Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Night and Day in Banja Luka
Summer light in Bosnia is spectacular from the morning wake up that comes about 5:15 a.m. to the full moons that come out in a still-blue sky at nearly 9 p.m.
I had coffee and cereal then pulled on a backpack and walked 15 minutes to the railway station and bought a ticket for about $20 for a five-hour trip. I love trains, the motion, the noise, the whistles, the people you meet, the feeling of Independence to just be going someplace. Everything.
There are exactly three coaches in the train from Sarajevo to Banja Luka, one for each of the authorities (ethnicities) along the route from Sarajevo to Zagreb (Croatian, Bosnian Serb and Bosniak-Croatian). I'm told that during the holidays when more people travel rail things get complicated because officials have trouble figuring out the math. Doubling to six cars, two for each group is not economical -- but you can't add something for one and not the other.
The number of cars has nothing to do with where you sit. That also applies to smokers. They can sit in the smoking cars and light up anywhere or they can sit in the non-smoking cars and stand by windows in the hallways alongside compartments and light up.
My compartment had no smokers and no Bosnians. It was filled with an Australian couple on holiday from the international school in Beijing and touring Europe and an Italian gentleman who got off in Doboj to bring back a loaf of bread and cheese he didn't share... and this young Hungarian guy who had the most elaborate tattoos on his calves. One was a colored abstract like a Braque painting and the other a black and white port-side scene. I kept ogling him. The Australians kept talking about Banja Luka pronouncing it like banjo.
The train came in exactly on time and Boki met me so we could go directly to Kod Muje where we sat in the garden and ate cevapi and Nektar pivo. Banja Luka has the best cevapi in the country, really. They use a different mixture of meat. The garden was filled with bold little wrens who flew onto the table and took pieces of bread right out of my hands.
Eating cevapi was on the list of things I had to do in Banja Luka, where I have not visited in about four years. We also had a beer at the kastel on the Vrbas River that night and vanilla ice cream with sumski voce (forest fruits) sauce for breakfast the next day.
And yes, I am aware all my goals involve eating!