balkan, bosnia, experience, roadtrip, travel, Travelblog

Balkan road trip – Part 2: Remember me by my bullet holes.

The first part read here.

SUNSET KAYAKING

The following day was one of the most interesting days of the whole trip. I have two friends in Ploče, a town in Southern Croatia. You should definitely visit Ploče because it`s beautiful and not overcrowded with tourists. The second reason is even more important – sunset kayaking! My friends, Andrea and Mario, organize different tours around the area. It includes kayaking, hiking and cycling. You can check the full offer on their website.

We had only one day so we joined them for sunset kayaking. Not knowing what to expect, we were overwhelmed. Seven kilometers of rowing the kayak on the sea following the sun was absolutely breathtaking. I am having a hard time finding the words to describe the beauty of the sight. We even stopped at the beach reachable only from the sea so there was nobody except us. In the end, we were tired but could not get the smiles off of our faces. I have seen many sunsets but observing it from the kayak in the sea is an absolutely different experience.

Thinking it could not get any better, they invited us for morning kayaking on Baćina lakes. It was much easier because the water was calm. Andrea told us a lot of stories about the area and we had a picnic. During the picnic, there was one family as well and they offered us some local food and watermelon. It was really relaxing.

After seeing the lakes, we had to leave. Unfortunately, we did not have more time to try other tours they offer. But you can try it and tell us what was it like.

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2.1. TARNISHING THE BEAUTY

In the afternoon, on the way to Mostar, we stopped in a place called Blagaj Tekija. It is a cute village under the cliff founded by the Ottomans. There is a 600 years old Dervish monastery. We wanted to find out more about the history of the place and the stories about the area. We were quite disappointed. Some people, apparently working as parking staff, did not let us get there without paying the parking. It was a small amount of money so we paid. They gave us some paper which looked like a bill. Without any instructions or tips, we entered. It was impossible to find a place to park the car. Going down the road, it was very hard to pass due to all the souvenir booths and people walking on the road. Getting to the end, we realized we cannot go back due to a crowd so we just left the car on the road among everything. We asked people who were selling stuff is it ok to leave a car like that, they said „sure”.  

There is a river. All around the river, there are restaurants. You literally have to walk through the restaurants to take a walk along the river. Therefore, you see nothing. To get to the monastery, you have to pay again. The price was small but it made no sense. We felt bad because such a nice place got destroyed by bad management. We decided to leave after 20 minutes. Getting the car out was a challenge. Somehow, nobody and nothing got run over.

 

2.2. PUNCHING THE MUSIC INTO THE EARS

Marija hosted us in Mostar. We found her using Couchsurfing. If you have never heard of it – it is a website where people offer a place to stay for free. The main goal of it is a cultural exchange, globalization, friendship and helping out a fellow traveler.

She gave us a nice night tour around the city. The main reason why everybody comes there is the Old Bridge. It is a construction built in the 16th century across river Neretva by Suleiman the Magnificent. At the time, it was the biggest harbor construction in the world. The bridge was torn down during war events in 1993., rebuilt and opened for public in 2004. Nowadays, it is under UNESCO protection.

It really is a nice sight, indeed. Although, we saw the same situation like the one in Blagaj Tekija. Everything around the bridge is stuffed by souvenir shops and restaurants. The worst of all was the fact that every restaurant plays their music in the night. Not only it is loud, but a different music coming from all the directions is simply too much. It is good to have a lot to offer and have it nearby but it was a bit too much. I can understand that the competition between them is strong but I think they got lost in trying to improve the service and offer. Choice of souvenirs is great, food is the best in Balkans but it should have been placed a bit further from the bridge.

In the end, we found a bar where one girl was singing while a guy was playing guitar. People were sitting on the ground, drinking, laughing, talking. There were walls around it so it was isolated from the noise. It was really pleasant.

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2.3. BULLET HOLES

Nevertheless, I had a nice company which always matters more than any other circumstance. Marija showed us street art in Mostar. Art is one of my hidden talents, so I adore seeing the artwork in the streets as it is inspirational and meaningful more than any other form of art in most cases. It is truly amazing. I got mentally stumbled over one simple thing. As a part of street art, bullet holes on buildings, made in the war, were transformed into flies. Both sad and clever at the same time. Walking around ruins, discovering underestimated art, we came across one building which was supposed to be rebuilt and it never happened because the donated money had been stolen by corrupted people in charge.

