Welcome to Tuzla!, said our taxi driver while we drove from the airport down the hill to Tuzla. Tuzla is the third largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina and our driver was clearly very proud of his city. During the drive he told us all about how great Tuzla was. From Eindhoven (the Netherlands) there are low-fare flights available to Tuzla at the moment (2017). This made Tuzla an ideal starting point for our trip through the Balkan. On our itinerary was a two and a half week trip in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro. Our first stop: Tuzla. We had no big plans for this city. We would just spend one day here and continue onward to Sarajevo. Curious what you can do in Tuzla? Then continue reading!
Salt city Tuzla
Did you know that Tuzla is one of the oldest cities in Europe? Probably not, but it is true! It has more than 6.000 years of history. Historically speaking Tuzla is known for it salt production. The word ‘Tuz’ means salt in Turkish. For thousands of years Tuzla produced and sold salt from the local salted water. Under the rule of the Ottomans the production grew and under the Austro-Hungarian empire the production was modernised. Today, you can still see many references in the city to the salt trade. The Solni Trg (translation: salt square) was the production site of the city’s salt. Workers used big trays to evaporish salted water into actual salt. Nowadays there is even a small Saltworks Museum which offers more information about the salt history of Tuzla. Unfortunately, the underground salt exploitation also caused a serious problem for Tuzla. Due to underground erosion large sinkholes are often created in the old town.
From Solni Trg you can walk via the Barok street to the next square: Trg žrtava genocida u Srebrenici. Though this little square is surrounded by colorful houses, the name refers to a tragic massacre in recent history: the genocide in Srebrenica on 11 July 1995. At the Wesma (water fountain for ritual cleaning) you can see a memorial. The Bosnian war also had a tragic impact on the people of Tuzla. The most prominent one was the massacre of the 25th of May 1995 when a Serbian granate exploded on the busy pedestrian intersection at Trg Kapija. 72 people died that day and 240 people were wounded. A memorial stone with the names of the victims commerates this massacre. The colorful tile patron on the square is also part of the memorial.
Multicultural freedom square
So far this post does not paint a happy picture of Tuzla with the war scars and the sinkholes, but there is also an upside to this city. It actually has a quite nice Old Town area (Stari Grad). This is a pedestrian area, no cars are allowed here. The streets have a lot of character with a variety of buildings: colorful versus run-down. I liked the contrast. You can definitely see that this city is still under construction, but it has potential. My favorite streets were the Gradska and Turalibegova streets. The most important square of the city is Trg Slobode. The buildings around this square show clear Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian influences. Take for instance the city mosque Čaršijska džamija, built in the sixteenth century by the Ottomans. An extraordinary detail is the roof in the shape of a pyramid. You can also see this architectural style at the Turalibegova džamija, the oldest mosque in the city. The Austro-Hungarian influences are best seen in the baroque building at the side of the square. This building is the establishment of a number of restaurants and shops. During the day the Slobode Trg is a sleepy square, but at the end of the day the terraces fill up, the street performers come to the square and children start cycling around.
Summer tip: Pannonian salt lakes
The absolute attraction of Tuzla is the Panonsko Jezero. A unique city beach in Europe, consisting of three large artificial salt lakes and a salt waterfall. This used to be an industrial area, but nowadays everyone has forgotten about that. In the hot summer months the gravel beach is filled up with hundreds of locals. Entire families come to the lakes to enjoy a day out, play games and have a picnic. The gravel is not very comfortable for your feet, so make sure to bring flip-flops or water shoes. The lakes are easily reached by walking through the Gradski Park. Not in the mood for walking? During the summer months there is also a tourist train departing from Slobode Trg and heading to Panonsko Jezero and other sights.
The beautiful Pravoslavna Crkva in the Gradski park.
Overall, I think Tuzla was a fine first stop in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It does not offer a lot to do, but it is still a nice place to soak up the atmosphere for one day and get to know Bosnia and Herzegovina. Tuzla is a fairly undiscovered city. During our stay we hardly saw any other tourists. This was actually quite nice, because we could really blend in with the locals. Tuzla is a compact and small city. You don’t visit this city for the big sights, you come here for the relaxed atmosphere. During the day the city is easy-going. When evening starts and the bars and cafes open their doors, it gets a bit busier in town. Young people from Tuzla and other surrounding villages like coming to the Stari Grad for live music, a drink and the shisha bars.
A couple more photos of the Stari Grad.
The monument of Ismet Mujezinovic (painter) and Mesa Selimovic (writer), two people who had a great impact on the local culture of Tuzla. Annualy there is a Mesa Selimovic book festival organised in July.
Would you like to visit Tuzla?