At the end of the 19th century, the construction of the railway began, which was to connect the then-largest cities in central Bosnia and Herzegovina. Work began in 1891, and only a few years later, the travel with a train became a reality.
For most of the population, this was a completely new experience and an exceptional opportunity to enjoy sightseeing of the unknown landscape. The railway was in function for almost 80 years, after which, due to the modernization of traffic, it was decided to cancel the line, close the stations, and remove the rails.
People were emotionally attached to this railway.
Today, only memories on the railway remain. As a boy, Miroslav Matošević from Travnik grew up in a house right next to the old railway. He still remembers his games around the deserted train station. “People were emotionally attached to this railway. I remember the stories that when the railway was shut down, some women from the region wore black scarves for months as a sign of mourning. Like for a member of the family,” says Miroslav.
That’s how it used to be. Miroslav is now the head of the Central Bosnia Canton Tourist Organisation and along with colleagues from the REZ Development Agency from Central Bosnia, he has undertaken an initiative to revive the old rail track, but for a different purpose. They are working on launching a 100-kilometre-long bike trail, which would give impetus to another industry – tourism, and the whole area would get a chance for some new, beautiful stories. This was recognized by the European Union and the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, which supported the project called “Old Railway Trail”, which aims at a better and higher quality tourist offer and the promotion of increasingly popular outdoor tourism.
Showcasing the region
In addition to the establishment of a bicycle path on the route of the old railway, the project also includes international promotion and networking with service providers in a system adapted to cyclists. Miroslav is particularly fond of the innovative approach of this third component which includes launching a bike-friendly mobile app that would connect cyclists and local businesses – restaurants, hotels, and others. In exchange for being part of the application, businesses would have to implement bike-friendly standards such as parking space for bikes, room for cyclists to change, and discounts for cyclists.
It is unbelievable how many people were happy and praised us when we announced the launch of the project. Obviously, aside from the economic benefit, there is also an emotional connection and memory.
The trail will pass five towns of the Central Bosnia Canton: Busovača, Donji Vakuf, Jajce, Travnik and Vitez. Cyclists will be able to stop and visit these towns but also learn and enjoy sightseeing of the cultural and natural heritage.
“It is unbelievable how many people were happy and praised us when we announced the launch of the project. Obviously, aside from the economic benefit, there is also an emotional connection and memory,” says Miroslav.
The Old Rail Trail project is implemented by the Regional Development Agency (REZ), Central Bosnia Canton Tourist Association, and Nesa Sistem d.o.o. Travnik, within the framework of the EU4Business project. The overall funding budget of EU4Business is €16 million and it is jointly funded by the European Union (€15 million) and the Federal Republic of Germany (€1.1 million). The project is jointly implemented by GIZ, ILO, and UNDP and will end by March 2022.