Day by Day Itinerary

Small Groups: Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

Journey with OAT to the countries of Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Slovenia—southeastern Europe’s multicultural lands of forgotten beauty. United as Yugoslavia after World War I, these diverse countries at the crossroads of Eastern and Western cultures have co-existed peacefully for centuries—yet have been at the center of intermittent hostilities from the Middle Ages to the late 20th century. Discover the fascinating heritage of the Balkans while witnessing stunning coastal scenery, exploring ancient walled cities, and experiencing the pride and resilience of the people of these re-emerging nations in the heart of the Balkans.

Delve into the many facets of Croatia, from the elegant walled city of Dubrovnik to the seaside resorts dotted with Roman ruins along the Istrian Peninsula. In Bosnia & Herzegovina, discover Sarajevo’s long history of multicultural tolerance—and explore the ancient town of Mostar, whose elegantly restored Ottoman-era bridge stands as a metaphor for reconciliation. In tiny Montenegro, witness bare mountains plunging into the sea at the Bay of Kotor; and journey inland to Slovenia, a forest-clad country of emerald meadows, clear lakes, and the towering peaks of the Julian Alps. Immerse yourself in the history, natural beauty, and diverse cultures of the Balkans as you witness the transformation of a region that is rapidly reestablishing its rightful position among the world’s great travel destinations.

Dubrovnik Ljubljana Expand All

    Fly overnight from the U.S. to Dubrovnik, Croatia.

  • Today, arrive in Dubrovnik, Croatia. After you are met and transferred to your hotel, you'll enjoy an orientation walk and a Welcome Drink with your fellow travelers and Trip Leader. You'll also meet those who traveled on our optional Tirana, Albania extension. Dinner is on your own this evening.

  • This morning we’ll enjoy a walking tour of Dubrovnik, Croatia’s crowning jewel. Situated on a rocky spur at the country’s southernmost tip, Dubrovnik is renowned for its medieval walls, historic monuments, and views out to the Adriatic. Today, Dubrovnik’s character reflects its storied past as an independent city-state that rivaled Venice. Also known by its Latin name, Ragusa, this was a fortress city that served as the base for a fleet of ships that carried trade between much of Europe and the Middle East. The city-state’s period of autonomy extended from 1358 to 1808 and endowed it with a wealth of historic architecture.

    In spite of heavy damage sustained during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, the city has regained its former splendor with the help of UNESCO (OAT contributed to the restoration of Dubrovnik's main promenade, the Placa, through a donation from Grand Circle Foundation). Our tour includes visits to the fortified town center, where we’ll see the 15th-century Rector’s Palace that now houses the Museum of Dubrovnik. We’ll also see an early 14th-century Franciscan Monastery that is home to one of Europe’s oldest pharmacies.

    Lunch is on your own and your afternoon is free for independent exploration, immersing yourself in monumental relics of the past or enjoying the stunning views while strolling atop the city’s ancient ramparts. Observe life along the Placa (also called Stradun), the wide street stretching between two city gates that is a popular gathering spot for locals.

    Gather with your traveling companions for a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

  • After breakfast, we journey south for a full-day excursion to Montenegro, a small country that is home to vast natural beauty, from rugged alpine mountains to a scenic coastline dotted with historic cities. Montenegro’s history is unique in this region in that it managed to avoid being conquered by the Ottoman Turks in the 1300s, when they took control of the rest of the Balkans for the next four centuries.

    Our journey takes us to Kotor, a wonderfully preserved medieval walled town that is situated at the head of southern Europe’s deepest natural bay. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kotor’s Stari Grad, or Old Town, is filled with ancient churches and former aristocratic mansions that line winding, cobbled streets. We’ll enjoy a guided tour that includes the town’s maritime museum, which preserves the seafaring heritage of this region. We have an included lunch before returning to Dubrovnik.

