Banja Luka – Candidate for European Capital of Culture in 2024
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Banja Luka is the second-largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina and capital of its Republika Srpska entity. The city is home to many cultures, which resulted in a large number of cultural and historical monuments from various periods of time. Banja Luka has a rich nightlife and is known for many night clubs as well as numerous music festivals that take place in the city throughout the year.
The city boasts many green areas (parks and tree-lined roads) and thus it is called a “paradise valley” or city of greenery. There are 3 mineral water spas in the city`s surroundings, famous for its healing properties since ancient times
The City of Banja Luka was awarded an international BFC SEE (Business Friendly Certification southeast Europe) certificate in 2015. It scored 92,5% out of possible 100%, fulfilling thereby 12 very demanding criteria for the improvement of service quality and information that local self-government units provide for business people and foreign investors. This makes the city very attractive for foreign investment.
The Vrbas River Canyon is the perfect spot for water sports such as kayaking, rafting, and sports fishing. It even boasts a special boat, called Dayak, symbolic for the city, as the gondola for Venice.
Kastel is a medieval fortress, situated at the confluence of the Crkvena and Vrbas River. In the summer it is home to many concerts and festivals: Freshwave, Demofest, Dukatfest and several rock festivals. It is the oldest monument of Banja Luka, located in the city center, on the spot, where the oldest remains of settlements in the city were found. It used to serve as a defense fortress and today it is one of the main tourist attractions and a place where locals hang out with friends. It also has a nice restaurant, a gallery and a playground for children.
Ferhadija or Ferhad-pasha’s mosque is more than 500-years old – it was built from 1579 to 1580. Ferhad-pasha was Ottoman ruler, who used the ransom money he received for the son of an Austrian commandant, to build the Ferhadija in Banja Luka. It is one of the most significant cultural-historical monuments of the oriental culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina, built in the same way as the school of a famous Turkish architect, Sinan. During four centuries the mosque was damaged and repaired several times, and it suffered the biggest damage during the 1969 earthquake. It was destroyed during the Bosnian war in 1993 and fully restored in 2016.
The Trappist monastery was built in the 19th century and it has received its name from the neighborhood of Trapisti. At the beginning of the 20th century, with 219 monks, the Abbey was the largest Trappist abbey in the world; today it is the smallest, with only two monks. Today it is famous for its Trappist cheese and its beer production. The monastery is the only trappist monastery in the Western Balkans.
The origins of the trappista cheese can be traced back to the 18th-century monks of the French Notre Dame de Port-du-Salut abbey. The secret recipe found its way to Bosnia and Herzegovina with the arrival of Cistercians Trappists and establishment of Mariastern monastery in 1869 in Banja Luka. Since the name of the cheese Port-du-Salut, were protected (Véritable Fromage de la Trappe du Port-du-Salut), production of this cheese, under different names, has spread to other Trappist monasteries in France and other countries and reached Bosnia, namely Banja Luka. Cheeses were called after places, or the names of the monastery, for example, Trappiste de Belval, Trappiste de Tamié, Citeaux, etc. Thus, the original name of Banja Luka Trappist cheese was Maria Stern, and later Trappist of Mary Star.
The actual recipe of the cheese is a secret and dozens of specialists are involved in the process of making the cheese. Thus there is no description of the original production of Banja Luka Trappist, so you can only guess!