off the beaten path. Visit the ancient villages where man and nature still live in harmony and where guests are treated like members of the family. Local foods are organically grown in most villages and the hospitality will have you wanting to come back for more.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is an inexpensive, new and exciting destination right in Europe’s backyard – one of the few remaining unexplored corners of the continent. Make sure you visit Mostar and sit by the famous ‘Stari Most’ bridge at sunset. The rail journey between Mostar and Sarajevo snaking along the Neretva river is also absolutely stunning. [/wptab]
Ethical Travel Issues and advice
Ethical Photography: Travelling presents an opportunity to photograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimes there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the camera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world who do not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let alone access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have no idea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Sadly, in this day and age, child prostitution, child trafficking and other crimes against children are facilitated via the Internet, and photography can play an unwitting and innocent role. Photography and its use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and think a little about the ethics of photography.
Taking photos of the friendly people of Bosnia & Herzegovina is a highlight for many travellers and photographers. Smiles are universal ways to engage, as is showing people the photo you just took of them. If you show an interest in their work or ask them questions, they’ll be happy to have their picture taken. In some touristy places it has become common for people to ask for money for their photos to be taken. Do as you wish, but a photo of someone you shared a laugh with may have a better lasting impression than one you paid for. Don’t forget the same holds true for any porters and guides that may help you along the way. Take an interest in them and you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities.