Whilst one could spend years trying to drink every beer in Sarajevo and not come close before dying of liver failure, I don’t have that much time to spend. So, instead, I toodled along to the bus stop and told any motherfucker who would listen that I wanted to go to Dubrovnik, and I wanted to go now, and soon I was on my way back to Croatia.
I was as tired as a virgin who’s just discovered porn (remember when you had to wander through the bush in the hopes of finding some pervert’s stash of spoofed-on pornos? What’s happened to bush porn, it was fucking magical!) and just wanted to sleep, but the journey wouldn’t let me. It was just too bloody bewdiful, so I just stared out the window in open-mouthed wonder, rubbing my eyes comically like some sort of cartoon character.
Despite taking five-and-a-half hours, the trip is awesome, starting with a cruise between the stern mountains outside Sarajevo, before following the brilliantly blue Neretva river for an hour or so, as it winds through emerald hills. This part of the journey reminded me a lot of the area around Guilin, China – not just the geography, but the bleak, concrete cities sitting amongst such natural beauty was very similar. I didn’t see a bloke porking a dog, but you can’t have it all.
After crossing through the city of Mostar – a tourist attraction in its own right – the scenery changes rapidly, with a strong Mediterranean influence taking over. Scrubby hills and deep farming basins rand alongside the bus for a while, before I hit the brilliant blue of the Mediterranean sea, with delightful terracotta houses standing in the sun. We flipped in between Bosnia and Croatia a few times as we drove in and out of borders, before finally hitting the Big D. Ah, Dubrovnik, that is.
And now here I am, writing on the roof of the strange place I’m staying at (I’m living in the spare room of some old couple’s apartment) and looking out over one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I’ll go exploring tomorrow – right now, there are too many beers to drink!
Sarajevo gets a bad wrap, mainly because he’s of people have been massacred here over the years. But it’s actually a cracker of a city with plenty of culture, a great nightlife, and a unique personality unlike any other I’ve experienced. It’s not hard to see why it’s knows as The Jewell of That Sort of Southern-Middle Bit of Europe.
For a lot of people – myself included – Sarajevo is still tied to the Yugoslav Wars, and the signs of that are still here. Bombed out buildings still stand on the outskirts of the city, and cemeteries dedicated to the thousands who died in the conflict are absolutely everywhere. Seriously, in Bosnia you never have to look far to find one, and paddocks full of pointy white tombstones are one of the most noticeable things about this country. But Sarajevo is so much more than that.
It doesn’t really feel like a European city, and reminds me more of being in Asia. The Old Town district is crammed with stalls and restaurants, with people hurrying in every direction and the smell of cooking meet wafts through the air. Wild dogs look for food in alleyways while homeless people in rags beg for change. Every so often some weird music will start playing and some dude will start yodelling through a megaphone, as part of the Muslim call to prayer. It’s a unique place, with a bigger mix of cultures than a Sasha Grey gangbang video.
After my long bus ride, I was pretty thirsty, so spend the afternoon and evening drinking beer in a number quality establishments, including a shack called the City Pub, which filled up late and became rowdy as the band took to the stage. I found out something about myself last night – I really like Bosnian rock music, even if I can’t understand the words. It’s loud and fast, with great choruses and booming guitar solos. After drinking beer all afternoon, I was singing along and dancing with my new Bosnian friends, acting like a fuckwit.
Not surprisingly, I woke up with a rotten headache that made me wonder if a large Bosnian man had climbed in my window while I was sleeping and danced on my head. There’s only one cure for a hangie like that – a kebab. Or, in this case, two kebabs and a plate of hot chips, with a can of Coke to wash it all down.
Feeling better than ever, I jogged (well, walked… slowly) up to the Yellow Bastion, which provides a brilliant view out over the city. There was a really hot sheila getting married up there, so I pulled my hoodie over my face, lest she see me and immediately leave her hubby, leading to hundreds of angry Bosniaks chasing me through the streets of Sarajevo.
As I was trotting along with a kebab in one hand and a beer in the other, I saw a bunch of champions in fancy clothes playing trumpets and making an awful racket, so I headed over for a closer look. They started walking off down the street, and I followed them to see where they’d end up. People were lining the streets, clapping and cheering, and after a few minutes I noticed that they were just cheering for the band, they were still doing as I went past. That’s when I looked around and realised that the people I was walking with weren’t just regular street trash, they were all wearing nice clothes with medals pinned to them. I wasn’t following the parade, I was part of it!
Nobody seemed to mind, so I just kept going, waving at people as I passed them. When we finally reached some sort of cathedral, me and the rest of the group assembled on the stairs while the band banged out another song and some dickhead with a camera snapped photos of us. I made sure I gave him my biggest smile, then stood there for the next hour or so while some bloke chatted to crowd in some language I don’t understand, before ducking away when the band started up again.
I finished the day with a steaming hot burek in my mouth. No, burek isn’t the name of the handsome man who dances outside my hostel, it’s the Bosnian national dish, and is basically mince meat in pastry, so it’s like a pie! I was about disappointed that the little bloke in the restaurant didn’t squirt any tommo sauce on it, but it was a delicious way to end the day.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a gorgeous country with a long and interesting history, and bucketloads of natural beauty. The bus ride between Bihac, in the north west of BiH and the capital of Sarajevo took me through sweeping mountain ranges, past lovely villages, and along shimmering rivers. But the main thing I saw was bus stops.
The trip is only 308km, but took more than seven hours because the rubbish excuse for a bus I was on stopped at every town on the way, often waiting outside the local bus stop for half an hour or so while I stared out the grimy window at, well, pretty much nothing. So here they are, the Beautiful Bus Stops of Bosnia – I’m thinking of releasing them as part of a calendar!