Mostar front line
Wow - I am more shocked than the last place with houses full of bullet holes!
Hopefully all my blog dates line up????
Saturday, 24 July 2010 Classic Rhapsody, Eastern Trekker, Sarajevo
Heard a couple of the guys come home, and then woke up before alarm as well so got on net for a bit, just a quick status update and then gone. Now sitting on corner of pickup point in Split, coughing my guts up (if I was game to look it would be fluorescent green or yellow I’m sure). Wow, I am now 2 days behind in diary and heaps of info to catch up on… Said goodbye to Laura that morning and met Angelo our new driver, and I had to have a little giggle when our bus has the rainbow on it, when our last tour became the rainbow tour. Did the intro thing again on the bus which was ok, but I was too tired to be too interested. Had a bit of leftover eggy rice and two boiled eggs. First stop was Mostar, a little town where there was a battle between, I think, Serbs and Croats but also something about Muslims in there. The front line was the main street, which funnily was only a couple of blocks from
Mostar crooked bridge
That isn't really crooked, guide said something about it isn't where they planned because river kept washing away foundations - that was best she came up with.
the river which now separates the two peoples. I don’t know why that wasn’t the holding line? Anyway, the crooked bridge was famous there and it was blown up during the war, 1993 by memory, and was rebuilt again with mostly original pieces. We went to a graveyard as well and most of the graves were 1993 which was a bit real. Carlo told us stories of how people on the hills would roll down tyres filled with explosives and when they went off, they’d explode and all the wire in them would penetrate straight through buildings. I felt bad though because yesterday I couldn’t stay awake through his Balkan War talk and today again I was dozing at the end. The town was lovely but I was knackered still so after a little tour we had to pay Euro 4 for, I had a rolled pizza thing like a snails back with potato and spent the last 8 Kuna I had. The story goes in Bosnia Herzegovina they’ll accept any currency and even gold teeth. A girl more or less collapsed from heat exhaustion on our walking tour. I found a nice little path in the shade because it
was bloody hot and had a little lie down. Of course as soon as I got comfortable, it seemed like a main street for pedestrians, but I just stayed there There are a heap of buildings that have bullet holes again which is very real, oh and we were waiting for the war to start again because yesterday a 10 year old boy was killed in the river under the bridge by some lighting setup that they are getting ready for 25m jumping competition tomorrow. He was son of an important person and famous football player so was a bit touchy. Normally there is music playing everywhere in city by not today in respect. Oh, Bosnia Herzegovina has 3 presidents now, one Croatian, one Serbian, and one Bosnian. Then it was just about to thunderstorm and we headed off for Sarajevo. 2nd floor again with no lift and no energy! Squishy room too. We had an hour or so before meeting up for dinner so I took another Panadeine and slept. Then got woken up when we were ready to go and I bailed. Was in bed by 8pm I think.
Sunday, 25 July 2010 Balkan Trek, Eastern
Had a horrid nights sleep coughing and spluttering all night as well as Sally in our Room. Was awake early with the light though because we are on the top floor with skylights and no real covers, but had a nice long shower and then headed down for brekky. Ended up with spare time so came back and got some washing done for our 2 night stay. Then headed off on our walking tour with a guide who grew up during the Siege of Sarajevo, which is the longest siege of one place in living history. Ok, I’ll see how short I can make this. At least this is one side of the story and heading into Serbia tomorrow. Basically the Balkan area was western Hapsburgs/Austrian and eastern Ottoman and then after WWI, which I have mentioned previously was started here when Frans Ferdinand was shot on a corner we saw today, was split into basically the 6 or 8 countries we know of today. Then I think after WWII which the area basically stayed out of, Tito, a communist leader (Tito because it literally means, you - that!) joined all the states into Yugoslavia and everyone seemed
happy. There was agreement (oops maybe I’ve slipped back between the two WWs), that each of 4 of these countries would rule but 6 were allowed to vote. This was ok for 4 years Croatia ruled, then 4 years Bosnia ruled, but then Serbia changed laws with support of other 2 votes and upset everyone. Ok, back to being sure, Tito was old and died in 1980. Should I throw in here that Sarajevo hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics. Anyway, the iron curtain fell around 1989 (hey, that adds up to the 2 lots of 4 years of power, maybe it was now), and Slovenia asked for it’s independence and got it. Then Croatia asked for it’s independence and opted for a 3 month ‘trial’ and then got the shit bombed out of them. Bosnia Herzegovina then asked for independence as well and Yugoslav army surrounded Sarajevo as the capital city and prepared for war. The locals asked what was all the activities in the hills, because they could see the tanks moving in etc but were told, “oh, it must be some exercise or something”. Then came the siege from 1992-1995. There was a main street called sniper alley
Now I knew nothing about this, but basically saved the city!
