15 years ago i would never have expected to be writing to you from Sarajevo! Fortunately a new age has dawned over Bosnia and the trajedies of last century are being overcome. Yesterday i wrote from an uncomfotably hot, crowded Dubrovnik, where everyone thought they were having fun and people poured in and out of the advetised tourist attrations. I gave the inside of the old city a miss - not much fun in fučč body armour - and got back on the bike, heading south looking for the turnoff towards Bosnia.
several people along the way had asked me why Bosnia and a lady at Slano had told me i would notice the poverty and Bosnia would be no picnic. Therefore it was not without some trepidation that I rode up the mountain to the border. There i encountered my first border challenge - apparently I needed a "green card" - an insurance certificate to cover me in the country, before the police would let the motorcycle in. I think my Australian passport and the fact I just straigh out told the man "I don"t have the document" helped. I was carrying my ownership papers and the current insurance certificate, so the policeman said he would sell me a 3 day green card for 25 Euro. I thought that was much better than turning back so we did the deal and I am now legal in Bosnia. Pretty easy really, and the first time I have needed documentation for the bike since leaving Brittain.
With the blessing of the police, who thought I was a bit strange going to Romania via Tuzla I rode into the first country I have visited that I was not entirely comfortable about. i was reluctant to take photo"s and act much like a tourist to avoid attracting attention to myself. I have uploaded some photo"s and you will notice I havenot taken any of myself - that requires a full stop, helmet and earplug removal & replacement and camera tripod setup. A scenic shot just requires a quick stop and I remain on the bike, ready to go. It"s funny really, as I get to know the country people are friendly and the most dangerous thing seems to be the oncoming vehicles with scant regard for the centre white line. Still, I am a long way from home so will remain a bit careful.
I have really enjoyed the countryside, reminiscent of Vic/NSW in parts, mountains interspersed with high, flatter farmland, but farmed very low tech. I passed a Ferguson 35 tractor with hay mower (old) attached, that had at least one cylinder not working. Then I came upon a paddock where they were making the old square bales of hay and I"m sure there were people raking the hay by hand in front of the machine! I have passed men walking along the road going home from work carrying scythes and most of the cars are about 20 years old. There certainly does appear to be less money around and the man at the village petrol station carefully inspected my 20 Euro note and was so worried about its quality I offered him another newer one, which he took instantly. These people have done it tough.
Riding through the first town Trebinje i noticed shabby dirty looking buildings and mesh reminiscent of Walget NSW back in the 80s. I would have loved to photograph the graffiti sprayed on one building which read " NATO f**k of". From there on though, the country has felt better, maybe I am getting used to it. The roads are generally very good although in one part of the national park (name unpronouncable but on the sign at the bridge in album upload) I noticed the rear tyre breaking traction easily on low speed corners, then when I had a two wheeled drift around one corner I stopped and checked the surface with my boot. The road was paved with bitumen and smooth round stones that offered precious little grip and it would have been difficult to walk without slipping! I"d hate to try the road in the wet!
Check out the mountain pic"s attached but there is one photo missing. As I crossed a ridge about 30km from Sarajevo I passed a flag near a new monument. Turning back to stop for a look I couldn"t read the writing except the dates. Obviously this was a monument to about 60 people whose lives had all ended either in 1992 or 1995. Accross the road was a burned out stone two story house. I felt sick. Out of respect I did not think I should photograph these sights so you will need to go there yourself if you wish to see it. It was my first real taste of the reality of war.
I rode into Sarajevo in the late afternoon yesterday and was again shocked, to see high rise residential buildings which appeared to have bullet holes all over them. Some buidings have been repaired and some not. I passed the airport and "tunnel of Life" which I may go and see today. As I rode into the city I noticed not one international number plate and felt quite vulnerable. The traffic was orderly though (much easier than Italy!) and following Ken"s instructions I headed for the city centre. My first reaction was to ride straight through and head for the hills, but I saw a nice looking Motel and was glad for a rest so decided to stop the night and really understand this place.
Am I glad I did! The motel is newly rennovated (most things are, of course) and run by a nice man with OK English. I went out in the old town last night and experienced a city with a real vibrancy not evident anywhere else I have been. People seem to be proud of their survival and enjoying life to the full. I had the best steak i have had for a while in a cafe called "To Be (or not) To Be", go there if you can. For a person who doesn"t usually enjoy cities I could stay here for a week! It"s great.
Today I hope to see some more countryside and go to Tuzla, about 120km away. Sandi has uploaded the Italian pic"s and tells me you should check out me Dubrovnik blog if you haven"t already. As usual, enjoy the pic"s and I"ll keep in touch.