Another Love Affair…

Sarajevo Travel Blog

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So, here we are again… Arriving in Bosnia was fun, it was only a 3 hour bus trip in the afternoon, a nice change from the overnight buses that we’ve been using so often. We were going to head straight to Sarajevo, but everyone we’ve met said that we HAVE to stop in Mostar, so we did! Stopped there for only one night, but that was enough time to see the whole town and hang out on the oh-so-famous bridge, the Stari Grad. It was a great little city, the people were lovely, and for the first time I saw the evidence of recent wars close up, bullet holes in walls, buildings that have been destroyed by bombings, it’s all still there. I learned a lot about the war and what the people have endured. The hostel that we had arranged sent a man to pick us up from the bus station, the ride to the hostel was, well, an interesting experience. His car was tiny, one of those little old matchbox cars that looks like you have to wind something under the bonnet for it to start. He crammed our packs into the tiny boot, couldn’t close the trunk properly so left it open, and ushered us into the car. He drove like a maniac, we almost lost our packs out the back so Justin spent the whole trip holding onto them over the seat. He was absolutely all over the road, and when he turned towards me it was obvious from the smell that he had been drinking. A lot. He didn’t speak any English, so we just held on for our lives and eventually made it there ok. It was about a 15 minute drive (when we walked back the following day it was only a 10 minute walk…!?! Hmmm… Oh well).

From there we headed to Sarajevo. I had heard so much about the place that I had the same excitement as when I was heading to Istanbul. Arriving in the evening we found a hostel and settled into a dorm that was full of Aussies, all already drinking in the room when we got there at 6pm! So, grabbed some food and beer and joined them. 2 beer runs later it was time for bed so we could get out early and see the city.

Our first day in Sarajevo was spent wandering around the old town. There are some absolutely amazing sights, there’s so much history there, the cobblestone streets, the old buildings, the bullet holes, and the people. We saw the notorious Latin Bridge, where the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand occurred starting World War I. We saw the National Museum there, which was a little disappointing I guess, we were kind of expecting a little more history but instead we found out all about historic arts and crafts in Sarajevo in one tiny room. Hmmm. But there was a fabulously creepy wax sculpture of somebody important, no information to tell us who he was, but it was so lifelike I swear he was giving me a dirty look. Creepy. There’s a great Neo-Gothic Church there too, we went inside to check it out, and there was (very randomly) a string orchestra playing the most beautiful church music, I’m sure that we sat there for at least an hour listening and gazing at the ceilings and walls. There’s a funky little house there, the Inat Kuca, or Spite House, and it has a fantastic story… The owner had a house right on the riverbank, and the government decided to build a town hall right where his house stood. The only way he would give up his land was if they agreed to move his house to the other side of the riverbank. They of course relented and had to move the house brick by brick to the other side of the river, and he then dubbed the house “Spite House” (now it’s an expensive restaurant cashing in on the history! Good on him, stick it to the man!!!) Hung out at the Jewish Synagogue next which is now a museum, mostly dedicated to the Bosnian Jewish community and everything that they have survived. It was an interesting place, well worth seeing, although very sad to read the stories and see all the pictures of so many who died for no reason.

One of the crazy Aussies that we were sharing a room with sent us on a mission of a walk, looking for a fabulous view over the city. We got so lost, but somehow found our way up there, and he was right, the view of the city was spectacular. And, to top it off, because we were higher up there was tonnes of snow. After watching the sunset, we had a massive snowball fight. It was without a doubt the most fun I’ve had in a long time, I’m still far too enthralled by snow, I’m sure it will wear off eventually, so until then I’m going to enjoy it! I got dumped in the snow so hard I thought I was never going to get up, Justin is such a bully!!! Got him back though, dumped snow down the back of his shirt, he still hasn’t forgiven me.

The evening was spent much like every other one, loads of beer, cards, music, just hanging out at the hostel with the rest of the backpackers. This particular bunch are the grubbiest people I have ever shared a room with. Well, in all fairness it wasn’t all of them, a couple were normal people, but the amount of sh!t that they left lying around was unbearable. You’d wake up in the morning and be lucky not to step in their food scraps from the night before (nobody wants their foot immersed in a potato Burek, despite how good they taste!) and trip over chip packets and beer cans to get to the door. So many times I wanted to tell them to grow up and clean up their act (and mess) but somehow I think it would have been falling on deaf arrogant ears. I guess they’re young, but it’s no excuse for being completely inconsiderate. Oh well. It was an immense relief when they checked out a day earlier than we did and we had a clean night with our new roommates.

