We are on the final countdown to our huge move away from the Middle East and back to Central America. We recently took what is likely to be our last big trip in this part of the world. Here is the first installment of our pretty incredible adventure in the Balkans.
The GPS said we’d be at our hotel in Sarajevo in 15 kilometers.
“Impossible,” I thought, as we waited for yet another herd of frantic sheep to cross the narrow road, prodded by a surly shepherd and a ferociously panting dog. I gazed at the houses along the roadway, bolstered for the coming winter behind cord after cord of firewood.
“It’s wrong,” I said. “There’s no way there’s a city near here.”
We had started our week long trip through the Balkans almost five hours before, when we picked up the tiny rental car at the Belgrade airport. What began as expressway had quickly turned to two lane road, which had then turned to what could be best described as a cement path through the mountains.
A cement path packed with semi trucks, cars hell bent on overtaking each other with no regard to blind curves, and sheep.
Lots of sheep.
But as we made our way closer and closer to the point that our GPS continued to call the city of Sarajevo, I was dumbstruck by the beauty of it all. The mountains wound their way beside rivers and lakes, the homes were sturdy and quaint, and the trees were gorgeously dressed for fall. As we gained altitude, my ears popped and my smile widened as I gazed out the window.
After two years in the desert, the autumn leaves were a sight for my sand-sore eyes.
I saw all of the things I’d been hoping to see. Trees, grass, blue skies, puffy clouds, and sweeping vistas. I saw none of the things I’d grown weary of. There was no sand, no evil sun, no glittery hotels, no strip malls, and no fast food. In fact, there was little in the way of anything out there, and I loved it.
The daylight that had been threatening to depart for over an hour finally left, and as it did, we crested an additional peak, and sailed downhill through another series of dark tunnels. The cliffs that lined the road suddenly sprouted large homes, and as we exited the final tunnel. there it was.
Just like the GPS said it would be.
But the little computer’s antics weren’t over yet.
What should have been a mere five minutes more to the hotel turned into thirty, as we were directed down dead end streets and one way lanes that were wrong way lanes for us. We made loop after loop trying to find the street that we needed.
I’m surprised that the GPS wasn’t hurled from the window of our tiny car, then smashed into the cobbled roads of Sarajevo, just for good measure.
But we made it, finally, to our little hotel. We parked the car, GPS still intact, dropped our bags, and headed down to Pigeon Square and the narrow maze of streets that surrounded it. We were tired, and hungry, and cold.
Cold! I hadn’t been cold in what felt like forever!
I snuggled into my newly purchased jacket as we chose a restaurant. When we were done eating and walked back to the hotel, I pulled my scarf a little tighter and shivered under the dark, fall sky.
Pure, unadulterated, runny nose, chattery teeth bliss.
Continued in part two, where we tour the city with a former member of the Bosnian army, drink too much grappa, and meet some interesting locals.