Weekend in Osijek, Croatia
Friday, July 25
I was planning to take the 9:30am bus from Sarajevo to Slavonski Brod, a border town on the Croatian side. From there I would take one of the frequently occuring buses to Osijek. I stopped by the University campus on the way to the station to meet Haris. He had taken the time to meet me before I left to give me my salary for the month of July, just in time. With my wallet full and my expectations high, I boarded the bus. It was going all the way to Zagreb but I would be getting off right after the border.
The first half of the ride was relatively uneventful as we traveled north through the Bosnian countryside. We stopped at a restaturant for people to use the bathroom, smoke, and buy snacks if necessary. The woman in front of me, who was aldo going to Slavonski Brod returned to her seat with cold beer and a bottle of wine. I assumed the wine was a gift but I was confused why she would buy it all the way out here instead of in the city. A young man sat next to me. Once he finished his bottle of juice we started talking. He was a Romanian Serb who had come to Bosnia after a few months partying in Switzerland. He was currently on his way to the Ozora Festival in Hungary. Every couple of minutes while we were riding along he would hop up out of his seat, kneal on the ground as if praying, then jump back into his seat.
At one point we came to a complete stop. The construction had reduced the road to only one lane, so we had to wait for the oncoming traffic to go through before we could pass through the construction. This was when the woman in front of me began to sob. While I had been talking to Aleks, she had gone through about half of the bottle of wine. She was upset because she thought we were at the border. She said that she was from Sydney, Austrailia, but she had a Bosnian accent. She did not want to leave the country and did not know when she would have the chance to come back. She eventually quieted down and went back to drinking. I thought that would be the end of the drama but then she tried to get up. She was clutching the seat in front of her, wobbling, and trying to make her way to the aisle. She was mumbling incoherence and all the I could make out was “God help us”. A woman from the back of the bus came and asked her if she was alright, but she did not notice the woman. When Aleks asked her what she was trying to do, she responded with,“I have no idea,” and then proceeded to sit down and pass out.
We continued north calmly, and I fell asleep for an hour or so. I woke up as we were aproaching the border. On our was out of Bosnia they checked our passports, but did not stamp it to signify our departure. Then we pulled up to the Croatian border checkpoint. We all got off the bus and lined up with our passports to be checked individually. On my way off the bus, I tried to shake the sleeping woman awake, but she was deep asleep. I don’t think the driver saw her because the bus pulled forward with her still on it while we waited in line. The check was quick, and we all hopped back on the bus. A few minutes down the road, the ticket collector came back and managed to wake the woman up, she had asked him to tell her when we got to Slavonski Brod. She was still very drunk when she woke up and almost fell out of her seat when we unexectedly turned the corner. We pulled into the small, run down station and parked in the first peron. I was able to squeeze past the ticket collector and out of the back door because I knew it would take a few minutes for her to get all of her bags together and exit the bus. First, I went to a travel agency and asked the man where to exchange money so that I could buy my ticket to Osijek. He sent me to the post office behind the station.
When I walked into the post office, the woman who exchanged money was busy counting a large stack of bills. Once I gave her my BAMs, it took her a few more minutes to correctly identify them even though it says the country on both sides of the bill. With my new Croatian kunas in my hand, I rushed back to the station to buy my ticket. Exchanging money took too long and I missed the first bus but I only had to wait 45 minutes for the next bus. Luckily, the next bus was faster and I would only be arriving 15 minutes late. When I got on the bus, it was surprisingly full. It was stoping first in Osijek and then continuing on to Zagreb. We passed mostly agriculture on the hour and a half ride. We arrived in Osijek a few minutes late at 4:20. I had told the IAESTE members in Osijek that I would be getting in at 4pm so they had to wait for me, but I was glad they did.
The walk to campus took about half an hour. when we arrived, none of the other IAESTE members were there so first we went to the dorms. The dorms only cost 10 euros per night and once I got my key I put my bag down in my room. We were ssupposed to all meet at 5pm in the cafe so we waited around. Eventually a group showed up. It was the interns that were based in Osijek. There were two Slovakians, a Norweigan, an Iranian, and a Scottish guy. As we sat and talked, more people trickled in. Once everyone was there we had an additional Norweigian, three Polish interns, and a guy from Hong Kong as well as some Croatian LC members from Zagreb. The interns were all from Osijek and Zagreb. We paid 380 kuna for the weekend which included all meals, bike and canoe rentals, drinks, and an event shirt. We went out into the courtyard and played an icebreaker game while being feasted on by all of the mosquitoes. There was an optional drinking game, and then the pizzas arrived. They were comprable to the giant kong pizzas in Pittsburgh. They had vegetarian pizza, Mexican pizza,and an everything pizza. After we all ate, we rounded everybody up fro the pub crawl.
