Often people will email me after having read my book Gatecrashing Europe, wanting to know one thing. It is the same question that, as a travel writer, you can expect to be asked again and again.
“Where’s your favourite place?”
I haven’t seen the whole world yet. Far from it. At last count I’ve visited 37 countries, or 38 if you count Catalonia. But my answer to the question has been the same since country number 5, when I visited her for the first time back in 2005.
Favourite country: Bosnia & Herzegovina*
Favourite city: Sarajevo
*For the rest of this post I will refer to the country simply as Bosnia, just because it’s simpler.
My answer always surprises the person asking the question. A lot of people hear the name and their mind conjures up this image of a depressing place, even if they can’t find Bosnia on the map. My experience of the country, however, is the complete opposite of what a lot of people imagine it to be.
I’ve been to Bosnia five times, and her capital Sarajevo three. Each time in that city either with a girlfriend or a friend. Each time as a stop-off for a few days, part of a larger trip around the Balkans. I’ve never been on my own in Sarajevo but have always wanted to be. Almost everywhere I’ve been over the years, I’ve been there alone. In a few of those places I’ve made vague plans to return some day with someone that I wish to share it with.
Bosnia, however, is the one place I’ve always dreamed of going back to without the shackles of company.
To be free to wander the streets at dawn, day, dusk and night, breathing as one with the city. To not feel the pressure of having someone to please. To not have to do the things they want to do, go where they want to go, eat where they want to eat, wake when they want to wake and sleep when they want to sleep. To be able to sit in the corner of a café for three days without moving, should I choose to, just eavesdropping on the conversations of locals, trying to pick up what snippets I can, sipping tea, flicking through the pages of a book; writing a book even, why not? I am at home.