21st August, 2014
Trip to the Balkans - Finding the edges of my comfort zone
In 1998, when we were watching the World Cup, with such outstanding performance, sometimes my Dad referred the Croatian team as “Nam Tư cũ” (Yugoslavia). As I grew up, the name has gradually become obsolete but I kept wondering about it. The Balkans area has always been one of my priorities since the beginning of my whole European journey. And although I have spent all my savings for this trip, I would never regret it.
After being submerged in the beautiful Croatian coastlines, I continued my trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina, bearing in mind that the pain from the Bosnian war is still fresh. On the other hand, I don’t want to hold on to the same stereotypes that people usually have towards a victim from any kind of wars.
Today Quynh and I had to say goodbye to Split and took a bus to Mostar. The ticket cost 125 kunas (around 18 Euros) but somehow I had to pay more than that because the stupid ATM charged me with outrageous rate. But hang in there, it was just the beginning of my bad luck.
When we arrived at Mostar train station, we had no idea what this country would offer us. There was completely no sights of modern buildings or new car models. Mostar must be the most exotic European city I’d ever been to so far. However, when we came to our place, Hostel Majdas Mostar, we immediately felt so welcomed. The place is extremely cozy and clean. We also met many young travelers and backpackers from almost everywhere here. I would surely recommend this place to anyone who has the intention to visit this city!
Today was truly a bad luck day for both Quynh and I. In the morning, when we went to the post office to buy some stamps, I realized that I lost 100 BM, which is equal to 50 Euros. To be honest I felt more confused than terrible because I kept wondering what happened to my money. How could my 100 BM bill disappear that easily??? 50 Euros is equal to 7 hours of working like a dog! For a moment I tried to comfort myself by hoping it would compensate for some bad luck! Well, out of all kinds of physical properties, what can be the most valuable thing that a poor girl like me can lose? Later Quynh also faced some mental challenge. I really didn’t know who felt worst then.
In the afternoon, on the way back to the Old Town, Quynh and I bought a lot of jewelries and I felt really happy with my purchases! I just have that terrible habit of spending all the left money when I don’t have much money left! Somehow it made me feel like I would have nothing else to lose, or something similar.
In the evening, we went to Hindin Han to have dinner again. This time we went there with Ben, a 21-year-old-intern-in-France from Canada. It was nice that we could share 3 different dishes as well as 2 different cultures during our meal. And then when we came back to the hostel, we have a new comer in our room, Luciano from Argentina. It was a lovely experience because he should be my very first Argentinean friend! Then I also met a father and a son from Ireland. They were also the first Irish people I’ve ever met in my life! After all, the greatest thing about this trip was the chance to meet so many young people from different countries, listen to their accents and know about their cultures. Even my daily Tibetan rites routine cannot make me feel this young and excited!
This morning I said goodbye to Quynh as she was leaving to Sarajevo. Then I went to Blagal with Brian (from Canada) and Renata (from Brazil) because the day tour organized by the hostel was canceled. It didn’t cost too much, like 2 Euros for return tickets so at least I could spend my time efficiently. Then on the way home, I asked Brian what he does and he said he’s a cop! It was such a surprise and I told him that was the first time I’ve ever talked to a cop as a friend. No wonder why he hardly smiles and always talks in serious manner! He said being a cop earns him well and gives him a lot of vacation days too! What I love most about this trip is still the fact that I had a chance to meet different kinds of people whom I’d never thought I would know and talk in real life.
In the afternoon, when I withdrew some money from an ATM, it appeared to me that my account had been out of balance. I freaked out for a moment and then I tried to figure out how to deal with this. I decided to ask Kevin, my housemate for help. I knew he would help but the fear didn’t stop there. When I was about 10, I incidentally watch Brokedown Palace and the idea of getting trapped in a foreign country still managed to haunt me until now. What if there’s no Kevin? What if I don’t have any money left to go back home? Who wouldn’t be so scared of the thought of having no money left? I don’t even possess those talents that can earn me some money. Would I have to sing or dance on the streets? Even if I could, in Mostar, besides poor Bosnian people, there are only budgeted travelers! But isn’t poverty also a good thing? When you have nothing to lose? That is the reason why sometimes I just want to have enough money so that I wouldn’t have to depend on it too much. Crazy thought, I know.
