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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Both parting thoughts and introduction, Summer 2018 trip to France, Croatia, Bosnia

For anyone looking in for the first time, the posts read in backwards order, in other words, the top one is the newest one.  If you want to start at the beginning of my recent trip, go to the post titled "Piecing it Together."  You can read chronologically or just stop in at any entry. They rarely go in chronological order, more by what I am remembering at the time I am writing, usually trying to catch up in writing with my actual experiences. 

I think I write this as much for myself as for anyone else, and I rarely edit anything, which makes it somewhat stream of consciousness.  It's a more modern version of what I always did as a kid, chronicling my travels, with family, and later, on my own, in paper journals.  It's funny to look back on those car trips with my parents and siblings - they consist mostly of recording  the beginning and ending mileage for each day, every single expense, gas, food, motels, entry fees, etc.  And then a pretty mundane recording of where we went and what happened. 

I think Loring and I, on our early trips, also kept track of every expense, but I don't remember or even know if those logs even exist anymore. 

I am going to write here a chronology of this trip, because I know how much the entries jump around, and also to help myself remember

The first week I spent just outside Avignon, France, where I participated in a mosaic making workshop with about a dozen others.  Avignon happens to be where I spent part of my first trip to Europe, in 1968, exactly 50 years ago.  So it seemed fitting.  I then spent an extra few days in Avignon proper, to experience part of its famous theater festival, which I had also attended 50 years ago. Next, train to a couple of days in Loches, in the Loire Valley, home to the famous chateaux, to visit my friends Marie and Tim. Marie and I went to college together in Paris.

On to Paris. Will I ever become satiated with Paris? I hope not. I spent five days there on my own, then an additional two days when Loring arrived.

And then on to part two of the trip -  Croatia and Bosnia-Herzogovina. We flew from Paris to Pula, Croatia, where we rented a car and spent two nights.All the rest of our stops were for two days each, except for our last stop, in Split Croatia, where we spent our last three days.

In between our first and last stops in Croatia, we stopped in Rastoke, Croatia, with its fairytale like environment and old mills. Next,  Jajce in Bosnia, where we stayed in a family run b and b with wonderful hosts. Then,  onto Sarajevo, and after that, Mostar, both cities in Bosnia.  Last, we returned to Croatia, to Split, for our last three days, before flying back home through Paris to Boston.

Rather than add to this last entry, I'm going to go back and add a little bit, because I don't think I've done Mostar justice.  So if you've read  that entry, I hope you'll go back and reread. 

And although I say I write as much for myself as for others, I do appreciate knowing who has read any of this. If you have, I hope you'll leave me a little note.

And so, that's it for now, until the next adventure.  People are already asking me when and where.  And of course, I have already started thinking about it.  January, maybe? Where? I don't know. Check back in a few months!


Filling in some blanks

Never did catch up before we got home. I don't think I ever do. No matter how much I write, which is probably too much, I always feel there are things I neglected to detail.

So now, back ensconsed on my sofa and my regular life at home, I will try to at least fill in some of the details that I have missed.

Loring and I spent two days together in Paris, after my five days there on my own. It was actually more like a day and a half.  I tried not to cram in  too many events, or even plan anything definite. But I had seen a brochure about a summer festival, with events throughout the summer months. One was a tightwire artist who was going to walk a distance from Sacre Coeur, the impressive church in Montmarte, to someplace down the steep hill.  We decided to go, and to walk part of the way, until we(me) got tired. Turned out we walked the entire way.  It was about three miles.  We walked around the very touristed  top of the hill, where zillions of artists do charcoal portraits of visitors.  We actually have a a very nice one of Carolina when she was small, so I shouldn't be too disparaging.

We looked for a cafe, there were plenty, but I wanted one that made citron presse.  It's basically just lemonade - a lot of lemon juice, served with sugar and a pitcher of water.  But they press so many lemons, and I ask for extra water and ice, so I usually get about four glasses from one serving.  Or maybe it tastes good just because it's Paris. Should I start calling my own version,  which I make at home with soda water, citron presse?  Or citron presse gazeuse, to be even more pretentious?   I have to confess I just use bottled lemon juice for mine.

