Across the world and back in 7 days

I just returned from a 7 day whirlwind of a trip to Bosnia and back. Yes, Bosnia. Why you ask? My husband had to go to train the new programmers who are taking over the program he started working on nearly 5 years ago and I hitched along for the ride.

When he first said he was going to go to Bosnia, I had no idea where the country was located or anything about it. In the 1990s, they went through a major civil war to break free from Yugoslavia, but that was during my high school and college years so I had no idea of what as going on in the world at that time. I blame it on my youth ignorance.

Our flights took us all day. We flew into SFO then boarded Lufthansa to Munich, then a puddle jumper from Munich to Zagreb, Croatia. I had the best flying experience with Lufthansa. Flight attendants that cared about our comfort, private in-seat entertainment, hot meals, hot towels, free wine. Plus there was room for our long legs.

We landed in Zagreb at 10pm and grabbed a hotel room around midnight before getting up to drive into Bosnia at 6am the next morning. Our destination was Banja Luka, which is in northern Bosnia. From the border guard to the hotel reception, everyone wanted to know why, oh why, would we be traveling to Bosnia. There is no tourism from the western part of the world.

Bosnia is an economically depressed country. The cities and countrysides are still being rebuilt. Old buildings that were damaged during the war have been stripped down to the bricks and you can see where the buildings have been fixed. Most were still a work in progress. It also appeared that they worked on the houses from the ground up. Once they stripped the building down, they made the first floor habitable, then worked on rebuilding the rest of the house.

The countrysides were covered with farm land and people selling or trading their produce and grains. The cities were also going through their own reconstruction. Banja Luka had a lot of construction going on. I also traveled to Doboj which reminded me of San Francisco. The houses were built on the hills with barely enough room to drive and people parking anywhere they could.

I also traveled to Jajce (which I am having the hardest time pronouncing – maybe it was pronouced “yite-za”?). I had a nice conversation with the museum guy about tourism and such so I got to understand the country a bit more.

It really sucked that there is no information for tourists on their history. At the sites I visited, I was the only person and received personalized tours of the fortresses, catacombs and castles. I hope that in the next 10 to 20 years they build a tourist industry. I think it will help build their economy.

The parts that sucked: There was smoking everywhere and all cars ran on diesel. I had a pollution headache when I was in Banja Luka and my asthma was terrible. I had thought Los Angeles pollution was bad, but it was worse in Banja Luka. I was going to go to Sarajevo, but I feared the pollution would be just as bad, so I avoided it and just went to castles on the countrysides.

Now for the pictures. I believe I uploaded these backwards, so the description is in the opposite order of there I went.

The last ones were taken in Banja Luka. People would be smoking not only on the streets, but in the restaurants and in clothing stores. I nearly threw up several times because of the smoke and the pollution migraines I had.

The drive to Jajce is the most dangerous road in Bosnia. They were narrow and were cut right into the rocks on the mountain. It followed the river, so there weren’t steep cliffs on the drop off side, just really windy roads with trucks that drive too fast.

Jajce was an interesting little town. I arrived around 10 am and there was so much traffic, I even drove down a one way street the wrong way, but the people were friendly in letting me back up and turn around. I explored about an hour and a half and by the time I let, the streets were empty. The farmers market is what made the down busy. I was the only person in the Catacombs and the Fortress. it was a little sad that there weren’t any visitors there and they didn’t charge enough for entry. It was the equivalent of $1 for entry to each.  It was a steep walk up to the Fortress. I parked in town and really should have brought a water with me. I was parched by the time I got to the Fortress and there were no vendors or facilities up there.

There were waterfalls in Jajce, but more of planned waterfalls than natural waterfalls. Many tourists were here, but really, it was local Bosnian tourists.

I believe the abandoned building was a hospital as I saw the medic symbol at one of the entrances. I assume this was destroyed in the 90s during their civil war.

I also went to Kozara National Park. I had originally ventured out to the Srebrenik Fortress on this day but the car’s navigation system tried to navigate me over the border to Croatia then back into Bosnia. I decided that was not a good idea, so I went back to Banja Luka and asked the reception desk to help me discover some places locally. They had no idea where to send me. Obviously they had never had a tourist stay at their hotel. I downloaded the maps from Google Maps to view offline on my phone and went out to explore Kozara and the waterfalls.

I’m not sure what the history of the structure was in the national park was, but it reminded me of the movie The Maze. The concrete blocks in the front were extremely tall and it looked like a maze.

The Krupa Water Falls were outside of Banja Luka. Had I not had GPS I would never have found it. There were no signs to this. There was a trail that went further, but I was reluctant to go too far on my own. There were some people selling grains and one person selling alcohol at one of the structures there. Guessing they were locals selling their own goods. It didn’t look like these had formed naturally either. There were large concrete blocks and metal poles sticking out of part of the falls.

I took a several hour drive to Srebrenik Fortress. It was literally in the middle of nowhere and no one spoke English anywhere. The roads were the worst I had driven while in Bosnia and I was a bit frazzled when I got here, so the one lane dirt road to the castle freaked me out. I parked at the end and started walking instead. I was actually too scared to walk all the way there, as I didn’t know if I had parked illegally or if I had driven down it, there was no way to go if I encountered another car. I stopped about where the picture, then encountered a tractor carrying bales of grass on my way back to the car.

I had actually gotten pulled over for speeding on my way here but the cops didn’t speak English and I played lost tourist. I was going 53 in a 50 (kilometers an hour) which is equivalent to 32 in a 31 mile an hour zone. Guess they figured it would be more hassle for them to ticket me than it was worth it. I got off without a ticket.

The Doboj Fortress was an interesting castle in the middle of the town of Doboj. The wooden structures have all been rebuilt and restored. It was a shame it was not used for tourism. The guard there gave me a tour even though we didn’t speak the same language. He showed me what happened in places by mimicking being drowned, sewing, and eating as well as the lookout. I was the only one here. The town was neat to drive through. If I hadn’t gone to Srebrenik, I would have explore this town more.

And that was all I took photos of. At the end of it all, we were on a United Flight for the return to the US. It was the WORST FLIGHT EVER! First of all, if you thought domestic flights were uncomfortable because of no leg room, try being on a 10.5 hour flight with no leg room. 

Then they tell you there is free personal entertainment once you are in the air, but you need to have the app on your phone, tablet or computer to use it, but you needed to have it downloaded prior to the flight. All information that would have been helpful in an email prior to the flight. I purchased one hour of internet so I could download the app, but happy us, as soon as it was able to charge my credit card, there was literally no internet for the remainder of the flight. I had to sit in boredom for 10.5 hours. I have since requested a refund for my internet. I wish I could do the same for the flight.

My iPad had about 3 hours on it, so I played angry birds for 3 hours then the last 7 was just terrible. I will NEVER EVER EVER fly United again, no matter what. The Lufthansa and the United flights cost the same, so why does a US company think its acceptable to treat its passengers like crap. From this day on, I have made two decisions about flying. Domestically, I will only fly Southwest or Virgin. Internationally, anything buy United, but I will swing the extra cost for Business Class. Just crossing my fingers to win that lottery one day so I can just fly First Class or charter my own plane.

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