Mustapicked A Good Vacation!

The adventures of Amey and Musty's trip to the Balkans and Italy in September '06...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Official Fan of BiH!

Hi Everyone!
Thanks for the comments!

As you know, we spent a few days last week in Mostar, and a few in Sarajevo too. Both of these interesting cities are in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Yesterday we took a day trip from Dubrovnik (Croatia) into Trbinje Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a cumbersome name for a somewhat cumbersome country. It's one country with two names and two governments. Bosnia and Herzegovina is comprised of two specific geographic regions - Bosna in the North, and Herzegovina to the South. The country is populated by Muslims, Serbs (Orthodox Christian), & Croats (Catholics). In a fragile balance, the country is governed by two "entities" : the Croat-Muslim Federation and the Republika Srbska, which occupy oddly-shaped portions of the country which bear no relation to the boundaries of the geographical regions of Bosna and Herzegovina. So each goverment has some control in parts of each area. Obviously, Bosna i Herzegovina is a cumbersome name for a country so people often say or write "BiH" instead. Phew!

So, Mostar and Sarajevo are both in the Federation... but yesterday's trip to Trebinje was a journey into new territory for us, as it is located in the RS (or Republika Srbska). Trebinje was a quiet little place, with very little tourist infrastructure. The information office was located down a dirty alley, past a full dumpster and a few walls covered in graffiti. And yet, inside was a friendly fellow with a free map and pretty good English!

Because Trebinje is in the RS, everything is written in the Cyrillic Script! This is totally different! Even finding our way to town was a bit of a challenge, because I had to decode every from Cyrillic to Latin in order to find out where we were on our road map. In town, the unusual script gave everything an exotic feel! Mind you, they speak the same language here, they just use a totally different alphabet to write it. Isn't that bizarre?? (This is a picture of the sign back to Dubrovnik... can't you tell!?)

First we came across a great little market. Going from Croatia into Trebinje took about 30 minutes by car, but they are really worlds apart. In Dubrovnik, most people speak fluent english. When I tell people that I speak English and Italian, their response is simply "Okay, do you want to speak in English or Italian?" Seems like many people here speak at least 5 languages! There are ATMs everywhere, and signs in English, menus in 5 languages... it is an economy built for tourists.

This is not the case in Trebinje! It really feels so untouched, the way I imagine Italy and France must have felt 60 years ago or so. We first came across an outdoor market, which you know I love. We bought some figs and carrots and bananas... all from different vendors. This is the same sort of produce that we also see in the markets here in Croatia. However, here in Trebinje, there were also ladies selling hand-knit woolen socks, hand-made lace, hand-made beeswax candles for lighting in the church, home-made cheese... There is a decidedly more rustic and 2nd world feeling here... and I love it!

I love travelling in BiH because it is basically a very familiar European lifestyle... no shockingly different cultural values or behaviors to be intimidated by, but it is also just uncomfortable enough that it takes courage and motivation to experience it. You have to know a few words of Croatian to interact at the market and tiny successes result in big smiles all around. You've got to be willing to investigate and interact in a way that takes a bit more self-direction than in a place where everyone speaks English. Musty really loves the "shee-shee-la-la" places, beauty, ease and comfort... But lo and behold, it turns out that I like a little grit in my travels!

BiH is a very diverse, very interesting and very beautiful country. It's really not hard to travel there, and yet very few people seem to go there. In Trebinje we saw one other couple who appeared to be tourists. The government hasn't done much to help the situation, and it doesn't really encourage or put money into making the country more outward looking. I hope this changes, for the sake of the people there, but in the meantime, it's an exciting place to travel and explore.

On another note entirely:
Here is a photo of the nice little kitty tribe that we have temporarily adopted here in Dubrovnik. Some of them are pretty hearty, but a few of them are not looking so hot. We don't like to see that, so we have been bringing them nutritious snacks for breakfast and dinner each day. Last night at dinner, Musty ordered "small fried sardines", which turned out to be an enormous serving. So, guess who got a bunch of sardines for breakfast today!? Tonight we'll go up and leave some kitty food for them all. One nice thing about the stray dogs and cats here, is that people are pretty nice to them. With very few exceptions, they are never afraid of people and come running up to you for food. They are happy to be picked up and patted. Last night when we arrived with some cat food, there was already a little pile of kibble that someone else had left (of course, we had wet food, so our pile was a bit more popular)... and in the morning it was all gone!


At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's 9/18 & I've just caught up on your last 1&1/2 week's of travel-so it took quite a while! Your insights are fascinating, enthusiasm & optimism have given me a real lift! Loved the sound of the drive from Sarajevo to Mostar. So pleased to hear your language studies are paying off. Continue to enjoy the markets & meetings with new & wonderful people/ other creatures. We went to the county fair yesterday, I loved the amazingly HUGE pumpkins & the kiddie's veggie creatures!

At 11:45 AM, Anonymous Suzanne Heinze said...

Previous comment was from me! (Dah!) Suzanne & Greg

At 2:38 PM, Blogger springsandwells said...

Hi Suzanne!!
Thanks for your comment! Yes, we have posted quite a bit actually... I guess we are blogaholics!
:) amey


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