How much can happen to one person in 48 hours? A lot.
Saturday, Nadir came and picked me up at my hostel and we headed out to the country side for the party at Nedims. Sarajevo is almost completely surrounded by mountains so it was really nice to be in the car and to see more of the countryside. Nedims "cottage" house (by which I mean a ballin house on top of a mountain), is close to the town he grew up in and it is only 40 kilometers from Sarajevo so it was an easy drive. You would not believe this place, there is a picture of the view on my facebook-its real, not a painting, that is the real view from this house. The set up goes like this- there is the house, which has a lawn in the front with pretty flowers and in the front left part of the lawn, there is a gazebo type structure which has a table and benches in it with speakers for music and an outdoor barbeque. When we got there, there were already about 5 or 6 friends there, listening to music and getting the barbeque ready. Bosnians love meat, so every party comes with chevapi, sausage kind of things and bread (Bosnian hotdogs). Immediately, I was handed a beer and started talking to some of the girls there. All of his friends were amazing, so nice and fun. The whole night we drank, listened to a mix of Pitbull and traditional Bosnian music, great combo. I learned the dance we all associate with this part of the world- hold hands, do crazy steps in a circle. I gave it my best shot, but after a number of alcoholic beverages its not so easy- I dont claim to be an expert. We stayed up until the sun came up, slept til 10 and then did the ritual hung over clean up, remembering funny stories from the night before...the universal next morning. Check out the pictures on facebook!
After we cleaned up, we said our goodbyes and I went back to Sarajevo with Nadir and his cousin. It was Sunday, a beautiful day and they offered to take me to The Olympic Mountain and the Tunnel of Life. We went to the Tunnel of Life first, which was a tunnel the people of Sarajevo built to bring in supplies to the city during the Siege 1992-1995. It was crazy and an excellent museum. They showed video footage of the city during the war, maps of where the Serbians were and photos of life in Sarajevo during that time. Everyone in this country was affected by the war and, as Nadir was telling me, Sarajevans really appreciate the people who stayed in the city during that time because they kept it alive, they fought for it. They tried to keep jobs, go to the store, live life even though living your life meant it was a very real possibility that you would be shot by a sniper from the hills or hurt by a bomb they were dropping everyday. It was unreal to have spent time in the city, which is small so it is easy to know where things are quickly, and then to see those same things in the video footage half-shelled out or on fire. It hits you hard when you go there, to think people can do that to one another and only 20 years ago. And despite all of that, Bosnians are the most relaxed, happy, friendly people Ive met.
After the Tunnel, we went to the Olympic mountain which is where the winter olympics were held in 1984 and had some traditional Bosnian pie for lunch and enjoyed the view. By this time it was 5pm and I had decided to take the night train to Zagreb so I needed to check the internet quickly, grab some food for the train and head to the station. Nadir took me everywhere, helped me buy my ticket and waited for the train with me. Such good guys.
It seems, these days, trains in Eastern European countries are my second home but each ride is different. This time, my car was full of old Bosnian women, smoking cigarettes and eating apricots. I pretty much passed out as soon as my body hit the seat, but I woke up around 11pm because I was literally melting, it was so hot in there. I had been the first one in the compartment so I put the window down, set the standard and waited for the train to bring the breeze. So imagine my surprise when I woke up dying of heat exhaustion- the window was up. I went to put it back down again, assuming everyone else would be like "O yeah, s***, we should put the window down, that IS why we are sweating so much". But when I do, the old lady across from me stops me. She says to me "No, the wind is hitting my face and hair". UHHH YEAH, thats the point. She would rather sweat, stink, mascara running down her face from the moisture, than have the wind hit her hair? I was too tired to deal with it, luckily, they got off about 30 mins later so the window came down immediately. There were a series of other roomates who came in and out through the night, vaguely remember each of them and, when I woke up, we were right outside of Zagreb.
And then I hear it, American voices, ooo...sounds like a family. Got to check this out. So I go over and sure enough, an American family is on the train. We got your classic American dad, clearly re-living a backpacking journey he did when he was younger around here, telling stories to the three young teenagers about arriving in Zagreb hungover and trying to read cyrillic in Yugoslavia, who looked like they could not care about anything less. (Will that be me one day?) The mom sounds like the mom from Rugrats (throwback to our generation) and is saying "O Steve, lets just get out of here as fast as we can, this cigarette smoke is killing me". They clearly fell for the classic Eastern European trick which is that there are signs everywhere saying no smoking, but its merely a suggestion. Everyone smokes everywhere, fact of life. I went straight to my hostel, missing my Bosnian friends already, and took a MUCH needed shower. My sadness was somewhat abetted by the model-worthy Croatian boy who works at reception. But alas I need to spend the morning figuring out how to get to Poland, where does the time go?
What I learned from Bosnia: there is nothing more important than friends, family, taking time to relax and be open to new people. Or as the Bosnians say always, "Why not?"
GO TO BOSNIA, even if you go nowhere else.