Our first experience of hitch-hiking in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Our first experience of hitch-hiking in Bosnia and Herzegovina
After the very successful start of our trip and unexpectedly smooth hitch-hiking around Italy and Slovenia, and slightly less effortless (but still not that bad) hitch-hiking experience in Croatia, we were full of optimism entering Bosnia as we imagined it would go like a dream. Soon would we found out how wrong we’d been, but let me start from the very beginning. Our plan for hitch-hiking in Bosnia and Herzegovina was to enter from its north-western corner, near Bihać, after visiting the breathtaking natural beauty of the UNESCO Natural Heritage Plitvice Lakes in Croatia
The early afternoon hitch-hike towards the border started horribly, which should have given us some indication about the rest of the journey, but we were still hopeful that after we crossed the border we’d enter a hitch-hiker’s heaven.
After being picked up by a man who we nearly begged to drive us merely 1 km, then standing in the baking heat for 2 hours at the edge of a village, we were scooped up by a local police car, who took us to a fork road, from where there were only a couple of kilometres to the long-awaited border. Then an elderly couple stopped for us and in a local language (hard to tell if it was Croatian or Bosnian) they promised to take us only to the border as they were quite scared of taking us across (as who knows what we might have had in our bags), but after a friendly conversation they took pity on us and drove us across the border to Bihać .
We were finally in Bosnia! It was already around 4 pm and we still had a long way to go, but that didn’t matter; the border crossing was hassle free and now we were in the land where hitch-hiking was easy again (or at least this is what HitchWiki told us).
The truth, however, soon hit us and after about 1 hour of standing and watching Bosnian cars drive past us, we realised that it wasn’t as easy as we had expected. There were many young people in empty cars or big vans, the road was straight so there was no confusion as to where we were going and the spot wasn’t dangerous for them to pull over so we couldn’t really figure out why nobody would stop.
After what seemed like an age we sat on the ground and hid from the sun under an umbrella, waving at the passing cars. All of a sudden a sports car screeched to a halt, a young guy got out and asked us to get in, without even asking where we were going. We clambered in, explained where we wanted to go but they didn’t speak any English so we just spend the rest of the journey listening to heavy techno pumping from the speakers.
They left us in the middle of nowhere, on a narrow road in a beautiful canyon with high cliffs on each side and a river winding parallel to the road. Another hour or so of waiting and a car pulled up in the inlet where we were standing. I ran to speak to the driver and saw two middle-aged guys inside. They were on the phone and obviously didn’t stop for us because they didn’t even open the window when I approached the car. They were determined not to look at me for a minute or two, but I was equally determined as nothing else had stopped for ages, so I just stood there looking at them having a phone conversation. When they finished, they opened the window and asked me what I wanted. I explained we were hitch-hiking and they saw how desperate we were so they let us jump in.
They were going to Bosanska Krupa, a pretty little town, with a tiny castle, a mosque, a church and a beautifully crystal green river going through the centre, of a colour I have never seen before and with a wooden bridge suspended across.
When we got out of the car in the centre, we had to walk to the edge of town and try our luck again. Since Bosanska Krupa is not really a tourist destination and you probably wouldn’t find it in any travel guide, we were quite a spectacle trying to cross the town with our two big rucksacks, looking like no locals did. People slowed down their cars just to give us a closer look, some children pointed their fingers at us, some women laughed and we felt again like we did in Asia or the Caucasus while visiting some of the least touristy places. When we got to the edge we assumed our positions and tried again. It was already 8 p.m. when we realised we could get no further and decided to head back and try to find a place to stay for the night.
We spotted a sign with a tent symbol and thought there must be a campsite somewhere near. We went to a restaurant with the same name and asked where we could pitch our tent.
‘Priroda’ (nature), said the waiter, pointing at the nearby woods.
There was no campsite then, but we managed to find a relatively fancy hotel which cost only 15 Euros/ person with breakfast included. Bang! We felt like kings for the first time since the beginning of the trip!
The next step was to find something to eat. We went for a little wander (still feeling like freaks, given the constant curious glances by the locals) and found a little restaurant.
‘Je menu?’ (Is there a menu) said I as we went in.
‘Ja sam menu’ (I am the menu), replied the owner giving me a wide and honest smile.
Let’s make it clear, with my native Polish I can understand only about 20% of Bosnian and given the fact that we knew nothing of Bosniak cuisine, let alone the names of their dishes, so that option wasn’t really an option.
He saw our confusion and beckoned us to have a look at his computer and showed us some of the dishes on his facebook profile. They all looked good, so we just pointed at one of them and waited patiently for our meal to arrive.
After a tasty plate of pork skewers in traditional Bosnian bread, we went to have some beer on a small island on the river.
Bosanska Krupa is a small town with less than 30,000 inhabitants, yet at night it was full of life with many cafes and bars open and people flooding the streets. And what we noticed for the first time in Bosnia was the fact that everyone was dressed up from top to bottom. And when I say ‘dressed up’ I mean men in their best shirts and trousers and girls in cocktail dresses, full on make-up and on heels so high they can barely walk.
The next morning saw as leaving (standing at the same spot as the evening before), hailing at cars full of optimism brought by a new day and a nutritious breakfast we’d got at our fancy hotel.
Read all about our :‘The Balkan Peninsula by Thumb 2013′. by following the link!