Well here I am again, out on the open road. This time, it is just under 2 weeks in Bosnia & Herzegovina. I must admit I have had a number of blank looks when I have been telling people where I was going on holiday. Those of a certain age will remember it well from the civil war of the early 1990s.
Planning this trip has shown me yet again how the development of travelling has evolved. Airbnb has arrived and has made getting accommodation so much easier. Also some of the fun of just turning up and having to find accommodation has been lost. I was also able to get my bus ticket from Split to Mostar in advance as well as the timetable for my train to Sarajevo. Also the hire car I pick up on Sunday morning.
Anyway, I arrived Thursday evening in Split in Croatia (most cost effective way of getting here). A relax on the harbour front with a coffee was just the ticket. The bus journey to Mostar was not without incident, the Bosnia & Herzegovina border guards took an interest for over an hour with one of the passengers on the packed coach. All in order we proceeded to Mostar where at 01:00 in the morning I found my patient Airbnb host waiting for me. She was not bothered my my lateness at all (I was originally due in at 23:35). I am coming back to Mostar again in a few days and she was trusting enough to give me the key to the property and said “come and go as you please” just post the key through the window when you leave. How refreshing is that.
An early start the following morning for the early train (07:09) to Sarajevo. What a journey! 2 1/2 hours following the Neretva Gorge. Under clear blue sky with heavily wooded steep sided hills and cliffs on both sides and the ever present river next to us. It was truly spectacular. My camera never stopped.
On arrival in Sarajevo it was time to find my accommodation. With a lot of help from Sarajevan’s I must admit. The first helper told me I was on the wrong tram, the second told me I could buy tram tickets from the driver. The next group of 4 helpers including the driver of the tram did not know where the exact location of the street I was looking for was, but they knew roughly. An elderly lady from this group then took it upon herself to get me there (come what may). Her decision, once we got off the tram was to go to the nearest museum as they would probably know. The 4 museum attendants had a better idea and helped narrow it down a bit. Off we went for a swift 10 minute walk. Once in the vicinity she started asking numerous locals to no avail. Finally the postman arrived and knew exactly where it was. The elderly lady then took me to the door to meet my Airbnb host (Edith). All of this done with a massive language barrier, just an address. Welcome to Sarajevo could not be more apt.
Once I had dropped my bags off, and with Edith’s help I changed some money and got a local SIM card for my mobile (as updating this website on a UK SIM could be very very expensive). Then the walking tour of Sarajevo began, and it wasn’t even lunch time yet. First the beautifully picturesque 15th century old part of town with it’s many Mosques, Madresas, markets, fountains and coffee shops. Espresso is the order of the day. Very strong and it comes with a free glass of water.
The day then became very humbling indeed. Showing man’s humanity and inhumanity, in 2 fabulously curated museums. First was the Jewish museum, now restored. Showing how the local population of Sarajevo in the 16th century welcomed the Jews as the fled persecution in Spain and Portugal. Then in a small section were a handful of descriptions of people buried in Israel as among the most righteous. Muslims, Orthodox and Christians alike who had hidden or helped escape Jews being persecuted in WWII. People just helping one another.
Secondly there is the Gallerija 11/07/95 museum. Based on one photographers desire to uncover the truth about the massacre at Srebrenica 20 years ago. Photographic and video footage that hits hard. The actions (or inactions and vile graffiti) of the Dutch UN peacekeepers as well as the suffering and its aftermath and (possible) deals struck between the various aggressors which may not have helped.
As world events of today show…………. Man has still not learned the lessons. However, there is a glimmer of hope as some have.
After that it was down into the newer part of town the Austro-Hungarian section with all its architecture and grand buildings (Art Deco) then a wander back along the river to a traditional dinner at the Inat Kuca restaurant with a well earned beer of course.
It has been around 34 degrees here over the last few days. Just the sort of temperature to sit in a courtyard shaded by centuries old leafy trees with an espresso in one hand and a shisha/hookah pipe in the other with cherry flavoured tobacco whilst listening to a bit of chillout Jazz and a bit of people watching.
Today I have done a bit more wandering. To the top of one of the many hills that surround Sarajevo, that give a spectacular view over the city. Then down to the river for a tranquil 5km walk down a gorge to a simple but important bridge from the 16th century called the goat bridge. Passing a group of climbers practicing their skills on the sheer cliff walls. More lovely food on the way back, cevapi (small meat sausages with onions) in a flat bread and drinking yogurt. Obviously thirsty after all this walking in the heat I headed to the Sarajevo brewery and had a rather nice dark beer. Not before visiting the site that started WWII, a street corner next to the river where Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. Not the grand site you may imagine.
Saturday night is a night for the whole family to dress in their finest and promenade up and down the main pedestrianised Street. So not to be out done, I got my least creased tee-shirt out and joined them. Indulging in some delicious ice ream on the way. And to end the day a relaxingTurkish coffee and a mint shisha.
I pick up the hire car tomorrow and it is off to the Sutjeska National park for a bit of hiking. More updates soon.