Friday, September 04, 2009

Catching up from Bosnia & Croatia

A couple of stories:
I was on my way from Sarajevo to the Croatian coast, with a quick
stopover in Mostar. Before hopping the bus, I had to visit the
bathroom-usually not a challenge, especially since most WCs have
pictographs of a man or a woman to help you choose no matter what.
Well, this being Bosnia, where there are still faded signs in
prominent places for the 1984 Winter Olympics (meaning signage isn't a
high priority for Sarajevo), all I had to go on were signs for
"muski," (on the left) or "zenski" (for the room on the right.)
Before I finish the story, which would you guess was the Men's room?
Why did you guess that one?

I tentatively moved towards muski, on the simple notion that muski
began with the same letter as "Men's." never mind how this approach
wouldn't work in say France (garcons). I lightly pushed open the door
half expecting a Bosnian women to start screaming. I lucked out - the
room was empty. Still this was no sign that I made the right choice,
so I stepped in. My "muski" guess turned out to be right, so now I
know at least one extra word of Serbo-Croatian.
Sarajevo & Mostar: fascinating, depressing, and hopelessly screwed up
(that's the summary for the cities AND my travel plans!)
Had planned on a third of a day in Sarajevo, one third in Mostar, and
the rest being spend traveling and at the coast in Croatia, however,
things didn't go according to plan.
I saw Sarajevo-interesting, but not enough to justify much more than
~3hrs, then Mostar, worth about half that, but unfortunately my host
town for 15 hours more than that.
Upon arrivng in Mostar, after a breathtaking ride through the Dinaric
Alps (mtns), our bus was swarmed with elderly ladies offerings rooms.
Though not interested, I ended up speaking with Nina, mostly because
she wouldn't take no for an answer.
I broke away from Nina, toured the city, and ~2hrs later went back to
the station (shared by buses & trains). The first person who saw me
was Nina, who said the train was 2 hours late, and asked if i wanted
her room yet. 2 hrs? (btw: there is only 2 trains per day each way) I
could wait that delay out with some more touring, though at that point
i had seen enough shot-up buildings. (reminder why so much
destruction: though a strategically unimportant town, all 3 armies
wanted to prove a point on this town, stretched over 3 yrs.)
I came back an hour or so later (10pm). No Nina, and only 2 people in
the whole station - a really, really old lady waiting to take the
train, and the starion master, who I quickly established didn't speak
any English. We pantomimed a bit, and established that the train was
100 minutes late.
An hour later, same routine with the stationmaster. He says "no news,"
or at least I think that's what he said. At this point, i'm starting
to weigh my options. Then, help arrives.
Sanel, a Bosniak (Muslim) was waiting for people to arrive on my
train. He heard the train MIGHT be in at 1am, but he was giving up,
and oh, by the way, did I happen to want to rent a room for the night?
I quickly weighed the options (1. Night in trainstation, 2. 3am
arrival in Croatia, 3. Find a room on my own, or 4. Take a chance on
Less than 2 minutes after meeting him, was on my way to his car, and
this paid off just like the last time I took a random chance on a
boarding situation (remember that, Jason H?(Munich))
Sanel spoke good English, and we chatted for what must have been an
hour. Got all kinds of stories about the War (he was 7yrs old at the
start), and all kinds of stories about how Mostar functions or doesn't
Like those bombed out houses. The EU has made available a ton of
reconstruction $$$$ - the EU's way of cleansing guilt by saying "sorry
we didn't do anything to stop the genocide. How about some new storm
windows to make you feel better?"
Problem is, the owners of the bombed out buildings fled town during
the war, and refuse to return. (Can you blame them, especially if
their old neighborhood has changed ethnicities?(= living among the
'enemy')). The EU refuses to let any $$$ be spent on buildings not
owner-occupied, so the result is a half-bombed out town, and a
continuing cycle of depression. (btw: Sanel's place had been burned to
a shell during the war. Except for one area that he kept like that as
a reminder, you'd never know.
So the next morning Sanel drove me to the station, where the morning
train was on-time, and I was on my way to Croatia, though half a day
late, thus costing me a shot at visiting Hvar Island. Still, my next 2
stops, Orebic and Korcula were well worth it.

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With my new friends on the Great Wall of China

With my new friends on the Great Wall of China
Click to go to my online photography

World sun clock

Uncommon Man's Creed

"I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon -- if I can. I seek opportunity -- not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I wish to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole, I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence, nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master, nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud, and unafraid, to think and act for myself, to enjoy the benefit of my creations, and to face the world boldly and say, "this I have done." All this is what it means to be an American." -- Anonymous