BALKAN EUROPA Uncategorized

Beginning – Bosnia, Serbia & Kosovo

on
09/01/2016

My first blog post. Ever. I have to warn you it’s a little longer. Maybe even too much text for the beginning. But, hold on, I will balance it in another post 🙂

Departure.

I can’t believe it is really happening. I’ve been planing and working out this trip for years in my head.  But not today. Today it is really happening. All my dreams and planning are becoming reality.

I’ve been stuffing my backpack for two hours and I’m still not ready. I put something inside, I take something out, and doing it indefinitely. This requires a lot of logistics. On the way, I’ll have enough time to work it out to perfection. I’m leaving to the town where I’ll meet the media who want to cover my departure. I’m saying goodbye to my friends with the words: „See you in two years.“, „Take care“. „Be careful.“, „Just take it easy“, „Good luck“.

Just a few days ago I was very enthusiastic about the departure. I thought, when I say goodbye to everyone, I’ll just turn around and leave. By foot. From the Varaždin main square to New Zealand. After a few steps turn around and wave to everyone, and we all go different ways. But the day before, this looked like some unnecessary bullshit. Why leave on foot when I can arrange the transport to the  tolls in Zagreb.

tomica-kristic-odlazak

I haven’t caught my first stop, and my mind is already full of fishy thoughts. Leaving home and family. Leaving girlfriend. Some kind of guilt. Questioning my own decisions. Rain is falling. Gloomy weather.While this negative thoughts are running through my head, in the distance, through the rain, I catch the blinking of the right car blinker. Finally. My first car. My first hitched ride on this great journey. Negative thoughts instantly disappear and the adventure can begin 🙂

First ride, and I already forgot his name. But I remember he was going for Vinkovci. At first glance, he looked more private than he really was. He was talking about everything. About his daughter in London, Jugoslavia, 80’s, war, peoples prejudice, nationality, about himself, about me, really about everything.

I told him I was heading east, and my first station was Sarajevo. The driver looked at me and said: „Good choice young man… even though, Sarajevo today is getting wrapped in Orient. But because of that, you can still see a lot of things there. You have islam, christianity, natives, foreigners, young, old, tradition, contemporary… you still have that diversity.“

I’m crossing the bosnian border by foot. Since it is the first border, I’m grabbing my camera to capture this spectacular event. In the distance, from the border crossing toll, restless head is popping out, leaning outwards more and more. I ignore it and take pictures and videos. Two minutes later, the head disappeared, but the voice behind me appeared and asked: What are you doing? Me: Nothing, taking some photos and videos… nothing serious. He: This isn’t Congo for you to take pictures. This is Bosnia. Me: I’m sorry, I’ll stop. He: You know, this border crossing picture taking thing you are doing is punishable? Me: No, I didn’t know. He: You should come with me to show me those pictures. Few minutes and some explaining later, my card was empty.

Little further away from the border I find acceptable place for hitchiking to Sarajevo. I was standing there for two hours, without success. Rain is getting stronger so I’m running to the caffe across the street. There, after a few basic questions and answers, the boy behind the bar starts: „Jaoooo, don’t go to Albania. Just don’t go there. I heard they kidnap people there. Trade with organs. Especially if you are a truck driver. If you have an open window, they come at night, spray you with sleeping spray and in the morning you wake up naked!.“ I asked him did he ever went to Albania. His answer was: „No.“

After a pretty hard day, since it was the first one, the end was quite nice. Since it was pouring rain, I settled that I will brake the rule of not paying for accommodation. I was going out from the gas station and spotted a man filling his car in the dark. Passing by him, I showed him my sign saying „Sarajevo“. The man waved and said: Hop in!

Three hours later, half past one in the morning, he left me right in front of the three girls I had arranged to stay with through Couchsurfing. Simply amazing. Beautiful. Perfect.

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I spent four days in Sarajevo. Rain was pouring whole days. Since the weather wasn’t on my side,  I was throwing myself in culinary activities, as a thank you signs for my hosts. The girls are students, you know that student life and warm home cooked meal don’t go together. Since I only know how to make two meals, that is what I was doing. I have to raise that bar to at least 4-5 dishes. That will be enough so the hosts won’t figure out I don’t know how to cook anything else.

One other day, I went to see and record the town. I will not describe cities, architecture and people in the cities on this journey, since you can read that on Wikipedia. There is no point in describing shat has already been described a milion times. I’ll focus more on people I meet on my way, their stories, my hitchhiking, drivers,  their stories and my overall experience of everything.  Anyway, my first time out to the town, rain felt into my camera objective and damaged it. I’m thinking: Second day of travel and you already fucked up the camera. How? Why? Well…it’s all part of the journey.. there will be more of that.

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By the tangle of circumstances, last nigh in Sarajevo I ended up in night jazz club, on a gypsy jazz concert that was sold out back in august. The club was packed with people so no one was getting in. But there is alway the alternative. As people were going out, we went slowly in. When I got in the club I immediately took my camera and started acting like a professional photographer.

jazz gypsy

Fourth day, I’m on the road again. Raising my anchor and moving on.  Few days before, my plan was to go to the main city of Montenegro- Podgorica, but noone replied on Couchsurfing. Since the weather is cold and while I’m still in the Balkans, I depend a lot on CS. So I changed my route and head to Serbia. To Cacak. I arranged with some people to stay with them. But, again that but, I make the same mistake twice. Sleep until 9-10 in the morning and when I get ready, pack my backpack and start to hitchhike it is already around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and the dark falls around 6.

