Week 6: July 3-9
Friday, July 4
Fourth of July!
For lunch on Friday, I tried something new. I got bread filled with melted cheese, smothered in a white, creamy sauce, sprinkled with sauteed mushrooms and topped off with a few thin slices of grilled chicken. Needless to say, it was delicious. I was dismissed from work early, and took the time to begin preparing for the Exit Festival next week. I was able to catch my friend online and we chatted for a bit about the holiday.
The [IAESTE](www.iaeste.org/) members had organized a dinner for us that evening. We were all to meet in front of [BBI](bbicentar.ba/eng/) around 8pm. Then we walked a few blocks to a delightful little restaurant named Woki. The walls were covered in food themed cartoon characters, such as pizza slices with arms and hamburgers with eyes. The lights were large, gold cheese graters. We waited until it was time for iftar, the evening breaking of the Ramadan fast, before digging in. For dinner we all had the Sesame sandwich and a wonderfully fresh glass of orange juice.
The sandwich had sesame breaded chicken with lettuce and a light sauce that faintly tasted like mustard. image source
We also ordered dessert, much to the Ramadan participants’ delight.
We each got four small donuts drizzled in chocolate sauce. The donuts were warm, fresh, and tasted like small funnel cakes. image source
Every evening during Ramadan, a canon is fired to signal that it is time for iftar. The canon is fired from the Žuta Tabija overlooking the city. After our dinner, we walked along the Ferhadija and up a large hill to the Žuta Tabija. Near the canon was a small cafe that offered fancy iftar meals for 25km each. The view from the hill was breathtaking with all of the lights in the city twinkling. At the top of this hill it was much windier than down in the city but we stayed as long as we could, looking down at the city and talking. On our way back, my roommates and I split off, heading towards the Sloga Club, which was near where we had dinner. Once we got there, they decided to wait for the club to fill up, and I decided to go home. They invited me to join them on an excursion to the city of Mostar on Saturday, and I agreed. The train left early in the morning, at 6:50, so when I got home I set my alarm and went to bed.
Saturday, July 5
I woke up at 5:45am on Saturday morning in order to catch the 6:50 train to Mostar. I packed my backpack with a few bananas, my notebook, and the Lonely Planet BiH guidebook. As I was eating my Honey Nut Cheerios I noticed that my roommates were nowhere near waking up because of their late night at the club. Since I had some important Skype calls scheduled on Sunday, I decided to go to Mostar on my own. I left at 6:20 and had a leisurely walk along the Miljacka River, past [Caffe Tito](www.caffetito.ba/), and around the US Embassy. I arrived at the train station at about 6:35.
I bought my ticket at the desk and proceeded to wander around looking for the platforms. I followed some backpackers through a small exit in the corner which led to the “perons”.
The train was sitting there and I boarded it cautiously, hoping it was the right one. I sat with a young man in his six-person booth, and soon a Bosnian couple joined us. After a few minutes of waiting, the train began to slowly chug its way out of the station, gradually picking up speed. We rode along most of the city, starting on the east side and exiting on the west side. My booth-mates soon fell asleep, but I was glued to the window watching the small towns and green hills fly by. Eventually we got up into the mountains, where we spent almost half of our time in tunnels, zooming along in the dark.
When we came out of the tunnels, the views were amazing. The clear morning skies allowed me to see very far and we were surrounded by peaks, most were covered in trees but as we continued further south, jagged white rocks jutted upwards.
We eventually descended out of the mountains and followed the Neretva River. The river is considered “the Nile of Bosnia and Herzegovina and, indeed, all of South-East Europe”.
The river is dammed in many places to provide hydroelectric power to Bosnia and the surrounding countries. I was not expecting this and the dams surprised me; such large industrial facilities in the quiet, natural beauty of the river.
Here is the Jablanica dam. image source
Along the way we also passed a lot of fish farms floating in the calmer areas above the dams.
Every so often we would stop and let off a few passengers in the middle of nowhere at small, empty-looking stations. These travelers were either backpackers going for hikes or fishers carrying poles and folding chairs.
We eventually made it to Mostar around 9:30. image source
All of the passengers slowly filed off the train and headed towards the stairs. There were two men holding signs, one was picking up travelers and the other was advertising for a hotel “20 euros per night”. I threw away my banana peel and followed the small crowd out of the station. There was a bathroom in the corner of the station charging 1km per person. I exited the station and tried to figure out where exactly I was.
Seeing a billboard across the street advertising the Mostar Blues and Rock Festival, I decided to go in that direction, to investigate further. As I waited to cross the street, I tried not to get my hopes up too high; I have been tricked many times in Sarajevo by old posters advertising events that have already occurred.
When I approached the billboard, I was able to read the small print. The festival was set to happen July 16-19. I made a mental note to look it up on the internet and ask for the time off from Zoran. I then headed down a busy, promising street and over the Carinski most. The views from the bridge were magnificent.
On that small sandbar, there is a flag and someone has written BiH in light blue on the sand. I took a left turn, following some signage for the Old Town and the Muzej Hercegovine. I passed some large pieces of street art and took a detour down a wide, shady avenue to see some more street art. At the end of the avenue was a small book fair.
