10.05.2011 - 21.05.2011 26 °C
Entering Serbia was always going to be a little nerve wracking to say the least. Its reputation and moments of infamy in the 90’s allow it to be labelled ‘dodgy’ perhaps. So anyway we headed to the border crossing not really sure what to expect. So many questions we wanted answers for, will they let us in? Will they be mean to us? Will they be ugly? Fortunately (or unfortunately for readers who want action) it was a non-event although we did get another stamp (excited?).
Our first stop was a town called Novi Sad (sard). It read well in Lonely Planet and that being our bible we heeded its message and headed that way. It is situated in the north of Serbia because there are warnings to stay clear of the southern border, esp. where it meets Kosovo – tension central. ‘Mum’ doesn’t have detailed knowledge of Serbia (or Bosnia/Kosovo) we think because of the war, she only knows town centres so we had to use the old fashioned way of getting around a foreign place….using maps. I know what you’re thinking……..only a truly stable relationship can pass the test of map reading in a foreign place esp where they use that random language that is Serbian where the letter z is represented by a 3 and B actually means p. Confused??? Yeah we know what you mean. Anyway you will be relieved to know we actually made it quite easily thanks to the 5 P’s (prior preparation prevents poor performance) and had checked it out the night before.
Novi Sad was pretty, its main drag being one long mall where cafes and bars are lined up on both sides and then everybody walks down the middle. Talk about a catwalk, the staring we have endured up until now just amplified about 1000%. It is getting just a tad annoying. You can feel yourself reaching for your fly zipper every couple of minutes to make sure nothing is hanging out. It is also glamazon central, the girls have make up caked on about an inch thick and all look great, but where the hell are they going? It was the first place we had been where it was full of beautiful people, or maybe they are really ugly and have to wear the make up to hide it? (food for thought).
Onto Belgrade, where map reading and stable relationships entered a whole new realm, because the 5 P’s only work if there are no road works interfering in your plan. So we followed the traffic and ended up in the medical district (???). Never admitting defeat, we pulled over so Ang could jump out and ask an ice-cream lady if she could tell us where we were because we knew where we had to be. Suddenly there was a swarm of well-wishing women almost yelling in Serbian saying I don’t know what and me repeating over and over “Yes but where are we now?” Finally just to get away we pretended to know what they were saying and thanked them for their time. Hvala!! For future reference, taxi drivers are the people to ask.
From our hotel we had to use public transport, which we kind of like, it makes us feel more authentic. Our bus route into the city took us directly past remains of some buildings that had obviously been bombed and there were a group of about three of them. The evidence of the war was so obvious it amazes us how desensitised or perhaps in denial they all are of this evidence in their face. The city of Belgrade was fantastic. We expected something like Zagreb but perhaps dirtier and we were happily surprised. Belgrade was busy, bustling, friendly and big. There were plenty of things to look at and the energy it had could fire a rocket. We have noticed a scary trend of ‘man bags’. Yes men using handbags! They are like camera case size (some bigger) and they sling them over their shoulders like the girls and every second guy had them. Mmmmm not real sure how that trend will catch on in Australia. Anyway we LOVED Belgrade.
Zlatibor was our final stopover in Serbia, one night, close to the western border on the way to Sarajevo. We booked a wood/log cabin about three kilometres from town. It seemed like something different to do considering it was really only a stopover and not so much about the location. The blurb read beautifully…..set amongst lush meadows on the hills overlooking the township. See the rolling mist in the mornings from your log cabin at Villa Natural Wood. For $70 a night, beauty we thought. NOTE TO OWNER: It only works well if you put the correct address on the website and make sure the signage is in a visible place YOU TWIT. Moving on…….
Sarajevo, once again, is another city completely under rated. However Bosnia for us was all about the food. Wait I know what you’re thinking….all these two do is eat…heifers. Bosnian food is outstanding. Meat based but undeniably some of the best food we have ever eaten. The flavours in such simple dishes are enough to send your mouth into a frenzy. One of their traditional dishes is Cevapi (che vapi). It consists of little meat sausages, bread and raw onion. Sounds a bit ho hum doesn’t it. Let us tell you, if your taste buds could sing this meal would be opera.
The drive into Bosnia is worth a mention itself. Every road seems to run along a crystal clear river and rising up on both sides are sheer mountains that look like pumice stones with patches of draping greenery. We found ourselves driving in complete silence simply in awe of the landscape. It never ceases to amaze us how a border crossing seems to also give way to a landscape change. It’s almost like the land knows it’s a new country and wants to differentiate itself.
Our schedule allowed for three nights in Sarajevo with one of our days planned for white water rafting. We never ended up going ww rafting because of some moron in a van but we won’t go into that. This allowed us more time to amble up and down the lanes of old town (Stari Grad). We had our first rainy day in Sarajevo and so café hopped and postcard wrote the hours away. Sarajevo has lots of evidence also of the war with many buildings showing bullet holes and mortar damage. Some people live in these buildings now and some would have then. These things really do make you appreciate how lucky we are back home. This war damage was evident the whole way through Bosnia.
Next we moved onto Mostar in the south. Mostar is known for its old bridge. This bridge was built in 1557 and took nine years to build. It was ordered by the Sultan as he wanted an updated bridge to get rid of the rickety wooden one. He enlisted a Turkish guy to build him a stone bridge. Legend has it though that the Turkish guy (can’t remember name…sorry) never got to see the bridge because the Sultan was known for inflicting capital punishment on dodgy workers. So if the bridge fell so did his head. He fled into the mountains and never returned. Love that story!! The bridge was destroyed in the war in 1993 and had to be rebuilt and god love them, they built it the old traditional way so it looks exactly the same. In Summer, local kids jump from the bridge at a height of 21m. They show boat around on the bridge encouraging tourists to pay for this spectacle and then they jump. We were lucky enough to see one and let us say it did seem to be a loooonnnnngggg way down. Adams birthday was spent here and so we felt it only fair to indulge in birthday drinks and cuisine. Mostar was beautiful and two nights there went quickly but lingered all at the same time.
Final stop….Jajce (Yar see) a small town in the north. We arranged private accommodation but upon arrival found our private accommodation had no idea we were coming and poor English skills. Adam put on his best charades hat and we managed to score a small one bedder under their house for $84 for two nights. On departure 9.30am, the husband, Ewor proceeded to twist our arms to have the obligatory morning drink of Grappa. It would have been rude and unfriendly to not partake so with heavy hearts (ha ha) we stepped up to the glass. For those of you who know what Grappa is you are probably cringing right now at the mere mention of it. For those who don’t, imagine pouring petrol down your throat and then lighting it….sounds inviting doesn’t it?
We were on our way to Croatia for ten days of R and R in Split, we really feel like we need it. It has been a hard 5 weeks. Crossing the border out of Bosnia was a little sad, it was a great country with friendly people, beautiful landscape and have we mentioned the food.