Tucked away in the north west corner of Bosnia and Hercegovina, outside of the former Yugoslav republics the city of Bihać is definitely located far from the proverbial beaten path. However, mention the city to those in the know and almost as a matter of reflex they will begin to expound upon its many qualities: a beautiful natural setting with forest-covered hills surrounding the pristine Una River, warm welcoming people whose sincere hospitality is almost legendary and of course the always terrific Bosnian cuisine. An impressive list to be sure, to which we would only like to add the practical matter of how incredibly inexpensive everything is.
With around 60,000 people Bihać is one of the larger cities in the country, but that doesn't prevent it from exhibiting distinctly rural charms. Ecological consciousness is pervasive and any agricultural products you consume are almost guaranteed to be locally sourced and organic. The city is also home to the Una-Sana Canton's only major university, further skewing an already disproportionately young population and greatly decreasing the amount of effort it takes to find a party at the weekend. Almost everyone amongst the younger generations speaks English fluently, while it's more likely than not that 'Sprechen sie Deutsch?' will be the answer to any questions directed at older people.
While Bihać was unfortunately not spared by the conflict that engulfed the region in the early 1990s, visible signs of the damage it wrought are few and far between, and moreover the people are admirably proud of the fact that the city has been able to maintain a significantly mixed population comprised of the country's three main religious groups: Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim.
The residents of Bihać also exhibit a palpable air of optimism when speaking about the future, due it seems in large part to the aspirations of the city's popular young mayor, Hamdija Lipovača. After becoming the first directly elected mayor in 2004, at the ripe old age of 27, Mr Lipovača has undertaken an ambitious series of reconstruction and development projects - a major aim of which is to ensure that Bihać eventually makes its way onto the aforementioned beaten path.