Silk Road 4


mi ruta de la seda » 2010 » April

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2010

04.28

Moraça is more than a river for Montenegrins, here there was a great battle against the Ottoman empire where Montenegro became famous for having brave people while defeating the Turks. Also nationalism and independent identity grew in the region making it become an independent country with just 600.000 people. Me as a kayaker enjoyed what Moraça means today and I’ve  produced a video for you to see it.

http://www.vimeo.com/11308068

No to the Moraca Dam!

This place is so pretty and it may be destroyed by several dams to produce electricity. Not being an expert I don’t understand the need too well, in Montenegro an aluminium process plant exists consuming 40% of the electricity. This plant is closing in 4 years and the first dam is supposed to be completed in 7.

The soundtrack is totally local. The first song. similar to the previous video, I don’t know who its from. When we stopped to look at the river Aitor found the CD on the side of the road, somebody has probably thrown it away, it said “MIX”, we tried to play it and it worked so it’s been the soundtrack of our trip.

The second song is from Bozidar Djukic, the song tells the true story of Montenegro 30 years ago when two men killed a little girl. The day the judge found the two men guilty the father took a gun from his jacket and killed them in court. Vladam gave me the song, the barman from a bar who I became friendly with and apart from swapping some Montenegrin and Spanish music he listed out all the tennis and football players from around the world.

See you in the next video in Durmitor national park.

Fernando

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2010

04.27

http://www.vimeo.com/11258486Here is the first Montenegro video, yes, the first one as I have decided to only post videos of this country. It´s a general video of the places I´ve liked the most. As I don´t have comments for all the places, here is the list of what´s in the video in the order it appears.

  • Podgorica, the capital that does not really have things to see and I´ve ended up showing the Pink Panter.
  • The Skadar lake.
  • An Ortodox church, with no benches as they attend mass standing up.
  • Sveti Stefa, the little village by the sea.
  • Kotor city its fortress and its bay.
  • Snow covered Lovcen mountain,  I´ve spelt it incorrectly in the video but don´t tell anybody.
  • Moracha and Tara canyons, they really deserve more so I´ve done a specific video for them.
  • Durmitor National Park with its mountains and farmers.
  • Ostrog monastery carved in the rock similar to Predjama castle in Slovenia.
  • And finally  Piva canyon with its tunnels recorded from the car.

As I have had friends visiting I´ve been able to do some kayaking including the Tara canyon, the deepest in Europe, looking forward to seeing it.

See you in the next video.

Fernando

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2010

04.20

My time in Bosnia Herzegovina has had three phases and I want to tell you about them. I’m sorry for writing so much about Bosnia, but there have been to many things in my head not to tell them.

First phase.

The Romans needed 150 years to conquer them, the Turks another 150 to conquer the city of Jajce. Bosnia is a tough country and this is how it’s been during their entire history. This made me think that they have gotten over the war, I imagined a country wanting to be free and independent again. Free of wars and with a future. I arrived to Bosnia Herzegovina with an open mind but looking for this.

Second phase.

I learned more things about the country and it was not very encouraging. Dayton agreement finished the war 15 years ago and seems nothing has changed since, separated schools, changing governments that look after their own people, cities divided by a river, I saw separation everywhere and a country with a very fragile framework, the ministers are multiplied by 3, giving 140 ministers, imagine the expense and the paperwork.

I also learned how the war was created with TV reports frightening everybody “they come for us”…

Also, how one side or the other got villages involved in the war that had nothing to do with it, getting people who were living in peace to join the war by fighting with their neighbours.

I´ve met NGOs who told me how history is taught in schools without trying to unite the people and I was not liking it at all. I was thinking that even there were people trying to do help, if one day the peace forces would leave everything would collapse and the war would return in the exact same way.

The video is about the first and second phase:

http://www.vimeo.com/11072785

As I say in the video, I don’t like it, it’s a stereotypical image that doesn’t tell what Bosnia is now, it doesn’t show the cafes with people talking, the streets with shops and pedestrians, and the tranquility of the landscapes or about the villages with history.The video is shit but I’ve posted it as it has been part of my thinking process.

Third phase.