We went to four bars in total with one drink at each. Jens, one of the Norwegians, introduced me to a drink called the Radley. It was a 2% mixture of beer and lemonade and it came in a bottle. The last bar was a loud rock bar that played American 90s hits. We made our way back home around 4am (the bars close at 6) and I collapsed into bed.
Saturday, July 26
On Saturday we were woken up by knocking on our door around
9:30am. We headed up to the kitchen and they had instant coffee, tea, and leftover cookies for breakfast. Once everyone was up we walked over to the bike rental place. We each got a bike and the man was nice enough to adjust the seats for us. First we went to the gas station to pump up the soft tires, then we were on our way. We biked out of Osijek to a small lake. There were pitas and juice waiting for us for brunch. Then we got in the canoes and paddled around in the water for as long as we wanted. Out on the water the sun was not too hot and the breeze made it perfect. After canoeing it was time for lunch.
We got back on our bikes and rode a few minutes down the street to a small family farm. All of the food they prepared for us was grown on their farm. We were given a short tour before we sat down to eat. First, we had a brothy soup with noodles and carrots. Then we had breaded chicken with croquettes, lamb ribs with small dough balls, kielbasa, rice, salad, and fresh bread. To drink there was white and red wine, to be mixed with sparkling water and coke respectively, and a special Balkan juice made from a small white flower. Whenever a plate or drink was finished, it would be magically replaced with a full one. The feasting went on for almost an hour, and after a quick rest, dessert was served. It was a cherry baklava and was complemented with a cherry rakija. After much lounging on the various hammocks and benches, it was time for us to leave. We dropped the bikes back off at the rental place and split up.
Some of the interns were going to the store to buy ingredients for the international dinner that we had planned for that night. I went back to my room and my twenty minute nap turned into a two hour nap. I woke up just in time for dinner and wandered up to the conference room at 10pm. After a little waiting, all of the tables were set up. The guy from Hong Kong had made a minced pork soup. The guy from Iran had made some crispy egg pancakes and the Slovakians made spicy onion pancakes. The three interns from Poland made peirogies and the Norwegians had brown cheese and crackers as well as some candies. A few of the groups also had bottles of local alcohol that they brought and the Scottish guy had some fancy whiskey. The Croatians who organized the event had cheese, meats, bread, and cookies set out as well as homemade rakija and some local beer. The food disappeared quickly and people sat around and drank for a while afterwards. The plan was to go to some more bars that night but I was still exhausted despite my nap so I headed to bed around 1am.
Sunday, July 27
We were allowed to sleep a little longer on Sunday and were not woken up until 11. They had made two sandwiches for each of us and we also got a bottle of water and some redbull. After eating one of our sandwiches, we were split into two teams for the scavenger hunt. In addition to solving the riddles and finding the monuments, we had a trading challenge which our team excelled at. We were given one egg and were told to trade it as many times as we could. First we traded the egg for an ashtray from a cafe. Then we took the ashtray to a second cafe and were given a chair pillow with the cafe logo and an umbrella that had been left there. We were able to trade the umbrella to a woman sitting on her balcony for a nice serving plate and a jar of homemade strawberry jam. We took the jam to another cafe and trade it for a cup of coffee, complete with a plate, spoon, and sugar. Along the way, we did as many of the scavenger tasks as possible.
I had to leave before the next planned activity which I was a little disappointed about. I had heard rumors about stew for lunch and was pretty excited. I was leaving early because I was taking the bus with two IAESTE members who lived in Zagreb and one had offered to let me sleep in her spare bed for the night. We were dropped off at the bus station and after grabbing a few sandwiches and buying my ticket we boarded our bus. We fell silent as we all devoured our sandwiches. When it was time to take off, they announced that our bus had problems and we would need to take another one. We all hopped off and they pulled one out of the bus parking lot and brought it over. We boarded as they switched over all of the luggage. Unfortunately, this bus did not have air conditioning, but at least we were finally on our way.