Okay, back from that tangent, we found a cafe with the citron presse, and a good view of the throngs passing by. Perfect, to do the Parisian thing of sitting in a cafe passing time. (It was a while before the tightrope performance.)  Perfect, that is, until a  musician with a speaker, a guitar, and terrible taste in music,  (think Barry Manilow.)  planted himself right in front of us. He sang, and the speaker blasted at a pretty intolerable level ,and we cringed and tried to ignore him. When he came around to ask for donations after at least 15 minutes  of excruciating loud music,  I said, as politely as I could, that the music was a bit too loud.  Escusez-moi, he said, and I couldn't tell if he was being genuine or sarcastic.  But he did move the speaker further away, and faced it away from us.  And then, obviously realizing that we were American, played When the Saints go Marching in.  At least that's a decent song, and the decibels were much reduced.

Found spots on the sloping lawn  and steps that lead  down Montmarte from Sacre Coeur.  There were plenty of people around but it wasn't mobbed and the atmosphere was festive. When I looked up and saw the height and length of the tightwire, I felt slightly sick and wondered if I really wanted to be there.

She began at the bottom of the hill, and went up towards the church.  The lower part was the highest above the ground, and we were near the top. Her walk took about a half hour. There was live orchestra music, and she stopped and turned and hung and balanced frequently along the way.  There was no safety rope or net.  About halfway through I finally relaxed somewhat. I was beginning to convince myself that she might survive and not slip and  plummet to the ground, as I kept envisioning.

It was an impressive performance, no doubt.  And I applauded with everyone else when she reached the top, just beyond us, and bowed, along with her four assistants(they helped the volunteers who were holding side ropes along the way to steady her rope.)  and the orchestra.   But I wonder what it is that makes us want to watch performances like this.  It's partly, of course, being impressed with the performer's incredible skill. But isn't part of it also the dark  thrill of knowing that it's possible that it will end in tragedy?  I find myself both drawn to and repelled by the event. But there's no doubt that it was an incredible performance, in an incredible setting.

Anyway, we made our way back to the bottom of the hill, and the metro, and went back home to watch the Tower glow and flash its lights for the first five minutes of each hour.

The second, and last day of our Paris time together, we walked at length again, this time through a corner of the Bois de Bologne, to a museum that is relatively new, and to which I had never been.  I don't believe, that in all the times I've spent in Paris, that I've ever been to the Bois de Bologne. If I remember right, during the time I lived there, it was famous as a gay pick up spot. But places change, Times Square is now family friendly, and the former Combat Zone in Boston is now the quite the proper theater zone.

  There's a children's park in the Bois, which we walked through, with all kind of  rides, the usual amusement part kind, and camel rides, which was kind of startling to see. The saddles held a couple of children on each side, sideways. Which is exactly how I remember riding at the Bronx Zoo when I was small.  I think that was on an elephant, but now I'm not sure, maybe it was a camel. Bizarre in either case. I don't think you'd see that at the Bronx Zoo these days, and I was kind of surprised to see it there. The children's park is old, from the 1890's, but they just renovated it a few years ago. There are elements of the old architecture, but I wish I would have seen it before. Although that would probably have made it sadder. One nice touch - they had water spouts( know there's a name for them) embedded  at intervals in the pavement, which would periodically shoot up, and then, after a few minutes, die down.   quite the treat on a blistering hot day, and not just for kids.  (Loring, where's my "Marilyn" picture?)  Also startling, when you didn't expect it.

The museum is the Fondation Vuitton, funded by the haute couture luggage company, if you can call luggage couture.  I think it opened in 2014.  The building is spectacular, designed by Frank Gehry, and is truly worth visiting for that reason alone.  The exhibits were great, too, and we wound up spending a few hours there. I would definitely recommend it if you are spending more than a couple of days and have already seen some of the old standbys.

That night, we ate at a restaurant just a couple of blocks from our apartment, recommended by our host. She said they eat there often. It was an excellent suggestion, and a great way to end the Paris part of our travels.