I changed my way of thinking again. 15 years seems to be a lot of time but it’s not(Bosnia is like a small child and we don’t ask kids for too much) and there’s alot been done during this time, the normality that one feels in a city is extraordinary, the cities have been reconstructed, this is a huge step.

Bureaucracy is one of the biggest problems but NATO is focusing their efforts on solving it.

Nobody wants to come back to war, they say that if there’s work there won’t be problems and cultures are starting to mix. Mostar the divided city has started joint budgets, the ambulance service for example. There are mixed kinder-gardens, it seems the 15 years are crossing some wounds.

All this has made me come back to something similar to my first phase, I’ve had a great time in Bosnia Herzegovina and I’m sure Sarajevo is going to become a popular destination to spend a weekend as Prague, Barcelona or Edinburgh with the bonus of seeing the city of the war and the mix of cultures that no other european city has. Also as not that many people have come, it gives an exploratory feeling that you don’t have in London or Rome.

I recommend you coming, moving is easy, cheap, there’s a lot of people that speak in English and transportation is not expensive. It will need some more effort to move around but you’ll be rewarded, be sure.

This is why I regret about the video, It would have been more enriching if I recorded a video of the new and beautiful rather than the old and hurt.

During my time here I’ve also learnt about the trade and merchant scene in Bosnia. The crossroads of cultures also meant a merchant hub and cities like Disoko, Jajce Travnik Gorazde and Livno swapped goods from east and west.

There also was a small community of Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492 settled in several towns bringing their delicate crafts onto the scene.

To finalize, if any of you have interest on some videos on Sarajevo during the siege, here you have some:

First part of a documentary of people living their normal lifes

Second part.

Shooting to civilians. Take notice of the backgroun; clean streets, supermarkets, normal lights…

Ah!! A comment for guys about Croatia, and I don’t mean to be sexist. I give you a reason for not liking Croatians… they invented the tie!!!

See you soon

Fernando

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2010

04.16

Sorry, this entry is only available in Español.

2010

04.14

Alfonso, a friend from Burgos, worked in the army during the reconstrucion work in Bosnia. It sounded like going to hell at that time. He said that Bosnia was really pretty, he was there twice, one of them was constructing a bridge. What makes Bosnia stunning is the environment, the landscapes with mountains.

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In Bosnia it´s said that if a person is born on a snowy day that person will have a long and healthy life.

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Here the walk started. Although they have a lot of great places including Linx and Bears, just 0,6% of the country is protected, the average in europe is 7%.

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The majority of things that I wanted to see on the mountains were not accesible due to the snow, so one day we went snowshoeing.

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I did the trip with Dermot who arrived from Dublin for a few days to visit me, Sarajevo and Dubrovnik. Normally snow would be a novel event for Dermot as Dublin doesn’t get too much snow. But as you saw from my earlier post Dublin had a lot of snow this year so it almost felt like home to him!

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Down in the canyon there was a river.

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A Sheppard settlement for summer.

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We went for the hike with Green Visions company, they have some very interesting excursions and they try to combine them with supporting the communities they work in. They are a very professional company but our guide was a little cocky and he told us we did not have appropriate footwear. Even though we were wearing GORE-TEX! However it´s alway funny to have somebody to make jokes of.

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An interesting mosque, I initially thought it was a silo.

Bosnia and Herzegovina still have a lot of land mines, there are places even near Sarajevo that still have many. Setting them up is very easy but the effort to remove them is very difficult and expensive. If in doubt you can always ask a local to know if it safe.

A country with landmines does not mean that you cannot step off the asphalt. The mine areas are known and there are maps available. However it´s a problem for toursim development. Luckily, until now no tourist has had an accident with a land mine.

In Sarajevo you can go to the Mine Action Center(MAC) for a mini training course about land mines, however, when in doubt, the best thing is to ask the locals.

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No need to commetn.

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 Once back in Sarajevo we went for dinner with Tom, an interesting man who works as a consultant developing tourism strategies in different countries. We asked for the local dish in the restaurant which was next to the restaurant that Bill Clinton dined in. The dish was beef with some creamy cheese inside and if you cut it wrong it sprayed all over as in the picture. I also have a video of it that will probably put in the next video.

 

Something totally unrelated to the post… While travelling from Croatia to Bosnia I started to think of a Christmas tale.

As we approach Christmas I’ll develop the story and post it here.

