2011-09-14

Goodbye Sarajevo

My laptop has only a few minutes left of battery power, but I may as well drain it completely.

We are arriving in Kotor, Montenegro. At last. The trip wasn't supposed to take so long, but we were stuck in traffic on a narrow mountain road somewhere for a couple of hours - presumably due to an accident ahead. We've been the road all day, having left Sarajevo just under 12 hours ago, from the tiny little bus terminal in the Serbian quarter of the city.

Our talkative taxi driver told us how when he was 15, during the siege, he walked twice a week clear across the city, through the tunnel under the airport, into the hills and then back again with food.

Ewelina and I visited the museum on the site of the tunnel on her birthday, it was fascinating. We also bought a book named Goodbye Sarajevo, which we have been fighting over (or taking turns reading) ever since. The story of the city is fascinating, scary. The signs of the siege can still be seen all over the place, small holes and large, blasted into the sides and roofs of buildings.

Ewelina's birthday started with a bit of a bang too. We sat outside a cosy little bar, laughing and sipping beer, fooling around on Facebook using our Androids and the bar's wifi. When we had had enough, we paid our bill, stood up... and found ourselves drenched in beer.

A guy stared mockingly at us from across the alley. He claimed it must have fallen from the sky.

After staring at him in disbelief for a bit, we walked off - he said something and I told him to fuck off, kept walking. That was probably a mistake, but I'm not sure it made a difference either way. This guy wanted trouble. I felt a blow to the back of my head. The only other time I'd been in a situation where someone wanted to fight me, that was also what happened. Walking away worked that time, so I tried the same tactic again - we just kept walking. Unfortunately, when Ewelina looked back a few moments later, she noticed he was still following us.

The streets were empty, which changes things a bit. We stopped at the corner, still within shouting distance of the bar. He caught up, there was a confrontation and his friend joined the fray - the one I had noticed looking very sad at the bar earlier seemed to have perked up quite a bit at the thought of taking his frustration out on a tourist.

Some rather inefffectual blows were exchanged - I made a mental note that I am clearly going to have to focus a bit more on the weight of my punches at karate class when I get home, punches to the solar plexus aren't supposed to make people laugh. Oh well, at least my aim was good. But their blows were hardly better. I wasn't really afraid, but I was tense and had no idea what to do next. Keeping them at a safe distance was all my beer addled brain could come up with. I tasted blood as my lip got mashed against my teeth.

Ewelina rescued my glasses from the street and then rescued my face by bringing help from the bar. One of the friendly tourist rescuers promised to make sure they didn't follow us again.

We made it back to our hostel and downed another three beers while waiting for my adrenaline-shakes to subside.

Neither of us had expected that...

But in spite of all that, we loved Sarajevo. It was a fascinating, beautiful town. We had a picnic on a hill one evening, watching the sunset and listening to the prayers of the minarets. Another evening, for Ewelina's birthday, we ate a fantastic meal at a lovely restaurant named Kibe. We walked all over, took busses and trams and taxis. I'd love to go back there someday.

Tags: life, balkans


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