David made the Bus Station a half hour early along with a nice Canadian couple from Toronto and an American Oriental professional that liked to read a lot. Our bus arrived a bit late but we loaded and took right off. We had assigned seats but the Toronto couple couldn’t sit in their front row #1 and 2 because the bus driver didn’t want them to and shooed them in the back loudly saying NO number! I was in #5, the next row which was OK . I think he didn’t like people looking over his shoulder. A half hour out and we were all relaxed watching the scenery and the driver turns on the radio to a Croatian Rap station and turns it up loud like he is entertaining us. I took out my hearing aides and put in my plugs. I noticed on my first trip to what was Soviet Occupied Eastern Europe that no one was happy, smiled or were friendly. Especially those in the Hospitality Industry that were supposed to smile. My friend Jan from Prague said that in those days the Communists had spies everywhere. You never knew if you best friend that you went to school with, your neighbor or co-worker was one. No one shared anything with anyone for fear of never getting a promotion or going to college and maybe even going to jail for listening to Voice of America late at night in their homes. Many liked being told what to do and not to do . They didn’t have to think or work hard…just get a long. Some still carry on that attitude especially the older ones that lived the longest through that drab senseless life.
The countryside was beautiful as we toured the Adriatic Coast . It was a winding two lane narrow road so travel was slow but scenic. The beaches were small and mostly pebbles with a few sand beaches then coastal Mountains on the other side. We passed one resort coastal town after another until after about two hours we turned inland and within a half hour came to the Bosnia border where a Croatian Policeman boarded the bus and checked our passports…and then a Bosnian Border Patrol Guard did the same.
We traveled into an area with open fields of vineyards and surrounding Mountains. Not like Colorado but like Napa Valley. The Rap Music station faded into occasional static and stations coming in and out but the driver just drove on oblivious to any comforts his passengers might desire. Four hours after our departure, we arrived in Mostar. A Heritage Site with a bridge built in 1617 that connected one side of Mostar with the other. A river ran between.
David was greeted by Nina’s Mother. Nina owned Nina’s Hostel and her mother was close to David’s age and lived with her. She was born and educated in Mostar and only left during the war in the ’90’s to protect herself. She lived in Norway for that year. She said it was cold , rainy, and expensive.
Mostar was being attacked by Croatia on one side, Serbia on the other and Bosnia was trying to protect itself. I have no idea what it was all about except it had something to do with the very Catholic Croatia and Orthodox Serbia with a lot of Muslims from Bosnia thrown into the mix. David checked in and took the room across from Nina’s apartment on the second floor. He freshened up and left to visit the famous Stari Most Bridge.
The main street along the river was one way and a single road with cars parked on the sidewalks so it paid to be cautious while walking. It was hot and still. He traversed the bridge after seeing a photo exhibit of before and after the war. Mostar had been on the front line and the bridge had been seriously shelled along with the town. There were pock marks in all the buildings from bullets and shelling. A lot of war memorabilia for the tourists was on sale. There was a decidedly Turkish influence and a few Mosques along with 5 Minarets that he could count. The Bosnian Coffee was Turkish as well as the local food selection. He ordered a cheese platter that he ended up taking home for a late night snack the following day. Next was Bosnian Schnitzel that was a huge, tender slab of veal rolled with two different local cheeses inside then breaded and deep fried.
It was delicious and of course off the charts with fat…as was all the foods in this region. He forgo his ice cream treat and returned home.
The next morning David was going to take the local bus to the Bus station and see about a ticket to Dubrovnik. The plan was to take the early bus, spend the day visiting the city then catch the afternoon bus to Montenegro, the next country to visit. He really couldn’t find a reasonably priced room in the center of Dubrovnik and was told you could see the city in a day so figured he would save some money and get situated in the next place and use it as a base for a few days. He walked and walked into the main city and started exploring the side streets. It wasn’t long and he was almost at the Bus Station so he continued on and found the only open ticket counter there. The ticket sales lady was another grump that never smiled , was rude and abrupt. He was the only person there. The schedule was to get up at 5 am and catch the 7 am bus or the next was at 10:30am. That wouldn’t get him to Dubrovnik until 3:30pm . It would be another 5 hour ride but he figured he could arrive in the main part, lock up his bag, tour the old city in 3 hours and head out the the next bus to Montenegro and sleep. If he got to Montenegro late…just take a room for three days and sleep the morning away. He bought the 10:30 departure and walked back into the old bridge area for a late breakfast at the same restaurant. David visited a Mosque but declined to climb anything especially a Minaret.
It was time to return to the room, get refreshed and see about where he was going to go after he visited Dubrovnik tomorrow.
He got online after returning. Now the problem is the bus schedule OUT of Dubrovnik. There are few International buses especially going to Montenegro and only one or two a day. I ended up booking a room in a guesthouse outside of the city in hopes I can check in, return and tour the city while getting a ticket out the next day, get back to the room and still book a place to stay…wherever it is I’m going to.? I have a schedule telling me departures to Montenegro but not arrivals. I have no idea if the trip takes 2 hours or 20 and can’t tell by the maps. I will find out tomorrow.
He returned to town to try and find an Internet Cafe with a printer as he mistakenly ripped up his Itinerary with all his notes thinking it was something else. He found a Gamer Cafe packed with children killing everyone in a make believe war with make believe (sounded and looked real to me) guns in war games. The printer didn’t work. He heard the call to pray on the walk back. It was 5pm and it echoed down the valley with a melodic resonance that was relaxing.
He stopped for a Bosnian Beer, then stepped into a Convenience Store for some bread, wine, chips to go with his cheese at the room. He inquired about a small bottle called Lova that looked like Vodka and was made in Mostar. The lady didn’t drink and said she really didn’t know. He paid for all and was getting ready to leave when she ran out behind the counter so quick he thought she had the runs or something. She called him back as he was exiting to give him the bottle as a souvenir of Mostar. That was an example of an entrepreneur with a positive smile and gesture that made up for those stick in the mud employees of the state who should be fired.
Well it’s now time for David to relax, shower and pack for his departure. I’m all relaxed, half naked, on my second bottle of Mini Wine…and their is a knock on the door? It is after 10pm on a Friday night. I open the door, with my shirt open, pants unzipped , a Mini Bottle of wine in my hand and it’s Nina’s Mother who came from a party outside in front of the house that Celebrated her Grandson’s first birthday! She had a a LARGE piece of cake for me. I had to eat it because they would find it the next morning. I already was struggling to finish all that left over cheese from the day before. Both her and her daughter were dressed formal and the cake was presented on a china plate. I thanked them and commented about how cute her grandchild was as they quickly ran off seeing me half dressed with a bottle of wine. Great impression to leave. Nice gesture though. Made me feel good yet embarrassed. She must have taken a shine to me? Can’t say as I blame her.:-)