where you were almost sure to be shot, and we saw video of heaps of firepower coming into the city from the hills and the city burning. Even though most of the city has been rebuilt and if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t notice the bullet, shrapnel and bigger artillery or mortar holes in the walls of most buildings. The worst mass casualty was at a market where people were lining up for bread and 150 were injured and 72 killed. But not to worry, UN came in as a peace force and negotiated to take over the airport with Yugoslavia on the promise that they would not let any of the Sarajevo’ians out, and the UN often took people back into town trying to pass the airport. But then, someone had the idea to build a tunnel under the airport. The UN would ask, hey, what are you doing, you can’t do that, and the response was “you told us you are only here to watch not get involved”. The locals were not happy with a peace force not actually doing anything which is understandable. Anyway, there was finally a tunnel 800m long, 1m wide and 1.6m tall built
under the airport. Smart tactic because if Yugoslavia bombed the airport ie the tunnel underneath, then the UN were allowed to protect themselves This became a means of communication, power, food and weapons. At first, noone in the Bosnian free area would help out to get involved, but then a guy living in a basement already said he had a house there and that was used, which we visited today, and we saw the guy and his son who was 17 and had to fight the war in the hills. We only got to go through 25m of tunnel because it had to be filled in under the airport. Anyway, the President at the time ended up negotiating a deal and lost some of their territory to save having any more people killed. The guide told us of another story on the Srebrenica Massacre/Genocide where in July 1995, this little town was convince to hand over all their weapons to the Dutch army/UN who were going to protect them from invasion of Yugoslavia. Then the Yugoslavs met with the Dutch, shared a beer and a laugh and the Dutch left town and in 8 days, 8000 people were murdered.
Belgrade nightclub boat
The boring boat until we couldn't get home!
Only recently they buried another 700 people that were found in a mass grave. There are still a couple of thousand missing though. Oh, a couple of other points on economy. During the war, their main export was tobacco, now one of their main exports is water, which coke buys and sells back. After the tour, we went for a walk and poor Ninka, our 3rd roomy, bought a clove of garlic. They told her 40 Konvertible Marks and she said oh no, and the guy took the garlic to put back and the lady said oh no, little money, so then Ninka says ok, and the guy throws it back in through the shop at the shopkeeper who dropped it. Then we had lunch and I had a mushroom risotto and Ninka and Colin had cevapi’s again. I checked before lunch that they took Euros and then she didn’t anyway? I ended up owing Colin and Ninka 2.5 Euro each. Got that paid back and then we met up with Carlos and went for a local coffee which is like Turkish coffee, and a Turkish tea. Both E1 each but someone shouted first round and then second. Then we
went for more Cevapi but I just shared and then Carlos shouted that. 1 Euro is 2 Konvertible Marks but I basically never ended up with any because when I finally swapped my last 5 euro, I gave the 10 KM for a fruit drink and payback for earlier shouts at brewery. Took others to dinner spot and then our group was having ice cream so I headed home. It has now taken me two hours to try and data dump all this information. I haven’t even done photos yet! Tomorrow.
