Assume Bosnian and Bosniak are Synonyms
The difference may be insignificant to us but can cause quite a stir. Bosnian refers to the nationality and Bosniak (Muslim) is an ethnicity. Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs can be Bosnian. Only Bosniaks are Bosnian Muslims. After the 1990s conflict, make sure you never get these terms mixed up.
Explore an Intriguing Abandoned Building
Most travelers will stumble upon empty buildings in rural areas that look like people haven’t lived there for years or even decades. Sometimes the curious may want to take a quick peek inside and try to work out why it’s abandoned. But, the backstory may be more sinister than you think.
During the war, many fled. Bosniaks left Serb-dominated towns and vice versa. Homeowners booby-trapped their property, if they could, with explosives and mines to stop looters and people from stealing their homes. The explosives may not have been removed.
The Bosnian War (1992-1995) was essentially an ethnic war involving the three major groups living in Bosnia: Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs. Bosniaks are Muslims, Croats are Catholic and Serbs are Orthodox Christians.
Lots of atrocities happened during the Bosnian War. Ethnic cleansing, massacres and genocide (depending on who you ask) took place here. Mixed communities suddenly found their friends, neighbors and even their children’s school teachers wanting to kill them.
Feel free to ask questions about the war and their experiences, especially tour guides. If you’re staying at a homestay, your host will likely be happy to answer questions. But, never, ever take sides and say one group was right and the other wrong.
The situation was and still is exceptionally complicated. And frankly, if we don’t have family roots and a direct connection, we don’t really have the right to take sides.
Buy Bottled Water in Sarajevo
Mountains surround Sarajevo, producing very high-quality water. You can drink tap water and refill from one of the many fountains. Buy one bottle and then refill; you can spend the money you saved on a plate of cevapi or a coffee instead. But, it’s advisable to be more cautious in other parts of the country, especially those with a high level of pollution.
Don’t Enter a Bosniak’s House Wearing Your Shoes
Whenever you enter a Bosniak’s home, always remove your shoes. Muslims remove their shoes at the door, and you need to as well. Some hosts provide slippers or let you walk around in your socks. Expect the host to prepare food, and you should bring a gift.