Tuesday, October 10, 2006

To Bosnia And Back

Friday dawned with a significant amount of blue sky, and I was able to appreciate the Old Town of Kotor even more. The point of today was to veg out as much as possible, so I attacked the problem with maximum zeal, lying in bed as much as possible. In the afternoon I climbed the wall, so to speak, walking up the battlements to a couple of hundred feet above the town and spending about an hour sitting and looking out over the medieval buildings, the newer town, and the mountains and the fjord and its occasional sailboat, all underneath a blue and partially cloudy sky.

Saturday I had to get up at 6 am for the 7:15 bus to Dubrovnik, a couple of hours away. At least from the road coming in over the hill, the Old Town looked cute. Maybe too cute.

I had planned to rent a car in Croatia, too, but once again 1) the forecast was for rain, 2) I was still pretty tired, and 3) the agency that the LP said was right next to the bus station wasn't.

Saturday was supposed to be partly sunny, though, so I decided to take a bus up the Croatian coast to the city of Split. We started out at 11.

I am pleased to report that the Croatian coast lives up to its billing. Maybe even more so. Huge grey mountains covered for the most part by lush evergreens. Blue seas verging on turquoise. Big islands offshore that are basically sunken mountains. Red tiled houses and picturesque churches and achingly blue skies. All this with a San Diego climate, even including the orange groves. Not only that, but it's still a small two lane road hugging the shore and limited development.

There's still time to sail your yacht over and have some fun.

Split itself was big and not too scenic. Its main attraction are some Roman ruins, which are the least impressive Roman ruins in existence: literally one excavated basement. The Old Town was totally uninspiring. Nonetheless that didn't stop cruise lines from disgorging hundreds and hundreds of tourists.

But for me, even Odessa had been niftier. Even several hours later, after an uninspiring sunset, Split was totally blah. So I had a banana sundae, and in the morning I, er, left the scene.

The bus for Sarajevo proved to be an all day affair. For the first part we retraced our path down the coast. This morning though, while still clear, was incredibly windy. And now we were on the cliff side of the narrow road, with the cliffs at some points going 1000 feet straight down. With a very tall bus. Oh well, they must do this all the time.

We headed inland towards the city of Mostar, the environs still looking mostly coastlike. From there, though, we headed up another (though gentler) Montenegro type gorge with dark, dark mountains cloaked in dark green.

We finally entered Sarajevo around 4:30. It's a city of over 600,000, so it was a lot bigger than I had imagined from old war reports, with many Yugoslav housing blocks, which were always slightly more colorful and aesthetic than eastern bloc ones were.

Sarajevo surprised me by also having a really colorful and different Old Town. Like the Albanians, the Bosniaks had infuriated their fellow Caucasians by embracing not only Islam but the Turkish way of life, and Sarajevo's little center was more Turkish looking than anything I've seen in Turkey. Surprisingly pleasant.

Unfortunately for me, the ONLY bus to Dubrovnik left at 7:15 in the morning, so I had little time to enjoy Sarajevo. I started walking.

As for the WAR: Yes, I had been noting all the many buildings from Mostar on that still had bulletholes all over them, and, yes, I had passed the Holiday Inn where all the journalists had stayed, but, once again I was in a previous war zone that has a feeling of pure normality.

Well, I did have one idea, and that was to get over to the Serbian side of the city. The sun was now down when I found the city bus that was supposed to go there. I hopped on board, and then sat for the next 40 minutes convinced I had gotten on the wrong bus. But at the end of the line, the driver said that Srbska was just 300 meters more. So I walked along in the dark, a wind rising.

When I got to the 'border' there were no signs. But an old Serbian guy nodded and drew an imaginary line with his foot when I got there. 20 meters further was a Serbian city bus stop and a Serbian long distance bus station for the Serbian half of Bosnia. But no formal boundary or anything. It's a totally normal looking street. It's just that one side begins and another side ends.

Then back to the center, back to my room, and up at 6:00 for the bus to Dubrovnik.

We got in at around 2 pm and, like for the previous two days, chose among the women standing around with little signs for a room for the night. Once settled in, I decided to walk into town.


Post a Comment

<< Home