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Quick Facts
CapitalSarajevo
Governmentemerging federal democratic republic
Currencymarka (BAM)
Areatotal: 51,129 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 51,129 sq km
Population3,964,388
note: all data dealing with population are subject to considerable error because of the dislocations caused by military action and ethnic cleansing (July 2002 est.)
LanguageCroatian, Serbian, Bosnian
ReligionMuslim 52%, Orthodox 31%, Roman Catholic 15%, Protestant 3%,

Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosna i Hercegovina) is a Balkan country in Southern Europe that was formerly part of Yugoslavia. It borders Croatia to the North, West and Southwest, Serbia and Montenegro to the East and a small portion of Adriatic Sea coastline on the South.

Regions

Within Bosnia and Herzegovina's recognized borders, the country is divided into a joint Bosniak/Croat Federation (about 51% of the territory) and the Bosnian Serb-led Republika Srpska or RS (about 49% of the territory); the region called Herzegovina is contiguous to Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro (Montenegro), and traditionally has been settled by an ethnic Croat majority in the west and an ethnic Serb majority in the east.

Administrative divisions 
there are two first-order administrative divisions and one internationally supervised district* - Brcko district (Brcko Distrikt)*, the Bosniak/Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Federacija Bosna i Hercegovina) and the Bosnian Serb-led Republika Srpska; note - Brcko district is in northeastern Bosnia and is an administrative unit under the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina; it is not part of either Republika Srpska or the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina; the district remains under international supervision

Cities

  • Sarajevo - Capital
  • Zenica
  • Banja Luka
  • Mostar
  • Tuzla

Ports and harbors

  • Orasje
  • Inland waterway ports on the Sava):
    • Bosanska Gradiska
    • Bosanski Brod
    • Bosanski Samac
    • Brcko

Other destinations

  • Neum - town on Adriatic sea
  • Srebrenica
  • Igman ski resort
  • Budapest, from where there is a large number of connecting flights.

    By train

    A Train Service runs from Sarajevo to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, and onto the rest of Europe. The train leaves from Zagreb around 9h in the morning and arrives in Zagreb at 18.30h. Ticket costs 24 EUR one way (return ticket holds some discount).

    By car

    You can go with your own car; this is certainly the fastest way (about 4 hours from Zagreb to Sarejavo) - however, generally roads are in quite a bad condition, and mechanics far between.

    By bus

    A coach service runs from Sarajevo to Split on the Croatian coast via Mostar. There is a good connection between Zagreb and Sarejevo (about 8 hours one way, cost 26 EUR) and between Belgrade and Istoc(no Sarajevo (ethnic Serbian suburb of Sarajevo).

    There is also a daily bus service from Dubrovnik to Sarajevo, stopping at Mostar.

    By boat

    Get around

    The best way to get around (if you are not with your own car, that is) is with bus or train. It is quite up to your preference, prices do not differ very much, neither do the travel times (bus might be slightly cheaper). However, the bus network is more extensive and buses run more frequently than trains.

    Talk

    The language spoken in Bosnia & Herzegovina is internationally-recognized as the "Serbo-Croatian" language. It is variously called Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian and Serbo-Croatian by the respective groups.

    See Bosnian Phrasebook (Bosanski), for more.

    Prior to the seccession of Bosnia and Herzegovina from Yugoslavia in 1992, the official language in use was Serbo-Croatian, a South Slavonic language related to Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Slovenian. As it was spoken in Bosnia, Serbo-Croatian differed very slightly from the Serbo-Croatian elsewhere in Yugoslavia in accent, grammar, and orthography. After succession, the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina officially named this variant of Serbo-Croatian as "Bosnian," but since Croats & Serbs of the new country sought separation, that proclamation was only good in Bosnian-controlled areas. At this point, the official language of Bosnia became Bosnian, and most Bosnian Muslims and other pro-independence Bosnians accepted this appointment. However, many of the Croatian and Serb inhabitants of Bosnia refused to recognize Bosnian as the official language, and insisted upon calling their own language either Croatian (Hrvatski) or Serbian (Srpski), respectively. In spite of the difference in names, all three variants of the language remain mutually comprehensible, and differ primarily in the usage of a select few words and grammatical structures. The situation is not unlike that of Australian or Canadian English and the English spoken in the UK.