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast, we’ll journey north and inland to Sarajevo, the capital of independent Bosnia & Herzegovina. Along the way, we’ll stop for a visit to the ancient town of Mostar. Established by the Ottoman Turks in the late 15th century, Mostar became a place where the cultures of the Middle East and Western Europe mingled, blending influences from the mainland and the Adriatic Sea. Mostar is named for the former watchtower keepers (mostari in Bosnian) of its historic bridge. A masterpiece of Ottoman Turkish architecture, the graceful 16th-century bridge has long spanned the Neretva River, whose emerald waters divided the town into Muslim and Croat sections. Destroyed in 1993 during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, the bridge and Mostar’s historic city center were restored in 2004 and are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bridge also represents a powerful symbol of reconciliation and continued peace for the region.

    During our time in Mostar, we’ll enjoy an included lunch at a local restaurant before we continue on to Sarajevo, arriving late this afternoon. Enjoy time to relax and settle into your room, then gather for an included dinner together at our hotel.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast, we’ll embark on a tour of Sarajevo. Founded by the Ottomans in the 15th century, for hundreds of years Sarajevo flourished as a multicultural haven where Muslims, Serbs, Croats, Turks, Jews, and others co-existed. By the late 17th century, Sarajevo was considered the most important city in the Balkans after Istanbul, and it is said to be the only city in the world where prayer calls can be heard simultaneously from mosques, synagogues, and churches. After hosting the 1984 Olympics, Sarajevo, this once-shining example of ethnic diversity, descended into chaos during the Yugoslav wars of the early 1990s. Although Bosnian Serb artillery pounded the city during a three-and-a-half-year siege—the longest in the history of modern warfare—most of Sarajevo has since been rebuilt, and the city is rapidly reclaiming its spirit of religious tolerance.

    In Bascarsija, or Old Town, we’ll see shining examples of the city’s Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian influences, including a 16th-century mosque complex that is considered one of the finest examples of Ottoman architecture in the Balkans. Then, you’ll have a portion of the afternoon free to explore on your own, perhaps to visit the picturesque Turkish bazaar, or just to mingle with the locals while strolling down the main pedestrian street, Ferhadija. Lunch on your own might be a great time to sample the delicious cevapi, traditional minced lamb or beef, a savory reminder of the city’s Turkish heritage.

    Later this evening, we’ll delve into contemporary life in Bosnia as we split up to visit the homes of some local families. We’ll sit down to dinner with our hosts, and experience a taste of genuine Bosnian hospitality.

  • After breakfast, we journey overland to Slavonia, the easternmost province of Croatia, bounded by the Drava, Sava, and Danube rivers. Despite its history as part of a Roman province, Slavonia (as its name suggests) has been a Slavic state for more than 13 centuries. In 1745, Slavonia was declared a semi-autonomous kingdom, belonging to both the Kingdom of Croatia and the Kingdom of Hungary. Slavonia and Croatia merged in 1868 and became part of Yugoslavia in 1918. When Croatia declared its independence in 1991, a struggle for Slavonia ensued between Croatia and Serbia—which wasn’t too surprising. Slavonia’s fertile agricultural lands, rich hunting grounds, and robust wine industry make it Croatia’s “breadbasket.” In contrast to the rugged Croatian coastline, you are sure to notice that the terrain in this region is very flat, which prompts local Croatians to joke that “the highest mountain is a cabbage.”

    Our destination here is Karanac, a charming rural village outside Slavonia’s largest city, Osijek. Upon our arrival, we’ll enjoy dinner at a local restaurant—and discover why this tranquil agricultural region is also the gastronomic capital of Croatia.

  • After breakfast, we’ll discover how cultural traditions remain a vital part of modern-day Slavonia during a visit to a small ethnographic museum in Karanac. After lunch in a local restaurant, we’ll leave the past behind us and journey overland to Zagreb, Croatia’s modern capital.

    Upon our arrival in Zagreb, we’ll enjoy dinner together at our hotel.

