Monday 26 October 2015

Vegan Travels in Bosnia and Herzegovina

For some reason Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of those countries that has always felt far away. Geographically Sarajevo is about the same distance from London as Seattle is from San Diego but it’s always felt greater in my mind. I imagine that this is partly because I grew up seeing reports of the war in the 90's playing out on the news channels my parents tuned into and because, as a kid growing up in the west, you think that war is something that happens in far away places. 

As we were road tripping we crossed over into Bosnia and Herzegovina and onward to Mostar from just north of Dubrovnik in Croatia and found ourselves in the city less than an hour after crossing the border. Of course our main reason for checking out Mostar on our road trip was to take a look at Stari Most, a (pretty great) reconstruction of the 16th century ottoman bridge that stood there before it was bombed in the 1993 Croat-Bosniak war. 

After wandering around the old town and taking far too many pictures of both Stari Most and snoozing kitties we popped into the closest spot marked on Happy Cow, Sadrvan, for lunch. 

I ordered the Duvec because the last HC reviewer said that it was "really good vegetables and rice" which is exactly what I was in the mood for and they weren't wrong, it was really good, better than good actually, it was hearty, flavourful and filling. I love simple dishes like this when they're done well. It also came with some fantastic bread that I was more than happy to use to mop up the last of the tomato sauce at the bottom of my bowl.

River Camp aka Camp Buna was our first overnight stop after Croatia before travelling through Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania making it the first of the more basic Balkan campsites of the trip. The site had a backyard feel and there's a river at the end of the site where we watched the ducks going about their daily business in the morning. The campsites from here on often followed this formula: Buy patch of land, build home, build toilet block, use spare space for campsite. I love this model and if I ever settle down somewhere large enough running a cute little campsite is definitely going to be a consideration. The owner greeted us as soon as we arrived and proceeded to show us around the whole site whilst holding my hand. She was adorable and I would highly recommend a stay here if you're in the area. 

The next day we awoke under a rainbow after a rainstorm as soon as we'd finished our breakfast of peanut butter topped rice cakes we packed up and headed for Sarajevo. After we arrived and checked into our new campsite, Autocamp Oaza, which was located in a residential district a short walk from the far end of the tram line into the city, we spent an afternoon exploring together. We wandered around the Turkish quarter, spotted the Sarajevo roses (red paint memorials to the victims of bombs during the war), bought vegan snacks at DM and payed a visit to the Eternal Flame. The next day Nick and I decided to take a walking tour with Insider City Tours and Excursions so that we could get a less superficial look at the city.

Insider came highly recommended to me by Randi from Laughfrodisiac. The tour was free, run just for tips, and thankfully everyone tipped well when the time came. We toured the riverbank, learnt about the history of the Latin Bridge and the Eternal Flame as well as about the history of many other local buildings that don't get a mention in the guidebook. We learnt a whole lot more about the history of Sarajevo than we picked up from reading the guidebook and wandering the city streets ourselves the day before.

One other spot we checked out was Gallery 11/07/95, another of Randi's excellent recommendations, which is a multimedia memorial museum documenting the Srebrenica massacre and the 8372 people who lost their lives in the tragedy. I found the museum fascinating, they were showing a film made during the war made up of a series of clips of kids growing up during the siege of Sarajevo. It was so sad to see these children growing from these happy go lucky people into shadows of their former selves as they grew up, understood more of what was happening and lost people they cared about. If you're in Sarajevo and looking to understand more about this very recent tragedy I'd highly recommend a visit.

We ate lunch at Veggae on both days because it's the only vegan place in town and after eating a great meal there on day one it seemed silly not to return. Who knows when we'll be able to eat there again right?! I tried the soya burger which I really enjoyed because the burger to sauce ratio was spot on and the bun was just right.

Nick went big on day one with the XXL falafel and we both followed it the next day with the regular falafel pictured below. The XXL falafel is two of those huge sandwiches on one plate and it totally defeated Nick! I definitely enjoyed the falafel sandwich, mainly because the bread was so great, but the falafel itself wasn't anything to write home about.

Something that was worth writing home about was this chocolate and nut crepe. I was super sad that I only had space to share one with Nick because on most days I could have happily polished off a couple all by myself. It was seriously delicious!

Our time in the city also happened to coincide with the Sarajevo Film Festival which is a much bigger deal than we realised at the time. With no information leaflets available anywhere (no, not even at the info or booking desks) and no internet on our phones we just picked an interesting sounding documentary duo that was showing at a convenient time.

We saw Green Walls, Black Food, a student documentary from Macedonia, and Flotel Europa which was the main event. I have to say that Green Walls, Black Food has stuck with me more than Flotel Europa - it was the more interesting of the two documentaries for me probably because it's focussing on a situation that's happening in Macedonia right now and it was the more political of the two films. I think the name of the movie says a lot as the film focusses on the government funded dorm's that students are currently living in - it's a truly horrifying situation and when I visited Skopje I found it hard to push the information to the back of my mind. Reconciling the shiny public squares and statues with the knowledge that students who cannot afford a better place to live are surviving in squalid dormitories with no running water, crumbling walls and a lack of electricity whilst being faced with threats if they speak out made it hard to enjoy the city... oh yeah and Skopje was the place I was hissed at and had coffee thrown at me so, y'know, I wasn't get the fuzziest feelings during that part of the trip.

Sarajevo on the other hand was one of the warmest places I've ever been, every single person I met was incredibly friendly and this feels like a city full of people who are determined to stick together despite their religious or philosophical differences. I really hope to be able to go back one day.


  1. Holy crap, that falafel would've beaten me too.

    I know what you mean about it seeming such a far away place. It looks so beautiful!

    1. It was epic! Next time we'll get the XXL falafel to share!

  2. aww kitty!

    the crusty bun on that burger looks way good! also a nutty chocolate crepe - i could have eaten 12!

    1. I wish I'd eaten 12! I'm still dreaming of it months later!

  3. That pita bread looks so light and fluffy!! I want!!!!

  4. What beautiful pictures! Thanks for sharing your journey with us!

  5. Oh BiH, how I love it there! Sarajevo was one of my favorite places ever, even though it was definitely still quite a mess when we visited. And it's great to hear that you found it to be such a warm place, that was also our impression. I went to the Iranian visitors center when we were there, which was such a thrill for me and the lady working there was so kind and we talked about all Iran together. BiH forever!

    1. How fantastic, I'll make sure to check out the Iranian visitors centre next time I'm in Sarajevo.

  6. I love that picture with your minivan and the rainbow.

    I hope the coffee was at least not too hot =/

  7. I love hearing about your travels!!!!!


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