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Sustainable Travel Guide: Sarajevo

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a fascinating place. The war from the 1990s has left challenges for the economy and society. Tourism has become a strong part of their economic recovery and bullet holes still riddle many of the prominent buildings in Sarajevo and other major cities. Although a small population of about 3.5 million people, the country has a range of beautiful natural landmarks and incredible historical and cultural sites. There is still a long way to go when it comes to sustainability as recycling is not common practice, most people still drink from water bottles (as the drinking water is not ideal) and meat is still a staple in their diets. That being said, there were some glimmers of hope for the country that has one of the most complicated Government structures in the world with 3 Presidents and hundreds of ministers for such a small population. From seeing solar benches to meeting with a Not For Profit committed to building the next generation of social entrepreneurs, Bosnia and Herzegovina has an exciting future.

Sustainable Food

Vegetarian food options are few and far between in the good old Balkans! Every meal has multiple styles of meat which is very intense and Chevapi (sausage) is basically their staple diet. Unfortunately, turning up to a traditional restaurant and finding a vegetarian option can be quite difficult as they seem to have meat hidden in everything! I did find one place with great vegetarian options, but if you’re vegetarian I suggest you check out the TripAdvisor page of the 10 best vegetarian restaurants in Sarajevo.

Sinija Buckwheat Food Restaurant

This little restaurant is situated in the old town of Sarajevo and is a great gluten free option. I had a vegetarian pizza and it was delicious! It was full of vegetables and covered with a great amount of cheese. Loved it!

Sustainable Living

Solar Benches

Along the main river in Sarajevo’s centre, there are a number of solar powered benches with plugs to charge your phone. I have seen these in Finland and Montenegro and is great to see them becoming more common around the world. I only charged my phone for a few minutes but it was a great point to chill out, watch the world go by and get my phone charged for the next adventure!

Sarajevo Cable Car

The cable car that was once used during the 1984 Sarejevo Winter Olympics has recently been restored with philanthropic and government funds. It has now become a tourist attraction with great views and access to the ruins of the bobsled and luge track. This area was once a graffiti site for locals and has been transformed into an exciting abandoned space where you can follow the bobsled track on foot. With trees overgrowing into the cement tracks and graffiti brightly painted on, it makes for an awesome adventure. The view from the top of the cable car is pretty great too, with people selling freshly squeezed orange juice (but beware it comes in plastic cups and straws, so we had to give it a miss!)

Sarajevo to Mostar Train

The train from Sarajevo to Mostar is an absolute beauty with stunning views of lakes, mountains and rivers. It takes about 2.5 hours and is about $AUD15. The only challenge is the timing as we have to get a 6:30am trip but once you’re on the train it is comfy and the scenery is an absolute delight to watch.

Sustainable Business

The Tech Boom

Bosnia and Herzegovina has some of the highest unemployments rates in the world, with statistics showing 30-50% of the general population unemployed. However, on the streets there are not mass amounts of homeless people and people seem to be quite comfortable. There is quite a strong ‘grey economy’ or people who work part time.

One of the new industries boosting the Bosnian economy though, is the tech industry. Technology is providing jobs and developing new skills that are in global demand to retain people locally. A small population, 3000-3500 people are programmers and about 60-70% of the labour is made of young people up to the age of 35. According to Statista, in 2016 the whole ICT sector accounted for just over 14 500 people in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Globally, ICT skills like coding, agile management and IT engineering are important and critical to deliver the next wave of global digital transformation. 

Read the full article here.

Mozaik

Mozaik is a Not-For-Profit organisation established 17 years ago to lead the development of a break-through generation of entrepreneurial and innovative youth. They aim to create new social and economic value by creating new jobs and role models to other youth in the region. Their ultimate goal is to create opportunities for young people from Bosnia and Herzegovina to succeed professionally,  regardless of social status or place they come from. Today, there are over 21 000 volunteers and 4 300 individuals, businesses, NGOs and government offices involved to support over 2 100 youth-led community actions. This has resulted in the establishment of 13 social businesses. 

Their approach is innovative and has expanded with a range of programs, funding including venture philanthropy, impact investing, mentor networks, accelerator programs and a crowdsourcing platform to source new business ideas. 

Read the full article- (coming soon).

Tara River Canyon

Outside of Sarajevo, bordering the Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro border is the Tara River Canyon. It is 82 kilometres long, with the last 36 kilometres forming the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. The canyon at its deepest is around 1,300 meters (4,300 feet) deep. This makes the Tara River Canyon one of the deepest river canyons in Europe.

We went to Drina River Rafting Camp for 2 nights and spent a day rafting down the river. The river was incredibly beautiful and felt almost untouched. The rafting staff spoke about how important it is to clean up any rubbish after each raft and all leftover food goes to their local pig farm. One of the challenges with Bosnian culture is the need to offer excessive portions of food. Our meals were so massive and when I spoke to the owner about this he said that it is hard because people have come to expect that there is so much food that there will be leftovers. We had a great discussion about how to change this and I shared how I thought the quality of the food was more important than having leftovers. He said he would look into ways to reduce portion sizes slightly to see how people respond.
Note: One slight sustainability challenge for the Tara River Canyon is that you really need to hire a car to get to the camping sites.

Overall

Stunning!

Sarajevo and the surrounding region is incredibly beautiful. However if you’re trying to be more sustainable I would recommend bringing a filter for water (or stay in a place with a kettle to boil water like we did) and bring some metal straws. If you’re vegetarian, look to cook in house one night as the vegetables are really fresh and at the markets not wrapped in plastic. Sarajevo also has a great train connection to Mostar but some places, like the Tara River Canyon is only really accessible by car. In the coming years tourism will no doubt pick up as word of the untouched natural beauty gets out, so lets hope the Government and business can start to put some sustainable policies and practices in place to deal with the tourism influx.

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