The next morning,we flew from Paris to Pula, Croatia. We spent the next two weeks driving thru Croatia and into Bosnia-Herzogovina, and back again to Croatia, where we ended our travels in Split. If you have been confused by the chronology and itinerary, I am not surprised, so am I. We stayed in 6 different places, and it's hard for me to sort them all out now. A couple were wonderful, and all were interesting.  I am not sure I would recommend Croatia in the summertime, it is replete with tourists. The crowds made it difficult, at times, to enjoy the places.  But the less traveled places, in small towns we chose partly for the location between other stops, were the real treasures of the trip. I suppose that is often the case in any travels, the hidden treasures you discover mostly by chance are some of the most memorable experiences

Still worried about losing entries before  I can post them, I will stop here, then pick up again with another, hopefully(for you and me both)   last post...







Saturday, August 4, 2018

Kravike Falls, and back into Croatia

I am now writing from Split, Croatia. It is the last day of our trip. Tomorrow am we head to the airport, then back home thru Paris, with about a five hour layover. Usually I would dread that, but with reports from friends that it took three hours to get through customs, maybe that's not such a bad thing.
On our way here, to Split, we stopped at Kravice Falls, still in Bosnia. Our host in Mostar, when Loring asked whether people swam in the river, was that it was very cold, and that Kravice was a really nice swimming place.
It was, but it was also mobbed, as most everything on this trip has been. I didn't mind,  the waterfalls were beautiful, and amidst them was a lake,  which was filled with bathers of all kinds,  tourists, locals,  daredevil young men,  Muslim women in hijabs and burkas. I've seen women in burkas. full black coverage, go into the ocean before, in Israel,  but none of them did here.

 At first we thought there were no regulations and no lifeguards, but eventually saw a guy in a  canoe whistling at one person for climbing up the rocks to one of the waterfalls. One brief whistle, then he headed to under a tree with some shade and joined another  canoe with a couple of other young men it it.  They didn't seem to be doing much guarding, of lives, falls,  or anything else. 

If one had thought of it as a once pristine set of waterfalls, now overwhelmed by tourists, it could have been annoying and disappointing. But everyone was clearly having so much fun, together in one environment, it was a gathering of people of all kinds, kids going in the water for the  very first time, teenagers, dormant lifeguards, etc.  There were a few cafes, and many people just sitting on the grass and on the concrete, with towels spread out, lunches, etc. It was a fifteen minute hike down.  I had the feeling that many of the people there were local, as well as the myriad tourists.  

