Sarajevo — from the glory of the Olympics to the bloodiest civil war in less than a decade

The 1984 Olympics were the first to be hosted by a communist state.  Visiting the facilities was one of the highlights of our stay in Sarajevo.  The first two pics are at the Olympic stadium while the remaining ones are at the bobsled track.  You can walk down the actual track which has now become a canvas of sorts.  



Sadly, less than a decade later Sarajevo endured a 44 month siege.  Over 11,000 people lost their lives. The Sarajevo “roses” mark the craters where mortar fire resulted in casualties.


While some buildings have been repaired, many still bear the scars of mortar fire.  


There are a variety of memorials throughout the city.  My favorite is the Canned Beef Memorial.  It is a tongue in cheek thank you to the international community — the humanitarian food aid was nearly inedible.


Sarajevo is an amazing place to visit — as one of our cab drivers put it — the area is beautiful, the food is good, the people are friendly, only the politics is bad!  He was referring to the fact that there is too much government.  For example, Bosnia Herzegovina has three presidents.  The result is that the country can’t move forward and it sorely needs to as the unemployment rate is 45 percent.  

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The Accursed Mountains turn out to be accursed

It took two mini bus rides and a ferry to get to Vanbone ( in the Accursed Mountains in Albania).  The mini bus drivers were better than most that we’ve experienced when traveling– but I’m sure the drugs I took helped!  The three hour ferry ride was stunning!


We stayed at a guesthouse in Valbone in the middle of the mountains.  We had a great view from our balcony.  So far nothing seemed accursed!


The 11 km hike over Valbone Pass to Teth was gorgeous!


We endured a little rain and hail, but arrived at our guesthouse in Teth — again amazing views.

We enjoyed the views briefly before becoming very ill — we were so sick that things did indeed seem accursed!  Happily we survived — dehydrated and down a couple pounds.
I forgot to share this with you — when we crossed the border into Croatia we were given a pamphlet on save driving.  My favorite tip:


So there you have it — accessorize with your seatbelt.

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Traded the bicycles for a car

We sold our bicycles in Bucharest, picked up a car in Geneva, and have been motoring around Eastern Europe and the Balkins. 

 Some highlights include four days hut to hut hiking in the Julian Alps (Slovenia)

Although there were hordes of people, Plitvice National Park (Croatia) was beautiful with turquoise water.


Una Natinal Park (Bosnia Herzegovina) offered beauty without the masses of humanity.


Traveling through areas devastated by the war (Bosnia Herzegovina) there are reminders to stay on the road.  Sadly, we saw many homes that were damaged/destroyed (and now abandoned) during the war.


We swam in the Adriatic Sea (the temps were over 38 C/100 F) and explored the palace in Split (Croatia).



The view of world-famous Stari Most (Old Bridge) from our apartment in Mostar (Herzegovina)

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After 55 days, 10 countries, and 4,300 kilometers (2650 miles)…

… we reached the Black Sea in Constanta, Romania!

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The end is near, but the adventure continues!

SOME COMMON SIGHTS 

We’ve never seen sheep left to their own devices.  They must by prone to trouble as a shepherd is always nearby!


All in days work — using a sickle to cut grass to take back to the farm.  This was a common sight.


We’ve eaten our share of fresh veggies… these little stands are everywhere.

We share the road with other bicycles, pedestrians, cars, and semis.




Orthodox churches dot the countryside.

Strolling through a city park in Bulgaria.


NOT SO COMMON SIGHTS

 A hog that has seen better days!


… a gypsy caravan


We’ve seen people washing, fetching water, and doing laundry at wells, but cleaning carpets was a first.

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Going Back In Time

Sitting on the stoop remains a popular activity …


And we discovered why — we arrived in a little town and inquired at the mini mart/gathering place/water hole about a hotel.  They said there was no hotel, but it was no problem — phone calls were made, people were consulted.  We were taken to an old house (no indoor plumbing and no way to open the old windows) that had been closed up for a while.  The house was hot … so like many others I sat on the stoop until bedtime!  Jessica, a 5 year old neighbor girl joined me for an hour — we taught each other a little English and Romanian (colors, numbers, body parts).  She often forgot though that I could understand virtually nothing she said.  She would talk for a bit and expect my reply — then she would smile and try again speaking slower!  We were grateful to have a place to stay.  A local woman even made us dinner and brought us fruit for breakfast!


