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Bosnia

Holiday Guides for Eastern Europe - Bosnia And Herzegowina

Bosnia Holiday

The formerly troubled country of Bosnia is well and truly on the comeback trail as a travellers' destination, and possesses a superb variety of possibilities for the visitor.

Bosnia and Hercegovina is a country that has battled back in recent years from the turbulence experienced in the Balkan state during the 1990s.

A NATO-led international peacekeeping force (IFOR) monitored the new state following the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995 and had now handed over to a European stabilisation force. While the country has rebuilt rapidly over the past decade, ethnic tensions remain and the infrastructure is still shaky in places, though most visitors will find the country welcoming.

Bosnia and Hercegovina declared sovereignty in October 1991 and independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1992. However, Bosnian Serbs opposed the move and launched an armed response, supported by Serbia and Montenegro. A peace agreement signed in the United States in November 1995 brought years of fighting to an end and the Bosniak/Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina was created.

Bosnia lies between Croatia and Serbia in south east Europe and has a colourful history. Inhabited since Neolithic times, Bosnia was annexed as part of the Roman Empire, taken by the Slavs in the seventh century, became a Turkish province in the 15th century and fell into the hands of the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburgs, backed by the Russians, in the mid 1800s.

The assassination of Hapsburg Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Bosnian Serb in 1914 started the First World War and, following several turbulent decades, Bosnia was granted republic status by Marshal Tito as part of Yugoslavia, where it remained until the 1990s witnessed the break-up of the country.

The complex history of the state is reflected in its architecture, with a mishmash of styles in many of the buildings, and the ethnically diverse population. However, constant occupation, two world wars, a large earthquake in 1969 and the fighting of the 1990s has destroyed many of the country's most impressive buildings.

The capital Sarajevo suffered tremendous damage during the 20th century, but is now a multicultural and lively place, with some interesting sights, many dating from well before the upheavals of the 20th century. The old town market is a joy to wander around, with plenty of bargains and local crafts on offer, while the reopened museums are well kept and interesting and the city has a growing number of stylish bars and eateries.

The city of Mostar is situated on the Neretva River, which creates a potent divide between the Croatian and Muslim sides of the city. The famous Stari Most bridge has been reopened to the public and the city also boasts some charming Turkish shops, mosques, restaurants and characterful old town area.

The medieval walled city of Jajce is well worth a visit, with its cobbled streets, old houses and strong sense of history. One of the oldest surviving buildings in Bosnia is Banja Luke Castle, which was built in the 1500s and plays host to an impressive annual music and drama festival in its outdoor amphitheatre each summer.

Bosnia has just 20km of coastline on the Adriatic Sea, centred around the city of Neum. However, with a population of just over four million across more than 50,000 sq km, there is a great deal of natural beauty to explore in the country. The interior landscape is mountainous, with lush valleys and charming rivers running through it and guides are available to take visitors to some of the more inaccessible and dramatic regions.

Weather in Bosnia is hot in summer and cold in winter, with colourful spring and autumn, as the rich flora and fauna in its valleys and mountains changes.

A growing number of large airlines are opening up routes to Sarajevo, though the country is still relatively expensive to visit. Within Bosnia, rail and road links are patchy, as they are slowly being improved and rebuilt. Good quality accommodation is available in the cities, with hotels gradually reopening, though further afield it is best to arrange to stay in the home of a local resident.