Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Bosnia

A road trip to Sarajevo, Bosnia.

After our indulgent week amongst Croatia's islands we docked in Split, relaxed and with absolutely no plans. After a week of paradise, we were all ready for something a bit more crazy, so the decision was a road trip into Bosnia…

Turns out it was one of the best travel decisions we've ever made.

BOSNIA

We hired the tiniest of cars from a local hire car dealer in Split. The insurance was astronomical because we planned to drive the car from Croatia to Bosnia and the dealer said we were all "crazy".

As we left Split headed for the Bosnian border there was definitely excited nervousness in the car. Besides being off the beaten track, everything we'd read on Bosnia advised travellers not to veer off the road even the slightest bit because of unexploded land mines. D's knuckles were white as we hit the border crossing.

Google maps wouldn't let me 'get directions' into Bosnia - we left from Split on Croatia's coast.

View Larger Map

I think the strangest thing as we entered Bosnia was the scenery. It was stunning. I guess quite ignorantly we hadn't associated Bosnia with a scenic road trip.

Bosnia...
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Amazing views from the car...
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As we got close to Sarajevo, the scenery changed and it was overwhelming. House after house was peppered with bullet holes. It was strange to take in as the damage was set amongst a beautiful landscape. The hardest thing to put together in our heads was that the conflict between Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia happened between 1992-1995. I think we all felt like we didn't know enough about it all, given we were in our early teens when it happened.

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Bosnia Claudia and Dane

As we hit the centre of Sarajevo we were shocked. Some buildings had holes as big as cars through their walls and nothing looked as if it had been repaired since the end of the war. When we found our hostel the view out the window was graveyards dotted between the houses.

Looking out our hostel window...
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The "hostel" was actually a house with no locks. Our room consisted of four army bunk beds. I think we all felt a bit overwhelmed, as we all sat on our beds and stared at each other with a sort of "what are we doing" look.

We had driven for most of the day so we locked our backpacks to our beds and set out to explore Sarajevo...

SARAJEVO


It feels slightly clichéd to say it, but the centre of Sarajevo was a complete surprise. Restaurants, food stalls, markets and people everywhere. We had been told by a Croatian friend of ours to find cevapi - a Bosnian version of a kebab, however, before we found a cevapi stand, we stumbled upon the most incredible street café that was cooking steaks on bricks in a fire. The steak is served almost raw and the heat from the brick cooks the rest of the steak as you eat it! Big call, but it was close to the best steak I've ever eaten.

Weirdly, the waiter tied bibs around KT, Rhiannon and my necks before our steaks were served (it was all really amusing as no one else at the café had bibs on!).

Rhiannon and I with our bibs and our steaks on bricks...
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Somehow through a miscommunication, D got a mixed grill served on a sword!
Bosnia Claudia and Dane

We strolled the streets for hours until we decided it was time for bed. Because there were no locks on the hostel doors, we decided to put a backpack against the door with a can of deodorant on the top - basically if someone tried to come in, the can would hit the floor and wake us up.

When the can hit the floor at 2am and in stumbled a drunken stranger we were all sitting bolt upright, very unnerved in an instant. The poor guy, with a few too many under his belt didn't know what had happened as three hysterical females and D told him he had the wrong room (slightly different language used though!). I don't think any of us slept particularly well the rest of that night…

ANTIBIOTICS IN SARAJEVO...

After a somewhat sleepless night we all awoke pretty tired. To complicate things slightly, the ear ache I'd had in Croatia had now spread down my jaw and I now couldn't lie on that side of my face. I'd been to the A&E in Croatia, but because of the language barrior, whatever I was given wasn't the right stuff. The biggest worry was that I had a long haul to Beijing China in five days time. Not a great idea to be flying with ear issues...

We all found it very amusing that the only time I had been sick on all of our travels was in Bosnia. We absolutely didn't speak a word of Bosnian and we weren't sure how I was going to either explain my troubles let alone get hold of the right antibiotics.

But it seems it's easier to get medical supplies in Bosnia than one might think... we found a chemist in the centre of Sarajevo and I played charades with my ear in an attempt to explan the problem. Then, in perfect English the gem of a girl behind the counter asked me what was up. After explaining my troubles, she reached below the counter and offered me at least a year supply of antibiotics - for about $1.

SARAJEVO'S TUNNELS

With the ear sorted, we had a breakfast of pita bread, honey and tea before taking a bus up into the hills to see the Sarajevo's tunnels.

Sarajevo is situated in a huge valley and during the war when the surrounding hills were occupied and supply routes cut off, the Sarajevans built a series of tunnels under the airport to bring food and supplies in and out of the city.

Entrance to one of the tunnels with the airport in the distance. The tunnels go under the runway.
Bosnia Claudia and Dane

Bosnia Claudia and Dane

Further up in the hills we saw the remnants of the 1984 Winter Olympics that were held in Sarajevo. In a bit of sad irony, the Serbs used the Bosnian's own Olympic infrastructure against them, using the concrete luge and bobsled track as a bunker and attacking down into the city from over the top.

D, Rhiannon and KT walk up the bobsled track...
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It was fairly intense walking in the hills as there were signs like this all around...
Bosnia Claudia and Dane

That evening we found cevapi which was amazingly good and strangely enough we watched the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics on the flat screens situated all around the city.

Cevapi!
Bosnia Claudia and Dane

Centre of Sarajevo - D, Yours Truly, Rhiannon and KT.
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You can just see the edge of a flat screen to D's left.

SARAJEVO to MOSTAR

We left Sarajevo the next morning. In the car early, we headed west for the Bosnian town of Mostar.

The map of our Bonsian trip, you can see some of our pen marks...
  • Trip out: Split - Bugojno - Sarajevo.
  • Trip back: Sarajevo - Mostar - Metkovic.
Bosnia Claudia and Dane

Famous for its bridge, each Summer young men jump off the bridge to prove their manhood!
Bosnia Claudia and Dane

After D proved his manhood we had an amazing lunch of more cevapi.

We also found another most amusing Bosnian food…
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After an overwhelmingly incredible five days in Bosnia, we headed west back towards Croatia...
Bosnia Claudia and Dane

Our experiences in Bosnia were some of the greatest we've had while travelling. If you're thinking of heading into Bosnia send us an email and we'll be happy to offer some tips where we can.

GRTs.

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