Bosnia Trip – Day 1European Union, Summer 2012
Bosnia & Herzegovina Trip: Saturday June 23-Saturday June 30
Day 1: Sat. Jun. 23
Wake up at 10:30, gotta be at main train station by 11:40, plenty of time.
Liz cooks German pancakes; Pfannkuchen. You slice and spread a topping, jelly jam or preserve or nutella then roll and eat. They’re delicious.
She also makes black tea for the three of us, Lisa is also here and Christopher and Simon are both with their respective girlfriends. Well I due to my slow paced lifestyle I am only able to eat one pancake before it’s time to go. Hurry you’ll be late they say. I put my untouched coffee into my Wofford Tumblr. I wasn’t planning on taking it but I guess so now. I put the other pancake and a half into my lunch bag which already has several nutella sandwiches as well as chips and grapes. I head to the Tram, I get on the 11:27. I think 13 mins is plenty of time. I hope. When I get on I situate myself in a corner of the standing area. I hope no one with a stroller or wheelchair needs this spot. It is hot because I am wearing jeans and a jacket. I was always told when traveling be sure to dress in layers. It saves room and you’ll be prepared if the forecast is wrong. I doubt I’ll need this Jacket in Sarajevo. Nonetheless I make my corner as compact as possible, ensuring that I don’t entrude on anyone else’s personal space, an American thing to do. At Reiterstrasse a young woman turns the corner just as the doors close. She is running. The driver sees this and shows compassion by reopening the doors. This never happens. No that was an incorrect statement. I have never seen this happen before. I receive a text from Alex, he’s already at the train station. So punctual. I need to be more like that and stop being so relaxed all the time. Anyway back to this girl. She is a petit woman, looking to be of middle eastern descent. Attractive, very attractive. Something about the combination of slightly tanned or a very soft light brown complexion with dark hair and eyes. It seems exotic, well at least to this American guy. Unfortunately, she gets off a few stops later but to replace the attention void a man with a pan of hot food gets on. The aroma quickly grabs hold of my olfactory senses and begins teasing me. It smells like Mediterranean spices, whatever that means. I may just be deducing that from the paper bag tan gentleman escorting this tin foil covered pan of unknown cuisine. Fortunately, he gets off. The next stop is mine. I arrive at 11:47. Oops. I hope its not too late. I walk swiftly past men in suits with briefcases and girls in shorts with suitcases. I see another black guy, I assume he’s African from the texture of his hair and his rich dark brown color, a color similar to nutella. I have a few nutella sandwiches in my bag. Still hungry due to the brevity of breakfast, I decide that I’ll eat them on the train. When I walk into the station I receive a call from Sarah. When she exclaims, “where are you?” I realize that not only are we standing in the same room but she’s only a dozen or so meters in front of me. (Im not psychic or anything, I just heard her voice in the opposite ear before I heard it through the phone).
Everyone is waiting; Karin, Marcel and his Gf, Sarah from Dublin, and the other members of the EU 5. When we get on the train I sit behind Sarah and Batu and across from Sarah from Dublin and we talk. She is the trip coordinator and basically does the same things that Karin does. She is nice, young looking (I didn’t dare ask her age but I would assume late 20′s or early 30′s). Actually if she hadn’t told me she was an employee of IES I would have thought she was younger. She wears glasses but her eyes are neither hidden nor magnified but rather displayed as emeralds would be at an upscale museum. She lets down her hair, it flows gently over her shoulders just grazing the top of her shoulder blades. Dark hair and fair skin.
Our train is going to Stuttgart, the last place Caroline went before she got the bad news and had to leave the program. We then get off and switch trains at Karlsruhe. At first we get on a red one then get off and get on white train because red is the slow regional system. In the transition, I accidentally leave my tumblr on the red train. I hate losing things, especially when it could have been prevented with a little patience.
Stop. Look around. Run through a checklist. Then move on.
Oh well, my Wofford Tervis tumbler is placed gently in a cupholder on the bottom floor of the DB Regio train to Stuttgart. I pray the finder of the cup takes good care of it, it was a nice cup. Had a bit of a spill problem if you turned it upside down (that’s why it was in my hand and not my bag) but otherwise I would say a pretty decent cup. And the design wasn’t half bad either. I hope Daniel Didok has more.
