This beautiful town is surrounded by rolling green hills. It is split in two by the Vrbas, a very rough river that, just a short distance from Banja Luka, suddenly loses its waterfalls and cascades, and flows gently into town.
Banja Luka is the administrative capital of the Republika Srpska, the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina and by far the largest city in the northwest. The town got connected to the world when the Roman trade route from Salona to Servitium passed through it. To protect this route (and to enjoy the healing water springs they had discovered in the area) the Romans built a fortress here, the walls of which encompassed an entire miniature town. When the Roman Empire collapsed, the Slavs took over. Once the Ottomans finally controlled the town, they gave it a distinct oriental flavor.
The Ottoman governor for Bosnia had his headquarters here for a while, building bridges and mills, and in its Ottoman glory days the town had some 40 mosques. In the course of the Ottoman centuries, Banja Luka was destroyed repeatedly by Ottoman-Austrian warfare (as well as earthquakes and plagues) until eventually the Austrian-Hungarian Empire absorbed Banja Luka peacefully in the 19th century. They rapidly modernized the town, building factories and connecting it to Vienna and other capital cities. The town expanded tremendously in the 20th century.
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