‘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: Sarajevo - Podgorica

DISTANCE: 231 km
STOP: Hotel Ramada, Podgorica Hotel Europa, Sarajevo

Rasim Bajrović is a confident entrepreneur and owner of the Hotel Europa which occupies an elite spot in the city centre. He says that they don’t need any special marketing for his hotel, as due to the location it is fully occupied virtually all of the time. The formula of his success is perseverance and mutual solidarity and the main accumulation of capital was formed in the time of reselling junk dinars for foreign currency during the disintegration of the country. Today, Rasim is a renowned hotelier who is seeking quality hotel services in their hotels.

Newcomers from “Sandžak” today belong to the business elite of the city, which triggers different reactions from the old Sarajevo folk, although it seems that mostly the “Sandžaklije” understood the neoliberal opportunities, as today they practically dominate the economy of the city. From the perspective of the congress offer from the old “Olympic times” very little remains; the complete modern congress facilities and offers are concentrated in the hotels of new entrepreneurs of Sarajevo and slowly the international hotel chains are paving their way in the city.

In the decade since my first visits to the city its famous multicultural image has changed considerably. The cost of the war was high for everyone and the process to make up for lost time in Sarajevo will be long. Yet the city of Sarajevo always touches me in its own way, even though it has lost some of its traditional charm in recent years. Every year there are more girls who dress in accordance with Islamic culture and it is the formation of a new Islamic way of life. Muslims are different from Serbs and Croats, and when every one of them will have the right to be themselves, have their own identity and be willing to respect differences and live in harmony, peace will once more return to Bosnia. However, another side of the city’s reality is the endless cemeteries, Sarajevo flowers (the places where grenades fell) and tunnels of salvation, which you have to witness to really understand the cruellest siege in the history of mankind. “Dark” tourism is on its way in Sarajevo and includes everything from the place where the crown prince Ferdinand was killed, to the relics of the Bosnian war with the demolition of the Olympic facilities.

According to Semir Efendić, Chief of the Municipality of Novo Sarajevo, it is part of the future of the city’s congress tourism. They plan to build a convention centre as a generator of development. The value of the investment is estimated at 150 millions Euros and we are excitingly waiting for the project to get started.

Thinking ahead to the road to Podgorica, this time we chose the route through the territory of the Republic of Serbia, past Foča to Trebinje and then on towards Nikšić and Podgorica. A picturesque road leads straight into the heart of wild nature with Bosnian Sutjeska, which may itself be an independent incentive story. The Bosnian karst fields, which due to heavy rains had a magical aura, are particularly interesting. From Gacka field to Trebinje, however, the great road suitable for car promotions is over in an instant…

The route to Montenegro continued on a rather wild local road undergoing renovation to Nikšić. Passing by Lake Krupac and Salt Lake I remembered that a few days ago the world premiere of Jaguar was held here. The organisers could not imagine better roads for testing. The late arrival in Podgorica meant that only a handful of restaurants and bars were open and we had no other option but to head to apparently the only Balkan Hard Rock Cafe. Definitely not an authentic experience with the richness of the local cuisine.



Sutjeska rally
The road to Sutjeska is a special experience – the narrow mountain roads with many cows, sheep and other obstacles are a special experience for drivers used to European roads. The goal is the valley of the river Sutjeska, where one of the toughest battles of World War 2 took place in 1943. The Germans, together with allies, surrounded the Partisan units, but they were still able to make a breakthrough towards Jahorina. Moreover, the area is also the oldest national park in Bosnia, in existence since 1962. Any remains of these historic times are mostly deserted, or were looted, but the great outdoors and attempts at renovations of the “Valley of Heroes” still remain. The park is ideal for the more inquisitive incentive groups who are interested in history and natural wealth, and you will be rewarded with untouched nature, which is amongst some of the

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