We eventually continued on to Split.  I had chosen it over Dubrovnik, because it had sounded like Dubrovnik was absolutely sieged with tourists,  between cruise ships, fans of Game of Thrones, etc.  Well, it's hard to imagine a place more inundated than the old town in Split. Diognenes Palace  is more than a ruin of a castle. It is a veritable  town into itself. It is massive, and a warren of little streets and alleys. Its architectural is impressive, and beautiful. But amidst the falls and alleys are shops,  some junky souvenir stands, lots of high end designer shops, jewelry stores, intermixed with restaurants and ice cream stands.  There were also a number of hostels and hotels within the complex.  A little of everything, and a lot of people. We had to elbow our way through.  Kind of depressing to see an incredible ruined palace turned into a veritable shopping mall. 
Beyond the castle is the waterfront, also lined with cafes, and people selling a variety of boat tours, from hour long to all day cruises with music and food. None of them seemed that interesting, though, because we were pretty sure they involved stops at various tourist places with more souvenir shops.  on one end of the waterfront was the beach we visited twice, and several other beaches after that.  On the other end, past the waterfront cafes and docks, is a park with a big hill, and supposedly stunning views overlooking the city and ocean. But we didn't make it that far.
We have been walking everywhere. Parking is almost impossible in the old part of town. We were incredibly lucky to find someone leaving just as we located our home, (a challenge and a saga in itself) and have left the car there for the entire three days we are herel. We would probably not find another spotif we were to drive anywhere.   We are just outside the palace, less than a 10 minute walk, and about a  15 minute walk to the beach, where we spend a couple of hours both yesterday and this morning.  Our apartment here is great, although tiny, has a small kitchen, bathroom,  bedroom, and a little sofa in the kitchen. There's also a desk in the bedroom, which is  where I am writing from.   Best, there is a large balcony right above us.Our house is just outside the palace walls, but is a different environment entirely. It is largely residential, alathough there are apts for rent mixed in.  The streets are narrow and hard to negotiate, or even to know if they are driveable at all.
I have tended to search for places with views and/or balconies, wherever we go, and have had a great variety of them, from garret studios with a view of the Eiffel Tower,  to a garden with myriad waterfalls surrounding us. in Rakove,  to a porch overlooking the town in Jajce.  
Only problem here, in Split, is that our patio is  in the sun, although there is an umbrella and a couple of lounge chairs. But the heat has been oppressive, everywhere we've gone. It was too hot to sit up there even at 9am today. But by tonite, it should be cool enough again. 
There are at least a couple of museums here in Split, although it may be pushing it too far to call the one we visited yesterday, Froggyland, a museum.  It is a couple of rooms filled with dioramas of stuffed (real) frogs in various activites, like having picnics, logging,  a schoolroom, with student frogs hitting each other with rulers, etc.  It pretty much defies description. I had heard about it a few years ago, on Atlas Obscura or some such site, and then a friend who visited brought me a postcard.  But I had forgotten that it was here, in Split, and would not have remembered if Loring had not mentioned it in reading an online site. I would have been extremely upset if I hadn't realized until we left.
It was all built by one man, 60 or 70 years ago.  I hesitate to  think about whether he used frogs that had already died, or  if the hundreds of them (500 plus in all)  had been sacrified for the cause.  But if you go to Split make sure to see it, you'll never see anything else like it.  And whether you like it or not, you have to admire the guy's creativitiy and skill.  I burst out laughing at pretty much every scene.We took a few pix before getting yelled at, hadn't actually seen the no photos signs. I will post one or two on facebook.

We haven't been doing much cooking here, or on this trip in general. Some of places didn't have kitchens at all.  And the food in Bosnia was so incredibly cheap that it didn't seem worth it ,  it was better to get more chances to sample the local cuisine. We've been having breakfast at home, then a big meal for either lunch or supper, and snacks in between.  The local cuisine features a lot of meat, and I've tried to order other things. But yesterday, we went to a restaurant for lunch that our host had suggested. When we first got here and found the restaurant the first night, there was a long line waiting to get in. So we decided to try to get a reservation the next day, or see if it was less crowded at lunchtime. 


That worked well. The second day there was no line at all, although the tables were mostly filled.  I had a lamb stew with peas, delicious, and Loring ordered the house specialty,  beef cooked overnight in a wine sauce, which came with gnocchi.   I chose "Croatian Swiss Chard" as my side, which was  also delicious.  I think they boiled it first, then cooked it further with olive oiI and spices.)  I gathered that most people order some kind of potato with the stews. I saw people  ladling stew over fries, as well as over mashed potatoes.  Luckily, Loring's had come with a huge bowl of the gnocchi, and I ate at least half of it with my lamb stew. 

There's a bandstand on the waterfront, and we've seen two events there. I am hoping there is something interesting there tonite. The first night, it was traditional women singers, then dancers. It was my first and only encounter with traditional music or dance on this trip.  I was delighted,  and got a couple of videos with the crowd, and a couple of children imitating and doing their own versions of the dancers' moves

 Last night the stage was set up for another event. We waited to see what it was. A  marching band that looked like high school students came from down the street.  That was followed by a lot of men, young and not, all dressed in white sailor uniforms. They filled about half the seats set up, including right next to us. For the next fifteen or twenty minutes, a man, probably the mayor, spoke, and of course we didn't understand a word.  He introduced a variety of men, and one woman, who came up to the stage to plant various flags.  People applauded at each one.  Some were wearing full uniforms, not the white navy ones.  Others were wearing military type shirts with jeans.  One was wearing a tee shirt and jeans, but a military hat.  It was not something we would have seen in the states. 