We were out of town when we came across this guy walking his bike because of a flat tire.  Michael was going to patch the tube — but it already had 7 patches and wasn’t repairable.  Michael got out one of our tubes, fixed the tire, and we went our separate ways.  It’s nice to be able to repay some of the kindness we’ve been shown!


We feel like we’re in the 1800s — we see horse drawn wagons everywhere.  Michael even raced one — he  is proud to say man conquered beast!  This morning we were awaking to the clip clock of hooves!  When we pasted the couple in the first pic — she handed us a couple tomatoes.  We munched as we rode.


We get some fresh veggies on market day.


Getting a little help from a friend.



Michael got his hair cut and the woman wanted pictures of us — so we took one of her!  We see no tourists anymore — I think she wanted a pic of the foreigner whose hair she cut.  She did not speak English but we had a fun time with her — she asked about our family and we asked about hers and we shared some pics.

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Through Serbia and into Romania

If you want to read Serbian you must master a new alphabet!  There is a freedom that comes from not being able to decipher signs … we pretty much do as we like!  I’m proud to say Though that I impressed locals with the two words of Serbian I mastered.

This Belgrade canine gives new meaning to the term lap dog.


We did a two day layover in Belgrade.  We took some city tours which highlighted Belgrades tumultuous past.  Our tour guide was 29 years old and has lived in four countries — and he has always lived in Belgrade!  Remember taking American or Canadian history in high school — that would be a breeze compared to Serbian history.  

This was part of an underground tour.  It ended in a cave where we tried Serbian wine.


Enjoying tea and cake (made by the best pastry chief in Serbia — so I’m told).


Emission standards must be lax — the smell of sulfuric acid hung in the air.


It’s always good to know where your tractor is!


We crossed the border into Romania today and were greeted with interesting sights (and a killer head wind).

This fella had just filled his pail at the community well and really wanted to talk to me (he spoke Romanian, I spoke English, and we smiled a lot) and shake my hand.

The well 


Working the field, but eager to stop and wave at us.


And look what pulled out in front of us …


We’ve had to stop for a lot of things, but this was a first!


Best of all have been the people!  Most people have benches outside their homes … they sit and watch life go by!

These kids ran in the street to great us .. in English no less!  I showed them some pics from home.


Our first day in Romania — the roads were good.  About 600 more miles … we’ll hope for the best!

Everyone has been very friendly.  Waving and yelling hello as we ride by.  We’ve even been stopped by cars interested in saying hi and finding out where we’re from.  

I waved and said hi (in Serbian) to a man sitting on his bench.  He jumped up and said hi, welcome to Kovin (in English).  I replied thank you (in Serbian).  He replied your welcome (in … you guessed it, English).  I think we both exhausted our vocabulary!  

And folks have been accommodating.  I really needed my hair trimmed and colored when I went into a salon.  They said there was no time, I should’ve made an appointment.  I explained my predicament (we arrive in towns in the afternoon and leave in the morning) and asked if anyone could just trim my bangs.  This sounds like as simple conversation, but it involved three employees and took five minutes (due to the language issues).  It was resolved — the seeming manager told the receptionist she could do it.  Now I got a little nervous, but hair grows back so …   I’m happy to report the receptionist should be promoted — she did a good job.

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And then there was Croatia …


We were happy to leave the aggressive, to be politically correct, drivers of Slovakia and Hungary.  The drivers in Croatia are more relaxed.  In Croatia when someone passes us three abreast, too close, or too fast we assume they immigrated from Slovakia or Hungary!  Driving aside, everyone has been very friendly.

