Have I really still not paid my bad weather dues for this trip? Really??
The entire first day in Sarajevo it poured nonstop, as hard as it had in Budapest. The hostel lounge was filled with people playing cards, drinking beers, and watching movies – nobody wanted to set foot outside. The rain had even knocked out the Internet, preventing me from taking advantage of the down time and being productive.
But at least the hostel was social – I spent most of the evening chatting with other travelers, including a young backpacker from London who planned to end his round-the-world tour in Japan during the summer (boy did I have some tips for him) and a middle-aged guy who was about halfway through his goal of visiting every single country in the world.
The net popped back on around 10pm, and I spent a few hours getting almost completely caught up on blogs. Maybe I will be up-to-date in time for meeting Peder in Belgrade after all 😉
The next morning, it sounded as if the rain had subsided. Still undecided about when I wanted to depart – in the early afternoon or on a night bus – I checked out and dumped my stuff in the luggage room before grabbing a quick breakfast.
The hostel’s “included breakfast” was probably the most amusing yet: a trough of cereal, a pile of uncooked eggs, a basket of fruit, a gallon of oil, and a few frying pans and spatulas. A Do-It-Yourself breakfast.
Fine with me, now I can make myself a greaseless egg-white omelet with the lean turkey meat I had leftover from the night prior! 🙂
The first part of the day I spent roaming around the city’s old quarter, home to most of its tourist attractions – mosques, churches, museums, all the usual. I also strolled along the river and back to the spot where the assassination of Franz Ferdinand ultimately led to the start of WW1. After a few hours in Sarajevo, here are my impressions:
If you’re short on time, skip it. It’s got a few interesting spots, but nothing to write home about, and is certainly less captivating than nearby Mostar. They’ve both got an old quarter, but Sarajevo’s feels far more “contrived”; they’ve both got a bridge, but Mostar’s is far more spectacular; they’ve both got war scars, but Mostar’s are significantly more powerful.
Of course, I’m sure my opinion is a bit skewed by the once again cold, drizzly, gloomy weather – but most of the other tourists I encountered did feel the same.
For lunch I had a plate of Cevapi – lamb sausages, yogurt sauce, and onions inside some sort of greasy flatbread pouch. It was tasty, but I didn’t like it as much as Burek, a sort of meat-and-bread “pancake” I had the night before. A plate of Burek the size of your head goes for about 1-2 euro at any streetside cafe, and is freaking delicious.
After lunch I just headed back to the hostel where I sat and watched a movie with a group of other travelers until my 4pm door-to-door minibus to Belgrade came to pick me up. I’d already missed the early afternoon bus, but an American traveler I encountered in a nearby tourist office told me about this alternative option – and honesty, I just was not feeling like dealing with this crappy weather any longer.
The scenery on the ride to Belgrade resumed almost exactly as it had been ever since I left the coast: very very green and mountainous. I would estimate that the longest stretch of “straight” road on the entire Bosnian leg of the ride was no more than 100 meters – virtually the whole route twisted and turned through canyons and tunnels and alongside towering cliffs, all 100% covered in green. It’s quite beautiful.
Then, when we crossed into Serbia, the scenery changed yet again.
The unending greenery remained, but the huge mountains suddenly gave way to an expanse of flat fields – almost as flat as Holland – but not quite. It was a shockingly sudden difference.
And then, at long last, I was in Belgrade. Nightlife capital of all of Europe. Or so I’ve been told.