Saturday, October 13, 2001

I'm alive guys, don't worry. Afraid for my life with every breathing second (because it could be my last you know) but I'm surviving the terror of Islam so far.

I'm in Sarajevo now, but haven't had long enough to really make my mind up about the place. It's like Budapest - with Mosques. I even spotted a MegaMosque - huge domed bit with two big towers.

Our final night in Mostar was spent doing very little. Although the place was bustling, there seemed no great excitement to the place for us. Just heaps of cafes - many of which playing what I can only describe as Islam Europop (Islamapop?) - and one nightclub from the school disco mould. We had a couple of drinks but because we were afraid Omar would lock us out if we returned home after 11pm, we didn't bother staying out. Besides, everywhere just sold gay beer. Gay beer seems a worrying trend as we head further south. Beer should be served in 500ml or pint measures, without you even having to ask. But all around here seems to specialise in gay beer - 300ml measures. Come on, that's pansy drink. Sort this out foreigners.

The light in our room seemed in a strange mood last night too. From a corner, a loud crackling fizzing noise began, and smoke started pouring out. I was content to watch and observe, but Simon was more proactive and started examining it closely. With great anticipication, I awaited the explosion and Simon's melted face falling to the floor, but this didn't happen. Sorry guys. No, the light just fizzled on for ages, and finally stopped.

You can clearly see that last night was full of great excitement.

Oh, I never mentioned the floor of our room there. It was ace. Poor Omar seemed rather upset by it, as he'd only fitted it the year before, but from the tourist's point of view it was an excellent novelty. Heavy rain had managed to seep from the room and somehow completely warped the floorboards so that they were contoured in fanatastic mountainous curves. Up and down, like a wave frozen in time.

So we left all that this morning, saying goodbye to Omar and "the cat" (it didn't have a name, and the very suggestion of it having a name seemed to alarm Omar) and took an incredibly attractive bus journey to Sarajevo. Bosnia is a very hilly country, with wide green rivers and lakes, and the small winding road took us along a very scenic route, all the way from Mostar to Sarajevo.

Problems exist with Sarajevo though: accommodation mainly. The "book" (ie Lonely Planet) is useless here, not that it's ever been much more than a rough guide. There's no hostels and only expensive hotels, for various military personel from around the world on paid accounts. The tourist information was also an hour's walk away from the bus station, and closed at 2pm today anyhow. Which is why we are where we are now.

In the living room of two madwomen. They, of course, speak no English.

You get these women, usually blonde and haggard, at bus and train stations, and they pounce on you with details of their rooms to let. Usually we decline, and this we did today, until we realised our alternative options were non-existant, so we approached the cheapest one. And you get what you pay for. We were taken along some dual carriageways and bundled into a tram which chugged for ages along a fast road alongside an infinity of tower blocks from the good old days of Communism. It was no surprise when this woman (communicating entirely by means of "Nema problema/no problem", "Mama!" and "Japan student",the latter we never quite figuring out) took us to one such block. Her name was Ivana, and she stayed with her crazy mother, called simply "Mama!". The exlamation mark is intentional. Mama! is indeed one crazy mama. The first thing she did was to try one Simon's hat, which she strangely suited, and then began a manic series of chatter and hand gestures. She kissed me too, I'm not sure exactly why, but I don't think I caught anything.

So, they took us to our bedroom - ie, their living room - and Mama! made us some soggy scrambled eggs which we had no choice but to consume entirely. We did manage some conversation with her and Ivana, but I'm not sure if we took the same conclusions. It was a bit like trying to communicate with Ewoks, as half the time they would make strange eating gestures and say "Num num!" Oh, the mother looked a bit like that mother in The Goonies too.

We're just staying there for one night, because although it's a curious experience, like with Omar we can't see ourselves in permanent residence there. Also, we have no key so think (think being the key word here, as what the hell Mama! was actually trying to tell us is likely something entirely different) we have to be back home for 8 or 9pm, when they go to bed. Hopefully tourist information will be open tomorrow so we'll get somewhere a little more conventional to stay. I have a feeling too that Mama!'s entire culnary repertoire consists of bread and soggy scrambled eggs.

So, tomorrow - Indian food! Yes, Sarajevo has an Indian restaurant. It's the only reason we came here. I'm not going to eat for the next 24 hours so I can savour it especially.

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