My dears, there are truly many reasons: the natural heritage, the cultural monuments, rafting, dayak, various festivals, hospitable citizens, the famous Banjalucki cevapi and much much more.
True, it’s not like London, Paris or some other European city, but if you decide to come here, you definitely won’t regret it.
So let’s start from the beginning.
Banja Luka and I.
Due to a series of not so nice circumstances I came to Banja Luka back in 1996.
Today, as I know what life is, who I am and why I am where I am, I believe that everything happens for a reason and that in a way I chose this city as my home, my place to grow up and make all kinds of beautiful and less beautiful memories.
To be honest, the beauty of this city surprises me more and more every day – So I ask myself: is it possible that I was so blind for so long? From the persistent wish to “get away”, go somewhere far away only because of the constant feeling of not-belonging that has been my companion while growing up, I didn’t give myself the chance to get to know the true magic of this city.
Last weekend I had the amazing opportunity to see and experience Banja Luka in a completely new way.
In cooperation with the city council, Banja Luka’s tourist organization held a convention for regional media regarding the opening of the SS17 tourist season and I got the opportunity to be a part of that and share the experience with you.
The three day program was packed with tours around the city and visits to various interesting sites that left me truly impressed. Moreover the people that I met and my fellow colleagues from the region made this adventure even more interesting and exciting.
So here’s how it all went down:
Day one: “Kozara Ethno Festival”
This year marked the 13th year of the festival that is being held in Piskavica and Banja Luka.
The aim of this manifestation is to promote the natural and cultural values to the wider regional population and to the world and to present Kozara’s traditional customs, cuisine, ethno sound, culture and people.
This year the theme was “Marriage proposal”, which not only put a smile on people’s faces but also impressed visitors.
You can read more about this custom here.
Day two: the beauty of the Vrbas river
Krupa na Vrbasu, Monastery of Saint Ilija
Krupa na Vrbasu is the perfect place for every lover of nature. For all of you who haven’t been here, Krupa na Vrbasu is 25km south of Banja Luka and has three very important monuments:
- Stećci – medieval tombstones
- Remains of the medieval castle
- Monastery – Church of Saint Ilija
The monastery is surrounded by greenery and makes for an oasis of peace. I have heard that many people have experienced positive changes and found spiritual peace they sought by coming here.
Not much is known about the history of this monastery. According to some accounts it was built during the time of the Nemanjic dynasty and others claim it was erected towards the end of the 13th century or beginning of the 14th.
Rafting on the Vrbas
If you possess an adventurous spirit and love water and all its charms, then rafting on the Vrbas is perfect for you and definitely an activity you can’t miss.
The Rafting Club Kanjon will help you to see all the beauty of the Vrbas in a different way and the experience of that is priceless. You will be able to leave your busy urban everyday life behind and rest with family and friends in the beautiful and charming atmosphere of the club.
The Dayak is a symbol of this city.
This boat used to be the main means of transport for the people of Banja Luka and today the young want to maintain the tradition and reconnect and introduce people to the Dayak.
I have to admit that I was a little nervous about going on this particular trip, since I am not a huge fan of water activities. However, the young man that was navigating the boat assured me that it was built to slide on the water and couldn’t overturn.
What can I say, when it comes to water I just don’t have an adventurous spirit, but he convinced me and all in all I can only tell you, that I am glad he did, because the whole experience was amazing and I loved every second of it.
No, it’s not Venice, its Banja Luka and not a gondola,but a Dayak but when you come to Banja Luka you can’t miss out on an experience like this. It’s a must and you surely won’t regret it.
Day three: Let the spirit of the city inspire you
This city is truly special. It is not very big, everything is close by, the people are nice and hospitable and best of all: it has its own spirit.
Krajina square/Trg Krajine
The Trg Krajine is Banja Luka’s main square. Many come together at this place for various concerts or other manifestations, for example the New Year’s celebrations.
There is also the ‘Krivi sat’ (crooked clock) where the clock is always set at 9 o’clock and 11 minutes as a reminder of the strongest earthquake that hit Banja Luka on 27 October 1969.
Gospodska Ulica or Lord’s Street
Veselin Maslesa Street or Gospodska Ulica is the most famous promenade in Banja Luka and is situated in the center of the city.
If you follow me on Instagram then this street will be familiar to you. You have seen it from every corner and in every weather – when it’s sunny or cloudy and even covered with snow…and still it inspires me more and more.
Cultural Centre Banksi Dvor
The Banski Dvor (Mayor’s Palace) is Banja Luka’s cultural centre. It was built during the period of 1931-1932 as the residence for the Bans of the Vrbas Banovina of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
Today it is the place where concerts of classical music artists and ensembles from the country and all over the world are held.
The cultural centre offers different programs every day.
The Kastel Fortress represents the oldest historic monument in this city. It has a children’s playground, restaurant and especially in the summer it is the location where many music concerts are held. To me Kastel Fortress is the heart of Banja Luka.
Banja Luka has its own urban legend about a young girl who fell in love with an Austro-Hungarian soldier, who served at Kastel fortress, and who tragically took her own life after finding out they couldn’t be together.
Today, many couples light candles on Valentine’s Day in honor of her and to be happy in love.
I would also recommend a visit to the Museum of Republic of Srpska which has a rich and eclectic number of exhibitions.
Moreover you shouldn’t miss the Museum of Contemporary Arts which is in the centre of the city and has the most significant collection of arts of the 20th century in Republic of Srpska.
Ferhat Pasha Mosque – “Ferhadija”
Ferhadija was listed as a Bosnia and Herzegovina cultural heritage site in 1950. It was subsequently protected by UNESCO and today it is listed as a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Convent Marija Zvijezda
It was founded in the second half ofthe 19th century by Franz Pfanner during the reign of the Ottomans. In 1869 a group of seven monks from Germany founded the convent Maria Stern (Marija Zvijezda).
It was those monks who also founded the brewery, first hidro electric power station and made the famous Trapist cheese that is known all over the world. The recipe for this cheese is secret and has never been written down.
My dear people, I hope that you have liked this text and that I was able to convey some of the magic and atmosphere of this city. I also hope I was able to make you curious enough about it so that you wish to visit it yourself someday.
My advice: pack a bag, buy a ticket and I’ll be waiting here in Banja Luka!
Lots of love,