The Many Faces of Bosnia and Herzegovina

 “Bosnia is a world where East meets West, 
where minarets and church spires compete for your attention, 
and where the cultural tectonic plates of 
Islam and Christendom rub together.”
–Rick Steves

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a land of stunning natural beauty and home to a mélange of diverse cultures. You’ll find tantalizing bazaars, exotic Turkish architecture, gracious people, and comfort food that may remind you of your roots. But all this comes at a sobering price.

Sometimes I think that we as travel writers try to paint every destination as sweetness and light. The truth is that some places are hard … very hard to visit because they force you to face harsh realities. Bosnia and Herzegovina, fresh from a brutal war, was one of those places for us.

But hard places make us better travelers. Hard places help us connect the dots in this world, ask better questions, and consequently convey better answers. And understanding hard places makes us better Citizens of the World.

This Saturday we’ll launch our “Weekends in Bosnia Series” for August – revisiting one of the most fascinating stops on our recent Round-the-World trip. We’ll feature war-torn Mostar and Sarajevo where bullet-riddled buildings compete with elegant mosques and churches; where two bridges played critical roles in the theater of world history; and where a new generation is striving to pull it all back together.

Wishing you Peace,

Mother and Child

Photos Credits:
1. By Tony Hisget via Wikimedia Commons
8. By Peretz Partensky via Wikimedia Commons


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

42 thoughts

    1. Hi Michelle, So glad you stopped by. Like you, we really enjoy exploring new countries, and Bosnia-Herzegovina was an educational and eye-opening experience. All the best, Terri

  1. The war in Bosnia was well-publicized, and therefore I remember how brutal and devastating it was. As a skier, my heart sank at the thought of the 1984 Winter Olympics city of Sarajevo being destroyed by artillery and gunfire. I look forward to your series, and it is timely in that I am preparing to make a special announcement on my blog about a Balkan country. – Mike

    1. Mike, I think so many people mourned the bombing of Sarajevo for the same reason. The city has certainly made remarkable recovery since the war, but the scars are ever present. And now you’ve got me totally curious about your special announcement – can’t wait! ~Terri

    1. Hi Suzanne, you’re such an intrepid traveler that I think you will truly appreciate a trip to Bosnia. The people are fantastic … as is the food! 🙂 All the best, Terri

  2. I probably will never get to visit Bosnia, so thanks for this vicarious experience. And, yes, some places are hard to visit. But doesn’t it restore your faith in the strength of people who carry on and even carry forward?

    1. Beautifully said Rusha. The people of Bosnia-Herzegovina are very kind and surprisingly welcoming … and amazingly resilient! It takes an unbreakable spirit to carry on after the atrocities of war. ~Terri

  3. Bosnia is one of those countries that occupies a spot at the top of my wishlist… not only because of its beauty and complex history, but also because I’d like to see how each side has reconciled since the war. We studied the conflict back in school and I distinctly remember the heartbreaking story of a true-life Romeo and Juliet who were gunned down in Sarajevo’s “Sniper Alley”. He was an Orthodox Christian and she, a Muslim. It makes you wonder why they started fighting in the first place.

    1. James, the whole area has such a fascinating and complex history that goes back centuries. We spoke with so many people in our quest to understand, and each person’s story added another layer of complexity and mystery. When you go I will be interested to hear your impressions too. All the best, Terri

  4. Looking forward to your photos of the Bosnian area at the time you travelled through.

    Looking at the map on the internet, I think this must be where I travelled through in 1976 when l travelled from Dubrovnik, Gacko, up close to Sarajevo, then across to Nis in what was then Yugoslavia, then into what was Sofia, Plovoiv in Bulgaria, then into Turkey across to Istanbul (according to my map I still have). So glad I saw this area before the Bosnian war. It was very rustic and open farming fields then.

    Actually Greece & Turkey were on the verge of civil war, but called a truce the night before we crossed into Turkey around August 1976. Would you believe I have photos of the military around camp fires in gun placements in the countryside (I took sneak shots from the bus window). Anyway, we were let into Turkey and travelled safely before heading up into Austria & Switzerland.

    1. I’m sure that this must have been a very different place in 1976 Vicki. Luckily, personally, we have no real experience with war. It’s one thing to watch TV coverage from across the world, but seeing scarred buildings and crowded graveyards brings it all home. And with the war crimes and ethnic cleansing, this war was particularly gruesome. ~Terri

  5. I was glad to have visited Bosnia (2011) too. I found Sarajevo, especially, inspiring – an example of survival despite the odds. Mostar not so much, there seemed to be more abandoned buildings once you got past tourist central. I asked my tour guide in Sarajevo, a man who had been a soldier during the siege, about relations with Serbia. He replied that they wen’t fighting, which I guess is as good as it gets in the Balkans.

