Bosnia, you delighted me.
Writing from a cafe in Split, on the Croatian coast (for those who failed geography), I have time to think back on an eventful few days in Mostar and Sarajevo. Every blog and book and site I had read prior to entering the country of course charged into battle with accounts of war and religious divide – and it’s hard to avoid such topics when you look around and see bullet holes in the sides of every third building. Yet, drinking a coffee on the street in Sarajevo, I saw more of the healing that has been going on than I did of the troubled past. People all wanted to help when I looked lost, offering directions and use of their cell phones. Cultures collided, shared mixed grills and teas, kissed each other’s cheeks as salutations. As a rule, I never get into taxis when I can’t speak the language. I broke this rule a dozen times in Bosnia, flabbergasted that the drivers had no intention of screwing me. Both my hosts in Mostar and Sarajevo would have cart-wheeled naked down the street if I had suggested the spectacle. In Mostar, my host cooked my wife and I a fantastic chicken paprika dinner out of pure generosity, and then drove the two of us to Sarajevo the following day along what must be one of the more scenic drives in Europe. And while both cities are tourist centres, flush with tour buses as Dubrovnik is with cruise ships, there is always a side street or a bridge leading to that off-the-beaten-track experience we all crave while abroad. On the flipside, finding information on buses and trains is a nightmare – some trains have been discontinued; others given back to the countries that gifted them. I will say that after an eight hour bus ride out of the mountains from Bosnia back into Croatia, I am happy I took the chance. We were supposed to visit two other towns but bad luck intervened. I had no poetry reading or other literary engagement there, but poetry comes in all forms. And perhaps looking back on this little trip, the pen will eventually start its journey too.