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Sarajevo: How I sold my girlfriend to the Bosnian ‘Big Boss’

Sallie and Fiona, as well as being awesome chicks to hang out with, also led to one of the more bizarre afternoons I’m sure Bec or I will ever experience. They were staying at the cheap hostel right in the centre of Sarajevo, where they had met a group of four Aussie guys; Pete and Craig, self proclaimed ladies men, and Dan and John, both great blokes who I hope we can meet up with again. Dan was also a shit-hot guitarist, who was playing in a band back in Australia with a well-known Aussie muso, Pinky Beercroft from Machine Gun Fellatio.

We met the boys on our first night in Sarajevo, just after we first bumped into Sallie and Fiona. When we met them, Pete and Craig were a bit pissed, as they had just spent the afternoon drinking in a little bar with some locals. This had come about when, whilst perusing the food at the bustling fruit and veg market just up the road, Craig was shat on by a bird. The local guys laughed it up, and as a condolence, invited the lads back to their bar for a few drinks. After a few drinks, the boys had talked up Dan’s guitar playing, and promised they would return with him the next day, so that Dan could play for the owner of the bar. They also met someone they referred to as ‘The Big Boss’, and had told him that Dan could play any song on that came on the radio in the bar (which, to his credit, Dan actually could. I’m telling you, he was shit-hot).

Joking that they would be playing for the local mafia, the boys invited Bec, Sallie, Fiona and me along for moral support. The four of us did not know exactly where this bar was, but had a vague idea. So next day, around 3pm, we went wandering through the streets of Sarajevo looking for this tiny bar. Half an hour later, and with no luck, we had given up finding them and decided to instead find a nice little place to grab a coffee.

We walked down a small street and, up ahead, heard what almost sounded like Christian singing. We walked past the window, and there, singing away at the top of their lungs, were Pete, Craig, John, and Dan, as well as a couple of young English lads.

The place was tiny. The front door led into a room not 3 metres wide, and 4 metres long. There was a little bench serving as a bar, behind which stood the owner, a local guy in his 40’s named Jacob who spoke pretty decent English. Behind Jacob was a fridge holding a few beers. Sitting down in front of the bar was another old local who spoke no English and had just one tooth. Let’s call him Chomper. Off to the side, and visible through a glass wall, was another room of a similar size, that had a few tables and chairs, and this was where the boys were settled.

Jacob welcomed us in, quickly shifted another table into place so we were all seated together, and began asking us what we would like to drink.

“Slivovic. Get them a slivovic.” Pete said. I looked around the table to see all six of the boys drinking a clear spirit, straight, from a glass that was tall and skinny, with a bulbus base. The girls looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders, as if to say, yeah, why not. And we soon each had a glass of slivovic in front of us, with a small jug of the stuff so we could top up at leisure. We soon learnt that slivovic was a plum brandy, common around the Balkans, and that it was not to be shot. This was powerful stuff. It left a slight burning sensation in the throat, but was actually pretty tasty.

Jacob was darting between rooms, getting Italian football scores on the radio in the front room, then coming back in to us with drinks, and to request a song from Dan. He could play any request we could think of, and we spent the next half hour chatting, singing, and drinking. We asked the boys about ‘The Big Boss’ – apparently he was due any minute. At which time, sure enough, in walked ‘The Big Boss’.

We only knew him as ‘The Big Boss’ because that was how Jacob referred to him. He was overweight, dressed in a polo shirt and jeans, and had a mouth full of rotting teeth. He spoke absolutely no English. We quickly rearranged ourselves to make room, and ‘The Big Boss’ took a seat between Bec and me.

“This is Big Boss.” Jacob informed us all, as he stood behind the seated ‘Big Boss’, hands on his shoulders.

“He is very rich. And very dangerous.”

We started laughing, but it ended a little abruptly. We didn’t really know how serious Jacob was. Dan played a few songs whilst we sang along, and tried our best to communicate with ‘The Big Boss’, sometimes directly, sometimes through Jacob. ‘The Big Boss’ began speaking quickly with Jacob.

“The Big Boss say he like you all very much. He buy you all round of slivovic.”

We all cheered and raised our glasses, “Cheers to Bosnia. Cheers to ‘The Big Boss'”.
Soon, we learnt exactly what ‘The Big Boss’ was the big boss of. He was the kingpin down at the fruit and veg market, and this was to pay off very handsomely for us. ‘The Big Boss’ disappeared for a few minutes, whilst we continued to sip our way through the slivovic, getting slightly drunk. He returned with a large brown paper bag full of plums and grapes, which Jacob transferred to plates and set down on the table. They were the biggest grapes and plums I had ever seen, and plenty juicy too.

