From Sarajevo to Belgrade

Belgrade (Serbia), 19.04.2013

After a day of rest it was time to get back on the road. We left Sarajevo on the road into the mountains on the east, driving into a breathtaking alpine landscape. After 2 hours we arrived at Visegrad, to see the famous bridge from Ivo Andric’s novel. The bridge is nice, on a turquoise river. Probably carried away by literary romanticism, we expected a turkish or old village near the bridge. But no, on one side there is the road, and on the other side a cement, socialist village, quite boring actually. The best part was driving down the drina valley, admiring the intense color of the river and the mountains on both sides. Since we didn’t want to cross 3 borders (into Serbia, back to Bosnia, and into Serbia again), we drove back for approx 80km, loosing quite some time.

DSC_0004 DSC_0023DSC_0047DSC_0063DSC_0066After Visegrad the direction was Zvornik, the border town with Serbia. I got the GoPro camera to work and took first videos.We took a detour to see a village that got sadly famous for the biggest ethnic cleansing, or genocide since WWII: Srebrenica. There were no road signs to lead to the town, and it took us 45 mins through bad roads, partially unpaved, passing several valleys. There was a strange atmosphere in the air, we didn’t speak for most of the trip. We finally descended into the town, that looked like a normal Bosnian countryside village. But the destroyed houses on the roadside left us speechless. The next village was Potocari, where we visited the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial. Graveyards are sad places, but in this case the wall of names of the more then 8300 dead adds even more sadness. You can find fathers’ and sons’ names one beside the other, entire families and communities. We have been asking ourselves quite a lot while driving through this beautiful, semi deserted land: how can people, that seem so friendly when you stop on the road to ask for a coffee or directions, commit these atrocities, start this war, make their country deteriorate this way. We have no answer to this question.

DSC_0072DSC_0075 DSC_0077Silently we drove on towards Zvornik, where we met one of Helena’s aunts and cousins. Then we crossed the border to Serbia with no issues, as the night fell. The Bosnian policeman wasn’t really up for any controls. The Serbian one was in good mood, made some jokes and let us through, and the Serbian customs lady was distracted by our Maneki Neko on our car’s dashboard (thanks to the Hamann family!) that she also just let us through. Then came quite a ride on serbian country roads at night, including a 30 minute search for a “autoput” that didn’t want to appear. But finally we made it to Belgrade. We arrived late, tired, with a lot of things to digest from this day. Tomorrow we will discover this city that from the first impressions promises to be quite interesting.

Trip data (Day/Total)

– Km driven: 540/3.240

– Hrs driving: 9/-

– Diesel l/100km: 7,8/10,7

We Love Sarajevo

Sarajevo (Bosna i Hercegovina), 18.04.2013

The first day of rest on our tour gave us back some needed time to take care of many little things and communicate with friends and family. Since yesterday we are out of “Europe” as Vodafone considers it, and had to turn off roaming to avoid a horrendous bill at the end of the month. From one moment to the other emails stop and you’re offline…

I also was also able to find out how my new GoPro camera works and can now film great road movies, so stay tuned! Thanks again to our friends at the farewell dinner who told me about this great invention. 😉

In the morning we took a walk through the city, the great weather made everything look a lot nicer (sunshine always does, right?). People were in the streets and in cafés. There were several moments where I had the feeling to be in East Berlin in 1996, with these vintage, bohéme cafés and art galleries. I spent some time writing and working in a stylish place full of young people, that could have been in any Western European city. And they had great WiFi to upload photos to Flickr. I say “stylish” and “young” as opposed to on one hand the countryside “grobianskis” as we call them, and on the other side the old people that did not make the jump into present day reality. There are many here in the city of both groups.

At lunchtime we drove up to mounts Igman and Bjelasnica, to check the stunning landscape. We also had some great views on the Jahorina and Treskavica mountains. On the way up we passed a de-mining crew cleaning up remaining mine fields on some mountain parts. The Igman pass is littered with remains of the 1984 Olympic Games and 2 wars (WWII and the last one). But nature doesn’t care about the messes we humans create and slowly regains control of everything.

CIMG1349 CIMG1348 CIMG1343Lunch came in form of a kg of tasty rostil (lamb and pork meat grilled), kupus salata (cole salad), and somun (pita-like bread). We ate too much, and drank too much, and had to go home for a siesta. This didn’t prevent us from taking a “walk” through the city, where we came across several monuments for those who died during the siege of the city (also here). Very impressive was the one dedicated to the children. Walking down Marshall Tito street, we then arrived to Bascarsija, where you can find a lot of artisan stores mixed with the tourist shops. And (how could this happen?) we ended up eating Cevapi again! With Kajmak. And as a dessert we had boza. This is where the day comes to an end, because my stomach can’t fit more food and drinks. I tried to loose kg before the trip, with limited success. I guess that after not even a week on the road the kgs are going in the wrong direction.

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Trip data (Day/Total)

– Km driven: 58 /2.698

– Hrs driving: 2/-

– Diesel l/100km: 7,4/11,3

From Zagreb to Sarajevo

Sarajevo (Bosnia i Herzegovina), 17.04.2013

Dobro jutro Zagreb! In bright sunshine we left the hotel to discover the city during daytime. We drove through the beautiful, Austrian-style center of town, dropped the car and walked up to the cathedral and through the old town. In one of the many internet cafés we uploaded fresh fotos to our Flickr stream, and then off we went on our ride towards Sarajevo. Eating fresh Burek we enjoyed the good weather and drove quite fast on an impeccable and empty motorway towards Slavonski Brod.

Here we left the motorway and crossed the border into – well, that was actually not that clear. Tecnically into Bosnia and Herzegovina (the country), but right after the frontier a “Welcome to Republika Srpska” sign welcomed us. No mention of Bosnia, and really the biggest “country” sign I’ve ever seen on any frontier. By the way, the border crossing went smooth, but we had to open the car to get the luggage checked. We learned to cover valuable things. And we found a very practical anti-hassle pitch: “We drive to Russia” seemed to explain everything, made the police smile and let us through without any further question. I don’t know what they think of Russia around here, but it solved all frontier problems with Bosnia.

Once we started driving through the countryside, the road signs mentioned Belgrade but not Sarajevo. We noticed an immediate decline in standards once we crossed the Save river, and the roadsides are full of destroyed houses. Many by war, others by abandonment, but all of them creating a very depressing scenery. Having seen Slovenia (already in the EU) and Croatia (joining the EU this summer), it was sad to see how Bosnia seems to be left behind regarding reconstruction after a war that ended over 17 years ago, modernisation or building of modern infrastructure, improvement of living standards.

DSC_0009In all this surreal environment, we found a charming Etno Village, with traditional peasant houses and a bar and restaurant. And the more we drove towards Sarajevo, the more the situation normalised. We finally entered Sarajevo at sundown. You notice the many cemeteries when entering the city, many of them in the middle of parks and surrounded by very simple fences. I’ll not comment more on this, since the last time I wrote about my impressions in the city they were not well received.

DSC_0051To end the day properly we went to eat some Cevapi in the old town of Sarajevo. It has been many years since I had the chance to do so, and I’ve dreamed about this moment since them. VERY DELICIOUS!!! The beer to the food we had to buy in a supermarket and drink at home, since in the Stari Grad (old town) we couldn’t get any alcohol…

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Trip data (Day/Total)

– Km driven: 414/2.625

– Hrs driving: 5,5/-

– Diesel l/100km: 10,3/11,4 (9,20 HKM/1,23€ in HR; 2,40BAM/1,22€ in BiH)

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