Monday, 26 July 2010 Balkan Trek, Eastern Trekker, Belgrade
Well did end up quickly doing photos and doing a backup burn which failed and then took forever to shut down computer. Anyway, slept shocking again last night and kept waking up to the smell of garlic from Ninka having a whole bulb just with water. Headed down on time for breakfast but workers must have slept in so we started helping ourselves to the fridge to take whatever was on offer yesterday. Then went back and got luggage and then Carlos called to say they were late and stuck in traffic. God knows how late we got away
Sofia peoples favourite church
Basically just a nice photo with no infrastructure in front of it!
but doesn’t matter. We were driving along and Carlos was chatting to driver in Spanish about times and then Angelo opened the door as we were driving along - Carlos shat and it was hilarious. Then Angelo says with sign language you talk too much. We crossed the border without too much incident, but then when Carlos was giving one of his history chats, Aron was sick up back of bus. It was beautiful drive through pine forests and winding country roads and we were a bit queasy in the front even. Oh, and saw a tractor with handlebars like a laid back harley which I would have loved a photo of. The exciting info that Carlos has given us is that this city has been rebuilt 44 times from destruction, and that it has two main rivers Danube and Cava which one used to split Roman and Byzantine empires, and one Austrian/Hapsburgs and Ottoman empires. Oh, and the Serbs celebrate a war loss because when they were fighting Kosovo, their leader had a dream that he would win war and control Kosovo, or be assured of going to heaven. So when they were just about to kill off the
Sofia moving the car
You should've seen this ladies face when she came back and saw 6 or so of us moving her car for her :)
last Kosovo’ian to win the war, they pulled out and similar to Aussies and Kiwis are the only other country to celebrate a war loss, but they actually celebrate not commemorate. A French guy on the bus said “thank god we don’t we’d be partying all year” So barley time to change and off to 2 ½ hour walking tour, which took ½ hour walk to get to, especially when Carlos is taking us his way. The tour was good, but didn’t get too much information about wars which seems quite boring now. There was the story about how Belgrade got independence from the Turks when they killed a 10 year old boy trying to get some water and the city revolted. The tower was nice and you could see the Roman ruins built over by the Austrians and then the next etc etc. Another open air war museum which was pretty cool. There was a special old mosque, the old building in the city at 1690 and is the only mosque left of 100s. We saw Victor the statue that was given after WWI and he was in the city but being naked he got moved out to
the top of the hill the castle is on and has a nice view over the city with his naked but towards Turkey. Oh, a well at that castle is 60m deep and they got no water (even barley 60m from the river) so they dug sideways and let it fill up from the river. One ruler heard that 27 men wanted to go back under Ottoman rule and threw the men in there and left them for 2 weeks then threw them in a knife. Then frogmen wanted to see where the well went and they found their bodies months later and noone has checked it out since. Then the park was lovely with lots of old men playing chess. So we met up with Carlos again at 8pm and headed off to dinner. I had a turkey thing which was huge, and a cappuccino. Then went out with guys to see what this awesome nightlife is about. First drink in smokey bar I had a shake which tasted like watered down cake base which was ok, but definitely not what I was expecting. Then we were going home but someone wanted to check out the beach which is
where the nightlife is. We wandered for another ½ hour over the bridge to where all the old boats are anchored up which are the clubs. There was only one open with old men in there so we kept walking and the others were all closed, so we were going to take a shortcut over the bridge the bus came in on today which would mean 1km walk to hotel, not 6km but we got to under the bridge and there was no access. Asked security guards and had a chat and got some more water from them and then headed back the long way home. Passed boat nightclub again and we went on to make it worth the walk and then stayed for an hour or so. Started walking home at 2am and went over a closer bridge so got home just before 3am. I waited ½ hour for Vanessa to come upstairs and then gave up.
Tuesday, 27 July 2010 Balkan Trek, Eastern Trekker, Sofia
Slept pretty badly and got up after only 3 broken hours sleep. Packed and that is when Vanessa got home, well back to our room. Had brekky and then waited for bus.
Plovdiv well everywhere overtaking
The driving was crazy, see the blue car behind the truck? It was overtaking also a couple of seconds ago!
If someone pulled in from overtaking with a spare metre they were doing well.... nah seriously!
