Every now and then we probably think about what did happen on our way to Sarajevo. It was an epic journey – normally from Banja Luka to Sarajevo the journey can last 4 hours by car, but for us travel 230km lasted way more, the longest during the Balkans trip.
You must wonder how long, but before answer you, allow me to put you into context.
We hitchhiked from Zagreb to BanjaLuka in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Republika Srpska), where we spent three amazing days. We were too comfortable: staying at cheap and well located hostel, eating gorgeous food every day and having bunch of new good friends looking after us. Therefore we neglected the long distance to the next city – Sarajevo
We paid a high price for having started hitchhiking around 4pm. It was super late for a long distance, thus we only got the first lift around 7pm and the gentleman who picked us confessed he never stop for strangers but thought we might be someone heading off to his hometown just 10 km’s away.
Although it wasn’t a long voyage we were glad for getting a sense of leaving Banja Luka and also a shelter because of the rain and cold.
Around 9pm we were starving, and although we were keen to keep trying move, it was necessary to get some energy and again cevapi was the only meal we could get at the only café in the neighbourhood. After few minutes trying to explain the lady our situation, we nodded when she finally uttered the word manger.
The food wasn’t very tasty as used to be in Banja Luka but at least the pivo (beer) helped us feel proud of this mad adventure – hitchhike around the Balkans where almost no one does.
It was a big challenge for two beginners and what was going on could only make us stronger. We left the café pretty confident that someone would dare to take us somewhere, never mind, we just wanted to move. That only happened when 2 drunk friends tried to start a conversation with us, in between pivos (beers) and cigarettes – the only words you could understand – we found out that they would like to take us to Sarajevo.
After 10 minutes driving the co-pilot fell asleep, the pilot, we could see, was still able to manage the lights changing, and in his limited vocabulary he assured us he was a “professional”. We accept the offer because we were desperate to move and of course when we realised the mistake it was too late. Fortunately Milos decided to stop after 40 minutes driving. We were again in the middle of nowhere; Johan was sleeping, for me stare off into the darkness was my only option because the bench at the cafe wasn’t comfortable.
Next morning we “woke up” surrounded by a stunning landscape. The whole area was walled by astonishing green hills and though the situation was still tough we had time for a pleasant walk alongside the river, where we were checked by the two officers. After half an hour trying to figure out if we had crossed the border illegally, they tried to make sure that “autostop” would be very hard in that area. Indeed we had a terrible morning, no one stopped, we had to cope with the intermittent rain, and then we opted for a walk after we figured out that the next gas station was 4km away. Luckily Johan managed to persuade a bus driver to take us to the next gas station (pumpa in Bosnian) .
When everything seemed far-fetched, we managed to get a lift with to friends who were going to Mostar. They dropped us in Donji Vakuf, 120km from Sarajevo. There we met Samir – The American, who helped us get on a bus to Sarajevo, I fell asleep on bus and only woke in the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
When we got to the hostel, I wrote on my notepad, way to Sarajevo, an epic 24 hours journey.
I woke up early in that semi noisy hostel amid travellers from different parts of the world. However, we were all clinged by the silence of the mountains.
The war had finished decades ago, but the sounds of the powerful past still make the visitors wonder how would be living in a place where the hatred triumph over the love for 1425 days (Siege of Sarajevo).
We were greeted by the sounds of the mosques, a sort of welcome to the land of muslims in Southeastern part of Europe. The prays echoed through the narrow streets of the city center, drawing an imaginary line that take one to the magic hills and mountains.
First, we stopped by a restaurant recommended by someone from the hostel, typically from the Balkans – they always send you to someone from their network which doesn’t mean would the best and the cheapest one.
Unlike the business woman, the mountains take advantage of one’s curiosity and push one to the adventure.
Lili drawn the itinerary of the journey based on her fear and anxiety. We followed the lines which, in her opinion, would avoid the so popular hidden land mines, a awful war heritage from . IDris, fellow traveller, though a while dog, followed her likewise conscious.
I followed their steps up and down the hill, and soon we would be few more sharing the peace of those mountains and hills. While wandering around we saw curious looks coming from behind the curtains – kids are almost keen to figure out what’s goig on. Shy smiles on elder people faces took us through the slippery streets of the neighbourhood and there some were standing on their balconies enjoying the scenery view. Few metres further a man was pushing his wheelbarrow full of bricks, each of one a symbol of the reconstruction of the city that for many years seduced travellers during the Ottoman and Austro Hungarian empire.
We started with 4, than 3 adventurers and at the end we were dozens sharing the the same peaceful atmosphere, today we are even more, I am writing you, you reading this words on behalf of the triumph of the love over the evil. I came from far ready to loose my western prejudices, this place have room only for peace.
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