It was 11pm for me in Sarajevo when I got a text message from my mobile service provider saying that my data roaming usage was in excess of 100 bucks. I did use data roaming for a bit but I bought a international data package before I left the U.S. of A on my trip to Istanbul, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and London. This had to be some mistake.
The customer service lady was incredibly polite and said that the person who I talked to when I bought the plan should have explained that Bosnia was not one of the well over a hundred countries covered by that package. She waived the charges for me. I was pretty relieved.
She said that the package didn’t apply to Bosnia since it was remote and that I could use the data when I get back to Europe. She suggested I stick to WiFi but wasn’t sure if there was any WiFi availability in Bosnia at all?
I inwardly winced when she said all of that. Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is in Europe and far from remote, is a country with a long history and a rich culture and and is a great place to be a tourist:
-They have a beautiful landscape, great for hiking and in the winter, skiing. There are remnants of the Ottoman Empire still around as well – from old fortresses to mosques that are still in use.
-They had a war in the 1990s that is important to understand: From 1992-1995, Bosnia endured an ethnic cleansing and atrocities like the genocide in Srebrenica, while Sarajevo was constantly under siege. Everyone has a story to tell, ones we should all hear. Evidence of the war still exists: you can visit the War Tunnel, the means in which citizens of Sarajevo were able to leave the city during the siege to get supplies for their families, and some buildings are still pockmarked from enemy fire.
-And dude, the food is pretty amazing and incredibly affordable. The cevapi is drool-worthy and Bosnian coffee is delicious. McDonalds are scarce and there’s no need for a Starbucks. Folks, you can even drink the tap water in Bosnia.
And yet, even though all those thoughts were going through my head after the customer service lady assumed Bosnia was still in the Stone Ages, all I said was that I can get free WiFi at hotels and cafes, no problem. She was surprised even at that statement. Honestly, from what I heard from the locals, including from one of my tour guides, that sentiment is nothing new. Sometimes, they even get tourists that happen to go through the country not expecting anything but then have trouble leaving because they love it so much.
Maybe for a lot of us in the United States, Bosnia and Herzegovina isn’t at the top of our list of places to visit. And to be fair, it wasn’t even on my list until the past few years. Then recently, between the interview I did with Haroon Moghul about traveling plus my younger sister’s own travels there, I felt the need to go sooner than later so I booked this trip.
And I have to say…
Even though I traveled at a time that could be considered too cold for someone like myself who was born and bred in California, I’m so glad I went. I really got to experience Bosnia, from walking around Sarajevo, going around the rest of Herzegovina, meeting awesome people, hearing so many stories, and of course, drinking Bosnian Coffee. It’s a place that yearns to be visited and it’s well worth the journey.
I think I have a couple more blog posts on my trip to Bosnia. Stay tuned.