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Notes from a Wandering Daydreamer Life as it should be...

one for the road..

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA | Saturday, 20 October 2007 | Views [496]

Well its now been 117 days, 14 countries, approx 22 000km, 21 border crossings, 15 different currencies, 5 flights, around 15 train rides and countless hostels, new friends, bottles of beer/whisky/vodka and I ask myself, has it been worth it??? Hell yes!

I now only have 2 sleeps left before I fly to London and everything will change. No more travel for a little while, but I am looking forward to the chance to work again, wherever it may be.
Thinking back to my time in SE Asia, it feels like a lifetime ago and I know that I would happily head back there right now if I was given the opportunity.

Today has probably been one of the coldest days so far. I am in Sarajevo and spent yesterday in shorts and T Shirt, sitting outside yesterday afternoon enjoying the afternoon sun. Today we woke to find snow covering the hills surrounding the city. It was a pretty amazing site.

From Dubrovnik I got a lift to Mostar in Bosnia with the son of the owners of the hostel I was staying in. He does day trips to Mostar for pople from the hostel, and as i was staying there, i came along too, to save catching the early morning bus.

There was 5 of us in the car [all guys] and just as we got to the border checkpoint, a very slow and romantic song came on the CD we were playing in the car. The girl checking our passoprts certainly gave us a few strange looks and even stamped our passorts for us even though she had no ink - she had to rub her pen over the stamp to make it inky.

Along the way we passed many empty houses that had been bombed in the war, along with countless graveyards. Arriving in Mostar we were amazed to see that there was still a lot of obviuos destruction left over from the war. In some areas nearly every second house was just a burnt out shell, those buildings that were not new were peppered with bullet holes or damage from grenade attacks. There were even large apartment and buisness buildings around the city that were just bombed shells, some even still with broken glass in every windowframe. It looked like the war had just ened in some areas, despite being over for more than 15 years. However the old town was certainly rebuilt and was full of tourists and souveneir shops. We went and had a look at the famous old bridge.
A bit of a background - the town is on 2 sides of the river. On one side live the Bosnians [muslim] and on the other the Croats [christian]. the bridge was built in the 1500s and was a symbol of the joining of the two sides of the town. however in was blown up in 1993 during the balkans war. it was only rebuilt in 2004 when money was available.

The bridge was pretty beautiful, new or old. sometimes there are locals jumping off it [for a fee] but it must have been too quiet that day.
It was quite a strange place to be, as never before have I sensed such differences in one country, let along one city. Hearing the way locals spoke about the other groups - Coats and Serbs - you can really understand why the war here happened and the scary fact that it could possibly happen again if people arent careful.

The hostel i was satying in was in an apartment building located just near the old town, and the area around it was full of identical apartments, and a lot of run down buildings. That night after I had been out to get something to eat, i was walking back [in thongs accidently] and, well, i got a little bit lost. it didnt help that there was a real lack of street lights, but what light there was would reflect on all the bits of broken glass on the ground it was a bit un-nerving. Although I didnt feel like i was in any type of danger, i would have to say that it was the most uneasy i have felt while walking by myself at night since i left home, walking through soviet style buildings covered in grafitti and bullet holes in the dark, with broken glass everyhwere and clapped out VWs flying around the sharp corners. [sorry mum]

But I obviously found my way back, and the next day Majdas [the owner] took us on a little tour out of town and showed us things that we would have never found if we were by ourselves. We ended up at her family’s country home, picking pomegranites in their back garden.

The next day nearly everyone from the hostel were heading to Sarajevo, so we got up early to catch the morning train. We knew that it should be on time as there is only one tain line in Bosnia, and only a few trains per day, so there would be no excuse for delays. The train station had definatley seen better days. We bought a hand written ticket from a lady who seemed to be more interested in chain smoking as much as she could in her small sealed room than serving us. She kept closing the tiny window through which she served us, because obviously too much fresh air was getting in. Standing there for just 30 sec while I bought my ticket probably took a good 2 years off my life.
I also tried to buy a bottle of water. something simple you would think. wrong. I went to 4 cafes who seemed afraid to seel me water, so i was directed to a kiosk outside. they had a whole fridge full of water, but did not want to seem to part with any of it. finally after 10 minutes i found someone who was willing to part with their bottles of water in exchange for financial renumeration.

With my water safely in my bag, we headed up to what we guessed was the right platform, as there was a bus parked on the other.

The train arrived 3 minutes late, which i guess wasnt too bad. The views from the train were supposed to be spectacular, and im sure they were. but it was pretty misty and i was too tired to look most of the way.

The early morning start hadnt done much for me, and i spent most of the day wandering around the city half asleep. When i got back to the hostel I found my key didnt work and nobody seemed to be there. Just then Haris the owner of the hostel turned up, however he didnt have a key either! so we both just sat there until another guest turned up. they seemed to be a bit suprised that Haris was locked out of his own hostel.

Today he took us on a tour of the city. We all rugged up and piled into his van. We visited a tunnel that they had built under the airport to enable them access to the free Bosnian areas while the Serbs surrounded the city.
Another quick bit of history - after the Bosnians voted 90% to become an independant country, the Serbs were pissed as they wanted power over all the counties as they had in Ygoslavia. After invading and eventually withdrawing from Slovenia and Croatia, in 1992 it was Bosnia's turn. The serbs invaded the country and surrounded the city with tanks, snipers and heavy artillery. It lasted from 1992 to 1995. The UN intervened - but only to secure the airport and hotel where reporters were staying, and to supply some food. During the seige around 11000 people were killed in the city. The area behind the airport was free bosnian territory, while on either side of it were the serb forces. the UN would not allow the bosnians to cross the airport to go and get supplies or to flee, so they dug a tunnel underneath to allow them passage in and out of the city.

It was so moving to hear a descipition of these times from Haris, as he is only our age and was only a child when this happened. So many children ahd their childhood stolen and were forced to grow up very quickly.

We also visited the olympic museum. The 84 olympics is still such a source of great pride for the city and there are references to it everywhere. It was interesting to see that Jan Antonia Sameranch even visited Sarajevo during the 94 winter olympics to show support for the city and to show them they were not alone.

Finally we went to the place where WW1 pretty much started. It was the street corner where the Duke Franz Ferdinad [not the band] was assainated in 1914. This started a chain of events which lead to the starting of WW1. Its amazing to think that one single event shaped Europe and the world into what it is today. From WW1 came WW2, the rise of communism and the iron curtain and so much more.

Tomorrow I start my journey to London. Although I would very much like to spend more time in Bosnia, [initially i also wanted to go to serbia, but now i cant help but feel resentment to the serbs] I know that this is somewhere I will come back to no doubt. From here I travel back to Dubrovnik and spend one night at Mamma's, before I fly out. Im both exited and nervous about the new challenges that lay ahead. It is going to be a completley new experience, and of course.........
more expencive! One thing i am not looking forward to is the pound.

I will try to keep the blog updated whenever i have some news to share. No doubt there will be a few updates in the weeks to come as i find my feet in London. But for now, its one last night in Bosnia!

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