One thing I love about travel is that you don’t know what you don’t know, until you know it. My entry into Bosnia and Herzegovina was a huge eye-opener and reminder I know absolutely nothing about history, geography, culture, or the variation of people that exist on this wonderful planet.
I found myself on my way to Trebinje, a small town in Bosnia & Herzegovina known for it’s wine. Tucked away in the southeast corner of the country, it boasts ample sunshine and warm climate year round, perfect for growing grapes. For those that know me, you know that I’m basically on a worldwide wine tour and where better to go than somewhere that I had just learned about 2 weeks prior. Without getting into the horrors of the Bosnian War just yet, I'm going to keep this pretty light and talk about what I saw and who I met, which doesn't even come close to my experience in the rest of the country.
It’s hard to begin to describe Trebinje. It has a small, walled in core center of the city with orthodox churches beside mosques. People milling about at their open plaza market, purchasing fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and homemade clothing, with castles and former military bases line the stunning mountain ranges surrounding the area. There’s a sense of calm with a slow pace of life that offers plenty of coffee shops and inexpensive food, while just up the hill, a vineyard and restaurant that was named the best in Southeast Europe (Vukoje Cellars).
What I didn’t expect while in Trebinje was to be ushered around with a private driver (my hostel owner Nino who became like my Bosnian father), learn about the thousands of years of history from the Ottoman Empire and onwards, and to see so many landmine warning signs still around the countryside. Nino and I spent almost all day and night talking about the region, it’s history, the wine available, and how his family makes some of their own wine and distilled grape brandy (rakija). Using Google Translate for many of our conversations, he opened my eyes to what was to come in Bosnia, and even sent me off with a parting gift of his homemade brandy that I saved until New Years Eve in Sri Lanka.
As a side note, this Rakija was no joke. A German aged 70 who took a swig from the bottle then paused, looked at me, and said "Katie. This is the stuff that makes a revolution."
I spent only two nights in Trebinje, touring and trying to take in as much as possible, but I think Vukoje Cellars says it best when they wrote: