With peace restored in the Western Balkans in the late 1990s, travellers flocked to the eastern Adriatic coast, largely unaware of the cultural and architectural gems of the inland regions. Completely different from the coast, both geologically and historically, continental Serbia and neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina are places of great cultural interest and stunning beauty. Thick primal forests climb spectacularly high and rugged mountains; mighty rivers cut through canyons and plains while rolling hills nurse vineyards, orchards and picturesque villages. Both the countries are known for their hospitality and open heartedness as well as their wonderful cuisine and wines; these gastronomic delights will feature prominently throughout the journey.
The fortunes of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina highlight two millennia of cultural mixing and power struggles for dominance in the region. This is where north Europe meets the South, where Catholics and Orthodox Christians mingle, and where Christianity meets Islam. Theirs is a history of ebb and flow, drawing in the Byzantines, Franks, Ottomans, Russians and Habsburgs. Bosnians and Serbians are neighbouring ethnic groups with long histories and shared cultural ties, but they also have distinct cultural differences that reflect their unique historical experiences and influences. Understanding these countries, their warring, similarities and differences, requires both a bigger context and finer nuances – it is all about cultural tectonics where the plates of European civilisations have forever jostled. The journey is designed to explain these countries as unique parts of a bigger European puzzle.
The journey begins in Belgrade, capital of Serbia which is the heart and soul of the country. It is one of the oldest cities in Europe but rebuilt many times in its turbulent past. Situated on the confluence of two big rivers – ‘where the Sava and Danube kiss’ – it is a dynamic and fascinating city with rich museums, festive restaurants and incredible history.
Continue to east Serbia where Europe’s largest river gorge cuts through the Carpathians in Djerdap National Park. This has always been a fractious border region during the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods where mighty fortresses were built such as the nine towered Golubac Fortress (on the front cover of this itinerary). Enjoy a boat journey along the Danube and then head south to the former Turkish stronghold town of Jagodina and visit the nearby spectacular monasteries of Ravanica and Manasija.
Crossing into Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo beckons with its captivating blend of Eastern and Western influences. The city’s Ottoman-era architecture stands alongside Austro-Hungarian facades, a testament to its rich past. Visit the historic Baščaršija bazaar, savouring traditional Bosnian coffee and local delicacies while hearing the echoes of centuries-old stories.
Next, journey to Mostar, where the iconic Stari Most (Old Bridge) connects the eastern and western banks of the Neretva River. This masterpiece of Ottoman architecture is a symbol of unity and resilience, having been rebuilt after its destruction during the Bosnian War.
Through Nirvana Romell’s expert talks and guidance, learn more of the region’s history and its plans for the future as well as its wonderful artistic, cultural and architectural gems. And as a born and bred Balkan, there is no one better to explain (and choose!) the region’s best foods and wine for the party.
Trip Leader: Mrs Nirvana Romell
Nirvana Romell is an International lecturer in West European Art and Culture, she is a born and bred Dalmatian, coming from Dalmatia- the central coastal province of Croatia.With postgraduate degrees from the University of Zagreb (English Language and Literature / History of Art -Western Europe and the western Balkans). Her main areas of interest are the history of Western art, including Balkan art and culture. She also regularly researches, arranges and accompanies journeys to the western Balkans and related countries and she has just accompanied a very successful journey to Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania for the Alumni of Oxford and Cambridge Universities.