Eventually, a group of male singers came out and sang what must have been the national anthem, since everyone stood up.  Some people sang along, including the navy man next to me, but most didn't.  The mayor had his hand over  his heart, but most people didn't. I wish I'd been able to understand what was said, and what the occasion was.

We left before the event had ended, and strolled the waterfront, stopping for a fruit smoothie. They are big here, almost as popular as ice cream.  Mine was called hot lips, I think. It was watermelon and lemon. I may have to stop for one last one tonite.  We'll go out again soon, to a museum that we are not sure what to expect of, then probably dinner, and then take a look at the stage again to see if there's a performance tonite. I  imagine there will be, especially since it's Saturday night.  And then, hopefully, we''ll spend an hour or two on our very nice balcony. Which is, by the way, a level above our apt.  you have to go out of the apartment and up a flight of stairs. There's another apartment up there that opens right onto the balcony. So we share the big space with them, each with our own half. I haven't seen any others there, but have heard them, a man and a small kid.  By 8 or 9 pm it will hopefully be cool enough to sit out there.

I hope to write some more reflections about the trip,  and whatever awaits us tonite before we leave early in the am.  Perhaps from the airport or on the plane. 
As I said, we have a long wait between planes in Paris. So maybe then I will finally catch up by writing some highlights of my/our adventures in Paris.
Until then....

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Onto Sarajevo, and then to Mostar, in Bosnia-Herzegovina

I went back looking for gaps in my narrative that I wanted to fill in, and discovered that I never published this entry, and it has somehow disappeared.  So I will try to recreate it here, since Sarajevo, especially, was one of the most interesting and poignant parts of our trip.

My major concepts of Bosnia, and particularly Sarajevo and Mostar, before we travelled there, was images and memories of the war in the 1990's, and a book that had been written by a Sarajevo teen, Zlata, who has often been referred to as the Bosnian Ann Frank. I think it's called Zlata's Diary.   She wrote detailed descriptions of her life then, of people dashing out amidst sniper fire for bread and water, of living in fear, without electricity, over many months. The images have always stayed with me, and are part of the reason I wanted to travel there.

Zarajevo is filled with history, not only about the most recent war. It is also where the Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914, triggering World War I.  It is also a vibrant living city.  If one were to go there without knowing the history, it is likely that she would never realize the scars it . Unless one visits one of the museums dealing with the horrors, or takes a walking tour. Or once one sees the wall of a building riddled with holes, and is told or realizes that they are the result of sniper or shell damage, still unrepaired after 25 years. And once you realize, it is hard not to see everywhere.

We looked and saw, in villages and in the countryside, as well as in Sarajevo and Mostar, destroyed abandoned buildings as well as pockmarked ones.  In some cases the buildings had been attacked, others probably were abandoned when people fled, many of whom never returned to their homes or country.

It is hard to imagine those other times, in fact, at least for me, impossible, no matter how much I try.  I have had similar feelings in places affected by other wars, particularly the Holocaust.  Not just in places like Auschwitz and Dachau, but in mundane places, homes and businesses, from which people had been deported.

One of the first place we visited in Sarajevo was the beautiful city hall building, not far from our apartment.  . We discovered that it was a reproduction, and had only been completed a few years before.  Later, I saw a film at one of the museums that showed the building burning, being totally destroyed, in the 90's war.    It had been built in  the late 19th century, in a semi Arabic style, partly to emphasize the co-existence in the city of people from various backgrounds and religions.  Not only the building, but the vast library of some 2 million books was destroyed that night. And that could not be reconstructed.

The building reproduction was beautiful, though, and a woman in one of the rooms talked to us at length (she seemed thrilled to have visitors)  about a new agency installed there that was dealing with documenting the war crimes.

