Banja Luka – IAESTE EX-YU seminar

Last week we participated in a student conference in Bosnia and Herzegovina with some IAESTE friends. It took place in the city of Banja Luka, which lies in the northern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s situated by the Vrbas river. An amazing fact about the river is that it’s clean enough to swim in during the summer. The city center is beautiful, very nice to walk around and look at. It also includes renovated elements of the old town, which give it a special feeling. Banja Luka is full of tree-lined avenues, which make the city as a whole appear very green. In the informational material it said that it’s a city of sports, history and beautiful women (which is really non-disputable).

From what I’ve seen Bosnian nature is very similar to Slovenian (at least in the northern part), meaning that it’s simply beautiful. I didn’t see a lot of their forests and couldn’t find out much about their management system, but they seem to be well managed and preserved. The vegetation is a natural mix of beech, pine etc. We took a stroll by the river after a set of interesting circumstances. The sky was washed out after heavy rainfall and raindrops illuminated by the sunlight. It’s an amazing mental picture, which deserves a little poetry when being described.

In addition to many similarities with Slovenia, Bosnia is in some ways different. The schedules seem a little looser there (it seems pretty regular for activities to start 15 or even more minutes later than planned). Prices are lower. Parties last until the early morning. Banja Luka is definitely a city for foodies. The produce in local shops tastes much better than in Slovenia, and you can tell that it’s ecologically farmed, even if there are no such labels. Here you can’t get vegetables of this quality, unless you are prepared to pay a very high price. Good food is definitely a bright point of Banja Luka – for meat and vegetable lovers alike. Unfortunately we mostly ate in mess halls, but when we didn’t, the food was excellent. However, it was a student seminar, so none of us expected a culinary trip.

Some pretty awesome stuff happened there that’s going to stay with me for a while. One of the most fascinating stories is of when a member of our group told the regular city bus driver to wait for him while he went to get beer in the store. To my surprise and amusement he obeyed and the bus stayed put for about three minutes. Needless to say, this would be impossible in Slovenia (kudos to the driver). Another great one was when an elderly lady pretended to be the parking fare collector. We almost paid her but a man spotted her intent and intervened. He told us that our car would’ve been towed away otherwise. I felt really stupid after that :). All in all, Banja Luka is a great place to visit, and I can do nothing but recommend it to anybody contemplating. The people are friendly, the prices are low and the nature is beautiful.

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