It was 15 min late, but then, when he parked, the police fined him and took Angelo’s passport immediately, the same guy who fined him yesterday for parking in a different spot. Another bus had been parked similar for last ½ hour. Anyway, then we had to go to police station and pay for fine and then back to hotel to pickup Angelo’s passport, so we finally got away at 9.30am. Apparently it has to do with Angelo being Croatian and Serbian police. We missed the blown up hospital that we saw walking home last night but photo would not have worked. Got some sleep on bus and otherwise fairly uneventful day. Oh, played some mind games, eg handing over glasses broken or unbroken (arms crossed), being allowed 3 weighs to work out a marble not the same weight for 3, 5, 7 and 11 marbles. Got it all sorted. Took photo at Niche at lunch just as a dead dog floated under a floating hotel. Niche is mostly famous for being birthplace of Constantine and the skull house that was built from human bones to warn others not to attempt any uprisings. Oh, and it came out that Serbia
had produced 17 Roman Emperors, of how many I don’t know, but that is still impressive. Lost an hour crossing the border today which went ok, especially considering the police took photos of our bus and I was sure they would send it to border and give us trouble. Oh, and parking at the hotel, Angelo squeezed, well forced his way through a mirror of a small car and dodged a merc. Then the little car drove away after letting us try to squeeze through. Got in at about 6.15pm and now have nearly an hour of rest before heading out on walking tour. Headed out and was nice feel of town and saw Roman ruins inside what is now military officer blocks, missed changing of guards at front of that building, a few churches as usual, statue of a Russian who came and stayed in Bulgaria, statues of people celebrating the end of communism. Saw Chinese which I thought I’d have for dinner and they didn’t take CC so then to Sushi. Only one meal here so didn’t want to withdraw money. That is two currencies now I don’t even have photos of, missed Serbian Dinar as well as
these Bulgarian Leva which I didn’t even see. Got home about 9pm and asked Carlos if he wanted to have some sushi and he was going to come down but got sidetracked. Thought he might be scared of me Watched tv and got to bed about 11pm.
Wednesday, 28 July 2010 Balkan Trek, Eastern Trekker, Istanbul
Woke up after awesome sleep. Packed my leftover sushi and down to bus. We are having breakfast on bus today which was quite nice, but only after we had to squeeze past cars again, so much so this morning, that we had to hop off the bus and “bounce” a car out of our way. We moved the back over and I saw this girl who kinda looked like the owner, but then someone said, right o, lets move the front. It was then she got a bit excited digging through her bag to get keys. Then it took her 2 mins to get over the shock First stop was Plovdiv which is named after 7 hills. Nice little town with old Roman ruins which were pretty spectacular - I say that because I haven’t been ruined! Pardon the pun. Had
my leftover Sushi here before it got too old sitting on the bus 😊 then cross the border and into Turkey. Border did take a couple of hours for work that I’d think could be done in ¼ hour ½ hour max, but just weird. Our only problem was girls using Maltese passport and having to get visa, but then not but just having to have 3 border guys ooh and ahh about how long since a Malta passport has been seen. Turkey has apparently 72m people and 17m living in Istanbul. I saw on news last night that Britain is doing deal to get them into EU because they have plenty of potential, trade route, east/west, 3rd biggest army, young population. Anyway, good to hear about Gallipoli again. Was tempted to go down and get someone else’s spin on the area, but was 99 euro so will see if I get bored in a day or so. For example Carlos mentioned that they have found 10 bullets that hit directly head on and that apparently 10,000 bullets would have to be fired to achieve that (depends on the area I suppose) but add in the fact that they have
Istanbul Galata Tower across Bosphorous
Seeing as I climbed it... well the lift I can put a photo in now.
been found is pretty remarkable. Got in before 7pm I suppose which was quite good. On 3rd floor of course because there are no lifts. BBQ had been moved forward to 8pm because everyone was starving from no real lunch stop today. We finally got fed about 9.30pm but nice area on rooftop. Was excited and going to have a malibu, but they had ran out. Then a quick orientation tour around Tokapi, Sofia and Blue Mosque and hippodrome. Nice photos by night. I went back up to rooftop to say goodbye to everyone which was relatively easy until I said goodbye to a few girls who we met back up with from the first part of our trip. That was quite sad. Finally got to bed just before midnight.
