Often in the shadow of Sarajevo, Mostar and Banja Luka, the city of Tuzla is unjustly off the travellers’ radar, and it remains pretty calm on the tourist front. It is actually relatively untouristy, which guarantees you a unique experience in Europe’s last undiscovered gem. Tuzla is a city with a lot of particularities. Being permanently inhabited for more than 6000 years, it is one of the oldest settlements in Europe. Having significant rock salt reserves beneath the city, Tuzla is also the “cradle of salt”, and it tells us the Bosnian Salt Saga about its thousands of years old production. Probably the most surprising for visitors is Pannonica – Salt Lakes Trio, situated in the heart of the municipality, making Tuzla the only city in Europe with the salt lakes and beaches in the city center. And that’s not all what Tuzla, European Salt Lakes City, has to offer.
Situated on the slopes of the Majevica Mountain in the northeastern Bosnia & Herzegovina, Tuzla is the third largest city in the country (after Sarajevo and Banja Luka), but the first when it comes to history. Thanks to the remains of the ancient lake-dwelling settlement from the Neolithic times, we know that the city is at least six millennia old. According to the historical evidence, Tuzla was first mentioned as “Salines” (the Roman name for the city of salt) in 950 by Byzantine emperor Constantine Porphyirogenitus in his book “About the administration of the state”. During the Middle Ages, it was called Soli (the local name for the salt). Even the present name “Tuzla”, which in Ottoman Turkish means “the place of salt”, shows the importance of this mineral for the history of the city.
When the ancient Pannonian Sea that was covering this region 20 million years ago, dried up it left millions of tons of rock salt in this region. For thousands of years, people in Tuzla have been producing the table salt thanks to its extensive saline deposits beneath the city. So, in Tuzla, it is all about the salt. Also, the names of locations such as Solni Trg (salty square), Slana Banja (salty spa), as well as rivers Solina and Jala. The name “Jala” actually originates from the Greek language and means, again, “the salt”. But the absolute attraction of this city is Pannonica – a unique Salt Lakes Trio, a perfect example how this mineral can be used for health and relaxation purposes. What makes this complex so unique is its position in the heart of the city, which makes Tuzla the only place in the world with salt lakes, waterfalls and beaches in the city center. Unfortunately, the underground salt extractions have created some sinkholes in the city center and caused its erosion.
When it comes to sightseeing, the old town called Stari Grad with its pedestrian street Korzo and Freedom Square is worth visiting. The old city area is quite nice, showing the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian influences. The main square – Trg Slobode, the largest one in the country, is somehow sleepy during the day, but very lively in the evenings. The central place of the square is occupied by a splendid fountain shaped like a Neolithic salt bowl, a gift from the city of Ravenna in Italy. The main promenade Korzo is the downtown area and the place of social hobnobbing with the locals. Between tiny streets and cafes, you will find plenty of activities. If you are among the rare ones to come and explore this fairly undiscovered city, keep in mind that Tuzla – European Salt Lakes City, is a small, cosy and veeeery relaxed city, where the easy-going atmosphere and welcoming people on the beach are the coolest thing you can see in one city center.
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