Sarajevo Stories and Tips

Yugoslavia Dismembered

I had been in all ex-Yugoslavian countries twice, but that was long time ago, when they were all together. My travel in 2005 had the intention to know the present situation of every new republic.

First I traveled for 29 euro by boat from Barcelona to Civitavecchia, near Rome, then by train to Bari and another boat to Dubrovnik, in Croatia.

Then I went down to Montenegro until the border with Albania, and further to Ulcinj where one day later I took a bus to Pristina, in Kosovo.

I continued to Macedonia, from where I catch a train to Belgrade. Night bus to Sarajevo, a few hours excursion to Pale, in Republic of Srpska, next day to Mostar, then I went back to Split, and bus to Istria (Pula). Finally, after  weeks of vagabonding I left the country through Slovenia and entered back Italy.

It was a marvelous trip. People everywhere treated me excellently. If I tell the truth, I did not find any difference in these countries and only regret that millions of peaceful people were compelled to a horrible war and now Yugoslavia is not united anymore.

People are mixed up: Serbians married with Bosnians, girls with father from Novi Sad and mother from Ljubljana, etc. Everybody understands each other with their different Slavonic languages and dialects; the customs are similar, as their food, and their religions are respected.

The journey to Pristine took me a whole night. In the control all the passengers showed a Kosovo United Nations passport. During the last part of the bus journey, already at down, I saw United Nations signs, cars, and foreign soldiers in their bases. From the bus terminal of Pristine I walked to see the main attractions, which are the market, cathedral, churches and mosques. People lead a normal life, just like in my hometown Barcelona, in Spain.

Sarajevo was a city that I loved very much. It is beautiful and the market most exotic. Walking around the town I observed a sign: WELCOME TO THE REPUBLIC OF SRPSKA. I was amazed and asked the people. Some told me that it was nonsense, and that we were in Bosnia Herzegovina, but I decided to take a mini bus and get to a town seen from there, at about 5km from the sign. That town was Pale, and talking with the people I was told that Srpska is a different republic, not yet recognized by the United Nations, but their decision to separate from Bosnia was irreversible. The difference, I was told, was that the Srpska people are Orthodox Christians, and not Muslims. I visited the Cathedral and even had lunch there before returning to Sarajevo by a regular minibus. Of course, no borders or checkpoints and passport controls were required to me, I did not even saw any police men at the supposed "border".

Mostar was my favorite town in ex Yugoslavia because of its eastern atmosphere. The famous bridge (most, in Slavonic languages, means bridge) has been reconstructed uniting the two communities living in both sides of the Neretva River, but at every side of it there was written a sign in English: DO NOT FORGET, and nearby a broken mortar. In Mostar you feel the eastern atmosphere. Have lunch in any of the many restaurants with terraces facing the river. People are friendly and prices are cheap.

I specially liked the people. Noticing that I have Latin features in my face, they talked to me in Italian. A few times I was invited to have breakfast: in Skopje, because I had no local currency, in Belgrade and in Pale. People, by nature, are open and eager to be good, but unfortunately a few manipulate them and create in them hatred, to the point to convert peaceful people in beasts ready to kill his neighbor because he speaks a different language or follows a different religion.

After studying the ex-Yugoslavian history and seeing the recent results in the new countries, one cannot refrain from asking: was it worth all these wars and the hundreds of thousands of people who died in them? I think no.

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