This bright orange building is the Gimnazija Mostar.
Park commemorating Spanish assistance in the Bosnian war.
The Croats and Bosniaks in Mostar during the war were initially allies. About a year into the conflict, they turned on each other and starting fighting inside the city. They almost completely destroyed the city with all of the artillery. All of the bridges were destroyed and only one of 27 Ottoman mosques survived. Similar the the Bosniak/Serb split in Sarajevo, Mostar has a Bosniak/Croat split with two bus stations and two postal systems.
The parking lot behind the previous building was covered in street art.
There was wild lavendar growing along the avenue and quite a few bumblebees buzzing around pollinating them.
I then crossed over the Musala Bridge. The view from the bridge was beautiful.
I passed more shelled buildings.
I followed some more signs and eventually made it to the old part of the town. Here is the karađozbegova džamija built in the 1550s and restored in the early 2000s.
On a whim, I turned down a small side street. About one block in, I stumbled across another National Monument.
This turkish house was built in 1635.
It is famous for its balcony room that juts out over the river. image source
I paid the 4km admission fee, collected my free postcard, and slipped in right before the large Spanish tour group arrived. The courtyard had an intricate stone pattern. Before entering the house, all of the visitors had to remove their shoes. There was a woman watching the shoes and selling Mostar travel books. Here are some pictures from inside the house.
On my way out I stopped by the small garden in the courtyard. There was a strange egg sitting in the middle of the dirt.
I soon found out exactly where the egg came from when I discovered the group of tortoises living in the garden!
I headed back to the main street and continued on my way. I eventually came upon a small farmers market.
I bought a jar of honey and a small bottle of rakija. Rakija is a fruit based brandy and is like the moonshine of the Balkans. Although the alcohol is clear, it is often mixed with fruit to give it more flavor. I decided to try the blackberry rakija.
I had finally found the Stari Most!
After the Bosnian war, the Stari Most was rebuilt using 16th century building techniques and stone from the original quarry. The shirtless mad standing up on the edge of the bridge is going to jump. Before he jumps, he will collect as much money as he can from the large group of tourists that have gathered to watch him. It’s not the height that makes this stunt dangerous but the icy temperature of the river; it hovers around 8C for most of the year. Surprisingly, Mostar accepts Euros, and the old town is much more touristy that anything in Sarajevo. Almost everyone speaks English and will announce prices in euros, which required me to do a little math but luckily the Bosnian mark is fixed at half a euro.
I took some panoramic pictures of the area around the bridge.
I stopped for lunch at a small restaurant near the Kriva Ćuprija (Crooked Bridge).
This bridge is built similarly to the Stari Most and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After eating, I visited the mosque that sat on top of the restaurant, the view of the old town was fantastic. The architecture differs from that of the Stari Grad in Sarajevo because Mostar experiences stronger winds but less snow.
I then crossed over the Kriva Ćuprija and headed up an intriguing alley back onto the main street.
On my way back to the train station, I peeked over one of the bridges and was surprised to see a pair of large footprints painted on the rocks below.
The train station and bus station are connected, which is very convenient for regional and international travelers.
After learning that the next train wouldn’t leave until 7pm, I bought a bus ticket for the 3pm bus and settled down in the shade to wait. There were backpackers and local travelers on all of the buses that pulled in and out of the station. Some of the bus drivers also delivered suspicious packages. After all of the passengers exited the bus, a few people would approach it holding wads of cash. They’d hand over the money and the bus driver would give them their packages. Most were specific goods that could not be found in the small city, like toner cartridges. Amer had warned me at lunch one day that Bosnians don’t respect lines. This message was reinforced when the bus opened its doors and all of the old ladies behind me rushed in! I managed to insert myself into the flow and got a window seat near the back.
Luckily, no one sat next to me so I could spread out. The bus route was different than the train route so there were new things to see. We passed through many small towns and even drove by a large barbecue happening on top of one of the hills. They had what looked like a whole lamb roasting on a spit. The spit was being turned at a slow constant speed by a miniature stream. The ticket collector collected as many fines as he did tickets, which I found surprising. We took a ten minute break outside of a small market in order to give everyone a chance to grab a snack and smoke a cigarette. The passengers got a little too comfortable and we almost left two women behind! We eventually rolled into Sarajevo, stopping at random city bus stops to let passengers off. I stayed on until we made it back to the main bus station, which is in the same location as the main train station. When I walked into the apartment it was obvious that my roommates had been inside all day and I wondered if they even noticed I had been gone.
While I was making a quick dinner, I talked to Jalaj about my day, telling him about the transportation I used and the travel time. I spent the rest of the evening relaxing after my long day.