As the fast white train cruises through the countryside I become inspired…
A Stucco rooftop with a satellite dish
A garden for gnomes, A pond for fish
There’s plenty fish in the sea, they always tell me
But life’s hard when you’re a shark
See red is the smell that attracts his bite
White is their fear, black is their night
So blue is the life of a lonesome creature
His story unfolds as a full length feature
Solar panels and window panes
A house on a hill where it never rains
It better to have loved and lost they say
Well I’ll take ignorance any day
What’s a dream if you never sleep
Silence screams but I don’t hear a peep
Solitude fosters my perfect world
Art herself is my perfect girl
We rush from one train to the next just to wait. We wait in line for a good 30 minutes until airline German Wings opens so we can check bags.
Finally, then we go through airport security. Everyone gets something to eat, I packed a lunch and continue to eat my nutella and cream cheese sandwiches; I made 6 total. When it’s time we head downstairs to the waiting area. Yes, I said downstairs despite the fact you usually walk up stairs to board a plane. Later I find out that the plane does not pull up to the building. Instead we take a bus to the plane.
We’re taking a smaller plane maybe 120-130 passengers. We board the plane then takeoff.
Smooth. I start to read but shortly afterwards fall asleep. When I wake up we are just about to descend. I really think I have vehicle narcolepsy.
Arrival in Sarajevo, first thing I notice is that I am the darkest person here. I believe others notice as well.
“You could easily start a riot here… at least 3 different ethnicities” – Marcel. This statement was too true. The ethnic tensions while not visible to us as foreigners is still present. The wars ended in ’95 after the signing of the Dayton agreement.
The air reeks of secondhand smoke and the faint aroma of cheap liquor.
“Are you students?” asks a man holding a half finished cigarette. This short middle aged and surprisingly fit man is our bus driver. He escorts us to our luxurious, cushioned, air conditioned all expense paid tour bus while others flag down cabs. “So Posh” as Marcel would say. The sky is gray, the clouds gather together and make their descent on the surrounding mountains signaling to us that they are going to perform for us. Well let the show begin, I’d rather a show than to sweat right now. I’m tired.
The bus ride through the city was unforgettable. We see gray buildings, obvious soviet buildings. Hills of houses stacked upon one another. Brown buildings, discolored from the war I presume. The streets are dirty, compared to Freiburg at least.
We turn down a side road and pull up next to an alley. The bus stops. We collect our bags and head down this alley.
We stop at Hotel Astra Garni. It is a nice plush tourist style hotel. Me Batu and Alex have a triple (3 separate beds, thank God) and the girls have a double. The chaperones each have singles.
For some reason our key works backward, no more lefty loosey rightey tighty. Gotta get used to this.
Shortly afterwards, we go out for dinner. But first, the ATM. The money is similar to both the US dollar and thr Euro; it has faces like the dollar but each denomination is a different color like the Euro. Also there are coins up to 5 marks: the currency is called Bosnian and Herzegovinian Convertable Mark.
We go to dinner at one of the restaurants along the street where we live. The waiter doesn’t quite understand us, and we don’t really understand him; there’s a bit of a language barrier. He changes between French, English and German.
Shortly after we order our drinks (I order a lemonade which is basically fresh squeezed lemons, water, and a couple packs of sugar) Marcel shows up and joins us.
Of the IES employees, he is the most “down to earth.” Conversation doesn’t change when he is around, as it often does when an authority figure and their subordinates are together outside of their normal setting. We order based on the pictures on the menu. When the food comes out, maybe half an hour later (this means it was fresh) there are several small dishes and it is meant for us to share. We each take turns scooping some of this and a little of that.
It is a nice style but to be perfectly honest, the portions were a bit smaller than I would have liked, especially for dinner. I guess I’m just not cut out for this Balkan lifestyle: we’ll I’m cool with the slow pace but not the sharing, I’m just selfish.
After dinner we head back to the room, everyone is a bit tired from traveling. Jet lag isn’t really a factor but the constant movement and switching from train to train to plane puts a bit of stress on the body. I’m surprised I finished this post.
This Concludes Day 1 of my Bosnia Trip.
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