Thursday, 29 July 2010 Sultan Hostel, Istanbul
Woke about 8am and met most people still downstairs having breakfast. Ninka said she left the fan that Callum and Kym had given her, will put a note on it and make it a gypsy fan Asked about which room I’m in and have to check out by 10.30am and not back in again till midday. At least I am
Istanbul dinner tight squeeze
I really rate the drivers here in Istanbul, I remember loving our coach driver last trip before I got my bus license, luckily because now I know what it's like I would've been down on my knees worshipping him!
on ground floor from here on - would’ve been ready to argue to bring back down and up 3 flights of stairs. Some guys going for walk today and/or moving to hotels but I will hang around and move rooms and do some internet/rest. I can’t describe how I am feeling with the finish of the tour - not emotional, I suppose kinda sad, and only lonely because I’ve done Istanbul before and won’t be busy. Will do a bit with people who are around for couple of days and then there is always internet for a day or two after they leave. That is painful though because internet is quite slow. Will get travel blog done though. I meet up with Joanne in only a few days and then we only have Scandinavian tour and Arctic cruise which is basically 6 weeks, but I reckon it will go twice as quick as I can say what tours are left to do. Everyone met up at 4pm, well all got there by 4.30pm and then we had a couple of beers/coffee, and headed off. Cheap cruises were finished for the day, but guy put us onto a local who was negotiating hard with Patrice that it drew attention of Police. Apparently he was going to help the poor girl out but then realized it was her giving the most so then he laughed, walked away and came back and asked the guys if they were allright Dubious me was suspicious of them needing 3 blokes and the police guy might have been fake (because he looked about 16) but we off by car a bit down the wharf and onto the boat. Was a nice cruise and everybody had a great party, and we all lived without being robbed Then we had to walk back to our hostel street where we planned for dinner, it probably took ½ hour after the bit further to come, but was nice walk. Then another ½ hour for 10 people to decide where to eat, I reckon I know half the touts by name now after walking past them 5 times each. Actually, there was 11 of us and I was the token Aussie. Ended up on terrace (without a view) but was cool and the waiter was lovely. Food was awesome, well apart from Patrice’s who ended up having to swap meals. Then, before we know it is 11pm and ½ of us are hitting the wall. Home to bed on the top bunk for 2nd night in a row. Will see that I can’t move down to bottom bunk over next couple of days, but hey, I am only sleeping there.
Friday, 30 July 2010 Sultan Hostel, Istanbul
Had a great sleep and woke up 8am all by myself. Bit of internet before breakfast so that I am having a lazy coffee or breaky when Michael comes to do walk. Just ran into Ty and he might come as well. Michael got here just after 10am and stuffed around looking at old diary and going to toilet and him checking net etc before we headed off about 10.30am. Stopped at his hotel to quickly check about his transfer and then off across the Golden Horn to Galata Tower. It was built in 528 by Byzantines and taken in 1453 by the Turks. It is 61 metres high with a diameter of 8.95m and wall thickness of 3.75 metres, that doesn’t leave much. Now some of the walls are lifts, thank god because we had to walk up last 3 flights was enough. Beautiful view over city from top. Then wandered back across Galata bridge and back to Maccas for Michael and I had to have ice cream then. Wandered off again hopefully heading for fish market. Some guy helped us a bit, people here are as friendly as I remember them. The city has an awesome feel! Walked along the waterfront restaurants getting hounded and then back across front of fish markets which looked pretty empty. Then had to buy a drink (apple juice which maybe wasn’t the smartest choice with all this walking), and headed back home. Said goodbye to Michael at the Hippodrome and got home about 2.45pm which means, we have been wandering for 4 hours allowing a few minutes for Maccas. Bet I don’t lose weight from it though - even if the apple juice takes effect Now just doing a bit of diary/photos/net again. Have a date with skype and family tomorrow morning which is cool and then Aussie Kiwi tri nations is on 1pm tomorrow. That only leaves Sunday, but today was awesome doing the 2 things I hadn’t done and wished to.
Now after mentioning blog dates as the entry to this blog, I will only forcast the next couple of days in Instanbul and put anything interesting that might pop up at the start of Moscow blow.
Fri 30th - Will eat dinner shortly and go to bed early after walking all day today.
Sat 31st - Skype date with family and then Aussie Kiwi tri nations game and hopefully another early night. My rest days haven't really turned out that way so far.
Sun 1st - Wake up just in time for breakfast, have a very lazy day and at best a Turkish bath - ooo, what about that leg wax - anyway, not much.
Mon 2nd - Shuttle to airport and arrive in Moscow and meet up with Joanne.
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