Being that this is a blog about happy cities and walkable urbanism, it is only fitting that I commence this journey with a place where it all began. Nestled within nooks of mountains in Eastern Europe, in the area known as the Balkans, is a small and resilient country of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Born and raised in a city of approximately 50,000, Goražde was the ultimate example of a dense, residentially compact, walkable and sustainable city. My early childhood days were filled with play, personal freedom and independence afforded by the ability to walk everywhere. The one-owned family car was only used on Sundays to visit the grandparents.
Sadly, the unrest and destitution that was caused during the war between the early to mid nineties has left this powerless but nonetheless charming country in turmoil with severe political, economic and social hardships (to be discussed at a later date).
Bosnia’s rich history and various cultural influences are clearly exhibited in its ethnicity, religion, architecture, and city formation. Prior to the civil war, different cultures and religions coexisted peacefully as this is still evident in Sarajevo with synagogues, churches and mosques all in close vicinity of one another. Just as the Ottoman Empire is reflected in many folk stories and traditions, the history itself is clearly present in the compact, cobblestone streets of Baščaršija. In Sarajevo, the capitol of Bosnia, walking and transit prevail as the primary modes of transportation.
In recent years, many tourists are finding their way to this small Adriatic peninsula and discovering its charming façade. Still, a lot yet remains unknown of Bosnia’s future. What I do know is that I am grateful for having had the opportunity to reside in a place that has not only taught me how to remain humble (not having electricity, water or food will do that), but it has in some twisted way, beyond the real and unimaginative struggle, taught me to appreciate creativity and good design (in terms of city and architecture) that gave me the self independence and determination as a child to grow and flourish during a time when everything else around me was slowly perishing away.
The following photos were taken on my first trip back since moving to the U.S. in 2007 and provide just a minor glimpse into the beauty of this hidden gem.
Images by author, unless otherwise specified. Data linked to sources.
Full time Bicycle & Pedestrian Transportation Planner. Part time urbanista dreamer & traveler residing in Minneapolis, Minnesota.