Saturday, November 22, 2008


"There are no international trains to Sarajevo."

- the response I got from the train information guy.

In retrospect, it was a stupid question.

It's been over fifteen years since the war, but these things tend to linger. Serbia was a bad, bad country for a long, long time, and I suppose the Bosnians are still a bit wary about them. If I was them, I'd be worried about a train track that led straight into the heart of my capital city, as well.

But it's been a long time since the unpleasantness of the Milosevic days. The last conflagration occurred nearly ten years ago. Sloba's gone, his henchmen are down for the count, and Belgrade seems like a normal city. You do come across the odd bombed-out building, but they're more a curio than anything else now.

I'm a little disappointed about it, to be honest. It's contemptible, but one of the reasons I was curious about the Balkans area was the war. As a kid, the Balkans War was chaotic and interminable. I didn't pay enough attention to it to understand the causes, but the siege of Sarajevo, the massacre at Srebrenica and the general badness of Slobodan Milosevic filtered through to my mind. Enough of it got through anyway, to make a visit to Belgrade something out of the ordinary.

Belgrade's an ugly city. I took a walk around the old city, past the Republic Square and around the Kalemegdan Garden. It's grey, shabby and anonymous. It's the distillation of most of worst elements of socialist architecture. It's like something out of Bladerunner, only smaller and without the chic of sci-fi noir. But in fairness, they say Belgrade's a party city, and it's got that kind of air to it - in the morning, there's a bit of hangover hanging over the city. And the city does look much more attractive at night.

I'm of two minds whether to stay in Belgrade another day. I'm a bit too lazy to organise for Sarajevo, and the hostel here is cosy and comfortable. Might be nice to just lounge around and watch DVDs for a day. But Dubrovnik's calling, and I'd like to be there before the end of the month. I've a schedule in my mind of where I want to be by Christmas, and I'd like to stick to it.

Anyway, back to my inquiries about Sarajevo.

In the end, I walked around the block to the bus station and asked for a bus to Sarajevo. There are about six or seven daily, for 1800 dinars. So I guess I was being a bit melodramatic. It's easy and relatively cheap to get to Sarajevo after all. It's not like it's a bloody war zone, now, is it?

P.S. I should write something about Gallas being sacked as captain, but I only do one post a day and it's going to take a while to process it. Plus the Man City game and everything - might wait until after the game.

P.P.S. Now that I'm in Sarajevo, I should clarify. Bosnia and Hercegovina is divided into the "Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina" (the Muslims and the Croats), and the "Republika Srpska" (the Serbs). Most of Sarajevo falls into the Federation side, and the main train and bus stations are in the Federation. The bus station to Serbia, however, is in the Republika side. The interesting thing is that the trolleybus terminal which connects the bus station to the rest of the city is a 150m walk away - and this trolleybus terminal just happens to be at the edge of the Federation side. So I guess there are still a few tensions around. 

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