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Sep
27

Where is Sarajevo?

Seriously, are people still asking where is Sarajevo?

Man, I hope so. That means more and more time for me and my friends to keep this untrammeled place to ourselves.

The war here ended ten years ago, they’ve recovered miraculously, and yet whenever you mention the words Bosnia or Herzagovina, the war pops up. The clash of cultures, religions, head scarves also comes up. Scarred buildings, broken bridges, it pops up.

Their incredible resilience, their comeback, their acceptance also comes back.

But you know what? I’m not booking a flight to Sarajevo to look a bullet holes or stare at a broken bridge or ponder upon religion.

bombed out buildings

bombed out buildings

I want to go because it’s outrageously beautiful. It’s old. It’s culturally diverse. It’s cheap. That’s why I want to go. Forget the war.

Majda

Majda

I want to see the limestone peaks of Sutjeska National Park, crawl my way up to the top of 7,828-foot Maglic, the highest mountain in the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

rafting

rafting

I want to sleep under the stars in a mountain camp, river raft through roaring waters and breathe clean air. I want to see as few people as I can.

mostar

mostar

I want to cross the six-hundred year-old bridge of Mostar in the Neretva valley where figs, grapes, pomegranates, rose hips and lemons fill the valley floor, and a river so blue it seems untrue.

In short, I want a break. But I also want to feel safe. Which is why Mountain Travel Sobek (www.mtsobek.com), an American adventure company whose main focus is to take people hiking through unspoiled terrain, is the place to call.  But it also takes you through cities, national parks and landmarks you might otherwise miss.

hike scenic route from sarajevo to mostar

hike scenic route from sarajevo to mostar

Remember this is a land where  Medieval citadels and Turkish houses, cling to green mountainsides over rushing rivers—even atop a series of waterfalls, as in the time-worn village of Jajce. The cultural complexity of this land, where Muslim, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholic communities coexist. Experience an extended tour of the Sarajevo old town with historic perspective Explore Lukomir Highland village – Bosnia’s highest village, steeped in tradition beautiful waterfalls in the old medieval city of Jajce (UNESCO).

UNESCO site jajce

UNESCO site jajce

Cross the historic bridge over Drina River, immortalized by Nobel Prize writer Ivo Andric.

old stone bridge over drina river

old stone bridge over drina river

And if you really want to head out into the green void, there’s Green Visions (www.greenvisions.ba), a Sarajevo-based tourism and environmental protection company, that takes day trips into the mountains on the outskirts of the city for those of you on a quest for nature.

kravica waterfall bosnia

kravica waterfall bosnia

The country is small — it has about 20,000 square miles, just a bit less than West Virginia, but  it’s diverse. Here you get alpine peaks, old-growth forests, highland villages, deep canyons, emerald rivers and, to the south, drier, low-altitude Mediterranean terrain. Five major mountains surround Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, which was host to the 1984 Winter Olympics.

alpine views

alpine views

Mr. Clancy, who comes from Long Island, went to Bosnia in 1992 as a volunteer, intending to stay for just three weeks, but he has been there ever since. In partnership with a pair of Bosnians, a Dutch friend and another American, he began Green Visions to introduce the idea of linking cultural, historical and environmental preservation with economic development.

For Sobek, which offered trips to Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia, Bosnia was intriguing as an emerging destination unscathed by the masses of tourists flooding into the rest of Europe.

Bosnia is vastly different from other states in the former Yugoslavia, particularly Croatia, which has surged back in popularity for its modern, sophisticated coastal scene. “Bosnia and Montenegro are really still starting out,” he said. “They are adventurous destinations in every respect.”

Mountain Travel Sobek’s trips begin and end in Sarajevo, so that you get a good mix of both by visiting major cultural, historical and battle sites, as well as moderate hikes where you will see mosques and medieval villages spread throughout the landscape.  You will spend your rights at small, locally run hotels.  Rafting class II and III rapids on the pristine Neretva River. The trip employs local guides trained by Green Visions, whose staff has critical knowledge of remote mountain areas that have still not been cleared of land mines. A good thing to watch out for, wouldn’t you say?

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