  • Today we’ll discover Zagreb, a city of about 800,000 people that has been Croatia’s capital, intermittently, since 1557. After breakfast, we’ll set off on a walking tour of Zagreb’s modern Donji Grad, or Lower Town, whose well-designed street grid was laid out in the 19th century. This area is home to many of Zagreb’s civic and historic monuments. Then, we ride a funicular to view the medieval monuments in the city’s Gornji Grad, or Upper Town. In this older part of the city, two medieval settlements, Gradec and Kaptol, developed between the eleventh and 14th centuries on neighboring hilltops divided by a brook. Fortified by ramparts and moats, the two rival towns fought over the centuries—the nearby street called Krvavi Most, or Bridge of Blood, is a vivid testament to the historic rivalry.

    In contemporary times, Gradec and Kaptol form two of the districts that make up Zagreb’s hilly and picturesque Upper Town. Among the highlights of Upper Town are the tall twin spires of the Cathedral of St. Stephen, an ancient church dedicated to the Assumption. The cathedral’s beautiful neo-Gothic façade was added after an earthquake in 1880 destroyed its dome and bell tower. Our tour concludes with a visit to the Dolac Market, a bustling collection of open-air stalls located across from the Cathedral near the 14th-century church of St. Mary. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure in Zagreb to explore on your own.

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

  • After breakfast, you may wish to join a full-day optional tour to Plitvice Lakes, a 114-square-mile Croatian national park has that has at its heart 16 turquoise lakes linked by a series of waterfalls and cascades. This natural wonder has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.

    Or, you may prefer to spend the day at leisure to explore Zagreb on your own. The city’s hub is the square of Ban Jelacic (Trg Bana Jelačić), the large plaza near your hotel that separates the Upper and Lower Town. You can stroll through the U-shaped series of landscaped parks and open spaces of Lower Town, or perhaps check out some of the city’s 20 museums. Learn about Zagreb’s history from its origins to the present day at the City Museum or delve into regional history at the Croatian Historical Museum and the Museum of Arts and Crafts. The Croatian Museum of Natural Sciences features collections of every animal ever found in Croatia and a unique exhibit displaying the most extensive remains of a Neanderthal Man ever found on one site. Art lovers may want to peruse the eclectic collection at the celebrated Museum Mimara, view European paintings from the 14th to19th centuries at the Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters, or take in Croatian “naive” art at a museum devoted to work by artists without formal training.

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

  • After breakfast, we begin an overland transfer to Lovran. En route, we’ll stop for a visit to Pula, where we'll also enjoy lunch. Set on a natural bay on the Istria peninsula’s southernmost tip, Pula is renowned for its scenery, winemaking tradition, and Roman ruins. This area was a part of the Roman Empire as early as 42 B.C., and many remnants of Roman structures can be found along the coast and on the nearby islands. Pula has been a strategic port since Roman times. We'll enjoy a guided tour of one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world. Still in use today, the elliptical arena dominating the town center and overlooking the seacoast once accommodated up to 23,000 people for gladiator spectacles. After our tour, you’ll have some free time in Pula before we continue to Lovran.

    Located in the Kvarner Gulf that separates Dalmatia from Istria, Lovran is a seaside resort town situated in a heart-shaped peninsula just south of Trieste, Italy. Surrounded by landscaped parks and lush gardens dotted with elegant aristocratic villas, Lovran contains an ancient fortified section along the coast, and a more modern part built on the slopes of a hill extending to the sea. Several early 20th-century villas with manicured gardens also line the coastal promenade. We'll have an included dinner at our hotel this evening.

  • Today is at leisure in Lovran, or you may wish to join our optional Hill Towns of Istria tour featuring some of the hilltop villages and towns that surround the region. The tour includes a visit to Motovun, one of the region’s 136 medieval hill towns; a sample of the famous Istrian truffles; and lunch. Travelers not choosing our optional tour may wish to relax in Lovran or stroll along a section of the famous Lungomare, a 7.5-mile-long waterfront promenade linking Lovran with Opatija, a small resort town that became a popular destination for aristocrats at the turn of the century.