Anyway, rambling, rambling.

Day 2, we made the trek out to the Tunel Museum. Don’t tell me I spelt that wrong, cos that’s how they spell it here! It’s such a mission getting there, there’s not a lot of tourist information in Bosnia (or anywhere in the Balkans for that matter!!!) and you just have to find your way to places. So, Tram number 3, Bus number 32, and then you get off the bus in the middle of nowhere. You just kind of start walking, hoping you’re headed in the right direction. The chickens, sheep and goats are no indication, they didn’t help us at all, but by some miracle we found it. It’s not exactly what we were expecting from a historical sight that was so important to Sarajevo’s survival, with a hand written sign out the front and a man who answers the door, guides you into a room and then leaves you there. You watch a 30 minute video about the history of the place, and then the guy never comes back. Going in there we were counting on the video to teach us about the importance of the tunnel, to be honest we were completely uneducated (ignorant) about the history of the area, but were hoping to learn. The video showed a heap of footage of people coming in and out of the tunnel, and footage of the building of the tunnel, but there was absolutely no information about what it was used for or why it was so important. So, after the video we waited for the man to come back to show us to the tunnel (and maybe even explain the major details to us). But he never came. Eventually, we gave up and guided ourselves around, found some information which explained everything. So, here’s the mega-short version. Sarajevo was surrounded by Serbian troops and under siege from 1992-1995. There was no way out, those who were not killed by artillery were without food and basic supplies. The UN took over the airport to allow them to get aid into the region. So, the Bosnian troops dug an 800m tunnel under the airport to allow them to get supplies into the region and ultimately saved the lives of thousands of people from ethnic cleansing. Read about it, there’s a lot more to it than my extremely condensed version.

That night, we decided to head out to a local bar for a few (what exactly constitutes a few nowadays? Hmmm…) beers. Went to a cool bar “The City Pub“, reminded me a lot of a typical little bar at home, lots of randoms, but had a great time.

Next day, we were due to leave Sarajevo. I was really sad to be leaving, but know that I have to keep moving if I want to see everything in the 8 or 9 months that I have to travel. Got up early in the morning, wanted to have one last wander around after breakfast. So spent the morning wandering around the streets of the old town. It’s just really a massive bazaar, full of random shops, with a lot of Turkish influence (from the Ottoman times again…!) But it’s fabulous to just wander the streets, mix with the extremely random locals, and search for “Sarajevo Roses”. I had been on a mission to find one, but until the last day was not successful… Sarajevo Roses are the indentations from artillery shells dropped during attacks, and some are filled with red cement, it’s strange to see, I mean, they say so much… After searching for days, I was rapt when we finally found them only an hour before we were due to leave again for Croatia.

Bought some skiing gloves (an exciting moment for me!) in anticipation of building a massive snowman sometime soon, and of more snowball fights (frozen hands is not a cool feeling!)

Then, although it still seemed too soon to leave such an amazing place, we headed to the bus station. It was a short tram ride away, so, as we had become accustomed to doing, bought our tickets and jumped on the next tram. Just as we were about to arrive at the station, some inspectors boarded the tram checking tickets. Pulled out our tickets with a smile, expecting the guy to check them and walk away. Instead, he sat down in front of us and called over all the other inspectors. He requested our passports which we reluctantly handed over, and despite the fact that the entire conversation had occurred in English, he asked if we spoke French (ok, maybe a little justified since Justin is Canadian, but why???) After a few minutes of muttering between the guys, eventually he explained that we hadn’t properly validated our tickets. Now, in out defence, the other days that we had caught transport we had bought all day passes which were hand written, and therefore did not require validating. So, on this day when we only needed a one way ticket we didn’t really pay attention to the fact that it looked a little different. The guy spoke perfect English, and I tried to apologise and explain that we had misunderstood due to our previous days travel. But, the stupid asshole was not listening to a word of it, and decided that we had to pay a penalty (I still had all the other days tickets in my pockets, and even showed them to him…) So, with our massive packs and everything, clearly we’re backpackers = clearly we’re poor. So, The relentless bastard still fined us 26.60KM each before letting us go. We were absolutely fuming, blood boiling, irate, livid, furious, angry, aaaaaaaaaaargh. We completely could not afford to pay a fine for something so simple. I mean, we weren’t doing the wrong thing, we just made a mistake. He was such an asshole. So, we were left without enough Mark for our bus ticket, which caused us even more grief trying to pay with Euro or find an ATM.

