Departing Dubrovnik, we continued our Balkan adventures north to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Crossing the border, we navigated “Willy” through rocky bluffs, unkempt farmlands and small villages that line the roadway to Sutjesko National Park. The roadside activities and landscapes of Bosnia and Herzegovina were completely unique to anything else we had seen on our European adventures so far. The roads were a little quieter, a little rougher. The villages emitted a hesitant timidness, as rundown abandoned buildings stood transparently next to occupied dwellings. The streets were active yet introverted and engaged with both boisterous youngsters and wandering retirees.
After steering through a small mountain pass we stopped to appreciate a turquoise lake located by the road, before continuing north through the mountains of Sutjesko National Park to Foča. Arriving at our riverside campground in the early evening, we fell into conversation with a nomadic English couple Jo and Paul who are on a bicycle journey from Britain to Australia. The day soon gave way to night as we traded stories with the remarkably interesting couple, before eventually retiring to bed.
The next day we awoke with a great sense of anticipation and excitement to explore Sutjesko National Park. This was immediately curbed by the sight and sound of wet weather. Jo and Paul where also underwhelmed by the conditions and had decided to take a rest day from their bicycles. As the day continued the weather cleared just a little and we asked the push-bike-pedalling-duo if they would like to join us on an excursion to the nearby sand pyramids, which they willfully accepted. This soon turned into a full blow afternoon adventure. From the Sand Pyramids we continued towards Sutjesko National Park, stopping to explore the interiors of some of the abandoned hotels and museums that surround the wilderness park.
Walking through these dark and dank structures was a blunt reminder of the ravages of war. While most of the buildings were spared from military combat and are structurally sound, they remain abandoned. Before the war they where memorial museums, elaborate hotels and fashionable mountain lodges. Now they are bleak empty caverns overgrown by weeds, infested by rodents and pungent smells. These few structures were just a small cluster of the abandoned buildings in the region and are a constant reminder of the economic tragedies of post-war tourism in the Balkans.
Finishing the afternoon of exploration we entered the 5-desolate floors of the Sutjeska Hotel, where we strolled past empty kitchens and laundries before sifting through a pile of pre-war receipt books. Exiting the hotel, we walked across a vast mountain pasture to our parking space before making our way back to Foča. Along the way we passed roadside stands selling regional produces including jam, honey and wine before settling down for a relaxed evening.
After spending the night contemplating Jo and Paul’s global voyage, we committed to accompanying the duo from Darwin to Brisbane shall they make it to Australia. A commitment we may regret in a years time 😛