It was indeed snowing when I woke, big wet heavy flakes sticking to the grass if not the road. And there was indeed home-made sausage. After breakfast in this hunting lodge (where I am the only guest and eat with the family) I climbed back in bed and worked on the gmail problem. I’m making progress. I work on it mostly to keep firstname.lastname@example.org alive, but it would be a lot easier to get a new account. I’ll keep you posted.
By 11:00AM the sun came out and I was on the road. Crossing into Bosnia-Herzgovenia was, again, simpler than crossing from Vermont into Canada.
Bosnia-Herzgovenia is different. It’s somewhat tidier, and it seems to be more prosperous than Croatia, although I am told that it is not. I shared the road with the occasional Mercedes and the occasional tractor, some antique mopeds, plenty of pedestrians, and one horse-drawn farm wagon. Picnic areas are few but nice, except for the litter. It is really out of hand here.
I visited Kozarak, a small town off the highway, thinking I would change money and get some food. I asked a couple for directions to a bank and they reminded me, in genuine British accents, that it was Sunday and the banks were closed. They were Ervin and Arnela Kulašić, and they insisted on treating me to lunch. Arnela suggested Ćevapi, the national dish, and it was superb, just what a cyclist wants: big beef sausage squares between two fresh pancake-like things, with onions, salad, and local beer. As grateful as I was, I am much more grateful to them for sharing their story.
Ervin is from Kozarak, and they visited here every year from their home in Essex, England, where they both have good jobs. They visit Ervin’s mother, and to keep alive their memories and feelings for their war-torn homeland. Kozaric was where anti-Muslim atrocities started; a monument in the center of town to massacred Muslims was funded partly by the Muslim community in Chicago. Arnela is from Sarajevo, where her prosperous family, her father particularly, suffered much from the senseless violence during the war, and lost everything. I won’t recount the details here, but I will never forget them.
Only children when the war started, they have lived most of their lives in England, where Arnela’s father still survives, still suffering from injuries received in a war that ended in 1994. Many Muslim families have returned to this town and this area, but many houses stand empty. Every few kilometers a small memorial sits by the roadside with flowers and candles, most with lettered stone plaques and photographs, marking the place where a loved one fell.
I rode along toward Banja Luka with my eyes opened. Thanks Arnela and Ervin.
A curious thing: look at the google map of Bosnia-Herzgovenia and you will see towns all over but main roads only. Neighboring Serbia is thick with roads. On my paper map they are similar. The small roads I am on, east of Banja Luka, are roughly paved and (thinly) populated, and I have no idea why they are not on google maps.
By the way, if you want to, you can find Google Latitude on your computer or smart phone. Sign up and select me as a friend. I will approve it when Google Latitude sends me an e-mail. Then you can log in and see where I am (or last was when I had wi-fi). I think you need a gmail account to do it, but even with my recent problems, I still like those guys.
In fact, I got my account unblocked a day or two later. I’m dashing across Bosnia-Herzgovenia with a map and compass. The camping is good, the riding is better. Trees are blooming on the hillsides and the mosquitoes are few. I camped in the rain one night and rode in the rain next morning. It’s not as bad as it sounds. I ate lunch today with this bunch of kids in a tiny farming village.
What fun! They go to school from 8:00 to noon. One spoke English; his mom owned the restaurant. I played some tunes for them, and an grizzled old guy bought my beers.
Tonight I got dinner and a big room in Doboj (pronounced dough-boy) for cheap. I’m headed for Belgrade, Serbia and then Bucharest, Romania. Then I absolutely have to decide; north to Ukraine, Russia and Mongolia or south to Bulgaria, Turkey and the ‘Stans. Let me know what you would do.