Monday, September 29
A series of minor losses has befallen me since I left Zagreb, oh so many (it seems) days ago. This began with an innocent misplacement of my pen, insignificant of course, but not unnoticed, and I swore I would be more vigilant as I walked among the palm, fig and lemon trees of Split, Croatia. I delighted in the great snack foods to be purchased under the ancient walls of the Diocletian Palace, a Roman bulwark here on the northern tip of the Adriatic.
I continued to Mostar, Bosnia, where I visited the Stary Most, a famous bridge across the river that separates the Christian and Muslim quarters. As I raced to catch a photo in the fading sunlight, I left my glasses among the smooth river stones. Such a small loss and easily replaced, but again I vowed to move more slowly and deliberately so as to avoid such mishaps. It was in Mostar that I met Susan, fellow "middle aged" solo (but married) traveler, coincidentally intending to travel in the same direction as myself, so we hooked up the next morning at the train station with another Swiss couple, Marko the Killer and his girl Nicole. This guy is a world class traveler, having come from the east through Turkmenistan, Kasakhstan and such exotic and difficult places. We had a nice morning train ride through the river gorge, trading tales and travel tips, until we reached our destination of Sarajevo, Bosnia.
Few of us would know the complicated history of this place, but suffice it to say it was war ravaged and bullet riddled in the conflict with Serbia in the mid 90's. As such the main attraction for visitors is to take the Tunnel Tour, a visit to the 800 meter tunnel that kept this city alive for 3 years as it was under artillery siege from all around. A visit to the old Olympic bobsled track and the high mountain trenchlines (all the while plied with tales of torture and such endured by our guide) rounded out the tour. It was after enjoying our included lunch and noontime beer that I would be called upon to pay a "war tax".
We were walking, Susan and I, to visit the old town when we were approached by a bent over, thickly shawled begger woman. Now my strategy for such characters, generally, is to completely ignore them, not even make eye contact. So as we stood waiting for the traffic to halt on this crowded corner, this woman kept pestering and pinching me, I resolutely unconcerned. She soon gave up and ambled, somewhat spritely, away. Minutes later, as I went to make a small purchase I noticed my wallet was...well, wasn't. It was not a huge loss, just the days money, maybe 70 bucks, and an hour of hustle to phone home to kill the ATM card (though replacing it will be a chore for a later day). Within a short while I had a new wallet, money, etc. and had accepted the lesson. For her however, the event had much greater meaning - for this night and many to follow, she would feast on meat and wine, regaling her admirers with tales of her prowess! Perhaps I flatter myself, I was just another dumbass victim of her ageless profession. You have to respect a job well done, no?