Anyway…. The bus ride to Zagreb…

It was only about 9 hours. But it felt like at least 9238467 hours. We were hungry. And tired (The beds at the hostel were really uncomfortable, so nobody really got any sleep.) And hungry (no dinner the night before). The bus stopped after 3 hours (seemed like 12 hours) but it only stopped for 15 minutes which was enough time to grab a juice, no time for a meal. Then, about 4 and a half hours later the bus stopped again for half an hour. Enough time to grab a quick meal, have a beer and be on our way. But, at the dodgy truck stop, do you think that they have a single vegetarian meal on the menu? No. Is there something simple that they can prepare with no meat? No. Bread? No. So, after 24 hours without eating we were a little grumpy (Justin refused to eat in front of me if I couldn‘t find something vego, such a sweety!) We even made a friend on the bus who was translating to the waitress for us, and there was still nothing to order. Aaaaaaaargh. So, had a beer, then back on the bus for the last leg of the trip.

Arriving in Zagreb, Croatia, we were expecting it to be a bigger, less friendly version of Dubrovnik that we had travelled to earlier (see previous blog!). And boy, did we underestimate the place. We were planning on going to a hostel fairly close to the city centre, got a decent review from lonely planet and all, so it looked promising. Took us over half an hour to walk there which was absolutely brutal when we were both so tired and hungry. And when we arrived there, we were met with the shock of our lives. A real live witch was running the place. Complete with a wart of her nose, a broomstick lying close by, and a black cat. She was the most horrible woman I have met on this travel, and she’s working in a customer service role

Just for the record, it was the Omladinski Youth Hostel in Zagreb, in case you’re ever in the area, don’t go there! She was absolutely awful. I have never met anyone so rude. I mean, we’re both pretty friendly happy people, and the minute she started taking our details she was hissing and spitting acid at us. She wanted us to pay in advance (understandable) but when we explained that we had not yet found an ATM to withdraw the local currency but would go out now and get some for her before going to bed, she threw our passports at me and told me to go to the ATM, and turned away. Man, I thought that the rest of the day had already been a nightmare, she was worse than the tram inspectors! So, we quietly sat in a corner for a minute figuring out our options. The nearest hostel was ages away, we can’t afford any of the hotels in the city, and did I mention that we were ridiculously tired and hungry. But, the extreme lack of people skills in this cow inspired us to forge on, so we went as far as spending the money on a cab to take us to a hostel out of town just to escape the hideous bitch. It was worth it, the next hostel was lovely and the lady running the place was friendly despite the fact that by this point it was almost midnight and we woke her up. The Ravnice Hostel is clean, friendly and happy, the perfect hostel really, except that it’s about 15 mins out of town on the tram (90 kuna in a cab). The minute we arrived there, we crawled into our dorm and into bed (without paying in advance!)

With everything that has happened, really not prepared to stay in Zagreb for too long, it’s an expensive city and there’s not all that much to see. The next day, we headed out to the zoo, which is very conveniently placed down the road from the hostel. First, we spent a few hours walking through the local parklands, the landscape is amazing and beautiful and you can just wander around for hours (without worrying about landmines, a nice change!!!) Eventually we made it to the zoo, and spent the whole day checking out some strange, and stranger animals. They have animals here that I have never seen before. We were expecting an amateur zoo, I mean, it’s a lot smaller than we have back home, but I was impressed. They have an Australian section (just a Wallaby, Emu and Kookaburra) that almost brought a homesick tear to my eye, but they also have softshell tortoises (WTF??? What’s the point in the shell if it’s soft???) But yeah, they had heaps of cool stuff to see, very impressive.

So, today, I’m heading to Slovenia, hopefully will have net access, but who knows.

So, til next time, be good, kep in touch.

Happy Birthday Nathan, Love Love Love.

Seh

xox

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Sarajevo
photo by: herman_munster