BootsnAll Travel Network

Bosnia: Bec breaks another Bosnian heart

After some amazing days in Sarajevo, Bec and I caught a 10am train to Zagreb. During those amazing days, we did actually manage to work out what curreny they used, a Bosnian Mark, worth a little bit less than an Aussie dollar. But unfortunately, changing Bosnian Mark is a very difficult thing, and we were stuck with the problem of trying to spend every last Mark we had before boarding the train.

At the ticket counter, we were unable to pay in Euros, and didn’t have enough Mark to pay for our two tickets, so we asked the attendant how much the tickets were, and headed to the Bankomat to get the 110 Mark he had indicated we would need. We came back cashed up, and asked for two tickets to Zagreb.

“That’s 89 Mark” replied the attendant.

Uh, we’d just loaded ourselves with 120 of these bloody things, and so afer buying the tickets were stuck with 30 Mark, about 25 Aussie dollars. We had ten minutes before the train left, and 25 bucks to spend in a dingy train station. I left Bec on the platform and ran into the station to offload as much of this cash as I could.

I spied a stand with some magazines. Ok, magazines, magazines, what have we got here. Anything in English? Hmmm, no, just Bosnian. Maybe I’ll come back.

There was only a couple of dodgy looking cafes in the station, so I ran outside to see what was about. Not much apparently. Ok, 7 minutes to until the train goes, shit, what do?

I ran over to another little stand selling junk food, grabbed a handful of Snickers, a couple of bottles of water, and a Bounty. 8 Mark. Bloody hell, why is this country so damn cheap.

I still had a heap of notes in my hand. Frantic, I ran back to the magazine stand. Scanning the rack as fast as I could, one magazine jumped out at me. On the cover was a skinny blonde, wearing a 1980’s style bikini, the sort that has bottoms reaching way up over the hips. She was looking down the barrel of the camera, a stern but sexy look on her face. And in her hands was a big fuck-off machine gun.

Oh yeah, this was some quality reading right here. I picked it up and flicked through it. It was like a Bosnian version of FHM, but containing more chicks with guns. Just what every hormone filled teenage boy wants to see. I looked at the time, shit, only a couple of minutes. Regretfully, I put the magazine back on the rack, and ran back to the platform to jump on the train to Zagreb.

The train was one of the sort with a corridor down one side, and compartments one the other. Once on board, we grabbed ourselves a compartment, sitting by the window, and were soon joined by an middle aged Bosnian lady who spoke almost no English. Her first decipherable words to us came when the conductor was checking our tickets. He ticked off our tickets, and then spied our passports sitting on the small table against the window. Curious, he lent over to get a better look, then picked up Bec’s passport.

He looked at the passport, then down at the Bosnian lady, “Ah, Australie” he said with a smile. He looked to us, “Australie, ok.” He smiled again at the Bosnian lady, whereby she upped the ante with “Australia, super.”

The conductor handed back Bec’s passport and disappeard to continue checking tickets. Soon though, he returned, entered our compartment, closed the door behind him, and sat down near the door, opposite the Bosnian lady. He looked to Bec and me with a smile on his face, nodding, “Australie.”

He said something to us in Bosnian and all we could do was smile and nod. “Australie, good,” he said with a thumbs up. “Bosnia?” he asked.

“Ah, yes, yes. De. Bosnia, very good” one of us replied, and I returned his thumbs up. He then grabbed Bec’s backpack, which was resting on the seat between her and the Bosnain woman, moved it to the floor and sat next to Bec. He grabbed her passport again, looking over the details.

“Rebecca. 1979. Melbourne.” he said, pointing to Bec’s passport, and nodding in approval. He looked to the Bosnian lady, “Rebecca,” he said smiling. He motioned that he needed a pen, and I grabbed one from Bec’s backpack. He took Bec’s ticket, and began writing on the back of it. It was his birthday. He pointed to the year, 1966, with pride.

Soon, he had written his entire address down. He pointed to Bec, “You. Me. Melbourne. Visa.” A cheeky grin wriggled its way across his face, as he looked from Bec to me and back. He again pointed to Bec, and back to himself, “Visa. Melbourne.” He then pointed at me, again smiling chekkily, “Sarajevo.”

Bec started laughing. He wanted to marry her so he could get an Australian visa, and thought I could stay in Sarajevo to take his conducting job. I laughed along with them. If it wasn’t for the childish sparkle in his eye, you’d have thought he was serious, but just a few minutes later, he rose, shook our hands andleft. 30 seconds later he reappeared, outside as the train reached a stop at a station. He was getting on the train going back the other way. He gave us a wave and a smile, and disappeared.

I’m quickly learning that it is the small encounters, the brief brushes with the locals, that create some of the most memorable encounters whilst travelling. Nothing a guide book tells you can give you these experiences.

A few hours later, Bec received a phone call from her parents. Her face lit up as she spoke to them, and her Nan and Pa, and her Grandma, and her Dad’s cousin, for about ten minutes befor the phone credit ran out. Afterwards she was still beaming. The Bosnian lady, whose name we never got, smiled at us, and spoke her only other English words, “Rebecca, happy.”

Later, the train stopped somewhere around the Bosnian-Croatian border. The heater in the cabin had been up too high, and I stood and opened the window.I poked my head out into the cool air and looked around. I saw another head sticking out a few carriages down. I had the urge to wave, but for some reason didn’t.

Everything around me was green. Mountains ran alongside the rail tracks, clouds milled around, camouflaging the mountain tops. Tiny droplets of water floated past my face, surfing the slight breeze. Water ran down the outside of the carriage, and dripped onto the rocks below. Time didn’t seem to matter out here. It seemed to stop. How long did I have my head out there, 1 minute? 10 minutes?

A whistle sounded further up the tracks. The train resisted for a second, then let itself be dragged forward by the chuggin engine. And then the dirt under the wheels was no longer Bosnian. I looked back to the land we just left. That land with the nightmarish history, and the shining spirit, and I smiled.

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