BUS FROM ZAGREB TO MOSTAR
Thank God, we are alive after a hair raising journey on a Kamikaze bus. At a dizzying speed we skimmed alongside sharp cliff edges, miraculously squeezed under overhangs of carved out rocks – bringing oncoming traffic to a screaming halt, swayed precariously like a yacht at high sea as the driver nonchalantly flicked his phone open to look at photos of his kids (I stood up, took a photo and he quickly stopped – swerving wildly to the correct side of the road). One bullying border crossing later and a few hours off our 9 lives, we ‘moored’ at a gas station to disembark. Found our luggage (which we paid 10 Euro to accompany us – like…. we would hire a dragon fly to transport it there for us?) and wafted off in an easterly direction. (Europeans and British always refer to a place by N, S, W and E).
Dragging our seasick bodies and luggage over holey tarred roads, we sort-of followed the other passengers to a hippie coffee shop with no shade and shivers was it hot! We bought a lemonade to trade for animated directions. Fat lot of good that was. You know what, the round about route reveals the amazing things one would never see on the tourist route – we saw ginger cats in windows, dogs lying watching passers by at ornate ancient gates, a monastery, locals’ fresh produce shops -spilling over with pomegranates, and the remains of bombed out buildings where we clambered up and down dangerous broken stairs to explore (stupid things we’d never do at home). Two nights and one full day of exploring cultures and history ahead………… once we’d found our accommodation that is!
EVERYONE AND THEIR 10c WORTH
Suddenly the buildings opened up onto a circle, filled with horses and carts, a stunning unkempt Ottoman era chateau, trees awash with spring flowers and refreshing fountains playing jump here and suddenly pop up there – a welcome sight at days’ end with apartment, found on Booking.com, in sight. Wow, it was actually an hotel, plush rooms on each landing, adorned in canopied beds decorated in bright oranges, vivid purples and shimmering turquoises. How often have you booked accommodation online only to discover the photos must’ve been taken from the moon because the place turns out to be a dump? After a welcome drink and interesting long conversation with the manager, cleaners, taxi driver and anyone else wishing to offer their 10 cents worth, we were escorted up a marble staircase, passing eccentric ?? paintings, to our room (ps no photos allowed!).
Standing on our French balcony, the view had us transfixed by its unanticipated beauty, we found ourselves draped over a shallow clear aquamarine emerald river below, snaking down to the infamous Stari Most Bridge and Old Town at the end. Just wow. The sun started to drop quickly so I grabbed a jacket, the keys and some money to venture alone whilst Chris crashed on the bed. I find beautiful European evenings – indigo skies, quaint pedestrian precincts and warmly lit shops intoxicating. The winding uneven stone cobbled streets swept me along magnetically to Mostar’s magnificent arched bridge, a masterpiece, built in the 15th and 16th centuries, over the Neretva River. Who could be weary on an exciting night light this.
My mum always told me to stop talking to strangers – but I never did listen, luckily or we’d never have discovered unusual places to explore like Kotor, Mostar and Budva.
STRONG COFFEE AND HAIRS ON MY CHEST
After a breakfast of cakes, baked eggs and Turkish coffee (so strong I instantaneously sprouted hairs on my chest) we ambled the streets, ate ice creams, pomegranate salads and watched men dive off the bridge, that connected east to west – ancient to modern, to earn a living. Would one call this busking? The tantalising waters below had us scrambling over huge stones, snagging trouser legs, to wade – it was an unfriendly minus something degrees. How on earth did the buskers endure these freezing temperatures we asked – they just shrugged and said “money”. Weeny shops trade copper, jewelry, touristy regalia and restaurants line to riverbank opposite old town, which resemble mysterious floating boats after sunset. All manner of cuisine turned us into indecisive jellyfish – Bosnian Bean Soup (tomorrow being a 6 hour bus trip – not wise choice) , Klepe, Kheema Pao and Begova Cobra – really – snake? I can’t actually remember what we ate in the end.
From along the Dalmatian Coast – Croatia, Montenegro, through Serbia, Kosovo, Slovenia………….. a mix of communism, socialism and ethnic complexities are intertwined into their architecture, municipal departments, governance and lifestyles. It is strange that the residents had separate schools, libraries, post offices, electricity departments, yet I didn’t feel the heaviness that seeped through every pore of the city of Sarajevo. Perhaps being a World Heritage Site and the dependence on tourism smothers and disguises smouldering embers.
PHANTASMAGORICAL STREET ART
UNESCO rebuilt the four century old bridge, which is a symbol of the city’s multi-cultural past, after the 1990’s war destroyed it, and many other historical buildings which we visited. Street art pops off buildings all over, many illustrating politics at the time of painting, emotional depictions of war strewn over shot up abandoned shells, wild fantasy escapism and signatures “Sammy & Dean were here”.
ONE LAST DRINK OF THE EMERALD WATERS
Slithering back over the polished bridge, literally so slippery there are humps to glide into every 2 metres, we take one last breath of ancient ghosts and drink in exquisite views one final moment. Once again it is time to squeeze that elephant back into our suitcases and catch a bus – to who knows where – the next city or town that pulls us in like an octopus it’s dinner. Thank you magical Mostar.