Later, we joined a free walking tour (I've taken them in other cities, Jerusalem and Berlin.)  The guides depend on tips. This guide, whose name we never found out because we joined it already in progress, was terrific.  He was in his 30's and had been seven when the war began.  It was very moving and enlightening to have a first hand account. He freely talked about his experiences and his beliefs, and encouraged people to ask questions.  He was also adept at keeping much of the tour lighthearted, and balancing the terrible stories with the positive.  He had lived in the basement of his apartment for four years with his family.  They had lived on the eighth floor, too high to be safe. Many people fled before the city was barricaded, but about twenty five people, including his family,  spent the war years there.  He described his mother going out with plastic jugs to fetch water, several times a week. We had already read and seen films about that, but it added another layer to have his personal experiences. I would have loved to talk to him at greater length, but he had another, private group booked for the afternoon. (a food tour!)

Later in the tour he took us to the brewery that Sarajevo is famous for. It's built on top of a spring in the middle of the city, and is still an operating brewery.  But during the war, it became the one reliable source for clean water.  People would haul their jugs, often in carts or childrens' wagons, usually under threat of gunfire.  They didn't always make it.  I've read both factual and fictionalized versions of the four year siege, the snipers, even the City Hall and Library burning and the trips to the brewery for water.

 Our guide described himself as not religious, and not hating anybody, even the Serbs who committed a veritable genocide of the Muslims. He said his parents were secular Muslims. And, on a more lighthearted note, he related the story of once asking his mother why she considered herself Muslim. And her answer, that she liked baklava!

He ( I wish I had found out his name, we never even knew the name of his tour business) took us to a bright, one might say garish, building that dated from the communist era. We had already walked by it, I particularly noticing the very nice, bright murals along the inside corridors.   He told us that most Sarajevans considered it the ugliest building in the city. The building colors were bright blue and yellow. It  was right next to the one still operating synagogue, and one theory was that it had deliberately been built there by the communists to spite the Jewish population. It's the one synagogue still operating in the city, although there are other buildings that remain, but not as synagogues any more. I'm not sure how many more  there had been before the war, if any. But the Serbs had targeted both mosques and other religious buildings.  I don't think any of the minaret towers had survived, but most, maybe all, had been rebuilt.

 A fascinating addendum:  the yellow-blue  building was one of the more desirable and expensive places to live in the center city, more so than the beautiful Hapsburg era building across from it.  One possibility - from the building, you couldn't see it, whereas from nearby buildings it was the view!  I'm sure that there are some who truly do like the building.  I wouldn't call it ugly, but it sure was different, and didn't seem in the right place. Then again, the Eiffel Tower was considered ugly when it was built.

I will stop here and post this now, before I do anything foolish and lose or delete it again. Will continue on with another post.

Back again, same post.  I decided to live dangerously and add to this entry, rather than post a separate entry.  Trying to keep at least a semblance of chronology. 

Mostar  was probably the most frustrating stop in our travels.  What I'd known about it before was its famous high medieval bridge. It had survived many conflicts, but was destroyed during the 90's war. It has been rebuilt, and reopened about a decade ago.  It is the central focus and symbol of the city as it was before. It is also the focus of the tourists to Mostar. There is a famous diving competition every summer, which brings divers and visitors from many places. Around the bridge, on the cliffs and below, are numerous restaurants,  with wonderful views and friendly waiters.

The bridge was also the route into town in old times to the market, to traders from afar, Turkey and other places.  And it is today, too. The market still exists, or exists again.  But it is now a tourist market, hard to tell the local crafts from the imported from probably China ones.  And it is so thronged with visitors that you have literally to elbow your way through.  I did eventually find a metal worker who made interesting plaques out of copper and enamel. He was a second or maybe third generation vendor in the same place. His father still makes art, but worked from home now while the son and his wife ran the shop.  I did get my Mostar souvenir, a small piece that looks, if you look at it one way, as a face, but look again and you will see it's a represenetaton of the famous bridge.  I know it's locally handmade, I spoke with the artist. Loring is less convinced and more cynical.  But I agree with him that the market is really just a tourist trap, and it and the bridge and market is basically the whole old town.

