I finally left Split, after spending over a week there enjoying the sunlight I had been missing for the majority of my time in Europe (Why I came here in winter I don’t know). Feeling lazy, I climbed onto a bus headed to Mostar, in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Approaching the border checkpoint (which was just a Croatian cop, followed by a Bosnian cop, checking ID’s on the bus) I realised how friendly the people in this area are. The bus was completely crowded with Croatians and Bosnians, and they were all engaged in conversations with each other. Never mind that most of them had never met, they were all talking away like they had known each other for years. They also engaged me in the same manner, but I was a little limited by my inability to speak any language other than English..
I arrived in Mostar, one of the two cities in BiH that people actually have heard of, only to find the place basically deserted. Seriously, I walked through the old town (The tourist area) and saw basically nobody. Also, the tourist office was closed, so I had no idea what to do or why everything was so dead. Turns out, after I spent two nights there, I learnt that I arrived on their Independence Day (Not to be confused with the awesome Will Smith movie). You would assume Independence Day would involve some parade of some sort, maybe some fireworks, even some banners and posters? Not here, apparently. All I could find was empty streets. But when you see what this country went through less than 20 years ago, it’s easy to understand. Mostar was heavily hit in the war, and the evidence showed in the mortared and bullet-riddled buildings.
Leaving Mostar, I decided to stop being lazy and get hitching again, after the surprising lack of success in Croatia. Getting out of Mostar was easy, had my first ride after 5 min of thumbing with my typical poorly drawn sign, this time aiming for Sarajevo. My ride was with an old man who spoke basically no English, but enough for me to learn that he owned a hostel in Mostar, was heading to some town somewhere down the road, and lost his family in the war. After an hour of bad sign-language conversation, I was on the side of the road in a small town deep in the mountains, but in the right direction at least.. 45 minutes later (ergh), a young feller named Mickey pulled over his van, I threw my pack in the back, and off we went. Mickey spoke flawless English, told me about the war (which was good because I barely knew anything about it), told me about his experiences working on a cruise ship, and then gave me a brief driving tour of the road into Sarajevo. In short, Mickey is one of those people that remind me why hitchhiking is so good.
I spent the last week staying in a 6euro 10 bed dorm (Sarjevo seems to be one of those difficult cities to couchsurf in), where I met other proper backpackers for the first time in 6 weeks,. As a result I have spent the last few days blowing my budget, mainly on 2L plastic bottles of beer (at 1euro a pop), and out at the student club Sloga (Anyone coming to Sarajevo, keep this in mind, this place is AWESOME, you MUST go there for a night out.)
There’s an old cinema which has also been converted to a club, apparently pretty popular amongst students also. The vibe was alright, until Luke, the american traveller I met, pulled out his camera and took a couple of photos of the bar. 2 minutes later, an older rougher, mafia looking guy, at a table of similarly rough looking Bosnian guys, got up and approached our table. He then kindly ‘advised’ Luke, in what he described as ‘Tarzan English’, that it would be in our best interests to delete the photos he just took, or he would MAYBE shoot him in the knees. We left after that..
Aside from drinking, we went ice skating one time, and I have spent the last few days snowboarding the 1984 Winter Olympic ski mountains… decked out in jeans, woollen gloves, and a 10euro rental board. I looked good, and did not get cold or wet at all. Oh, and the mountains weren’t bad either. Not many people on the slopes, powder to be found if you look in the right places, and decent weather, so I figured it was alright to blow the budget a bit, for the first time in a couple of months..
Also, the burek and cevapi restaurants here are amazing, and cheap. 1 euro for a portion of potato, or cheese, or spinach burekky stuff = Win. I do find it weird that people order a GLASS of yoghurt to drink with it though…