Tuesday, May 02, 2006
After Serbia, we went to Bosnia, another former piece of old Yugoslavia. I loved Bosnia in a major way. It really has more natural beauty than almost any country I have been to, and I've been to like 10 of them. It reminded me of Tennessee, if Tennessee was a Muslim country.
Bosnia is the first "Muslim" country I have ever been to, and it was very interesting. But not particularly "foreign" in any way. If you took West Virginia, changed the churches to mosques, got rid of the banjos and the baseball caps and threw a few veils on random women, you would have Bosnia.
To enter Bosnia we crossed a very old bridge. The border guard on the Bosnian side was very nice, and to celebrate we decided to have some lunch.
We ate at a place overlooking the river. I ordered this local Bosnian beer:
This was one of the worst beers I've ever had, and I can't really remember why. I would recommend the "Sarajevsko" beer if you're in the area, but otherwise you could maybe partake in some juice.
I also ordered the "mixed grill". Does anyone actually care what I ate? I'm just going to pretend that you do:
It was very meaty, but you might notice on the upper-left part of the plate (to the left of the lettuce)(click to zoom-in!) a piece of liver. I bit into this without thinking, and almost hacked it onto the four guys sitting at the table in front of me who looked to be clearly involved in local leg-breaking. I hate liver, but I realize that it's very healthy, so please don't let me influence you kids out there. Eat that liver!
After the pit-stop it was back in the car, for the three-hour drive to Sarajevo. Here's some pics from the road, which give a hint of the massive amounts of prettiness in Bosnia:
There was also quite a bit of unfortunate un-prettiness, much of it due to recent history:
The E.U. is working to fix this, or so this sign said:
We finally drove into Sarajevo at night. Sarajevo is set into the mountains, nicely laid out and stunningly beautiful. It hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics, and was where Franz Ferdinand (the guy, not the band) was assassinated, which sparked WW1 (which, historians agree, sucked). Sarajevo is more recently famous for having been under siege during the Balkan war, which I implore you to read about here. According to one of my fellow travelers, it's a miracle that Sarajevo still exists, and I'm glad it does because it's one of my favorite cities.
We stayed in a nice hostel owned by a local Bosniak (this is the actual nickname). Here is a bad shot of the room:
In the morning he made us Turkish coffee. I like Turkish coffee, but it's an acquired taste. I personally acquired it when I worked at a middle-eastern restaurant in college, where the owner and most of the kitchen staff claimed to be ex-PLO members. Those were the days:
Sarajevo is a vibrant town, with lots of tourists. Here's some pictures of the old city:
This seems like as good a place as any to continue my analysis of Balkan advertisements. Bosnia had some real winners. For instance:
Code Cigarettes: There were hundreds of ads for Code cigarettes around Bosnia, with most of them being a variation on the one below. It's sorta hard to see here, but this guy appears to be staring at his fingers. In a different ad, which I sadly was unable to get a picture of, he can be clearly seen sniffing the very same fingers. For some reason, this made me want to buy cigarettes:
ADSL Internet: This is a picture of a turtle windsurfing on concrete while checking his watch. After spending about eight minutes staring at the poster and concentrating, I realized the hidden message: ADSL Internet is fast, like a turtle windsurfing on a highway:
Club Bill Gates: Go figure.
Hot Pink: The girl from the ad in Belgrade appeared again, this time shilling things that are hot pink. I admire this woman, as she has clearly been slathered with hundreds of tablespoons of butter in order to get that "slathered with sexiness" look:
Of course we had to have lunch, so we went with a local delicacy, Burek:
As Wikipedia will tell you, if you clicked the link, Burek is "a dish originating in Turkish cuisine, but very popular in many countries in the Balkan region (especially in Republic of Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina), probably spread during the Ottoman Empire." It was tasty, like a meat baklava, if you need a point of reference. You can order it by the kilo, which we did. But only one kilo.
Finally we decided to take off for our next destination, Mostar. On the way out of town you can see many hastily made and extremely full graveyards, which are a sad reminder of the incredible devastation that occurred in the area so recently. Sorry to be a bummer:
On the way to Mostar, we stopped at the gas station where I decided to use the little boy's room. This gave me a great opportunity to take a picture of the following, commonly known as a " Turkish Toilet":
As I was traveling with Europeans, my criticisms of the Turkish Toilet were met with hostility. They claimed that the Turkish Toilet was more sanitary, as you had nothing to sit on, and that it was also more natural. I countered with the facts that A. I couldn't get any reading done and B. I am not a dog. A mild culture war ensued, and a stalemate was reached, and I waited until we got to the next toilet. Here's some insightful articles on European toilet issues, if you find yourself with a wealth of free time.
I also bought some "Snips" which tasted like peanut cheese-puffs. We composed a song about Snips, which is just the Chipsy song with the word "Snips" substituted for "Chipsy":
That afternoon we got to Mostar and took a walk around the city. It was the sight of heavy fighting between the Bosnians and the Croatians, and is still occupied by NATO forces. Here's some buildings that were shot up, to use poor English:
Mostar is most known for it's Old Bridge, which was completely destroyed during the war and then rebuilt:
The bridge and the area around it are a UNESCO World Heritage site, unlike my apartment here in Slovakia:
From what I have heard the people on the two sides of the bridge are still very pissed, and the NATO forces may have to stay for quite some time because if they leave the violence will break out again. Remind you of anywhere? I saw this on the Bosnian side of the bridge:
Here are some shots of Mostar, it really is comely (needed a synonym of beautiful, got this from the online dictionary, hope you liked it!):
We stopped on the Croatian side at a cafe, and I had an Orangina. I love Orangina, which is hard to find in the U.S. I wanted to link this to an Orangina fan site, but I couldn't find one after searching for 2 seconds. That makes me sad, this drink deserves more credit:
While we were enjoying our beverages, this youngster stood on the bridge, preparing to jump. During the summer many people jump from the bridge into the river, but the water must have been cold in April, and the guy eventually seemed to chicken out. I don't blame him:
In summation, Bosnia is great, with some of the best natural scenery in all of Europe. Check it out if you are in the neighborhood. After this, we were onto Croatia and the sea. I sure needed some fish...