We left off as I was settling into my hostel room for the night, after my check-in and a rather quick discussion about the now President Elect, Trump. Or as his name is written in local language, TRAMP. Hilarious. The hostel owners and I came to the decision that being as close to Russia as we are is optimal in this current geo-political landscape. Then to bed.
I hung up my shirt and my coat in the quaint little walk-in closet space my room offered them. Went for a quick cigarette and a conference call with the TFS home office (Raz, back in Manchester helps keep this shit running. Like to keep him in the loop), and then to bed. As I set my head to rest, little did I know that the next day was going to be one of the longest I’ve had in awhile.
Upon awaking fifteen minutes before me check out time, I immediately jumped out of bed to reach my iPhone in the need to check my emails. The commodity that is free WiFi is a goddamn relief on the road as it earths you, brings you back home for a spell. It is a saddening dependability I have to technology, but without I wouldn’t be able to bring these lively snippets to you. Swings and roundabouts in’it.
If you do not take full advantage of free WiFi after a stint on the road just to lose yourself a little bit, you’re either a liar or a better person than I. No noteworthy emails that day, social media hadn’t anything bait worthy at the top of their pages to coax me into scrolling down deeper into the muck and losing myself further.
Five minutes to check-out time, which I feel the need to shit on.
Why do hostels need to have a check-out time? I mean, yes, I know why they are things. Giving the owners chance to drive my awful musk out of the room, ready for another weary traveller. But I can’t afford a hotel, I have no friends here. Hostels are my last resort and I find it rude that you kick me out at such an early time.
Not being hostile or anything (eh? EH?) but why, guy!
I’m hurt that you have taken the hotel’s stand on running efficiently, how dare you. Though in all fairness, the blokes who ran this hostel were lovely and wondered if I fancied staying a little longer to watch the footy. Bloody good fellas. Moving swiftly on from that mixed review, I leave the safety of the hostel and enter the unknown of one of Sarajevo’s biggest tourist attractions; Old Town and Baščaršija.
Ambling down the steep wall of the city, descending the great valley, to get to the center was a relatively easy feat. All I had to do was watch my step and make sure I wasn’t about to go head over heels down the cobbles. As I reached the edge of the bazaar, a feeling of dread and idiocy hit me. Reaching my hands into my open coat, buttoned shirt, and getting into my tee shirt from the neck, I couldn’t feel my ring. I wear a ring, held to my chest by a length of leather around my neck, given to me by TFS’s co-founder. It is very dear to me, and it wasn’t where it was supposed to be. Realising that I left it on the bedside table at the hostel, I frantically called the owner. No response. Turning around to witness the great ascent back up through the foggy hills. Back again to my room, hoping that the cleaners hadn’t been sent in just yet.
As a smoker, hills are not my strong point. As an unfit man, hills are not my friend. Sarajevo made an enemy that day by continuing it’s existence down in a valley. Love the place, hate the steep streets. Every twenty feet or so I would stop to recover what little amount of lung I still had by breathing heavily with intent. Passers by would point and smirk but it did not phase me (other than now calling them dicks, in a blog post they will never read…. Those dicks). Halfway up, I bought water at a nearby kiosk and saw a big momma dog resting amongst a near vertical graveyard. Pause to photograph, then onward.
Turning the corner, from the steep hill to the hostel’s street, I saw the owner in the distance. Waving like a mad men dressed in marigold plastic gloves, a vest, shorts and sandals, with a length of leather string in his left hand. A sight for sore eyes. It’s always good to know that the owner of a place is also it’s cleaner. Adds an honesty to them, I’ve found.
Returning to the bottom of the valley, I found myself in Baščaršija. The city’s main tourist attraction, a Turkish bazaar preserved from the Ottoman empire’s reign. An area packed to the edges with small stores selling traditional clothings, cafes serving strong bitter coffee accompanied with cubes of Turkish delight, metalworkers fashioning trinkets of all sizes and uses, mosques with giant minarets gracefully tickling the clouds as they passed, restaurants garnished with their own unique characters and emitting one of a kind aromas each. Getting lost in the maze of main streets, side streets, and personal courtyards was at the very least magical and at the very most a euphoric experience.
Side note; watch out for pickpockets and pesky pigeons. Bastards are everywhere.
Walking these streets destroyed my sense of time and had me rushing to my next port of call, on the other side of town. Having no idea how to ask a tram conductor what the fair would be between where I was and where I needed to be, and the distrust in taxis that is instilled in you from arrival, walking became my only option. A nice leisurely six kilometre walk… as if the descent, ascent and self lament wasn’t enough. No bother, charge through.
On the way through the business district, an area of town constructed some time in the 1970’s, there was a rather upscale restaurant that sold fancy sandwiches, bisques, had free WiFi, and a menu in local language and English. There I made camp, because as I mentioned earlier, if you don’t take full advantage of free WiFi you’re a bit of a dick…