From one of my previous journeys I learned that it is better to pay some smaller amount of money for the bus to take you to the furthest point in the city, than to walk with your full backpack for two hours until you find a spot. I couldn’t find a spot to  hitchhike, so I searched for a bus going for Serbia. Hour and a half later, my mission succeeded. Since in that direction uphill walking and mountains are starting to show, and there is no place for hitchhiking by the road, I told the driver I will go a bit further with them. Yes people, I cheat a little.

It was starting to get dark, and the bus was going deeper into the mountains.  I was thinking it wouldn’t be the smartest idea to get out of the bus and start hitchhiking for Cacak. So i said to the bus driver again, I’ll go a bit further with them. And so I ended up in Novi Pazar. Small town on the south of Serbia. To make things even more beyond my promise and budget, I rented a room for the night, giving 6 euros for that. Today I spent the same amount of money I spent for four days in Sarajevo. It was only a hundred kuna, but for one day, more than a lot. In the morning, a male voice woke me up, banging on my doors: Hey, you need to check out in half an hour, do you know?… It was the owner of the guesthouse, very polite man. Packing my things and flying off.

Young man from the store is asking me: Where are you from? I reply: from Croatia. Ooooooh, then you are one of us. Come in for a coffee! Him and his dad Ferizej run a family store. After a few basic questions dad starts with: We Goranci people are the best people here, we all help each other, we don’t bother anyone, no one bothers us. We just work and create. We are honest. Really the best people!

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Half an hour later, Izo stops to pick me up. After a few basic questions he starts: Wr Tutinovci people are the best people. Those people from Novi Pazar as so-so. Those later, from Kosovo, help me God! There are no people like us. We live between Serbia,  Montenegro and Kosovo. We’re all mixed up, we all help each other. We don’t bother anyone. No one bothers us. We just work and create. We are honest. Really, the best people!

Fifteen minutes later, Mehmet stops. Without basic questions he starts: See this bridge that is a wreck? NATO wrecked it…fuc**)(&$#%(„/&/%&“%%!!!!

Last one, Zdravko stops. From Serbia. Young man, my age. He said: You know what, forget about what everyone said and remember just one thing… a golden rule…the closer you are to the border, the stronger the nationality.

And now a really interesting story. I’m sure you heard stories about trying to get help from the church if you find yourself in some unknown city by the night, and you don’t have a place to sleep. I can only say.. don’t believe those stories. That night, at around 10 in the evening, I walked into the yard of the church, but the gates were locked. Then I walked into a yard of a biiiig house by the church, where vicar was living. In front of his doors was a bell with a camera. I was hanging out with that bell for good 20 minutes and no one opened the doors. But the house wasn’t empty. The lights were on in the vicars room on the third floor. How do I know it is his room? The security guard told me. So, for 20 minutes I was the biggest christian in the whole world but the vicars blessings didn’t find the way through. Imagine, christian in trouble, in front of the doors of salvation, and he is ignored. I’ll not tell the vicars identity, but I can say that in Pristina, there is only one church and only one vicar :).  I thought, after so much time, we will be good to each other again, but after this, even greater distance will develop.

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I’m leaving the town. This time I decided to walk to the town exit. It is not a big city so it is doable. I have to get to Skopje by dark where I arranged to stay with Couchsurfer Vlatko. I’m only 90km away so it won’t be a problem. And it is only eleven o’clock.

crkva i đamija

After an hour of waiting, Abdullah stops. Abdullah is from Ferizaj, a small town just a couple of kilometres from the Montenegro border. He is a chemistry professor who abandoned his occupation and went working in a military base in Iraq. There he worked for 7 years as a department chief for an american company KBR. He took me for a coffee, and to a small village where Croatians used to live. He told me different stories about Kosovo, war, american base in Iraq. A little bit about everything.

But apart from that, Abdullah is also the editor of a local e-portal „Ferizajpress.com“ and he said he will post my blogs there. Abdullah is a really good man.

MAX_0503Abdallo

Here is my FACEBOOK page where you can follow me:

https://www.facebook.com/Tomica-Kristic-Journey-to-Middle-earth-863465873708704/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

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Tomica Kristić
Croatia

Moje ime je Tomica i trenutno sam na svom životnom putovanju. Plan puta je jednostavan; iz Hrvatske do Novog Zelanda, i to autostopom. Sve je započelo u listopadu 2015. godine kada sam samo s 1500 eura u džepu krenuo stao na cestu i počeo stopirati. U početku sam mislio da će mi do Novog Zelanda trebati samo dvije godine, ali evo, dvije su već daleko iza mene, a ja sam već debelo u četvrtoj godini na puta. Pišem, fotografiram, smijem se, plaćem, ljubim, tugujem…živim punim plučima. Na ovoj stranici možete pratiti moje postove u kojima opisujem iskustva s putovanja.

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