We’ve seen seas of sunflowers.  Hungary might be known for papirika — apparently the fields are so red they look like the are on fire in the fall — but sunflowers reign in the summer.  Croatia too, has fields of the miniature suns!
In Croatia the Homeland War (1990s) has left visible scars on the landscape.  We spent a night at an Airbnb hosted by a women who was 19 at the time of the war.  She shared stories about what life was Like at that time in Croatia’s history.

The different color brick is where repairs were made after the war.

In many places repairs weren’t made and the damage done by gun fire are visible.

The water tower in Vukovar is an icon of the war.  It is being stabilized so that it can be left standing as a monument.


In Osijek the start of the war was marked by a Serbian tank running over a little red car.  Today the little red car is proudly displayed running over the Serbian tank!

Tractors of all kinds are the go to vehicle!  Doesn’t matter the size of the city (small or large) we always see tractors driving down the streets.  I’ve taken a ton of tractor pictures, but to me they just look odd driving down city streets!

And this is my favorite ma and pa tractor (of sorts) picture.

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Some cool things we’ve been up to …

As we left Slovakia behind and entered Hungary this church is the first thing you see (actually you see it while still in Slovakia).  

We climbed up a spiral staircase until we were dizzy — but that left us on the cupola.  Although windy beyond belief, we were still allowed out on the ledge around the cupola! (See the green dome in the previous picture — that’s where we are!


The Turkish baths in Budapest (dating back to the 15 century) are a great way to relieve sore biking muscles.  Our favorite areas were the roof top with a view of the city and the lower level.


The Red Bull Air Race was in Budapest — it features crazy pilots flying against an amazing backdrop.

The planes start the course by flying under the Chain Bridge.

We watch as the plane flies between the pylons … while at the same time we take in the parliament building.  How’s that for multitasking!


Turning back to take another pass at the course.

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Goodbye Germany and Austria … Hello Slovakia

We’ve seen lots of crops, but none as odd as this … 20 feet high!  We thought it was some kind of bean — like in Jack and the giant bean stalk.  Turns out it is hops (got to keep all those German beer gardens going)!  Kind of makes you wonder about Jack and what he actually climbed.

Oh the places we’ve stayed … campgrounds, airbnbs, warmshowers (people who host cyclists) and hotels.  Below is a new concept in hotels — billed as functional, efficient use of space for a competitive price. We just called it incredibly small, but we didn’t mind as we were exploring Passau all day and only used it to sleep.


The churches have been ornate to say the least.  They have amazing histories because they were the cornerstone for development in regions.

I’ve never been a big fan of organ music, but when you get a chance to go to a concert featuring the world’s largest cathedral organ (over 17,000 pipes) you don’t pass it up!

Another first, riding one of the world’s steepest railways (in Linz, Austria).  The real excitement occurred on the way down … I was just commenting about pedestrians when someone stepped out from behind a truck onto the track and was hit.  The driver hit the breaks as hard as he could, then flew off the train to check the women who was hit. Although scrapped up and I’m sure bruised the women was not hurt badly.  People helped her off the pavement and out of the road.  Surprisingly after a minute or two we just continued on … no incident report etc.  Needless to say Mike and I now double check before crossing any tracks!


Some traditional Slovakian food — dumplings with goat cheese and sour cream and garlic soup .. not bad, but I’m not a fan of goat cheese.


Mike’s food flubs …

He thought he was buying apple strudel– instead he got the dough to make it with!

He enjoyed a banana split — with one scoop of ice cream, one topping, a banana, and enough whip cream to to cover a mountain!  But he took one for the team and ate it anyway!


We’re not in France anymore … men are not permitted to use the women’s restroom.  There was no equivalent sign on the men’s door so apparently the women can still use which ever restroom they want.  Yay for women’s rights!


It took a while but this tour bus managed to get out of this pickle!

Taking the cyclist’s ferry across the river and other Danube pics.


Cobblestone looks great, but is not the greatest to ride!


Outside the famous opera house in Vienna.  No show for us … Mike was in shorts and my dress was above my knees.  Seems opera houses have taken the high moral (or maybe fashion) ground.  


Tonight we’re in a nice airbnb across from the Palestine embassy.  We don’t expect trouble unless Trump does something stupid!

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