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General

Historically, Bosnia & Herzegovina was a melting pot of different cultures, with Christians, Muslims and Jews co-existing peaceably in this area for many centuries. The country's architecture was diverse and fascinating; beautiful churches and mosques existed in equal measure.

The 500 years of Turkish rule left their trace, mainly in the capital, Sarajevo. The Turkish quarter and the town centre have been largely rebuilt and the city, although scarred by war, is coming back to life. The colourful bazaars are also part of the Ottoman heritage. Travnik in Bosnia was known as the town of the wazirs at the time of the Ottoman Empire. Much of the town was spared in the war and it is still possible to visit the medieval castle. The many-coloured mosque near the base of ul Hendek is alleged to contain hairs from Muhammad's beard.

The reconstruction of Mostar, once a prime tourist destination, is an ongoing process; however, most of the town's monuments were destroyed in the war, including all the 16th- and 17th-century mosques and the famous Turkish bridge. This bridge was recently reconstructed and opened in mid-2004 to the public. A few medieval buildings and cobbled streets survived the war completely.

Banja Luka, the capital of the Republika Srpska, still contains a 16th-century fort and an amphitheatre. There are several spas in the Republika Srpska area, most of which are operating again. Bijeljina, Dubica, Laktasi, Srebrenica, Telic and Visegrad all have natural mineral springs and medical facilities.

The civil war not only caused numerous deaths and casualties but led to the devastation of the country's historic towns. However, the rebuilding process continues.

Sarajevo

Sarajevo is a city in which even strangers can feel at home. Neither geographically expansive nor characterised by large buildings, the city retains a particular, arresting charm with its abundance of busy café's and abiding tradition of hospitality.

This city epitomises a partial centuries-old struggle against outside influences combined with the absorption of these influences into one of the most diverse cultures in Europe. Indeed, few places on earth feature an Orthodox and a Catholic church, a mosque and a synagogue within easy walking distance of each other. If there were any city in Europe that effortlessly straddles east and west, it is Sarajevo. Here the Byzantine and Ottoman empires of the east and the Roman, Venetian and Austro-Hungarian empires of the west left an indelible mark through culture, traditions and religions.

There are numerous interesting areas to walk in the city, but the most interesting of any walking tours through Sarajevo centres are those around the old town Turkish quarters and Marijin Dvor, both of which are situated in the flat valley of the Miljacka River.

The Old Town 'Bascarsija' may be hard to pronounce but it is certainly one of the most impressive and charming market centres in the country. Bascarsija has been a trading and meeting place since the 15th century as caravans from Asia minor, Dubrovnik and the west met here to trade their wares.

The old narrow streets on both sides of the river above Bascarsija are well worth the wander but if you are not up for the steep trek to places like Jajce Castle (Eugene of Savoy Castle) and the ruins of the medieval town, there are local buses and car tours. The views of the whole city from these areas are spectacular. Otherwise a walking tour of the main sites can be done in about three hours depending on your pace and number of café stops.


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