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

  • After breakfast, we begin our overland transfer to Ljubljana. We’ll observe a sharp contrast to the scenery as we journey inland into Slovenia, a delightful forest-clad country of emerald meadows, alpine villages, and soaring mountain peaks. This Slavic nation was the first to claim independence and break away from the Yugoslav federation, and it largely escaped involvement in the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Along the way, we’ll stop for a visit to Postojna Cave, a twelve-mile-long underground labyrinth in eastern Slovenia that is considered one of the finest karst limestone formations in the world. On your train ride through the cave, view a diverse collection of tunnels, sculpted galleries, waterfalls, stalactites and stalagmites, chambers, and cave-dwelling olms—sightless, snake-like amphibians that can only be seen here.

    Shortly after our included lunch at Postojna, we’ll arrive at Slovenia’s charming capital of Ljubljana, a thriving university town. We check into our hotel in the late afternoon, and you’ll have free time for dinner on your own.

  • After breakfasst, we set off on a walking tour of Ljubljana. Our morning tour will highlight the quaint bridges spanning the gently flowing Ljubljanica River, and the narrow streets of its café-lined Old Town. Most of the city’s buildings, parks, and monuments (and all of the bridges spanning the city center) were designed by innovative local architect Joze Plecnik. There are also many pleasant cafés here, and you may want to try one as you take today’s lunch on your own. 

    Dinner is also on your own this evening.

  • You can further explore Ljubljana on your own today or join our optional full-day excursion to Lake Bled (subject to local weather conditions). The picturesque resort area of Lake Bled features a 17th-century church perched on an islet in the middle of the lake and an 800-year-old castle clinging to a rocky cliff, all against a backdrop of the majestic Julian Alps. Your optional tour includes a ride on the emerald lake by pletna boat, the locals’ version of a gondola, to reach the island church, and a light lunch.

    Those not taking our optional tour can discover the charms of Ljubljana. Much of this city of about 300,000 was rebuilt after an 1895 earthquake, and it has a unique architectural style that has integrated surviving historic structures with more modern designs. The work of Joze Plecnik, a 20th-century architect and Ljubljana native, is particularly remarkable for the way it incorporates Roman, Medieval, Baroque, and Habsburg elements. A number of buildings that survived the earthquake still stand in the historic part of town, Old Ljubljana. There are also many pleasant cafés here, and you may want to try one as you take today’s lunch on your own.

    Later this evening, rejoin your group for a Farewell Drink and then celebrate your journey during a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, depart to the airport for your return flight home. Or, begin your post-trip extension to Budapest, Hungary.


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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.  Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect


  • 6 locations in 15 days with one 1-night stay

Physical Requirements

  • Not appropriate for travelers using wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids
  • You must be able to walk 3 miles unassisted and participate in 6-8 hours of physical activities each day


  • Temperatures are mild and seasonable year round, with the hottest temperatures in July and August averaging at 80°F


  • Walk on rugged paths and cobblestoned streets, and travel by bus over rural roads that may be bumpy and narrow
  • Agility and balance are required for boarding or disembarking boats on optional Lake Bled  and Plitvice Lakes tours


  • Travel by air-conditioned minibus and funicular, as well as by boat on the optional Lake Bled and Plitvice Lakes tours

Accommodations & Facilities

  • Hotel rooms are smaller than U.S. and offer basic amenities
  • 1-night stay in Karanac village at a small family-run accommodation
  • All accommodations feature private baths with showers

Travel Documents


Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary:

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.


U.S. citizens do not need a visa for this trip.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then you may need a visa. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your adventure, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Trip Leaders and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips


Main Trip

  • Grand Hotel Park

    Dubrovnik, Croatia

    A contemporary hotel located less than two miles from Dubrovnik’s Old Town, the Grand Park Hotel is situated on the Lapad Peninsula. Amenities include a restaurant, cocktail lounge, and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. The 244 air-conditioned rooms offer a telephone, satellite TV, radio/alarm, safe, minibar, Internet access, and private bath with shower and hair dryer.

