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Published: August 9th 2006
At last, after what has seemed like and eternity, it was time for the annual (well, only my second trip) pilgrimage to the Temple of Korfball. This time the tournament was being held in a small city in the centre of Bosnia called Maglaj.
So, after a subtle (if that’s possible from me) amount of persuasion that the trip will be worth their while, 4 of us (Spanna, Meryl and Sazza and I) set off in search of fun in the Balkans.
Operation Bosnia was born. A route was planned which would take us on a round trip starting from Split in Croatia, via Mostar, Sarajevo, Maglaj and back to Split. Seemed like a good route, mind you I hadn’t quite taken in to account the coast road traffic and the general lack of motorways in both countries, something which I shall remember to factor in if I ever go again.
We landed at Split on the Dalmatian coast (can you name a famous Dalmatian? Clue, it’s not a dog.) and drove into town. Split was roasting (get it?) and so off for some rather hot site-seeing. The highlight of Split is Diocletian's Palace, built by the Roman emperor,
The harbour front at Split
Plenty of Caffe bars, not much food
yes you’ve guessed it, Diocletian. Built in the 3rd century AD, lots of it still remains in the centre of town. We walked a bit then it was lunchtime. However, food is hard to come by in Split, the Croatians appear to survive off a diet of coffee, alcohol, cigarettes and ice cream. The town is full of Caffe bars which don’t sell anything else. Finally we hunted down a restaurant and I tucked in to my first plate of the local dish, Cavapi, mini lamb and beef sausages.
After a bit more walking, the heat beat us and we hot footed it (literally) to the beach for the afternoon. The water was beautiful, but the beaches are a bit stony so take your flip-flops if you go. Then time for dinner, after another exhausting forage for food, we finally found a restaurant and I had yet another meat based taste of heaven. Veal, potatoes with a pancake on top. East Europeans know how to eat.
Day 2 in the big Bosnia house and it’s time to leave Split. We’d planned a nice drive down the coast and then to turn inland to cross into Bosnia, but something was
Basically my guide book was rubbish, so I don't know what it's called.
amiss in Omis (sorry) and we got stuck in a traffic jam for ages and so turned off the coast road early. We headed up in to the hills and crossed in to Bosnia (no bleeding passport stamp!). Between the coast and the border the scenery is rather similar to Greece and quite spectacular. Croatia doesn’t appear to have too much obvious war damage, but after crossing over to Bosnia, you start to see traces of it more often.
When we drove in to Mostar we thought we’d better use a few abbreviations as so not to upset the locals. We used BD for bomb damage and BH for bullet holes. You can’t quite help yourself when walking around, you just keep looking out for it. Mostar is built around the Neretva river with one side mainly Muslim and the other Christian. On the way to the old town there still is quite a lot of BH and BD around. Before the war the town was very integrated but during the conflict the town divided into two sides, and the bridge destroyed in 1993. It’s a very beautiful town and now the bridge is rebuilt (in 2004) the local
blokes chuck themselves off again to entertain the tourists.Oh, and had another good meal, pepper stuffed with rice and mince, I’m starting to need to exercise at this point…
On to Sarajevo, the drive in is along what was known as ‘Snipers alley’ during the war and passed the famous Holiday Inn where all the journalists were based. I was warned the Bosnians are friendly and Sarajevo proved that to be right. The hotel staff were lovely and we even got free drinks and pancakes at dinner.
The centre has two distinct areas, the Muslim area then you cross the road, then it resembles Vienna. The city was under siege for 1400 days with no water, very little food or electricity. You wouldn’t have a clue now as the city is heaving and everyone is very friendly. But a walk around town and you still see the BH and BD and also lots of cemeteries where everyone has died between 1993-4. It’s amazing how they have recovered.
I was amused after we (finally) found the bridge where Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were shot. One of the world’s most historic bridges and some woman is flogging cheap bras
The beach on the peninsula
Anna, do you know what a peninsula is? Glup!
on it. Only in Bosnia!
Day three and off to Maglaj, just in time too as I’d eaten so much food at this point, I was about to explode. I needed a run around. It’s a 2 hour drive north of Sarajevo and there is even a bit of duel carriageway, well, for 20 minutes until you hit Visoko. Then back to the normal windy roads. Bosnians are crazy drives and there is a lot of overtaking on blind corners. They are also very fond of massive old Mercs, which is not surprising when you see their driving style.
Entry in to Maglaj was not the most picturesque, I did wonder where we were headed too, but once we got in to town it was much nicer. Sitting across the Bosna river it has an old fortress on the hill above the town. Quite a bit of BH and BD in town, it was under siege for 9 months at the end of the war, being mainly Muslim. The locals had to spend time living underground as they were attacked from the hills by snipers during the day.
We were greeted at the hotel by our hosts,
On the road again
Stuck in traffic on the Dalmation coast, I can think of 101 reasons why it wasn't fun.
Aladdin (show us your lamp) and Jenny who presented us with our tournament t-shirts and passes which all made us look like Easyjet staff, nice. Teams entered included Budapest, Maglaj, 2 from Barcelona, Edinburgh, Norwich Birmingham Uni and Supernova (my team). Tough competition, there were even Hungarian internationals in the Budapest team. We all attended a meeting with the town Mayor and then off to sample to local Pivo, Pass the Lasko please. Well, it was raining. It seems it always rains when Kath’s in Bosnia…
Two days of games followed. The Bosnians and Spanish seem to play a bit more of a physical game than we do here in the UK, let’s just say Ronaldo would fit in the squad. And the refereeing, well, less said the better. But it was great fun to play against different teams, but we didn’t quite come away with the victory we’d hoped for.
Time to head back to Split on Monday morning and a long drive back to the coast. One the way we passed through the Kupresko Polije valley where they have some skiing. There were lots of bombed out villages along the road which are only just being rebuilt
BD in Mostar
A view on from the Muslim side of the bridge. They bombed the town from the cross on the hill on the opposite side of the river
now then we headed back into Croatia for the final night.
Bosnia is a fantastic country. The people, food and scenery are great especially when you consider what happened so recently there. Croatia is also nice too, but could do with a few more restaurants. Enough from me anyway, tune in again in October when I’ll be going all Aussie on you.
Go Nova! Thanks Anna, Sally, Cheryl, Tamara, Kath, Becky, Mark, Ian, Rob and Andy for a fun trip.
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