Posted by: TheAuthor | 15/12/2010

The Sarajevo Experience

So there I was; fresh off of the train straight from Ploce, Croatia, stepping into the dusky muggy air of Sarajevo. The bus I had been told to catch, to take me away to the hostel, was due at any moment.

“Hello friend, can I help you?” Arose a voice from behind me, in broken English. I turned, burgen laden, to see a middle-aged man dressed fairly ruggedly and sporting an Umbro sports bag. “Are you looking for a place to stay?” He continued. “No, it’s alright” I replied, “My bus will be along shortly to take me to downtown”. At that we smiled and went around our business.

I stepped away from the train station entrance, to where a few people were congregated – including the gentleman who had asked me if I needed help. 20 minutes after the bus didn’t show up, he comes over again and asks if I still needed assistance. I had seen the film ‘Hostel’ before travelling, the plot raced through my mind as I nodded and mentioned that I was staying at a particular hostel downtown. His faced lit up, he spoke again in his broken English “I’ll show you, I know it. There’s another bus over here, this one isn’t running any more”. Begrudgingly, yet trustingly, I followed. I turned onto the street; to see the Miljacka river and the striking Holiday Inn, made famous in the Sarajevo siege by BBC news correspondent John Simpson. I was in awe as I stepped onto the bus, half remembering my policy of jumping on and not paying, and looked out of the windows taking in the sights of this new and strange city.

We stepped off of the bus and I followed the stranger into the bustling inner city; bars, restaurants and cafe’s were teeming with more noise than life. At least they were prepared for anyone arriving in the near future. The man suddenly stopped, turned and pointed “Look, this plaque is dedicated to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, few tourist’s ever notice it. Lucky I am here for you…” I noticed him trail off and chuckle to himself as he finished speaking. So as I clutched my camera, I kept half an eye on him, while photographing this ‘rare’ sight.

Further into the city, we twist and turned until I had a vague idea where on the map I was. Suddenly, down a claustrophobic damp alley he opened a door and beckoned me in. ‘Hostel’ really span through my mind at this point. He pressed a door bell, as he pointed for me to walk up a spiral staircase “Up there, it’s up there”. I nodded and said thanks, shaking his outstretched hand. I ascended the stairs, noting him watching me before entering the door at the foot of the stairs.

Thought’s raced through my mind. I noted escape routes from an assault from above or below, I chose the best way of personal defence possible ascending the stairs whilst burgen laden. Concentration pulsed through my veins until suddenly, without warning I reached the summit. A door loomed ahead of me. Checking down the stairs, I stepped to the door and it opened before me.

“Alright mate, how’s it going?” beamed an Australian guy. I had reached the hostel, the stranger had led me well. Yet again on my travels, I had run into an Australian. Great.

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