I’m still in Bosnia? Are you sure?

Posted on August 10, 2012


I’m currently in Banja Luka, the second largest city in Bosnia Herzegovina and capital of the Serb entity within the country. That’s a pretty run of the mill basic sentence, except for one thing. I completely forgot I was in Bosnia. Banja Luka is without doubt the most Serb town I have ever visited in my entire life and Bosnian culture is absolutely nowhere to be seen. In fact, the only slight trace of Bosnia is found in the giant chess that is played in the park here, a la Sarajevo. Much like areas around Mostar with regards to the Croat flat, the Serb flag is ubiquitous here, the 4 cyrillic C’s dominate the graffiti and the beer you buy is Jelen. I had an idea this was going to be the case obviously, but I did not expect to walk into a mini-Beograd, all the way down to the OTT cleavage and make up found walking the bar filled streets.

My first glimpse of almost-Serbia was with my taxi driver. I don’t usually get taxis to hostels, but I figured this is kinda the first day of my holiday, so why not. Plus, it would give me a chance to practice my Bosnian. First mistake. The driver was quick to remind me that I was speaking Serbian now, and ljepo was lepo and razumijem was razumem. I had just managed to get used to using the extra lj’s, and now I’m back in this? I’ll never learn this language. Maybe. I certainly don’t mean to paint the driver as an ogre, far from it, he was a very cheerful and friendly man, who contrary to what people assume about taxi drivers out here actually undercharged me for the ride. He dropped me off at City Smile Hostel, one of 2 in the town, I checked in, got my map, and went off for a walk. It’s been a while, but you never lose it. It’s nice to be a guest in a hostel I’ve never been to before, it takes a little getting used to. Although I’ve been out here for 4 months now, I’ve spent all of that working in hostels, being the hostel worker, never really relaxing because someone has questions about the war. It’s nice to just sit in a common room with a beer and listen to people. Yes, thank you.

Of course, this means I left Mostar today. I’ll do a big blog on the whole thing another time, because I certainly don’t want to rush it, but suffice to say it feels like I was only there for 5 minutes. Last night was absolutely lovely as well, with lots of emotional goodbyes and hugging and photos and whatnot. A nice day walking the streets, the finest lemonade in the world from the lovely Lejla at Cafe Stari Grad. Evening brought a wonderful meal at my favourite restaurant with my Bosnian family, and then of course the night was rounded off with bowling and mild drinks by the bridge. I even got a photo with Lunja, the super pretty bowling girl. Of course, that is meaningless, not worthy of back patting, but still. So a Mostar blog will be done another time, but sadness reigns supreme after leaving. Maybe I’ll go back after the beer festival…

So yes, Banja Luka tomorrow, and a day of walking around a new town for the first time in a long time. As Bata says, bring it on.