Soon writting about Mostar

Fernando

2010

04.13

For any European of my age(and I guess for most westerners), names like Bosnia, Sarajevo, Kosovo or Mostar are names repeated in the news, we used to hear them on the sofa while we watched projectiles impacting houses and blue helmets in reinforced white vehicles around desolated cities. 18 years after the war started I want to see what all those names meant, see those cities and if possible get to understand that war a little bit.

Bosnia Herzegovina represents part of what my trip is, not for being on the silk route itself, but for being a crossroads between east and west, the mosques and churches in the same city for centuries living together, western customs and Muslims customs. The map could be folded by Sarajevo and Mostar and we´d have West on one side and East on the other.

I´ve compiled some pictures to complete the previous posts, let´s see if you imagined something like this.

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Baščaršija mosque and under it a street full of normality. this is the most surprising thing in Sarajevo, the amount of normality in the streets. People having a walk or drinking something in a terrace enjoying a sunny afternoon in April.

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Oslobodjenja Square in which men play chess, I guess it’s a socialist influence, but it’s just a vague supposition.

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Four months it took them to build it. It is the tunnel that joined the siege city with the rest of the Bosnian territory. It went under the NATO controlled airport. The tunnel provided basic weapons to defend the city. It was also used to get food in. The Serbs tried to destroy it but they didn’t dare to touch NATO territory, this is why it survived the entire siege.

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As I was saying the other day Sarajevo is surrounded by mountains and this is what made the snipers a key piece in the war.

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On the left the rebuilt parliament building. On the right, the mustard coloured Holiday Inn, where the journalists stayed.

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The Miljacka river crossing the city after the rain, therefore the colour. Just next to this place is where Franz Ferdinand was killed starting the first world war.

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This picture tries to show how normal the city is. If it wouldn’t be for the mosques it could be any other European city. Also there’s very little amount of women wearing a scarf. As a Spanish journalist I met said, they have high hills and plunging neckline Muslims, and the majority want to keep it that way. Sarajevo has cathedrals, mosques and synagogues next to each other, I like it.

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Sarajevo is totally surrounded by mountains, green mountains with colourful houses. In the picture an Austro-Hungarian building that has mount Izmir in the background, there are places that when you look around you see 3 different mountains pointing at you.

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Every time I see the word sniper I imagine a concentrated eye looking through a scope. Dropping a bomb from a plane is “easy” you click a button and a few seconds later you hear an explosion, but in the eye of the sniper the face of the person to be killed is reflected while the sniper is concentrated, young or old, man or woman, blond or dark hair, scared or not. What are the memories of these people after their work? Fixed memories of images where you have been concentrated?

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Sarajevo Library that was bombed in which 600.000 books where burned, now it’s being rebuilt. How could those bombs sound? there was no electricity or gas, there was no noise in the streets as a recently snowed city. The bombs and shots had to sound even louder.

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I’ve never got into an Islamic cemetery before. the tombs are so white and this one, on a mount in Sarajevo had good views of the city.

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This shape over a tomb means that the person has visited meca(the precept hajj).

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Faded over time a Sarajevo rose, but with the same meaning, someone died here. Apart from the Bosnians that died here 320 blue helmets died as well.

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Sarajevo has trams and trolleybuses. Doesn’t it seem a totally normal city? Sorry for insisting, but this is like it is, this war wasn’t´ in a dessert or surrounded by palm trees. Sarajevo youngsters used to watch MTV and wear the same brands as we did. Maybe that’s why its more impressionable, because it seems it can happened any where and that makes you feel vulnerable, an unconfortable feeling.

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A picture to reduce the drama. Eggs comes in tens not in dozens, probably for tradition, but ¿why are condoms sold in dozens?

In the previous post I talked you about the book ”The most beautiful word”. Even I talked quite a lot about it I haven’t spoilt the plot in case anyone want’s to read it.

Talking about books I have another recommendation. “The Fixer. A story from Sarajevo” from Joe Sacco, a comic creator that has other comics like “Palestine”. A bit of a different approach to understand a place. Goiko is a bit like the character in the comic.

I’ve had a haircut and getting a bus to Mostar by the Neretva river as Gemma did with her son.

See you soon.

Fernando

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