"Steel and Cevapi" Zenica by augustiner

Zenica Travel Guide: 34 reviews and 100 photos

Love at second sight

Zenica is an industrial town in Central Bosnia with roughly 130,000 inhabitants. The first thing you see coming from the north is the huge steel works. The steel industry was the reason why this city grew rapidly in old Yugoslavia and folks moved here from all parts of the country to find work. From 20000 employees in the communist days the factory now has 5000 people. Wages and job security are definitely not what they used to be. Profits now go to new owner Mittal Steel, a Rotterdam and London based multinational.

Although no fighting took place in the town in the civil war in the 90s, which saved it from suffering casualties and damage to infrastructure, the area will not recover fully from the disintegration of Yugoslavia anytime soon. Unemployment is a big problem, economic progress is made impossible by politicians that cater only to "their" ethnic group and who are not really interested in progress, because that would not benefit their nationalist political parties.

Even more than before the war, this is a majority muslim town. Except for a brief phase during and after the civil war, religious extremism has never been much of an issue. I see more veiled women in my street in Munich than in any Muslim town in Bosnia. The city council makes a point of promoting all religious holidays, including the Jewish ones, with large banners over all main roads, to signal that everybody is still welcome. Nonetheless Serbs and Croats still tend to move out to their kin in the motherland or another part of the country. Muslims in Christian areas still do the same.

Just last week (in July 2009) the EU decided to abolish visa obligations for Serbian and Croation nationals. All Christians in Bosnia can get one of these citizenships if they want to. The Muslims cannot, which does not make them a happier lot, because they suffered the heaviest losses at the hands of their better armed Christian neighbours and they have the feeling that these people are being rewarded for the their war crimes.

How to get there

From Munich the bus is the cheapest way to go, a Lufthansa flight to Sarajevo the most expensive and a trip with your own car somewhere inbetween.

The bus starts around 7 pm and you will be in Zenica for breakfast. There is a bus everyday. The trip is rare feeling for Central Europeans, as you will experience borders with real controls every few hours. Sometimes even the German and the Austrian police will get on board to check papers, when they see the "Centrotrans Sarajevo" signage on the big modern busses. The bus drivers kind of look like flight captains and handle things very professionally. Border controls from ex-Yu neighbors Slovenia and Croatia can be a real harassment. Taking ham or cigarettes away from their former countrymen can nail you down at the border for quite a while in peak season. At least the open collection of a bribe from the passengers by the driver for the border guards seems to have stopped.

This town is bit off the beaten track as far as tourism is concerned. Most visitors seem to be (Ex-)Bosnians who live abroad and come to visit relatives and friends. The second biggest group would probably be folks visiting big sport events and number 3 could be the Indian managers that run the steel plant.

And then there is people like me, who married a local.

What makes up Zenica's charm

It is the charm, humor and wit of the people that make up the beauty of this place. Where I come from people would be preparing for war with this type of economic crisis and the way the country is treated like a colony by the EU and everybody else who has some foreign policy ambitions.

No matter what religion people here are very friendly to foreigners, there is less crime than in most Western European cities and people seem delighted about visitors and are always ready to help. I have been told this general rule is not valid for halfway new cars, especially Golfs. Go for a guarded parking lot at night. This not a tourist place, therefore there are no tourist traps. Half the population seems to have worked or at least stayed in a German-speaking country, most younger folks will speak English. By nature people here are very tolerant. In history new arrivals were readily accepted in this country. You had mosques and churches at the same town square. This country absorbed a significant number of Jews back in the Ottoman days, when they were kicked out in intolerant Catholic Spain.

Unspoilt nature abounds. Only 10 km from downtown Zenica you will find mountaineering huts, cristal clear springs and sheep paths well suited for mountain biking. Adjoining nature reserve Tajan includes bears and wolves as their inhabitants. Food is another highlight, ok, it's not french cuisine, but its mostly homegrown and there are probably more barbecue restaurants per inhabitant or square kilometer than anyplace else in the world. The price-perfomance ratio on a lot of things e.g. food or organized outdoor activies is great, making this a well suited destination for backpackers, sports clubs or the like.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Islam the way it should be
  • Cons:When the steel factory works the air can sometimes smell funny, when it does not work half the population is unemployed
  • In a nutshell:Drive through all the tourist countries - but stay in Bosnia
  • Last visit to Zenica: Jul 2009
  • Intro Updated Sep 29, 2009
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Reviews (18)

Comments (2)

  • picek's Profile Photo
    Jan 25, 2011 at 4:27 AM

    Great page! Haven't considered visit to Zenica before but finding your travel page I guess it would be great place to hang out for couple of days.

    • augustiner's Profile Photo
      Jan 3, 2014 at 12:56 AM

      just out of pure interest, did you go?

    • picek's Profile Photo
      Jan 6, 2014 at 10:41 AM

      still not yet :( haven't been to BIH for more than 4 years already.

  • iaint's Profile Photo
    Sep 23, 2009 at 11:43 PM

    COOL photo of the river!

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