Jacob continued darting back and forth between rooms, and it was whilst he was at the bar that we noticed where the slivovic was coming from. The spirit was being poured not out of a glass bottle, as you may expect, but rather was tumbling out from an old plastic mineral water bottle. This stuff was homemade.

The toilets in this little bar consisted of, well, not really toilets plural, but one toilet, just off the back of the room we were in. I don’t think this bar saw too many ladies come through its doors, as the toilet seat was wired up. If you needed to do number twos, or were simply a girl, you’d have to have some wire cutters handy, or you’d be squatting over that thing as though you were trekking through the jungle.

At one point a drinking chant went up for one of the English guys, who’s birthday was the day before. During the singing, his glass was filled to the brim with slivovic, and he duly knocked it all back in one go. We all cheered. All, except ‘The Big Boss’. A frown spread across his face as he shook his head. He held up his index finger in front of his face and waved it back and forth. That was a lesson we only needed to hear once. We decided a song dedicated to ‘The Big Boss’ was needed to smooth things over, and, after translating through Jacob that this song was for him, Dan began serenading ‘The Big Boss’ with Hunters and Collectors’ ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’. ‘The Big Boss’ loved it. The rotten-toothed grin returned to his face, and he ordeed another beer.

More grapes were brought out, followed by plates of Burek, a Bosnain pastry filled with meat or cheese or spinach. We were being treated like kings. So we began joking that we would trade the three girls to ‘The Big Boss’ in return for his hospitality.

“One camel per girl.” Pete cried

“No, 100 mark.” (about 80 Aussie dollars) John came back with.

“C’mon, we’re worth more than that!” Bec responded.

The joke went back and forth until we settled on 300 Bosnian marks per girl. John put on his serious face, and he could seriously put on a serious face. I could picture him involved in military negotiations, batering for the lives of prisoners,

“Jacob, you tell ‘Big Boss’ I deal only with him. When he’s ready, we discuss prices.”

Jacob translated this to ‘The Big Boss’ and a smile came across his face. He chuckled away as he spoke to Jacob in Bosnian, smiling at the girls. Then, he pulled a massive wad of cash from his pocket, I think simply to show exactly how much power he had. Much like us, I think he was getting a little drunk. He had been knocking back 500ml bottles of beer as though it was Gatorade and he’d just finished a marathon.

We all tried to keep the mood lighthearted, and Fiona put in a request for The Beatles’ ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’. She was getting a little concerned, as ol’ Chomper out in the other room had been eyeing her off for a while now.

“Uh, do these guys know we’re joking?’ she asked.

John and Dan, the more responsible of the two, began speaking in hushed tones. The boys were getting an overnight train to Budapest at 8pm that night, and would be leaving the bar fairly soon.

John came over to the girls, and made sure they were ok with everything that was going on. “When we leave, you guys leave too.”

In a joking manner, Fiona asked ‘The Big Boss’ if there were any local Bosnian boys of our age around. Immediately, ‘The Big Boss’ was on the phone, chattering away. He had a nephew who was not far away, and who would be there soon. This was the cue for Chomper to help the girls out. In preparation for the nephew’s arrival he gave them a stick of lip-stick, so that they could make themselves look pretty before the lad arrived.

15 minutes later, a burly young Bosnian with a birth mark covering most of his face, and dripping with aftershave, walked in.

This was our cue to get the hell out of there. We had to snap some photos before we left though, so Pete and Craig jumped in next to ‘The Big Boss’ for a couple. Then it was Bec’s turn. All being a bit drunk, she gave him a big hug and smiled for the camera. His hand dropped down to the back of her pants and she jumped up with a grin on her face, as though she’d just been shocked. Being the trooper she is, she laughed it off, and I ushered her out of there whilst John and the boys fixed up the bill. All up, for the slivovic, all the food, and a couple of beers, we were up for about 7 or 8 bucks each. Bargain.

The boys finally came out, John checked again with the girls that they were ok, and we pretty much all started laughing. Disbelief, I think it was.

We’d just spent the afternoon in a tiny bar in Sarajevo drinking home made plum brandy, eating and singing, with the Bosnian ‘Big Boss’, and we’d even managed to take the girls with us when we left.

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One Response to “Sarajevo: How I sold my girlfriend to the Bosnian ‘Big Boss’”

  1. Mark Hogan Says:

    Mate, sounds like a day to remember. Great blogs. Read the lot and sounds like you’re having an amazing time. Can’t wait for my bottle of slivovic to arrive for my birthday! (Oct 16, you know the drill). Talk to you soon.

  2. Posted from Australia Australia

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