  • Hotel Europe

    Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina

    Housed in a classic Austro-Hungarian building constructed in 1882, the Hotel Europe is conveniently situated just steps away from Old Town, Sarajevo’s historic core. Hotel amenities include a restaurant and café/bakery, indoor swimming pool, Turkish bath, spa facilities, and a fitness center. There are 160 rooms at the hotel, each with air-conditioning, cable TV, Internet access, safe, minibar, and private bath with robe, slippers, and hair dryer.

  • Rural Homestead Sklepic

    Karanac, Croatia

    Situated in the tranquil village of Karanac, the Rural Homestead Sklepic features a restaurant and large common area with cozy fireplace. There are 13 country-style guest rooms at the hotel, each with a private bath with shower.

  • Best Western Astoria Hotel

    Zagreb, Croatia | Rating: Superior First Class

    The Best Western Astoria Hotel is a 15-minute walk from the historic city center in Jelacic Square. There is a restaurant featuring international cuisine and Croatian specialties. The six-story hotel has 100 rooms, each with satellite TV, a refrigerator, and private bath with hair dryer.

    Please Note: Select departures feature similar accommodations.

  • Hotel Park Lovran

    Lovran, Croatia

    Hotel Park Lovran is situated near Old Town and just steps away from the beach and  Lungomare, the seaside promenade connecting Lovran to Opatija. The hotel features a restaurant and coffee shop, wellness and fitness centers, an indoor pool, and various spa facilities. There are 48 air-conditioned rooms, each with satellite TV, telephone, complimentary Internet access, desk, minibar, safe, and private bath.

  • Grand Hotel Union Executive

    Ljubljana, Slovenia

    The Grand Hotel Union Executive is an Art Nouveau-style hotel situated in the heart of Ljubljana, within walking distance of Ljubljana River, the city’s famous Triple Bridge, and St. Nicholas Cathedral. Amenities include an indoor pool, sauna, fitness center, restaurant, café, and bar/lounge. There are 173 air-conditioned rooms, each featuring complimentary wireless Internet, satellite TV, private bath with robe and hair dryer.


  • Tirana International Hotelenna

    Tirana, Albania

    Tirana International Hotel is conveniently situated in Tirana’s city center, within walking distance of the National Museum and Opera House. Hotel amenities include the Terrace Bar Restaurant, serving traditional Albanian and international cuisine, a nightclub, gym, sauna, and swimming pool. There are 166 rooms, each with air-conditioning, complimentary wireless Internet, desk, safe, cable TV, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Hotel K+K Opera

    Budapest, Hungary

    This hotel in the heart of Budapest offers a comfortable stay in a fantastic location. Just a few minutes’ walk away, you’ll find the opera, the Vaci utca shopping area, and easy tram access to all the great sites of the city. Its 200 air-conditioned rooms feature satellite TV, a safe, minibar, coffee- and tea-making facilities, wireless Internet, and private bath with hair dryer.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

You can choose to stay longer before or after your trip on your own, or combine two adventures to maximize your value. Here are more ways to create the OAT adventure that’s right for you:

  • Extend your adventure and lower your per day cost with our optional pre- and post-trip extensions
  • Choose our standard air routing, or work with us to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline, applying frequent flyer miles if available
  • International airport transfers to and from your hotel, including meet and greet service, are available for purchase
  • Stay overnight in a connecting city before or after your trip
  • Request to arrive a few days early to get a fresh start on your adventure
  • Choose to “break away” before or after your trip, spending additional days or weeks on your own
  • Combine your choice of OAT adventures to maximize your value
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent traveler miles

The air options listed above will involve an additional fee of $100 per person for confirmed requests (as well as incremental airfare costs based on your specific choice).

Or, when you make your reservation, you can choose our standard air routing, for which approximate travel times are shown below.

Standard Air Routing

w/out standard air $2695
w/ standard air $3995

Private Departures

Explore Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Slovenia in an Exclusive Group

Reserve a Private Departure of Crossroads of the Adriatic: Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Slovenia for your exclusive group of as few as 8 travelers, and enjoy a truly special adventure for just you and your family or friends—for an additional $800 per person.

For more details—or to reserve your Private Departure—call your Group Sales Account Representative toll-free at 1-800-353-6262 and select Option #3.

