I had seen most of Western Europe when I visited the Balkans, but I wasn’t prepared for the beauty and raw elements of war I would see. Mountain views, lakes and valleys that would rival the best of Switzerland, rivers that rival the beauty of Idaho’s and untouched wilderness, the bridge in Mostar rival the arches of the canals of Venice, but evoke an emotional response. The worst of the war torn parts remind me of some parts of Beirut. Even the West Bank has been more cleaned up than some of the pits out of the buildings in Sarajevo. The stories of the rebuilding of the Synagogue in Sarajevo… How many times can a building be rebuilt?
In contrast, Roman emperors vacationed in Croatia. Dubrovnik and Split are incredibly scenic and would rival that of any ports in Italy or France, and a fresh seafood or fish dinner would cost you much less. I guess what I’m saying is, I loved it. Belgrade and Sarajevo are the hidden gems of Europe, the passion and life, and recent history to blow your mind. The travelers looking for secrets in Europe. Here’s a great place to start. It’s the Balkans. Some of my best friends in Europe. There’s something that goes deeper here. Relationships are stronger, and go deeper, you can feel it.
My trip started in Zagreb the capital of Croatia with a night tour. We met up for a great dinner and ended up walking around parliament, and old town Zagreb. Zagreb itself did avoid much of the conflict in the Balkan conficts/wars that happened back in 92-93.
Remnants of the war are still visible. There are more reasons to come and visit than the incredible night life. There are fresh memories that will teach the world a lesson… this lesson is war is not kind to anyone. War should be avoided at all costs, and the horrors and nightmares of war are real. Those who only vacation at Disneyland or Disneyworld and spend their vacations with the Grand Canyon as the ultimate bucketlist need to come for a visit. This land has a lot of lessons to teach.
When we got close to the Republik of Srpska we came across these signs. After spending time at the Cambodia land museum, I have been convinced that land mines do more danger to the citizens that have to live with these than any good they do for the military. There are some crazy stats on how much the people are impacted by these.
Now before you think it’s all doom and gloom, that’s totally not the key take away. It’s the opposite. In fact my friend Michael, who I was traveling with, recently wrote about his experience on this same trip. I highly encourage reading about his writeup on the former Hapsburg empire – Serbia, Romania, Bosnia & Herz, Montenegro, and Croatia. This trip started with a fellow colleague who lived in Croatia, Toni Frankola, a speaking team of Michael Noel, and Paul Swider.
This place is amazing, but as an American tourist, that gets a rise out of seeing something unlike anything I can find within the US or Western Europe. I get excited. This was one of the best Europe vacations I’ve ever done. I’ve seen Dubrovnik and Mostar on the front page of Bing on multiple occasions. They really are spectacular. The castle in Belgrade was an awesome place to walk around. The cultural music and dancing we got at night was spectacular. Very fun environment. I think it was a good thing for Toni as well, as he recognized some of the tunes, and was surprised to see the similarities between Croatia and Serbia. Good stuff.