I have been battling to get this blog written as I have not been certain of the angle from which to write it.

After a lot of thought I have decided to give a bit of a history lesson of the area first so that you may understand why we were so glad that we did visit these Eastern European countries.

When we booked our tour to Bosnia-Herzegovina (B-H), Croatia and Slovenia many people were surprised and, in fact, some were nervous as there had been such an awful war and genocide in the1990s. This is not the first time we have travelled that people have been concerned for our welfare. In 2000 we went to Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana and this was at  the start of the deterioration of Zimbabwe. The concern was that we might have problems with police or civil servants. Living in South Africa we could be hijacked at our front gate so our feeling is that we could either dig our heads in the sand and pretend that all is well everywhere or go and see places. We have chosen the latter and had many wonderful experiences.

The Balkans, as the group of Eastern European states are known, have had a tumultuous history. In fact, the former Federation of Yugoslavia has had 3 different formations until 2006 when the last of the countries became independent. Sadly, wars continued in some of these countries as leaders fought for power. By the time we decided to visit the area all of the countries were free and in fact some are now part of the European Union (EU). Although B-H is not an EU country, we could use a Schengen Visa to enter as we would be there less than 7 days, but as mentioned in my previous blog,I missed that we had to enter from a Schengen country and we had made the connection for Sarajevo through Istanbul.

Map of the BalkansCountries of the Balkans. Bosnia is in light mauve, Herzogevenia gold and Croatia is greyish blue

From 1990 –1995 there was a major war with awful genocide in B-H, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia & Kosovo. This war was hard fought with international armies assisting different sides. The genocide or ethnic cleansing was religiously motivated started by Serbia and Montenegro determined to eliminate the Bosnian Muslims known as Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats. There was retaliation from the ethnic Serbs and Croats. Thousands fled their homes becoming refugees until it was safe to return after 1995. Over 100 000 lost their lives, 80% of whom were Muslim, making it the worst Holocaust since WW2.

There are 3 main religious groups in B-H each dominant in a part of the country. Muslims in the north, Orthodox Christians in the centre of the country and Roman Catholics in the South. In the Peace Treaty it was agreed that each religious group would be represented in every Council, Parliament and even the President. That means that there are 3 Presidents elected every 3 years and each gets to be the President for a year. This is how each Council or Parliament also works.

Our tour guide for Sarajevo told us that she thinks that this is a very tenuous situation which she believes probably will not last. While we were there all seemed peaceful and people were working together peacefully but there were still many marks of the war of which I shall write more when I describe our 3 days in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I hope that this background will help you understand and appreciate what we were able to see.

{module Subscribe to my blog}