Yes, I only discovered this humble city in 2017 and I had the absolute pleasure of travelling there in April 2019. Everything I’m about to say is anecdotal – mostly information I learned from travelling there and speaking to locals.
Tuzla is the 3rd largest city in Bosnia & Herzegovina, with a population of roughly 150,000 people! Coming from Melbourne….THAT’S SO SMALL! Tuzla is not a tourist destination, so if you don’t look like a local, you’ll stand out. But it’s OK. The city is very safe and there is a lovely community vibe to it. It’s also a youthful city, with a few major universities situated there.
I stayed in what appeared to be one of the biggest buildings in the town – Hotel Mellain. I kid you not, it is the fanciest place I have ever stayed at. I had a suite with a big bed, lounge area, work area, big windows and a very spacious bathroom. I love a bathroom with lots of bench space and a large mirror – coz I scatter my cosmetics everywhere! It also had a urinal, which I obviously didn’t need but I like that the hotel room covered everything 😀
One of the first places I went to was Slana Banja, a gorgeous park where you can walk up the hill to get a great view of the city and the lakes. Also at the top of the hill is Mezarje, a cemetery for the victims of the devastating bombing on May 25th, 1995. As for the lakes I mentioned, I’m referring to the Pannonian Lakes, which are man-made and are packed with locals in the summertime. I was there in early April and it was quite cold, so I didn’t get a chance to float in it like a big whale. But a simple search on Google will reveal how awesome it is!
Every day I walked through the city centre, and it is so charming! Full of old architecture, local businesses, restaurants, bakeries (where I would buy my late morning snack sometimes) and residential apartments. It’s city is pretty much one straight line and at one end, you’ll find Trg Slobode (Freedom Square), a public precinct buzzing with locals and a central fountain known as Fontana Solni Trg.
One thing I found interesting, and I know it’s normal in parts Europe but I sometimes forget when I’m in Australia for too long, is that on a regular weekday, like, 10am on a Tuesday, the city is so alive with locals out, enjoying their day with friends/family at cafes and restaurants. Why do I find this interesting? Because, in Australia, most people would be at work or school. And most social spaces would be dead quiet. But every day felt like a Saturday in Tuzla. And how could you not like that? Sometimes we take life too seriously, and seeing the general way of life in Tuzla reminded me of what’s truly important, and that’s spending time with the people you love.
In the heart of the city is Kapija, a memorial for the same bombing stated earlier – the May 25th, 1995 Tuzla Shelling. Kapija lists the names of all the lives lost. You can’t miss it or walk passed it without taking the time to stop and pay your respects, even if it’s in the form of silence. Kapija is located at the exact spot where the bomb landed. In 1995, I was 6 years old, blissfully ignorant in Australia, enjoying my childhood, while on the other side of the world, there were people, children included, living through war. I couldn’t help but ask locals what it was like, since 1995 wasn’t that long ago. Listening to their stories of hiding in bomb shelters, hearing the explosion, feeling the city shake… I was both captivated and sad. It’s a reality that countless people around the world still face, and I couldn’t help but feel helpless and small in this world of problems. But if there is one thing you can do, especially if you’ve been raised in a first world country, it’s BE GRATEFUL! COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS and APPRECIATE every day YOU’RE ALIVE.
My friend Mirza, who lives in Tuzla, kindly translated the poem (as pictured):
“Ovdje se ne živi samo da bi se živjelo. Ovdje se ne živi samo da bi se umrlo. Ovdje se i umire da bi se živjelo”, which loosely translates to “Here one does not live only to live. Here one does not live only to die. Here one dies for the sake of living.”, written by Mak Dizdar, a Bosnian poet in the 20th century in his volume of poems “Stone Sleeper.”
If you’re travelling to Tuzla from Australia (or similar), you’ll get bang for your buck! The average meal cost roughly AUD$3-$7.00. I could’ve eaten out every day but being a #FrugalFemale I still chose to buy food in bulk at a grocery store. However, even a week’s worth of groceries only amounted to AUD$18.00. Three fairly big restaurants that I did dine at and quite enjoyed were Zlatnik, Coffee Zone and MamaMia Origins Steak & Wine Restaurant. And I most certainly enjoyed a classic Ćevapi and Börek! Apparently I ordered the kids size when I ate my first ćevapi – they’re big eaters in Bosnia & Herzegovina.
I think that covers it! 🙂