Bosnia+Herzegovina

Typical house here.

I have so much to write but I dont think I can do justice to everything we have seen so I may ramble.

First, Bosnia and Herzegovina. We crossed from Croatia on Monday and stayed in a little town close to the border called Novi Grad Monday night. It was an apartment up a flight of stairs in an old building that a little lady came to open for us. She could speak zero English. None. She was jabbering away and I was talking too and we were getting nowhere until I had the idea to get out Google translate on my phone. I typed to her in English that translated to Bosnian and her face lit up and she typed back in Bosnian. So we had a whole conversation about her age (65), her three sons (age 33, 30, 29) and that she needed an hour to make beds so could we please go eat supper. We went to a little place where again the man couldn’t understand us so we made our point with gestures and pointing. Something available everywhere here to eat is a cevapi in lepinja bread, like a sausage sandwich in pita. Their sausages are made of pork, lamb, beef and paprika and put in a grilled pita bread thing. They are medium. Not great but okay. Thats what we had for supper before hustling back to the apartment and sleeping. In the morning I had more typed conversations with the lady and she wished us good luck and said if she was young she would come with us right now. It was cute. We quickly discovered at a coffee place that cash is the only currency here basically. Our waiter spoke good English and said he has lived in Bosnia six years and that it is half Communist and half Democrat. The banks charge 40% and up on transactions so cash is king. We paid $4 total for 3 Italian coffees so its a budget destination for sure.

Tuesday morning we drove a half hour off into Bosnia to our house for the next 3 days, a little wood house on stilts on the bank of River Una. We stopped at a market on the way to our place and got groceries. The stores carry lots of pasta and cheeses and breads so we usually find what we need. Mayonnaise is in squirt tubes, not jars,and ketchup comes in flavors pizza, mild, or spicy. My Google translate actually brings it up as “angry” ketchup, not spicy. You also have to weigh out and price your veggies before you take them up to pay, which we have learned the hard way and a huffy cashier has had to do it for us a couple times because we forget. We drove by fields of corn and sunflowers and through villages spread across hills. There are so many trees and lots of dense underbrush everywhere. The fields are small and broken up by patches of trees. The town we are in is known for the surrounding forests having lots of chestnut trees, and the River Una has 147 different medicinal herbs along its banks. Its wild and unkempt and I love it. It’s been warm so we walk a few feet to the river and swim for part of the morning, eat jam tarts or pesto spaghetti for lunch, take a nap in the sun, and finish with more floating down the river. We’ve only found chest deep water and the water is absolutely crystal clear all day. It’s lovely. Yesterday I sat in the shallows by the bank and watched baby suckerfish on the riverbottom. There is an area 50 feet upstream that has grassy banks and a volleyball net and grill that is a public swimming area. Again, very few people here have a/c so there are lots of people sitting outside in the shade or at the swimming area near us. We are starting to recognize some of the people. The old men come and dive in off the rocks, float down to the landing, and sit at the picnic table talking until the cycle repeats. The families come with their naked little children and coax them to jump off the rocks. The old women lay on towels in their bikinis, gossiping and occasionally going into the water. We swim with them and smile because we can’t speak and I watch them all from our deck while I sit in the sun and think about how all these people are experiencing sadness and depression and joy and grief and love, just like me. I wonder about their lives and where they were 30 years ago when the Bosnian war atrocities were happening around them. The 90s do not seem very far in the past when I read about the things that happened here then. Last night we took a drive into the surrounding countryside, through tunnels of trees and brush on narrow roads with potholes. A church was lit on the hillside, people were cheering at a soccer game in the little town, and old ladies sat on walkers outside their wooden doorways hollering across the narrow streets to each other. The houses in Bosnia and Herzegovina are almost exactly the same. They are made of brick, with the main difference being that some have stucco and some don’t. The stucco is chipped off in places on lots of the houses, and most of them have orange tile roofs with chimneys poking up. It gives the countryside a rustic feel, and in all our exploring we haven’t been able to decipher which people are more wealthy than the next. The houses are the same style, they drive older vehicles, and very few of them have spotless yards. Most of the houses have yards though, or enough space to put big vegetable gardens in.

Jasenovac Concentration Camp Memorial

Today we decided to take a day trip into Serbia and I’m so glad we did! We crossed back into Croatia and then into Serbia and the border crossing into Serbia was long, around an hour. We have had no issues on any of our crossings, and today weren’t asked even one question. We spent some time driving in Serbia and then went into a town called Сремска Митровица where we had lunch outside at The Promenade on the Sava River. We had this delicious kind of salty saurkrat and sausage and chicken and pork. And bread of course. Our waiter said he knew English but he didn’t. I had to use Google translate. It was so hot today so lunch was short and everyone else was heading swimming while we ate. We headed back out of town and once in Croatia we stopped at the Jasenovac Concentration Camp. Even though it’s not the most heard of, it was the 3rd largest in Europe and the most brutal. We went to the memorial which is an opening cement flower where the camp once stood, the only thing left in an otherwise beautiful place. It was eerie when Morgan and I went to Dachau, Germany a couple years ago, and it was eerie now. The scars of WW2 hang over some of these countries with a heaviness rarely felt anywhere else and even the birds and cicadas were quiet in the trees today. We weren’t able to go through the museum today so we went back to the house and went for a swim. We had pasta for supper and I packed up my bag because its the last night in this house!

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