    Several international congresses and journals of linguistics have refused to change their definitions, and maintain that "Serbo-Croatian" is the official name of the language; the languages spoken in Croatia, Serbia & Bosnia and Herzegovia are all one language, and the differences in nomenclature are attributed to nationalism and ethnic intolerance. Many regional dialects had been spoken throughout the region prior to the 20th century, and no consistency existed in either the spelling nor the pronunciation. The modern "Serbo-Croatian" language was a work of Serbian linguist Vuk Karadzic, who combined segments of all dialects. It is thus justifiably called "Serbo-Croatian." Prior to Karadzic, many dialects of the so-called "Croatian," such as Ikavski or Stokavski, had used far more vowels than in the modern literary "iekavski." The word for Croat, for example, "Hrvat," had, prior to Karadzic's structural rules, been "Horvat," with the additional "o" between the "h" and the "v." The Serbian dialect, "Ekavski," tended to combine more consonants in a row without inserting vowels in-between. Additionally, all the dialects (over ten major ones) had been under influence of foreign languages. Croatia, having been under Austro-Hungarian rule, had incorporated some (although extremely minor) structures of German, while segments of Bosnia & Herzegovina, under Ottoman rule, adapted certain Turkish words. Karadzic was a part of the "Pan-Slavonic" movement of the 19th century, which sought to unite all Southern Slavonic people into one nation. His linguistic work, to write morphological and spelling rules, created the modern language, which he coined "Serbo-Croatian," since it incorporated the most sensical portions from all dialects. This modern form of the language was spread with Karadzic's translation of the Old Testament into the new literary language, and his version of the rules became the official form of the Serbo-Croatian language. Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina utilized "iekavski" dialect, while most portions of Serbia used "ekavski" dialect. Other dialects remain only in local diction, and are not appropriate in official discourse.

    The so-called differences between the so-called "Croatian," "Serbian" and "Bosnian" dialects follow fairly standard rules, not unlike in many other languages. They are usually present in words with vowel diphthongs, where, eg. the word for milk "mlijeko" in iekavski dialect, becomes "mleko" in Serbian, which uses the ekavski dialect. When the same eg. is applied to the word "lijepo" [pretty], the structure becomes predictable, since ekavski simply drops the long diphthong to "lepo." Such variances are present in many other languages, as in the Greek, where the word for "sea" in Attic Greek "thalatta" becomes "thalassa" in the Doric dialect of Greek.

    Because, therefore, Serbo-Croatian was a synthesized version of numerous dialects of the same south-slavonic language of the Serbs and the Croats, Karadzic's language was coined "Serbo-Croatian" and over time became the official language of the former Yugoslavia. With the split of the country, the slight regional differences seemingly became more pronounced and noticeable in the cultural psyche of Bosnia's three major ethnic groups, but this was not due to actual differences but the psychology of war.

    See also: Bosnian phrasebook

    Buy

    The official currency is the konvertibilna marka (convertible Mark), at a fixed rate of about 1.95 towards the Euro (1 EUR = 1.95 KM). Be sure to get small bills, as anything above 20 KM will most likely get you into trouble when you want to pay due to lack of small change. You can pay almost everywhere with Euro bills, and will be able to change them almost everywhere (shops, taxi) - at a rate of 1 EUR = 2 KM; for changing, up to 50 EUR should be fine in most cases; for paying, up to 10 EUR.

    Credit cards are not widely accepted - ATMs are available in the bigger cities (mostly VISA system, sometimes Maestro), though they will most probably provide you with big bills (>=50 KM) that you will again have trouble paying with.

    Sarajevo is fine for buying clothes and shoes of good quality and relatively cheap.

    Mostar has an excellent shopping mall on the Croatian side with some typical European-style clothes shops and jewellers.

    Eat

    The most available food in Sarajevo are Cevapi (normally 2-4 KM), the ubiquitous Balkan kebab, and several variations of Burek (around 2KM), a greasy pastry made of filo dough and stuffed with meat, cheese or apple. If you get to Mostar, however, try to grab a plate of trout, which is the local speciality (A particularly fine restaurant serving locally farmed trout lies by the wonderful Blacaj monastery, a short bus ride from Mostar).

    Local food is heavy on meat and potatoes, and light on vegetarian alternatives. Even traditional so-called vegetarian dishes like beans or Grah are cooked with bacon or smoked meats. Fast food, with the exceptions of cevapi and pita (or burek) consists of, unlike in other parts of Europe, pizza, hamburgers and hot dogs. Pannini sandwiches are served in most coffee shops popular with youth, and Bosnian coffee, reminiscent of Italian espresso, is a must-try for any coffee afficianado.

    All along Bosnian travel roads and recreational places, you will notice advertisements for Janjetina or "Lamb on the spit." This is a very tasty treat, usually reserved for special occasions. A whole lamb is cooked on a spit (a large wooden steak), by rotating over a coal fire for a long time. When you order, you order and pay by kilogram, which runs around 25KM (not bad since this is enough for several people).

    No matter what food you order, you are bound to be served bread, commonly consumed throughout Europe with all savoury foods. Both soup and salad are commonly served with entrees, chicken & beef soup with noodles or egg dumplings being the most common. Salads are typically mixed tomatoes, lettuce, onions and bell peppers, often with feta cheese. A Caesar salad is not a known thing in Bosnia, and generally most vinaigrettes are of the Italian variety, balsamic vinegar and olive or corn oil. You may also come across many condiments. Ajvar is a canned spread, something like a brucheta spread, made of roasted peppers & eggplant, which are ground and seasoned with pepper and salt. Many pickled foods are also served as condiments, such as pickled peppers, onions, cucumbers ["pickles"], and tomatoes. Kajmak is a dairy spread, with consistency and taste like cream cheese. It is made of milk fat, like cream, which is removed, salted and canned. It has a smoky, salty cheese taste, with texture slightly drier than cream cheese.

