Friday, July 5, 2013

FROM BOSNIA TO SERBIA, AN UNEXPECTED DETOUR

We reluctantly left Sarajevo in mid-afternoon. Based on how much longer it had taken us to travel from Zagreb to Sarajevo than we had planned, we figured we needed to add a few hours to our estimated travel time to Belgrade, Serbia.  It's a good thing we did.

Everything started off well enough.  We were enjoying the beautiful, mountainous (or would you call that hilly?) country
. . . and impressive garden plots

. . . as we sped through at about 40 mph because we had to watch out for narrow tunnels,

 . . . and friends on the road:

Still in Bosnia, we made a quick bathroom break at a gas station in a small town, and then got back on the road. However, what had been an empty road now had a line of parked cars blocking our passage. Cars quickly filled the road behind us as well, and several of them seemed to be on extra important business:
High school-aged kids walking past our car said two large trucks had crashed and the road was completely blocked. (They LOVED practicing their broken English on us.) Their school bus was on the far side of the crash, and they were told to walk home. Bob walked down the line of cars to the accident and talked to a policeman who told him it would be hours before the road was open again. He gave Bob directions for a detour that would take us up in the mountains, around the wreck, and back down to the highway.

I was all for waiting it out back at the gas station, but Bob was concerned about getting to Belgrade, so we turned around to go back up into town to find the detour.  We weren't the only ones:
Many of the cars behind us were obviously part of the wedding party, and they were all full of men. The lucky bride was probably just getting a phone call about a detour and thinking, "Yeah, I'll bet."

 At first, it was a pleasant drive with really gorgeous scenery:
 However, the paved road became a narrow dirt road:
 And then we started seeing a few raindrops on the windshield:
 The dirt road turned into a mud road:
Luckily, we had a few other detouring cars that might be able to help us if we got stuck in the mud:
The rain came in fits and spurts, and we couldn't help but enjoy the rustic scenery around us. However, I was a bit worried we were in the Bosnian version of Brigadoon, and that we might not make it back to the 21st century:

A few times our posse made a wrong turn and had to backtrack, which was rather challenging given the width of the roads:
We went for long spells without seeing civilization, making me wonder if we'd be sleeping in our car:

But eventually, after more than an hour of detouring, we made it back to what we could only assume was the main road.  There were never any signs telling us where we were, so we just had to wait until we arrived at a place we could find on our big map.
We saw the wedding party again in the first town we drove through. They were all honking their horns and cheering as they turned down a side street.  They must have finally reached their destination.

Later in the drive we did have one terrifying moment. As we approached a bigger highway, there appeared to be two lanes on the on-ramp. There was a big truck in front of us, so Bob got in the left lane to pass. Just at that moment, however, he saw a car barreling towards us and realized that second lane was actually the off-ramp for opposing traffic. We were too far forward to slip back behind the truck. Somehow the truck, our car, and the exiting car, in that split second, squeezed into the two lanes. Bob kept his head, and there must have been an inch of space on either side of us. I don't know how we survived that one. I can only credit Divine Intervention. There must still be something for us to do on this earth.

Ah! Happy day!  It was great to cross the border while there was still daylight, and it was nice that the Serbian welcome was also written in English; otherwise, we wouldn't have had a clue where we were:

We had a wider road as we drove towards Serbia's capital city, but we were still sharing it with horse-drawn wagons:

We wandered around Belgrade a bit before finding our hotel--still no GPS--but we did find it.

Whew.

It appears that most tourists who travel to Sarajevo by car do so from the south rather than entering from the north as we did. (See blue line for our route in and out of Sarajevo.)  Later in our trip we spent a little time on that southern access road on our way to Mostar, which is located almost half-way between the country's border and Sarajevo. (See green line for our route to Mostar.) We learned that the southern route has much better roads and less mountainous terrain, making for a much faster, easier drive to Sarajevo.  
However, Bob insists that we would have missed a lot of the "experience" of traveling in Bosnia if we had only driven in through the southern route, and I have to admit that he is right. Our long drive on the northern country roads gave us an introduction to Bosnia-Herzegovina that we wouldn't have gotten any other way. For one thing, we drove through part of Republika Srpska and could contrast that Orthodox region with the Federation region, which is generally Muslim. We also saw how the people outside of the big cities and in the less populated areas live. Our slower drive, along with our little dirt road detour on our way out of the country, added many positive things to our experience.

4 comments:

  1. Wow! One more memorable close call to add to your travel adventures.

    I think you're lucky you didn't end up in a work camp in North Korea, accused of trying to "detour" your way somewhere.

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  2. The detour was one of those things that happen on a trip of this type that add color to a vacation. I felt a little bit at one with the wedding party, having interacted with them at the crash scene and then following and being followed by them along the detour route. Bosnia is full of those off-beat experiences that we didn't have as many of anywhere else.

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  3. One more thing, on our near crash on the on-ramp, a car in front of me had gone in to the left lane to pass the big rig and I followed him assuming it was two lanes going our direction. Very close call.

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  4. Yikes on the passing/on-ramp story. Funny how we think our roads here make so much sense, but I would hate to be a Bosnian caught on some of our interchanges.

    Beautiful countryside. I'll never have these experiences (we'll probably take the Southern route if we ever get over there) so fun to read about them here in your blog.

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