A look into life in the Republika Srpska
Trip Start Apr 08, 2007
129Trip End Oct 01, 2007
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Where I stayed
I've heard that it was once quite lovely, decades before. An earthquake in 1969 apparently made short work of most of the town though, and understandably reconstruction was subject to the unimaginative architectural leanings of the times
The fact that it's not a city of tourism also means it doesn't have much in the way of accommodation, at least certainly not the cheap kind. I arrived just after 1pm on a stuffy bus from Zagreb and bee-lined it to the information office in the time-warped train station. The woman there looked like she was really digging deep to come up with suitably affordable hotel options. After riding an equally stuffy bus into town and marching around for a while in futile search of the "tourist office" (heavy pack and all), I decided to just suck it up and splurge
Once I had taken a shower to wash off all the sweat, I had a walk through the low key "sights" of Banja Luka. There's not a whole lot to it, honestly. There are a few old buildings (that survived the quake) along the main drag, a towering, but attractive Orthodox cathedral (that looks oddly new), and a fairly intact Ottoman-era castle along the Vrbas river. Taking that all in required about an hour to an hour and a half at most, but it beats sitting in a hotel room. The castle itself was interesting, despite not having a single sign or attraction inside. In fact, the only things within the grounds were a small restaurant a playground/park for families to pass the time away. One corner of the castle is under construction, though it's unclear as to what they're exactly doing with it.
Once I finished there, I went for a much needed haircut. That turned out to be a funny experience, with me trying to explain what I wanted to a girl that clearly spoke little other than Serbo-Croatian. She got the job done though, so I can't complain. It was bloody cheap too (only 7KM), so that's an even nicer bonus.
I went to have a look at the site of the Ferhadija Mosque - formerly the city's largest, that is supposed to be rebuilt using UNESCO funds. It looks like they've at least started on something, but no structure is yet visible and the entire site is enclosed in metal walls, almost certainly there to prevent any possible vandalism
I still have yet to work out the logistics of it, but I'm planning on heading to the little city of Jajce tomorrow en route to Sarajevo. Apparently this place got a real battering in the war and has yet to fully pick up the pieces, but it's also supposed to be one of places in Bosnia with the most tourist potential. The international community has reconstructed much of the old Turkish town and its centerpiece castle, and there is a set of much celebrated waterfalls in town, so it should be an interesting place to visit. The only trick I have yet to figure out is the bus time(s), plus where I'm going to store my bags for the day. Anyhow, I'm sure I'll get it sussed.
Next time I get back to this thing, I should be in Sarajevo.
p.s. Sounds like thunder outside. Yay! Rain again!