    Bosnian food generally does not combine sweet & savoury foods, and you will never encounter such a thing as a Caesar salad with mandarin oranges. The delineation between fruit and vegetables is strong, with fruit used only for desert-type dishes. You will, as such, never encounter any dish where sugar is added unless it's a desert. The food is generally heavy on flavours of fresh produce, which needs little or no added spice. As such, this is not a cuisine heavy on spicy or hot dishes.

    Smoked meats are a staple of Bosnian cuisine, more so than the stereotypical foods of pita & cevapi. Amongst the non-Muslim populations, pork rules, and prosciutto, smoked neck, smoked ribs, bacon and hundreds of varieties of smoked sausage make this a real BBQ country. The meat is usually salted and then hung over a heavy smoke made by a wood fire. Often, apple, cherry and walnut trees are used for smoking, and the meat is incredibly flavourful. Since the Muslim population generally does not eat pork (although a large segment is not religious), smoked beef alternatives exist.

    When you visit a Bosnian at home, the hospitality offered can be rather overwhelming. Coffee is almost always served with some home-made sweet, such as cookies or cakes, together with Meza. Meza is a large platter of arranged smoked meats, which usually includes some type of smoked ham and sausage thinly cut and beautifully presented with cheese, ajvar, hard-boiled eggs and freshly cut tomatoes, cucumbers or other salad vegetable. Bread is always served. One surprise may be how few bread varieties are commonly eaten. Most cookbooks on South Slavonic cooking are packed with hundreds of varieties of breads, this being one of the most bread-crazy regions in the whole world. Yet, just about the only type of bread in most Bosnians' homes is the store-bought French variety, which the Bosnians refuse to call "French." To them, it is just "Hljeb." More luxurious breads are made during special times, especially around Christmas, when the Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs make something called Pogaca which is a very soft butter bread. Supposedly, many other varieties exist, although I never tried any.

    In every-day cooking, Bosnians eat lots of stew-type meals, like boiled cabbage made with sausages and bacon, beans prepared in a similar fashion and a fairly-runny variation of Hungarian gulash. All are made with garlic, onions, celery and carrots, followed by a vegetable, smoked meat and several cups of water. This is then cooked until the vegetables are falling apart. A local spice called "vegeta" is incorporated into almost every dish, and the same spice is used throughout the region, as far as Poland. It is the North American equivalent of a chicken oxo cube, or, in other words, condensed chicken broth mix. These type of stew meals will cost you next-to-nothing, and are very hearty filling meals.

    As for deserts, you will drool over ice cream sold in most former Yugoslav countries. There are several varieties, but regional milk and cream must be a contributing factor to their wonderful taste. You can buy ice cream either by the scoop or from an iced-milk swirl machine, packaged in stores or from a sidewalk vendor with a freezer right on the street. Recommended is the "Egypt" Ice Creamery in Sarajevo, famous in the region for their caramel ice cream. I also enjoyed "Ledo," a type of packaged ice cream made in Croatia but sold throughout the region. You should also try some local deserts, such as Krempita, a type of a custard/pudding desert that tastes something like a creamy cheesecake, and Sampita, a similar desert made with egg whites.

    Whatever you eat in Bosnia, you will notice the richness of the flavours you thought you knew. The cuisine of the country has not yet been ruined by commercially-produced produce, so most foods are organically or semi-organically grown, using fewer chemicals and are picked when ripe. The vegetable markets sell only seasonal and locally-grown vegetables, and you are bound to have some of the best tasting fruit you've ever tried in the Neretva Valley region of Herzegovina (close to the Croatian border, between Mostar and Metkovic). The region is famous for peaches, mandarin oranges, peppers & tomatoes, cherries (both the sweet and the sour variety), watermelons and most recently Kiwis. Cheese is also incredibly favourful and rich all across Bosnia & Herzegovina, and generally all foods are as fresh as it gets. Enjoy!

    Drink

    Legal drinking age in Bosnia and Herzegovina is 18 years.

    Popular drinking bevarage is turkish coffee and you can buy it in every bar, coffee shop or fast food place.

    Sleep

    In Bosnia and Herzegovina you can choose from the great number of hotels, hostels, motels and pensions. At the seaside town of Neum you can book hotels from 2 to 4 stars. In the other cities many hotels are 3 stars, 4 stars and some of them are 5 stars. In Sarajevo the best hotels are: Hollywood, Holiday Inn, Bosnia, Saraj, Park, Grand and Astra. Reservation is possible via the internet or by contacting Centrotrans-Eurolines travel agency in Sarajevo, phone number: +387 33 205 481, languages spoken: English, German, French and Dutch.

    Learn

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    Stay safe

    If you plan on traveling off the beaten path in Bosnia, be aware that the nation is still in the process of clearing many of the estimated 5 million land mines left around the countryside during the war of 1992-1995. In rural areas try to stay on paved areas if possible, and never touch any unarmed explosive device.

    Respect

    Bosnia is safe to travel to, as long as you stay on paved roads and marked routes. There are app. 600,000 land mines in Bosnia. Areas around Sarajevo are extremely hazardous, so be careful.

    External links