What better way to celebrate my birthday than with a road trip to a medieval village, killer waterfalls and a castle on a hill? Almost none, I tell you. Jajce, about two hours northwest of Sarajevo, was the perfect escape for a low-key weekend away with the hubs and an ideal second Bosnian road-trip.
This little town has witnessed just about every major event in Bosnia’s history – from the crowning of the last King of Bosnia in the 15th century, to hosting the second convention of the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia in 1943 (a coalition lead by Tito to unite the various ethnic and religious groups of the Balkans against the Axis powers), to boarder wars between the Muslim-Croat and Serbian armies in the 1990s. It’s famous for its abundance of water – beautiful waterfalls, converging Pliva and Vrbas rivers, and quirky watermills dating back centuries (many of which have been restored and are currently working).
Upon arriving in Old Town – resting just below the fortress, and sloping down to the river – we quickly realized our little Kia rental wasn’t the best idea for a snow-bound adventure (for the record, it wasn’t snowing in Sarajevo when we left). It navigated the tight roads and alleys deftly enough, but somehow got itself stuck – sideways – on a moderately inclined street, tires spinning in two inches of snow. Brendan masterfully maneuvered it into alignment and backed it down to the intersection below, and once parked, declared we were staying put for the rest of the day.
But since we had ventured out in the dead of winter, most everything in town was closed (we’re sensing a Bosnian trend…). The museums and fort attractions were dark, and top restaurants padlocked. This left us one option to fill the afternoon; a hike around the upper portion of the village and walls of the fortress.
We soon acquired a friend. Old Town accommodated a number of docile, furry pups, and a fantastically shaggy, black-furred little guy decided to join us on our hike. He confidently took role of tour guide. Every time we strayed away from his paw-laden path, he would track us down us again, finding us as we circled back to discover that his suggested route – with its narrow cobbled paths, rock wall gardens, sweeping valley views, and trails that descended down the fortress walls – was, in fact, superior to our own.
Back in town we were able to find a open cafe, delivering top-notch macchiatos mid-afternoon and ginormous beers after dinner. And our lodging, Hotel Stari Grad (built over a Turkish bath), served up the best Bosnian Pot (a thick stew consisting of tender beef, potatoes, carrots and cabbage and smelling of everything comfort food) and Chevapi dinners we’ve had to date.
I have a sneaking suspicion Jajce also turns into quite the party town during warmer months – most of the cafes in Old Town seem to be biding their time until they can throw open their patio doors and turn up the dance music ‘til the wee hours of the morning. The town also boasts an impressive Pliva Lake resort, with little boats, picnic areas, and lounge chairs currently piled with snow, waiting for summer to kick in.
Just like me. Waiting for summer to kick in, not piled with snow (unless I turn my back on Brendan). But taking advantage of the winter wonderland that is Bosnia and Herzegovina makes the “wait” well worth it.