Then I decided to take some action rather than sit and wait for Kevin’s money to come into my account. After all, it was on weekend, who knows when money will come. So I decided that I would skip the day tour on the next day, and go to Sarajevo by the earliest train in next morning to meet Quỳnh and borrow some cash from her.
Still couldn’t believe that I missed the chance to go to the day tour twice!!!
I woke up early to catch the early train from Mostar to Sarajevo at 7am. Luciano also took that train. We had a good time talking and looking out the window for one of the best (if not the best) train routes in Europe!
Then when I came to the hostel. I was so happy Quynh hadn’t left. We went towards the city center for some good bureks and ice cream, and we said goodbye afterwards. I went to the Old town on my own. And just like Quỳnh said, Sarajevo Old town would very much remind you of Hoi An. I went to 2 different cafes for drinks because it was so hot and I was so sleepy. But then I spent some good time at the Academy of Arts for a photo exhibition so it wasn’t that bad for a day.
In the morning, Shwan, my roommate and I joined a free walking tour. It was very informative indeed. Sarajevo, the capital of both Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska (de jure) is the also largest city. Going through the post-war reconstruction, Sarajevo is anticipated to be the next tourist attraction is the coming years for its historical background, natural landscape and especially religious diversity. Sarjevo is said to be the Jerusalem of Europe because within short distances, there are Islamic mosques, Roman Catholic churches and synagogues of the Jews. I was lucky to come to Sarajevo when the City Hall has recently been rebuilt and opened for public, after being terribly destroyed during the war.
In the evening, I went to the Avaz Twist Tower with Shwan, Justin and Frank (yeah, me and the guys. Don’t know why this trip I had to share rooms with guys most of the times!) for the panorama view of Sarajevo and the super moon. Then we went back to the hostel for drinks and talks. Out of more than 7 billions people on Earth, we happened to meet in the same place, at the same time to share our stories, wasn’t it so cool? And when Shwan was packing to leave early in the next morning, he reminded me that we forgot to take a photo together. I told him we would meet again. Obviously I had no idea when and where, but isn’t the future an interesting mystery?
In the morning, I was sitting in the lobby, waiting to check out and the radio played that song “Life for Rent” of Dido. It was not the first time I’ve ever listened to this song but as I was listening to it word by word, I felt like she was trying to converse with me.
I arrived in Zagreb at around 4pm by bus, as the train route has been canceled due to the flood, successfully exchanged Bosnian Marks into Euros and bought the ticket back to Venice. It would be a long wait but at least I was sure that everything is under my control.
Then on the night train to Venice, I was sitting next to 2 French girls, who just graduated from high school. One of them was happy to meet me because her grandfather is Vietnamese, too. They were traveling before starting their first year at college. What they were doing reminded me of myself some years ago. I used to keep all the tickets and maps, basically everything from everywhere. Lately I let go many of them as I realized that I shouldn’t be too attached to things. Is it a necessary part of our evolution?
As expected, the trip ended in a blink of the eye. Although I missed the day tour in Mostar, everything else seemed to be perfectly great. I have never made so many friends as I did in this trip. On the bus from Sarajevo to Zagreb, trains of thoughts have passed through my mind and tears came to my eyes when I thought about how much I would miss this land. I’m thankful for who I am today, for the people I’ve met and the places that I’ve been to. Back to when I was 16, I was such and emo girl, looking at everything in despairs. But look at who I am today, earning enough money to appreciate every cent of it, going to places that make my friends jealous, making friends with people I’ve never though I would meet in my life. I would never forget all these moments, when I am all alone, sitting in a park, enjoying the company of the nature, strangers, good foods and my thoughts. I don’t know where tomorrow would lead me to but one day, when I have a lot of money, I will never forget this period of my life as the time when I used to be so rich.