 I went to one more war museum. Loring had had enough of disaster museums and went to the beach under the bridge to read.We arranged to meet up an hour or so later. When I got to the bridge, there were a couple of wet guys in Speedos. They had just jumped. One sounded American. Anyone can jump after going thru a short training including lower jumps, and paying 50 euros. (about $60)  There are local divers, and also tourist ones.  I don't know how many of them get hurt. It is impressive to watch.  Loring had watched several jumps already, and took a great slow motion video of one.  At one point, the local man next to him said, "this should be interesting. " explaining that the jumper was a tourist.  But he apparently made the jump okay.  Maybe he was the English speaking guy I saw later on the bridge. 

We did walk some, and saw the non tourist part of the town.  There were a number of damaged and destroyed buildings, even 25 years later.  Reconstruction is still ongoing outside the central old city, the tourist part.  One building, totally destroyed except for some of the outside walls, had an interesting exterior, looking almost like Egyptian hieroglyphics. I assumed it had been a museum. But later, we were told that had actually been a shopping mall.  It made us realize that not only was there still a lot of remaining destruction, but that Mostar had been a modern city, with amenities like large shopping centers.

Well, that's a recap of Mostar. Interesting, yes. Would I suggest people go there? Probably not,  just because the tourist market and bridge were basically all there were to do and see, and both were totally overwhelming because of the crowds.  I enjoyed the smaller, off the beaten path discoveries more, the places like Rastoke in Croatia, and Jajce in Bosnia.  And Sarajevo, largely because it is important to remember atrocities and genocides, and hopefully somehow prevent them from occurring again.  And because there is a lot to the city, in addition to the history of the war. 


Back to Pula, in writing

I'll now go back in time to Pula, our first stop after Paris. We flew from Paris to Pula. We'd picked it mostly because it was a short flight and cheap trip from Paris. Once we had that reservation, we mapped out a potential route through Croatia, to Bosnia-Herzogovina, and back into Croatia, where we will drop off the car and fly back home through Paris.

We didn't know much about Pula, aside from the fact that it has one of the world's largest, most well preserved colloseums.
We didn't expect it to be as much of a tourist town as it was. The main streets were thronged with tourists and tourist shops, and restaurants. Our apartment was in a modern building overlooking the main street. But we were several stories high, and were not at all bothered by street traffic. And we had interesting views from the apartment, including Roman ruins just next door.  And also a patio overlooking the harbor. The harbor was filled with huge cranes, that we at first thought were dormant, left over from other times. But in fact they were working cranes, and it appeared that most, if not all, were involved with shipbuilding.  A little further down the road was an additional group of cranes. These were lighted up for several hours each night, in a kind of art installation.

The collosseum was indeed impressive. There had been a film festival that had ended just a day before.  There were workers disassembling the massive scaffolding that must have supported the screen.  The arena was still filled with a mass of blue seats.  The temperature was hot, as it has been the entire trip until yesterday, when we arrived here in Jajce.  I did not envy the workers out in the hot sun for however many hours they had worked.

They hold concerts in the arena fairly regularly. Our neighbors at home, when they were living in Prague, had attended a concert of a group they'd long been wanting to see, there in the stadium, and had said it was a remarkable experience. They also stage regular gladiator reinactments, which I would guess  would not be quite as moving. And, you can rent gladiator clothing and have your picture taken.  The booth wasn't open when we were there, which is just  as well. I might have been tempted.

Our second night, we took a boat trip out past the harbor around the islands nearby. There were a number of boats, and a variety of trips, offered by various vendors along the harbor walk. Some were  day trips, some involved swimming and looking for dolphins. The one we chose was advertised as a "fish picnic."  I liked the sound of that, and it included boating around the "light giants" as the illuminated cranes are called. So for about 30 euros,  roughly 35 dollars, we had an over three hour cruise, complete with fish dinner, all we could drink, (wine, juice or water) and a lovely boat trip. The captain narrated from time to time, in several languagaes, but it was hard to understand any of it, even the English.  The dinner was delicious, and included a cabbage salad. a combination of cabbage and tomatoes. When I complimented him on the salad, he said that the cabbage was from his neighbor, and the tomatoes had been grown by his father.

