domingo, 20 de julio de 2014

Balkans Trip

This week I was traveling across the Balkans, beginning my trip in Sarajevo, Bosnia. The first impression is crossing the border, this is the end of good roads and then starts the narrows and bit dangerous road, but with beautiful views, in the middle of breathtaking scenery, these roads go through villages of Bosnia, very small and with many houses in ruins, abandoned after war.

 Well, we finally arrived to Sarajevo, a city of contrasts, the old town is separated into two parts, the Ottoman and the Austrian, very different and surprising.

Ottoman Era is awesome, with small houses full of restaurants where you can eat delicious cevapcici and bureks, smoke shisha on a terrace and you can visit some mosques, this part is charming and magical. In the center of the neighbourhood there is the water fountain: The Sebilj, is a pseudo-Ottomanstyle wooden fountain in the centre of Baščaršija square, one of the major sights. Also you can listen 5 times per day sounds in the street, than invite people to pray, they call it ezan. It was also the time of Ramadan, so you can see during the day restaurants were empty and then when night falls the streets are full of people drinking tea and eating.

The Austrian side is totally different, with newer buildings, full of bars and clubs, but also places like the Old Bazaar and bridges and fruit market

We visited the tunnels, to learn more about the Bosnian war in 1992, Sarajevo Tunnel was constructed by the Bosnian Army in order to link the city of Sarajevo, which was entirely cut-off by Serbian forces, with the Bosnian-safe territory on the other side of the Sarajevo. Construction of the tunnel began in secret, and the purpose of the tunnel was allowing food, war supplies, and humanitarian aid to come into the city. The workers were paid with one packet of cigarettes per day and the construction of the tunnel was completed on 30 June 1993 when the two tunnels met in the middle.

Also we visited a old local market outside of the city, it is a second hand market, but local people called "gipsy market", it was full of people buying and selling and you can find almost everything and very cheap.

This city is full of contrast, there is really old part, destructed buldings and then a new part with modern buildings around you, also one thing that surprised me was that lot of small cemeteries everywhere, if you walk around the city you can see many of them and even go inside.

This was a really good experience for me, I learn a lot about Bosnia as a country and as a lifestyle, we met with locals and it was the best part to improve my knowledge about their country.

We continued traveling, now the next stop was Mostar, it is one of the most important cities in the Herzegovina region and cultural capital. The Old Bridge, built by the Ottomans in the 16th century, is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina's most recognizable landmarks, and is considered one of the most exemplary pieces of Islamic architecture in the Balkans. A monumental project to rebuild the Old Bridge, which was destroyed during the Bosnian war, to the original design, and restore structures and historic neighborhoods was initiated in 1999 and mostly completed in 2004.

Well my impression of Mostar is different, is a nice place, really beautiful, but also full of tourist and they are taking thousands of photos, is doesn’t matter what is there, full of street shops with tourist souvenirs, even you can pay with euros, so I think it is a pity because I can feel how they are losing the real essence of the city.

After that we decided to go to Dubrovnik, Croatian city on the Adriatic see, we spent all day there, walking around the old city, it was really nice because Dubrovnik is among the 10 best preserved medieval walled cities in the world, the streets are very narrow and you can feel the smell of the see in everywhere.

Looking for a place to sleep, we arrived by accident to Kupari, a small city only 10km away from Dubrovnik, and there we found “the bay of the abandoned hotels”.
We arrived to Kupari and we don´t know nothing about it, and then, suddenly in front of us, near the beach, big and luxury hotels abandoned looking like ruins, I was very surprised by it, it was not a house or a small hotels, was full of buildings, older and big hotels totally destroy. Then I need to check what it is and why is abandoned and I found that Kupari is a bay on the Adriatic Sea in an area considered to have the best beaches in the country. In the 1960s, Croatia was part of the Socialist Federation of Yugoslavia, and under the rule of Tito, Kupari underwent a major transformation into a luxury holiday resort for the military elite of the Yugoslav People’s Army and their families.
The wars started and the Yugoslav naval ships also began surrounding the bay around Dubrovnik, and they shot to the Hotels of Kupari.
Croatians successfully gained independence and were back at Kupari but years of looting and plundering left Kupari as not much more than a skeleton of the luxury resort it once was.

And finally to end our trip we visited Split, It is the second-largest city of Croatia, also on the Adriatic sea, it is a beautiful roman city, with a nice old part of the city, roman style, and good and large beaches. There we saw the center and a roman show like a theater with actors dressing old roman style, even you can see them walking by the streets.

This week I have experienced, I have met new cultures and traveled to different countries, as you can see, I have learned a lot from this experience

After a week of traveling, crossing many borders, with some problems, driving a lot and looking for places to stay, I have realized that I'm glad to see “Slovenia” written on road signs, see the flag and cross the last frontier, and then feel like I'm at home again.

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