‘You are going to places where everything is deadly, seasoned with gunpowder and untamed passions’, said my colleagues before this year’s Conventa Experience tour. And it is precisely this kind of thinking that fatally attracted me to the tour, as well as the search for that undefined border between East and West that the fierce procedure at the Schengen border with Croatia reminded me of.

The term ‘Balkans’ is in general much more than just the name of one of the peninsulas. Through ten years of visiting its regions with a colleague we have thoroughly discovered it, learned about it and shattered many of its stereotypes. Today I can say that I properly feel it and understand it as one of the most promising regions of European congress tourism. I would like to share with you here a few impressions of this year’s route through the Balkans…

STAGE 1: Ljubljana - Sarajevo

DISTANCE: 541 km
STOP: Hotel Europa, Sarajevo

kava-sarajevo

All the way from Ljubljana to Sarajevo we were escaping the looming clouds. The first part of this route was marked Highway of Brotherhood and Unity, for which the name at one time promised dreams of a better future. I suddenly thought that the highway is in excellent shape, much more so than the brotherhood and unity of the peoples of the former Yugoslavia. The lion’s share of the road was built by youth brigades that with today’s neo-liberal reality might seem like fantasy. At the time of the highway’s opening the former state was experiencing its largest economic development and was raising living standards, something that when driving once again on this highway evoked in me some positive associations for past times.

Heading towards Sarajevo the road splits in Slavonski Brod. This second crossing of the symbolic border between East and West takes us over the mighty river Sava in the Republic of Serbia. Year by year the infrastructure becomes more improved and only the bare remains of old houses stand as silent witness to the front line of the war in the nineties. At this point we consider just how long it takes for vegetation to completely cover the buildings; traces of destruction, hatred, distrust and division we encounter all the time on the long way to the main road to Sarajevo. It will take many years and many generations for these nations to once again live a life with each other. The bell towers and minarets of churches and mosques in roadside villages represent progress and evidence that they live next to each other and yet another folklore addition along the road are the frequent radar controls that mysteriously disappeared due to impending storms on the date we passed by. In the past we haven’t been so blessed and have already payed the penalty for speeding several times over…

In the legendary industrial area of Zenica the motorway starts, which by the signage of the new ring road leads directly to the centre of Sarajevo. It was built by a Slovenian company, which has ingloriously collapsed and left the Bosnian people with a bitter aftertaste. We get involved in a discussion about who actually are the Muslims (Bosniaks), one of the constituent peoples of Bosnia. According to religious beliefs they are Muslims of the Sunni sect, as a result of occupation during the Turkish reign. As a nation they are recognized by the Constitution of BiH (Bosnia and Hercegovina).

We arrived in Sarajevo in the dark and just before getting to the town the rain came down so heavily that I could hardly drive the last few kilometres of the highway. The logical end point of this stage of the trip was the famous »čevapčiči« on Baščaršija. “Burekdžinice”, “Ćevabdžinica” and stores of all types were mostly already closed, but the magic of the city on an atmospheric night like this is amazing.

INCENTIVE IDEA ON THE WAY:

www.bosnianpyramids.org

Valley of the Bosnian Pyramids
Until recently it would’ve been science fiction to think that Bosnia has also the pyramids, but thanks to Semir Osmanagić this is one of Bosnia’s controversial tourist attractions, which defies all official archaeology. If you’re on a journey through Bosnia with an incentive group, a visit to the Earth, Dragon, Sun, Moon and Love pyramids is an interesting alternative to the more well-known tourist attractions. The pyramids are accompanied by a network of underground labyrinths and megalithic structure. “Visoko” is about 30 kilometres from Sarajevo.

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