Corruption is still very strong in Bosnia due to the mess they call political system. The country is divided into Bosnia, Herzegovina and Srpska republic which means there are different nations, different religions, different points of views. It is hard to make a deal for everyone to agree on. Marija told us many other stories about the country`s past and present as the night went on.

When we got back to the apartment, we prepared an Italian dinner. Yes Balkanians, you can start with insults and blasphemy for not eating Balkanic food in the middle of Bosnia. To alleviate the unforgivable mistake, I cook Balkanic food in Rome. Etc., sarma in the middle of the summer. Yes Italians, you can start with insults and blasphemy…

Early in the morning, we went to Sarajevo.

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2.4. SUMMERTIME LACK OF SHOWER, PART 2

Being happy and talking about previous days, we came across a kid with a big backpack, hitchhiking. He was barely not a minor, a bit confused and alone, carrying a guitar with broken strings. Since both Luca and I are travelers and at some point, we were in the same situation as that kid, we decided to stop and give him a ride to Sarajevo. The biggest mistake ever made! Remember the Russians from the first day? This was worse. I felt the odor of many bad things such as an animal corpse, garbage dump, rotten eggs, forgotten food leftovers, sewage, a breath of a human not aware of the existence of toothpaste… But this kid set the new record. Once again, I can understand the heat and that he carries around heavy backpack… Despite all the excuses that could possibly justify his appearance, he hitchhiked next to the river and shower gel is around 50 cents. Do you see the logic?

Poor kid even lost his phone and asked for our help to contact his parents. Our phones did not work in Bosnia so we told him we will take him to our hotel and solve the issue. As much as we honestly wanted to help him, that much we found it impossible. We gave him a ride to Mostar, left him in front of our hotel, told him to get inside and went away to find a parking. I hope he got the help he needed, we contributed enough. 

 

  1. TOUCH OF PERSIA IN THE MIDDLE OF SARAJEVO

It was hard to find a parking place because it was the middle of the city. So we asked the hostel staff for help. We were told to leave it in the nearby hotel garage. A multilingual family owns half of the building and they turned it into a hostel. Due to their culture and beliefs, we had to take our shoes off when entering the apartment. It was really clean which I immensely like. We checked in and went to the city.

Baščaršija is the word Luca cannot pronounce. I challenge you to do it. =D

On the other hand, it is an old bazaar, historical and cultural center in Sarajevo. The word is originally Turkish and, when translated, it means the main market. It was built in the 15th century when İshakoğlu İsa Bey founded the town. A very nice place full of traditional food and souvenirs. I fell in love with one certain shop.

One of it was a bit different from others. It had more expensive, unique and prettier things to sell. So we decided to ask the worker about the story of the place. It was his first working day and lack of experience was obvious, even though he really tried hard to explain each item on the display. I noticed that he knows the history of invention and use, but has no selling skills. So I changed the approach. I asked him about the stories.

The shop`s owner spent 15 years traveling around Persia, Turkey, Afganistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and surrounding countries collecting items he sells in that shop. It is the most amazing collection of handmade treasure I have ever seen. Rugs, lanterns, scarfs, coats, jewelry, coffee pots and many other traditional things. There is only a small number of people left who are making those things using only their hands. Therefore, it is very expensive. The price of the rugs goes up to 20.000,00 euros. Some of it is so rare or unique that is it there only for display, only to show how perfect it can be.

Speaking of the stories, I got interested in the fact of him knowing it all. He did not reveal everything but it was interesting anyway. Using the words „by chance” a lot, he told us he went to Iran quite young, by chance. After two years of studying Persian, he came back to Bosnia, by chance. Now he is studying Persian language and literature, by chance. He even got that job by chance.

By chance, he happens to be an amazing storyteller. We found out a lot about Persian culture, 1001 night, God, love and Lejla from the rugs he was showing us while quoting the books he read. Both in Persian and Bosnian.

Everyone can learn sales tricks, but it is rare to find a person with the knowledge he has.

Besides Baščaršija, we visited some other popular sights and location such as Eternal flame, place where 43 citizens of Sarajevo were executed in 1995., Latin bridge, Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque, Sacred Heart Cathedral, Beys Mosque…

What I managed to miss and really wanted to see are Sarajevo roses. Holes on the ground caused by bombs that were dropped to the city were painted red. People called it roses. I was told there are a few, but I manage to skip them all. Writing this article, I discovered many other places I should have visited but I am comforting myself by the fact I had only one day to see as much as possible. That is a reason to come again.

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To be continued…

 

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2 thoughts on “Balkan road trip – Part 2: Remember me by my bullet holes.”

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