Sunday, July 6
On Sunday, I woke up early to the sounds of my roommates preparing to leave for their belated trip to Mostar. Having only gotten five hours of sleep Friday night, I took advantage of the quiet after they left and relaxed. After eating breakfast I caught Too Cute! on Animal Planet and settled in for some puppy antics. I made the last of my chicken and couscous for lunch and set out to the grocery store to restock. Besides buying a box of pasta and a jar of pesto for dinner, I picked up some snacks for the festival including pistachios, pumpkin seeds (which are very popular here), and some canned corn. I watched a subtitled version of Working Girl then it was time for my scheduled skype calls.
Monday, July 7
Amer borrowed his sister’s car on Monday so that he could help me buy my bus tickets to Serbia for the Exit Festival. We left after work and drove a short distance past the airport into East Sarajevo, where the Republika Srpska bus station was. image source
After talking to the man at the information desk and confirming the times with me, Amer led me into the station and I bought a round trip ticket to Novi Sad. Organizing the ticket would have almost been impossible on my own. The trolleybus station was a few blocks away, it would not cross into the Republika Srpska part of the city. He drove me home along the trolley line, pointing out interesting buildings along the way. In the evening, I took a walk around the Baščaršija.
Tuesday, July 8
Day in the Life
My alarm went off at 7am. I hit snooze and rolled over, thinking of what to wear for the day. I grabbed my soy milk from the fridge and poured my Honey Nut Cheerios into the lavender mug that I have commandeered from the kitchen. After eating, I got ready for the day. As I was brushing my teeth I could hear my roommates stirring in the other room. When 7:40 rolled around, Paras was not ready, so I headed to the tram stop on my own. The traffic situation at the bottom of my street is a mess. They finished paving one half, so they started paving the other half. Crossing the street is like a game of Frogger even though it only has one lane in each direction.
I have not seen anyone who gets their newspaper delivered to their house. Instead there are people that stand at red lights and busy corners, selling papers to commuters. I listened to my music while I waited for the tram. When the #3 lumbered up, I was disappointed to see that it was not empty. I squeezed into the car near the back but within a few stops enough people got off for seats to open up. The trip from my apartment to the office takes half an hour.
I hopped off at my tram stop and headed down the side street that gives access to the former business park.
As I was passing the Mine Action Center, I removed my headphones, putting away my phone and pulling out my visitor’s pass. I greeted the secretary with “Dobro jutro” then beeped into the inner door. I stopped at the refreshment window. The woman that makes the drinks was out delivering morning coffee, so I waited for her to return. She made me a quick kafa and I headed up the stairs to my office. When I walked in, I was delighted to hear “Today we have a task for you, I will send you the file,” from Amer. The file was an Autocad drawing of the piping for one part of the Terminals. My task was to insert the instrumentation details, which were also provided, into the drawings. While Amer was out smoking, Zoran came in and decided that we should split the drawing into two parts so that there would be enough room to fit everything. The two almost finished drawings are on the left, and the instrumentation details I used are on the right.
I worked in 2D Autocad for the rest of the morning, copying, pasting, and moving parts around to make accurate, readable drawings. For lunch, we walked to the small grocery store underneath Fenix. The clouds were dark and ominous. I ordered 3 pitas from the bakery counter, two burek and one sirnica. The bread served with ćevapčići and some other meals is what I would call pita bread in the United States. But in Bosnian, pita translates to pie. Individual pitas look a little like cinnamon rolls, they are one long strip rolled into a small meal. The pitas are available with different fillings: burek (beef), sirnica (cheese), pileća (chicken), krompir (potato), and špinat (spinach). There are also dessert pitas. These pitas are filled with cottage cheese. image source
While we were in the grocery store, it had begun to rain but luckily not very hard. When I walked back into the office, I was surprised to see Zoran sitting at my desk checking the drawings. I grabbed the chair in the corner and ate at the hallway table with Drina and Dinka.
In the afternoon, I continued to work on the P&IDs. We printed it out to check all of the small details and caught a few mistakes. I left work early and rode the tram home, arriving at the apartment before either of my roommates. I spent the evening looking up tourist attractions in Novi Sad. For dinner, I made pasta with pesto sauce. I was determined to read some of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy this summer and brought the first two books with me. I finished The Fellowship of the Ring Tuesday night before bed and packed the next book in my bag for the long bus rides to and from Serbia.
Wednesday, July 9
As soon as I got on the tram Wednesday morning, it started to rain. It continued to rain for a few hours, varying in intensity. I printed out maps of Novi Sad and the camping ground I will be staying at, as well as the WiFi information and important phone numbers listed on the Exit Festival](http://www.exitfest.org/en) website. I had purchased the Serbia chapter of Lonely Planet’s Southeastern Europe Guide but I was underwhelmed by the two pages it contained on Novi Sad and it did not even have a map of the area. When I got home from work, I turned right around and headed back out to ride the trolleybus and see how long it would take to get to the bus station. The ride took about 25 minutes plus a five minute walk across the FBiH/RS border. With the trolley starting at 6am and my bus leaving at 6:40, I was not comfortable cutting it that close because I did not know how long it would take for the first trolley to get to my stop in the morning. If I missed my bus, I would have to wait until nearly midnght for the next one. When I got back home I made one last skype call, finished packing, made dinner, showered, set my alarm and went to bed. Serbia, here I come!