Well things here are all wrapped up and I am on the plane moving home! It is hard to believe I made it through a year isn’t it?! Of course I had much support from family and friends, so thank you.
Since Ireland I have been on yet another adventure of a lifetime...I am so blessed! My mom and I set off to make our way to the Balkans from Paris and had many incredible experiences along the way….we will see if I can paint any picture of what it was like for you all.
Leaving Paris we took the fast train to Nice, France. We loved being by the water and I had the chance to return to savor the Marc Chagall museum again. It was hot but we figured we would be heading into hotter so we didn’t think much of it and enjoyed the sea breeze. From there we had a brief stop in Milan, Italy to enjoy their cathedral and gelato. Again, we hopped back on the train and then stopped for two days in Trieste, Italy, a beautiful city which offered the sea again! It was the last place we felt was in our
A Moveable Feast
Here I am with our picnic basket on a train-at least one of our meals dailiy was a picnic of cheese and fruit
comfort zone and so we gasped as we leaped away from “Western Europe” and into Ljubljana, Slovenia!
We got off the train and entered into a rather stark industrial (Soviet?!) style city. After we dropped our things off at the hotel we made a turn and landed in the middle of the old city and could not believe our eyes-we were surrounded by red roofs as we strolled down narrow little streets and across bridges. There was a music festival going on while we were there adding to its beauty. After a brief rain that cooled things off, we headed up up up up up to a castle on a hill in the middle of the city for a bird’s eye view of the magical maze. It was well worth the effort as we gushed over the winding streets below us.
The city of Ljubljana was completely surrounded and cut off for 1,000 days during WWII, and now there is a "Trail of Remembrance" which encircles the city and marks where the barbed wire once imprisoned the people. We started off early with the best intentions of enjoying a long walk and seeing the city, but because it
Here is a picture of one part of the summer festival taking place on one of the bridges
was poorly marked and we were clueless language wise, we soon found ourselves lost and returned to the heart of the city for more music and sights.
The train journey from Ljubljana to Zagreb, Croatia was nothing shy of breathtaking. We tried to soak up all the lovely views of mountains and lakes as we cut through the countryside toward our next destination. We did not really get to give Zagreb a fair chance as it was raining and a Sunday…..oh, and because we stayed in THE most amazing hotel and were ready for a bath and chill out time! What we did see was rather austere Austro-Hungarian architecture, a really attractive cathedral, and some wonderful statues.
The reason we headed to the Balkans at all was an invitation extended to us by Mom's friend Enver. Enver who works at school with Mom is Bosnian and fled from Sarajevo during the war in 1994. He and his sons, Vedran and Jasenko, met us in Zagreb to drive us down to Bosnia as they feared we might have a difficult border crossing. The drive was great fun as Jasenko had brought his iPod and so this antique car was
Train to Zagreb
The train from Ljubljana was gorgeous!!!! Clearly, the beauty does not quite transmit in this image but maybe it will make you all want to go see for yourselves!
blaring everything from Pink Floyd to Bosnian folk music as we bumped along.
During our drive Jasenko told us that we were not tourists but guests and that remark really set the tone for our time in Bosnia.
When we arrived in a small little village in northern Bosnia we fell into something that looked a lot like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”-----and we were the wide-eyed in-laws! It was too much. The five of us fell out of the small car and were immediately embraced and kissed by a beautiful woman-Enver’s mother. She is 90 something (her birth certificate was burned during the war) and as agile as a cat-I looked over one evening to see her sitting cross-legged on her chair! She just had nothing but love to pour all over us and that message got across even without language.
We were sufficiently fed and fawned over by about 15 people that night (about 5 live in the US now and spoke to us in English) the rest were so happy their family was back from the US. The next day in honor of the Fourth of July we had lamb on a spit! I
Two of the Bosnian men who did not speak English, but were incredibly generous hosts
got to watch the process...I guess I really fell of that vegetarian bandwagon! It was a fabulous all day family affair.
After two nights in that village, Enver and Vedran took us to Sarajevo. On the way we stopped to see castles, monuments....and graveyards. It proved to be a rather intense experience. Enver just continued to remember things and tell us about the atrocities and genocide that happened as we passed certain places.
In Sarajevo we were joined by another American family who is friends with both Mom and Enver, so our group expanded to 7. From that point on the trip was a blend of enjoying one another within the glory that is Sarajevo, and dealing with the horrors of war and seeing the wreckage it left behind. It was as difficult, if not more so, than our trip to Tibet had been. The key difference in Bosnia though, and that is hope. There is a chance for change and growth in Bosnia so the intensity of our time there was somewhat lessened and much more optimistic.
We visited the "pyramid" just outside of Sarajevo (if you don’t know about this type it into a Google
This is Jasenko and his grandma. She was so happy to see him after his four year absense---Mom and I got the same huggging and kissing they did
search!), the tunnel at the airport that saved some 300,000 lives during the war, and the old Olympic soccer field that was turned into a cemetery as they city ran out of other places to bury the dead during the war.
The most heart wrenching for me was seeing the library. It was among the first targets of Serbian fire and now stands just as a shell of what it was. The Austro-Hungarian Empire had funded the first construction of it, and Austria has since funded a replacement dome to fill in what was just empty ceiling. We walked into the library and there was a concert of classical instruments inside, bringing me to tears. Again, hope blossomed in the midst of destruction.
There was much more that we saw and much more to share but I will spare your eyes the time on the computer. From Sarajevo we took a bus down to Dubrovnik, Croatia for a whole different kind of trip, or I guess you could call this part of our adventure a vacation. The beauty of red tiled roofs and the old fortified city stunned us. Getting out onto one of Croatia’s some 1,000 islands
Cooking the lamb was an all day experience and hard work for this guy on the left. This man cut wood for over 2 hours to keep the coals warm. The tractor in the back is blaring Bosnian folk music courtasy of Jasekno's iPod!!! The traktors owner was worried it might break his stereo, old meets new
was a highlight, as we spent four or so nights enjoying the island of Korcula. It was a great chance to re-group and digest the experiences that had preceded it.
If you are like me and don’t know enough about the most recent conflict in the Balkans, I am spilling over with book suggestions and would love to lend the books.
Then I had to say goodbye to my Paris….not easy at all. We walked around soaking up what Paris is and enjoyed glasses of wine or cups of coffee in the sidewalk cafés. Now I am on the airplane and ready for a sister hug and some Mexican food!
I imagine my journey will be tamer in Boulder as I finish up my degree, play in the mountains, and adjust to American culture. I hope this final entry of this year's adventures finds you all safe and happy.
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