A Little Adventure in Banja Luka, Bosnia
Bosnia and Herzegovina (shortened to BiH here) is one of our neighbors to the East, and this past weekend I finally got to see some of it! Our embassy along with our colleagues in Banja Luka organized a weekend of exploring less than three hours from Zagreb.
White Water Rafting
Near Banja Luka sits a little cottage and rafting business called Piccolo. There a group of us enjoyed the river Vrbas in rafts with the sun shining and water splashing. This was my first time, and I think the moderate level of difficult was a great place to start.
This is mid-September, so I was nervous about freezing temps. But, luck was on our side and the sun stayed out all day, making the cool river feel refreshing as we rafted down it.
After our two-hour rafting trip, we were served a decadent Balkan-style meal of veal and potatoes slow-cooked in a Peka. Before the main course we had the best chicken noodle soup I've had in the Balkans thus far, a shopska salad and bread.
In general, the nature in BiH is incredible. There are more ways to enjoy than just white water rafting, but I would say that was a great place to start. Hiking, camping and cycling are other ways to take advantage of this beautiful country.
Our first night in Banja Luka, we ate at an Israeli restaurant connected to our Hotel Palas called Hummus. Delicious, I must admit. Highly recommend for a quick and yummy lunch or dinner.
Our second night, dinner was scheduled at a breathtaking restaurant called Stara Ada. Sadly, they did not seat us outside where all of the twinkling lights and wooden structures sit along the river. Since this place is large, good and pretty it was busy on this Saturday night. Smoking is allowed inside, so keep this in mind if you visit when it is colder weather. Our meal was similar to that of our lunch, and it was only five hours later. Needless to say I was stuffed after this weekend.
Places I heard were amazing that we didn't try are Kazamat, Mala Stanica and Monogram.
Our group had a two-hour walking tour around Banja Luka. We saw many of the most interesting and important buildings in the city. BiH is much more diverse than Croatia, so we saw a Catholic church, an Orthodox church and a mosque. We walked in Kastel Fortress, saw university and Republic of Serbia buildings and learned (some of) the history of this complicated city.