Please note: Some restrictions apply. See our Private Departures page for details.

Redefining a Nation

Bosnia’s hope for the future

by Philip McCluskey, for Grand Circle

Though it has been a long road, Bosnians are coming together to work toward a more prosperous future.

In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the people of Yugoslavia suddenly felt something very foreign to them: freedom.

Yugoslavia was created after World War I, and for decades was ruled by Josip Broz Tito, a Communist who was president-for-life during a period of relative stability in the region. After he died in 1980, the tenuous association began to dissolve. Following the dissolution of the USSR, portions of Yugoslavia—a country made up of present-day Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina—began declaring their independence as sovereign states.  For Bosnia (the short version of the country's name) this new era of liberty also unleashed tensions that had long been suppressed, and it resulted in a horrific three-year war that was the worst Europe had seen since World War II.

Battling ethnic divisions

To understand what had precipitated the conflict, it helps to get a sense of the make-up of this Balkan state. Unlike other former Yugoslav states which were composed of dominant ethnic groups, Bosnia is primarily made up of three ethnic groups: Bosniaks (who are generally Muslim), Croats (mostly Roman Catholics), and Serbs (Eastern Orthodox).  Over the years, relations between these different groups ranged from indifferent to bitterly fractured.

When Yugoslavia disbanded, Bosnian Serbs wanted their country to be a part of Serbia, rather than an independent state of its own.  So, shortly after Bosnia voted for independence in 1992, Bosnian Serbs—who were supported by members of the (largely Serbian) Yugoslavian army—began a campaign of violence against Bosniaks and Croats in an effort to take over the country. The results were catastrophic.

At least 100,000 were killed as part of systematic “ethnic cleansing,” and more than half of the country’s 4.5 million people were displaced. The world shuddered as word of the atrocities in the Balkans surfaced.  Finally, the war ended in the Dayton Peace Agreement, signed in the titular Ohio city in 1995, which created a power-sharing system among the different ethnic constituencies. The people of Bosnia have been attempting to recover ever since.

Signs of hope

Though it has been a long road, there are signs that Bosnians are coming together to work toward a more prosperous future. For example, the country is in the process of attempting to join the European Union (EU)—and 70 percent of its people are in favor of the move.  This overwhelming support has forced the usually uncooperative sectors in the Bosnian political spectrum to come together and pass laws essential to being considered for membership. In addition to creating a new department to coordinate EU aid programs, Bosnia’s leaders agreed to conduct the country’s first census in October 2013.

The census asked citizens to define themselves as one of the three main constituencies (Bosniak, Croat, or Serb), with a fourth option defined simply as “Other.” While each of the ethnic groups were encouraging participation so they could showcase their numbers (and thus, retain or improve their standing in the current power-sharing system), there was also a movement to reject traditional ethnic and religious labels that have divided the country for so long.  Many Bosnians went online to express support for this effort, which was organized by Koalicija Jednakost (Coalition for Equality). In the run-up to the census, many shared their feelings in unique ways, including posting pictures of themselves online holding up signs that read “Ethnically challenged” and “A citizen above all”.

Results of the census will come out in 2014, but in the meantime, economic self-interest is engendering cooperation between the countries of the region. Some of the same nations that once wanted a piece of Bosnia now have a vested interest in seeing it become part of the EU. Croatia has already joined the union, and Serbia and Montenegro are candidates for inclusion.  It behooves these nations to create stability and economic growth in neighboring countries, which is one of the reasons that Serbia is one of the largest foreign investors in Bosnia.

The sense of Bosnian national unity is growing in other areas as well. Recently, the country came together in celebration as Bosnia and Herzegovina’s national soccer team earned a trip to the World Cup for the first time ever. The team’s multi-ethnic makeup served as proof that the divisions that have so long been a part of Bosnian life are not the only way to move forward, and provides an example of an oft-ignored truth in the region: success often comes from putting aside differences and working together.

So, though it is still possible to see the scars of war here, Bosnia’s proud and resilient people continue to show that healing is happening—and that there can be hope for a bright future.