For most people, Bosnia and Herzegovina still conjures up images of war, as if the disastrous conflict that took place in the 1990s is an ever-present reality. In visiting, our mission is simple: to create a book that demonstrates Bosnia is not just a lingering memory of trauma, but a place with bountiful nature and history.
When we arrive in the capital, Sarajevo, on a warm September afternoon, the skies are an immaculate blue. I check the forecast: it predicts the same idyllic weather for weeks. It feels as if Bosnia is on our side, granting us picture-perfect days to help us move beyond the tired metonyms that have overshadowed its beauty for so long.
We avoid the usual clichés: the buildings scarred by gunfire and shells and the other landmarks of war that have now become the sites of dark tourism. Instead, we venture up into the city's valleys and the clustered arteries (mahalas) that create Sarajevo's spontaneous urbanism. From here, we drive for weeks through lush and dramatic mountains that enclose icy-green rivers, and through arid, rocky landscapes.
We visit mountaintop villages and secret Socialist bunkers. We watch local children swim and laugh in the rivers. We hike up hills to see sculptural, brutalist architecture. And we stay in timeless Balkan villages, folkloric Ottoman towns, and even Neum - Bosnia's only coastal town, which most people forget exists. As we travel, we both fall deeper in love with this place and its people. It's no wonder they call it the heart-shaped land of the Balkans.
New Metonyms: Bosnia & Herzegovina is available at newmetonyms.com