Sunday, June 7, 2015

Balkan Road Trip June 6 - Bosnia Herzegovina

June 6, 2015 Cacak Serbia to Sarajevo, BiH

The drive was amazing --- along a brilliant green river (reminded me of the train up to Prince George, Seton Lake area), gorges, and windy roads all the way.

Just before the border I came to Drvengrad, a movie set which I could see most of from the road driving by.   There were a few tour buses there --- first I've seen on this trip, so I guess it's popular.

I crossed the border near Visegrad, BiH.  Serbia charged an environment fee upon leaving, just a small amount.   The BiH guard as for the green card which was in my folder from the rental company (first time I had to produce that).   

No exchange kiosks at the border but I had changed some in ????

Visegrad has a 10 arch bridge (bombed to bits and rebuilt).   Home of Nobel Prize winner for a book called Bridge at Drina (?).   I saw it from the car window as the road wound back and forth so I had several views from both sides of the river, from a distance and very close.  There is no access to it, just plywood and fences falling down.

The approach to Sarajevo coming out of the mountains is spectacular and soon you are right in the city.   Fairly easy to find the hotel with Garmin and phone app.   Hotel Halvat is in the old city, Muslim part, with Moorish style, mosques, etc.   

It was very exciting actually as the pope was visiting and helicopters were hovering.   I walked over to the cathedral after parking the car in an nearby parking lot, changing some money at nearby FX shops.   The town was full of police security and none of the outdoor cafes had chairs and tables out, but as the pope was leaving, they started setting up.   

I had carafe of white wine and a cold plate --- beef proscuitto and 3 kinds of cheese and green olives.  All delicious.  Except one cheese had gone mouldy and the mould cut off, but it was quite strongly evident.

My hotel was simple but everything worked.   They only had the room for one night but arranged for me to move to a nearby hotel next day for two more nights.

June 7, 2015, Sarajevo

This was a fabulous day.   The hotel had recommended a free city tour at 10 am so I went to the Cathedral area at the time.  I very nice young man walked me all over (I was the only one) and it was really excellent.  He was an economist so it was a very good conversation.  I tipped him well.   Then arranged for a trip to the Tunnel Museum at 3 pm.

Lunch was a pide and coke -- not very good at all.   Changed more money and paid for 2 more days parking.  Moved to the new hotel.  The rooms have little kitchenettes.  No table or couch, just minimal cooking facilities, but almost no equipment, no dish soap or dish towel.  But great AC and after persistent gentle complaining, WIFI was excellent (wires jiggled, reset)

The guide picked me up at 3 pm and drove me and 2 Brazilian tourists out to the airport and gave us the tour.   Soooo interesting.   The UN would have shut  down the tunnel - guide said Serbias pay the UN a lot of money ??.   Learned a lot about the smudging and who became rich.  The smugglers paid the Bosnian army $50,000 for 8 hours use of the tunnel.   Our guide was in the siege (1000 days) as a 6 year old, (deaf in one ear from the shelling), and remembers the food aid (cans from 1962, war rations from Viet Nam war, one meal for 4 people for  1 week).  12000 people died probably more.   We saw a short film on the siege and the tunnel and toured a small section of tunnel.  Cigs, gas, and alcohol were not allowed through the tunnel.  Food was really expensive during the siege.  Smuggled food was sold for a fortune.   None of the smugglers who got rich were ever prosecuted.  The UN (and hence Canadian peace keepers) are not popular here, so I now do not mention that Canadians were here any more.   There were a few small groups of English speaking tourists with guides.  

The first time I have seen anybody taking pictures for ages (other than kids in a cafe yesterday) and having to stay out of the way of people's photos and getting flash going off in small spaces in my eyes.  It sure changes the experience.  Instead of taking the opportunity to talk to the guide and ask questions, they are taking pictures of each other in front of things, and later wondering what it is they saw.

We also met the man who owned the house where the tunnel started and was a truck driver bringing the supplies.  What a privilege.  Had a rakia (home made) with him and bought a little book from his tiny little little shop.  He was never recognized at all for his work and risk to facilitate the tunnel and keep Sarajevo alive.

Finally got my WIFI at the hotel working --- 3rd floor needed a reboot and wires reconnected.  Went for a walk to find dinner.  The town is so alive, with crowds of people and dozens of cafes and restaurants.   Talked to a young fellow in a book store and bought a book.   Had a coffee and pastry.   Went for a long walk around town and found where I should have gone.   

One of the best days of the trip.

June 8, 2015, Sarajevo.