As we cruised around the light giants and approached the dock again, we heard music from the lower deck. It took us a few minutes to realize that it was live. As we headed downstairs, we saw that it was the captain, playing the accordian and singing. When he saw us, he said - Ah, the Americans, and started playing When the Saints go Marching In! 

Neither Loring nor I had ever realized before, until that evening, why construction cranes are called cranes. Oddly, it occurred to both of us at the same time, and in retrospect, seems so obvious.

The trip from Pula, through the border into Bosnia, was pretty, and pretty uneventful. We had read about lines at the border, but anticipated nothing except a brief back up, much much less than the New Hampshire toll booths on a summer weekend. The customs guy asked us where we were going, and since we said "Jaycee" not knowing how to pronounce the town's name, he looked baffled. When we added Sarajevo and Mostar, he waved us on.

from Jajce (sounds sort of like "yahtzee") in Bosnia-Herzogvina

I am sitting on the patio of our Jajce home, a rooming house here in Jajce. We have picked our locations partly by distances, leaving an approximately 3 hour drive between destinations.  It's hard to know from pictures and limited information what to expect, but I would say that, so far, we have done quite well.

Tomrrow we will head to Sarajevo, and then, a couple of days later, to Mostar. Those are the two locations in Bosnia with which I was at all familiar, and that, only because of reading about the war here in the 1990s.  I read a book, Zlata's Diary, which was quite well known at the time, written by a young girl who lived here during the war,  She's been called the Bosnian Ann Frank, and the comparison is apt.

The owners of the inn here are quite friendly, but speak hardly a word of English. It is helpful to us that their son and his family, wife and two daughters, as well as their daughter, are all here visiting. The family all left during the war, and just the parents returned. The son, Dino, and his family, live in Australia. Their girls were born there and speak just English. They were amazed that we spoke English!  Aisha, the older one, has been busily cleaning every available surface, tables, windows, walls, etc.  Her younger sister Elma is equally adorable.  They are about six and four, I'd guess, and their mom is pregnant. I asked her about family leave  in Australia. Everyone, working outside the home or not, gets at least the minimum wage, close to $500 American dollars a week. Wow. And she says Australians are jealous of countries like Sweden. 

I've been chatting with her for a while. Loring has been off on a hike. We both hiked up to the fortress that looms over the town this morning. And then we drove to the waterfalls and little mill buildings that are a few miles down the road, which is whaat you see in every picture about the town. It's a virtual Disneyland down there. There's a large hotel, and an amusement park/playground, plus horsecarts, bicyles built for two, etc. Hadn't known what to expect, so it's a good thing we didn't choose to stay there. Plus, it was pouring. So it's also a good thing that we didn't walk, as Loring had originally proposed. We didn't even get out of the car, but was able to get a good view of the falls/mills, etc from the car.

Returned here to the center of town, which is pretty small. There are a number of cafes and shops, but the shops have mostly been closed. They are for the most part aimed at locals, although there are a few souvenir stands. Just across from us is the central mosque, although there are several others in the town.

Shortly after we arrived yesterday, there was a loud honking of car horns from a procession of car, with some waving flags from the car windows. My first thought was that it was a political demonstration. But it was actually a wedding. Since then there have been a number of similar wedding processions.  And we watched the aftermath of a wedding at the mosque, right from our patio here.  In fact, here comes another one now. The first couple were interesting. Now it's getting kind of annoying.  Apparently, it is a fairly new tradition, does not date from before the war.

While I have been writing and chatting with the girls' mom, Loring has returned from his walk. He went way up the hill, saw another, outdoor wedding. Also walked by many buildings riddled with bullet holes. Our guess is that they restored and rebuilt the buildings here in the center of town, because we haven't noticed any around us, but didnt bother or have the funds to repair the farther out neighborhoods.

We've talked a bit with a variety of people about the war.  I'd read not to bring the subject up, that people didn't like to talk about it. But it hasn't been our experience; we've only talked about it when people brought it up. Dino's wife, the girls' mom ( I need to find out her name) said it was bad, but didn't go into details.  Mostly people have said that they left the country for that time period. Some have come back, others just come back in the summer to visit family.