After an exhausting but enjoyable first two days, another exciting stage of our trip was about to begin. Because, all told that one week is too long for Belgrade, we decided to make a Bosnia and Herzegovina trip by car on the third and fourth of our tour.
We rented a car from the city center of Belgrade on Tuesday morning. In the case that the only Cyrillic alphabet could be used on the road signs, we made sure that the vehicle has a navigation device. According to our research before the arrival, we learned that the signs were written in both Cyrillic and Latin alphabet. However, the road was quite long and we had to pass through small settlements. So, we didn’t rely on the road signs, and thought that better to rely on navigation (Luckily, we did that).
Our route was as follows: Belgrade – Srebrenica – Sarajevo – Mostar (1-night stay in Mostar) and the return route.
We set off about 9.00. After driving for a while on the E-70 highway in Serbia, which is the only double lane road of the journey, we entered Bosnia and Herzegovina through Kuzmin. Except the E-70 section (for both two countries), all the route is a mountain route with single-lane road. If you’ve traveled in the Black Sea in Turkey before the coast road built –I did both as a passenger and as a driver since I was 6 years old– this road will be familiar to you. The scenery is incredibly pleasant. However, you may stick behind a timber lorry, which you will often see in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and you may not pass them because of the curves. You should already have seen that Google predicts 8 hours for the 514-kilometer route above. Actually, it takes a little longer.
On the sides of the road there are interesting views. For example, watermelon and melon stalls. In the stalls “Bostan” written as in Turkey. (We couldn’t capture the picture with this text, handle the following.)
As I said before, although the road signs were written in Latin alphabet also, this drew our attention; neither in the direction of Belgrade nor in the direction of Sarajevo, the name of the cities is not indicated until getting very close to any city (both of them capitals!). Because of this, I mentioned above “Luckily, we did that” for the navigation. (Ok, there may be still 300 kilometers, but they can mark it as Sarajevo or Belgrade, at least we can know that if we’re on the right track!)
Anyway, apart from the roadsides and signs, our first impression, when we enter Bosnia and Herzegovina is that it is a more regular and greener city. The houses are more beautiful, painted, gardened and tidy. If we take a small break here and speak briefly about the current political structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it consists of two governing units. One of them is Republika Srpska and the other is the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. If you enter the country via Kuzmin as we do, you will first enter the territory of Republika Srpska. I can show it on the map;
(The entire map shows the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the pink parts indicate the republic of Republika Srpska, and the cyan parts is the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. You should not confuse this place with Serbia, a different country.)
Well, why did I tell that? Because different regions have the opportunity to develop in different ways. Not every region has the same wealth, we could observe this during our route. As we approached the big cities, the places we passed were like small districts. In fact, they are quite similar to the small towns of Anatolia in Turkey. Maybe these are a little more regular settlement.
While we were on our route to our first stop Srebrenica, the border between the two countries is formed by the Drina River. Drina is a branch of the Sava River and its one side is Serbia and the other side is Bosnia and Herzegovina. In fact, while traveling somewhere near the river, we were almost changing the country again, because we turned left instead of turning to the right! After turning left and going almost 50 meters, we encountered the border placed on the bridge. Then, we took a U turn gently under weird eyeshot of the border police.
After traveling for quite a while, we reached Srebrenica. We intend to visit the Srebrenica genocide memorial and graves. No need to give a broad narrative about this event, you can get plenty information about this painful event from numerous sources on the internet. When you arrive at the memorial, you can see inside that the graves still being opened for DNA mapping and the corpses are taken out for research with the relatives. This visit influenced us deeply, because we didn’t anticipate that we would witness this event such close. Even today, new mass graves are being discovered in the region. The people we met gave us the opportunity to listen to this event both in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s perspective and Serbia’s perspective. Therefore, the only thing we can say, hope that no such an event will not happen again anywhere in the world.
We returned to the Sarajevo route again by returning to the road we came from (as you can see from the map, Srebrenica is placed a little inside.) and after a long journey we arrived in Sarajevo. Sarajevo is a city that is not visible until you turn the last curve of the mountain route. But, when you turn that final curve, a city shows up with all beauty. (By the way, with entering the Sarajevo, we had left the administrative territory of Republika Srpska and had entered the administrative territory of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.) After finding a neat parking lot to our car in the back streets, we moved towards to the Baščaršija (old bazaar) region. This site resembles to Eminonu or Suleymaniye districts of Istanbul as it includes structures such as mosque, kulliye (mosque complex), madrasa (historical education center), fountain and bazaar.
As you walk down the Saraçi Street, you can see a lot of places with Turkish signboards around it; these places may vary from kebab restaurants to the exchange offices. Saraçi Street is the outdoor version of the Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. There are carpet traders, coppersmiths, exchange offices, and pastry shops where you can eat a Bosnian pastry. There are even more familiar places on Ferhadiye Street, which is a little behind:
According to the tour guide that we overheard -Ye, sometimes we overheard the guides-, the clock tower located in Saraçi, next to the Gazi Hüsrev Bey Mosque, is the only clock tower in the world that operates according to the moon clock,
If we go further than the Başçarşı area, there is a new part of the city. The Ferhadiye Street I mentioned above and the further parts are the new city region. Something drew out attention here. There are big and small chess boards in the parks and everyone play chess! (This was same in the Serbia also, people play chess in the parks and being competitor to each other.) The surrounding audience is also involved in the game, sometimes with their comments. Let me present a section of the game where two very sweet opponents are playing;
Another thing that drew our attention while walking down the street is a digital counter and a rapidly growing number inside. It likes the National Debt Clock in the United States. After translating it, we understood that we were not mistaken. This digital clock shows how much government spending has been made, informs the citizens and also constantly reminds the importance of saving everyone.
In the new city part there are shopping malls, hotels, business centers as you can see in almost all cities of developed countries. So, you do not need to visit that part. Therefore, we ended our Sarajevo tour here, and decided to set off for Mostar before the weather became darker. Because we would have time to travel on the way back, but if we hadn’t set out immediately, we would be too late to Mostar because we wouldn’t know how to get there. Although the third day of the trip is not yet finished, I’m finishing the writing here and planning to write a separate article for Mostar. See you until then. Thank you so much if you have read the article!
(Destination is Mostar!)