    1. We were glad to have visited as well Kathy. We visited Mostar first, and it was a good preview of what to expect in Sarajevo. And you’re right, about 50 meters from the tourist area, the war was painfully obvious. I found the graveyard particularly poignant. ~Terri

  6. Terri, looking forward to seeing other parts of your series from this part of the world. I visited Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2007, and still vividly remember some conversations I had with the locals in Sarajevo and Mostar, as well as seeing the park turned cemetery in Mostar. Hopefully Mostar’s bridge’s reconstruction will be a metaphor for the country overall. The Balkans certainly has a complex history.

    1. Tricia, you were there even closer to the end of the war than we were – and the bridge rebuilding had only been completed in 2004. I can imagine that you had fascinating conversations – I know the ones we had continued to reveal the complexity of the region. It was the park-turned-cemetery that hit me hardest. As I wandered from one young person’s grave to the next it all felt so futile. Have you written about your visit because I would love to read your impressions? All the best, Terri

      1. Terri, I visited there there before I started my blog, but your series serves as an encouragement to revisit my time there.

        When we were in the Balkans just a few months ago, we watched a few documentaries about the fighting in the 90’s. Prior to that, I hadn’t seen footage of the Mostar Bridge being destroyed. That imagery, coupled with my memories of visiting that park-turned-cemetery in 2007 really made history come alive.

    1. I agree totally LuAnn. If I only wanted “happy, happy, joy, joy” I’d go to Disney. All travel isn’t a vacation, and real people live everywhere. Living in Sudan was the stark reality that helped make us the travelers we are today. Things aren’t always nice, and travel is a wonderful chance to expand your understanding of the world. ~James

      1. Someday I would love to meet the two of you. I love your approach towards really living a life, not just passing through.

  7. I just finished reading “People of the Book”, by Geraldine Brooks, which opens in Sarajevo. It is an interesting and easy way to absorb some of the history of that area.

    1. Hi Shelley, I’m so glad to know about this book – Thanks! I searched for books set in the region before we traveled there, but found very few. I have already requested it at my library and can’t wait to start it! 🙂 Terri

      1. A couple of other books on the Balkans I highly recommend are Kaplan’s “Balkan Ghosts” and Rebecca West’s “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon”. Neither are current, but both are excellent for background.

      2. Thank you Kathy! You and Shelley are wonderful fountains of great recommended books. So let me pick your brain. In the Fall we’re heading to the Ukraine, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. Any suggestions on some background reading? ~Terri

      3. Sorry, can’t help with books on those areas. Anything on WWII (perhaps not American?) should at least cover Poland for the relevant period. For something popular try Herman Wouk’s “Winds of War” and “War and Remembrance” (book or TV series on Netflix).

        Those are great destinations. Don’t miss Lviv in Ukraine, especially the cemetery. For my visit there see – I was also in Krakow in 2004, when I visited Auschwitz. It took me several days to recover.

        sorry for the slow reply, my house is still a disaster zone.

      4. Thanks so much Kathy. I’ll go check out your post on Lviv – I’ve read it’s a great destination. And I totally concur with your sentiments about Auschwitz.

        How is the renovation coming? ~Terri

  8. Bosnia Herzegovina is one of those countries in Europe I really want to go to. As an Indonesian who lives in the world’s biggest Muslim country, I’m always fascinated to be in the middle of the minority communities since such experience always gives me new perspectives on how to see the world more wisely. We are all more similar than different after all. I can’t wait for your series on Bosnia Herzegovina, Terri!

    1. Bama, I truly love your attitude! When we moved from the USA to Khartoum, Sudan several years ago, we found ourselves in the minority. It was wonderful – and challenging. The experience opened our eyes … and our minds to new and different viewpoints. Since then we’ve strived to experience people and cultures with different attitudes and opinions – it always keeps us thinking and questioning our assumptions. I hope you have the opportunity to travel to Bosnia Herzegovina in the near future. All the best, Terri

    1. Thanks Carmen. The countryside (and particularly the mountains) in Bosnia are beautiful. And the war is less evident than in the cities. It’s definitely worth a visit. ~James

  9. We paid a fascinating visit here in 2013. I think I probably learned more Balkans history in our days here than I had in years of textbooks and classes. It was a sobering but highly enjoyable place!

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. We passed through the Balkans as a part of our last RTW, and like you, it was sobering. Before our visit there, the war was something that we saw on TV and were saddened by, but really didn’t understand. Mostar and Sarajevo really brought it home to us. In fact, we leave tomorrow for another trip to the region, and it’s interesting that now the big issue is refugees moving through the area to reach the EU. ~James

      1. Oh, yes, that will be a very interesting time to be in the area … hope things stay settled enough for you to move about easily.

      2. It’s primarily border crossings that we’re most concerned about. As Americans, we don’t need visas, but I’m sure security will be high, and the borders might be wacky. We’ll hope for the best. ~James

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