Tag Archives: bosnia-hercegovina

Passport pages

I have a beef with the newest passports. I recognize this is not a problem in the grand scheme of the world, but since it’s my blog, I just want to point out something that the printers should fix in the next go-round.

While I think the photos on the pages are beautiful and representative of the United States of America, the pictures are too dark.

Some of the stamps I have received are so very light. It’s not that  haven’t thought about asking a customs agent to please ensure they refresh the stamp with a hit on their inkpad, it’s just that I would never do it. But something like my Bosnia-Hercegovina stamp is something really cool to me, and the darn thing is just barely visible.

Granted how and where* I got the stamp is a cooler memory than some ink on a page, but still. WAAAH!

* Our guide was driving us from Dubrovnik into Bosnia-Hercegovina to visit a town called Mostar, with a few stops at smaller towns along the way. We were crossing the border from Croatia into Bosnia-Hercegovina with a local, two Americans and two British passport holders. It was a lovely country road with beautiful scenery on either side.

As we approached the non-descript border we noticed a little shed on the side of the road. The border agents came out, our guide explained in one of those languages that his passengers wanted stamps. Our driver and the border agents all had a laugh and the border agent left for some time and came back with four stamped passports. Obviously mine was stamped first or last because it had the least ink. Not really a situation (I don’t think there is any situation where this would be appropriate) where I can ask him to restamp it please.

Just before we had arrived at the border, one of our travel mates had to ask the driver to pull over on the side of the road to vomit. The roads were winding and she got carsick. We had a laugh a little later, because had she timed it right, she probably could have puked on the border. No passport stamp could be more memorable than that!

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“How to Shit Around the World”

Well, I’m definitely buying this book! I realize it’s more about travel health but it reminds me of two bathroom stories.

One – I was eating at a restaurant in Bosnia and I had to pee.

The owner gave me a key to the bathroom. I had to go outside, down a little hill and around the back – which happened to be off a main street. I figured with the key this would be a nice, clean bathroom.

Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. All I know is that as soon as I opened the door, I saw what looked like a shower stall with a toilet seat (like the top part) around a hole in the floor. If I had only thought to take a photo. I am sure I didn’t bring the camera to the bathroom and I had other things on my mind – like deciding if I was going to attempt this!

Either way, I got freaked out and I decided to hold it. I didn’t want to insult the owners of the restaurant since they were so kind, so I just waited around the corner for a sufficient amount of time so they would think I went and then I headed back. I’m not sure what I would have done if I had to go number two!

I realize this is hardly a shocking bathroom travel moment, but for that moment, I just freaked.

I know I have popped a squat more times than I would care to remember. This would have been the same thing, just with a toilet seat on the floor!

Two – After going through customs at the airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I had to go to the bathroom. I knew the ride into the city would take at least an hour and I had to go. I went to the ladies room and I remember that the toilet seats were the THINNEST toilet seats I had ever seen. It was almost like the seat shouldn’t have been there because the ring was just so thin. Did notice that around the whole country. Are American asses so big that our toilet seats are so much bigger?

Let’s go. I’m sure there are funnier stories out there. Weirdest bathroom situation or observation you’ve got. Domestic or international – go.

Caveat: “When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clifton Fadiman


The Haimish Line

I had never heard of a Haimish Line before reading this New York Times article but after reading about it, I totally understand it.

This article points out the exact reasoning of why I enjoy staying in locally owned bed and breakfasts, and try to partake in locally owned business for tours and activities. It’s all about the local experience and the truly familial feel.

Do the boyfriend and I remember Malania and her husband, the owners of  the B&B in Arenal, Costa Rica and their kindness? Do we remmber Malania’s husband, who spoke zero English, who kindly drove us to his favorite restaurant down the road from the B&B in the pouring rain (because we didn’t yet have a rental car)? Yes.

Do we remember Alejandro, Marta, Elda and Elda’s husband at the family run B&B in El Calafate, Argentina? They repeatedly brought me fresh ice for my knee after my glacier hike and told me the word for knee so I could get a brace for my aching knee. Do we remember how Elda kept telling me I would be fine when she was booking our horseback riding excursion, and not laughing when I asked her if she would come to the hospital if I happened to get hurt? Do we remember being dropped off by the Alejandro’s brother (Elda’s husband) at the airport, not just at the curb, but inside at check-in where there were hugs and handshakes and tears? Only my tears, but still. Of course we do.

What about having breakfast in the kitchen of the family, with the family, in Monteverde, Costa Rica where Reina, the mom, easily handed the boyfriend their baby daughter while she made our eggs…straight from their neighbor’s chickens. Again, yes.

What about Zoran who picked us up in Dubrovnik and drove us to Bosnia-Hercegovina, with one other couple from London in his family’s van? He took us to a local restaurant, did the ordering and introduced us to local Bosnian fare like burek (amazing doughy goodness stuffed with cheese or sausage or spinach) and cevapcici (spicy sausage sandwiches with a red pepper paste).

 

 

Zoran was our own personal guide and because we were such a small group, he was able to take us to see several towns along the way to Mostar. He spoke about the turbulent history from an extremely personal perspective (to be fair, everyone we met in Croatia that spoke about the war, had a very personal perspective). And as he handed over all of our passports at the border, he knew we all (well three of the four of us – guess who was indifferent) coveted a stamp from Bosnia, so he asked Border Patrol in the local language to stamp each of our passports, which they did.

What about Ana and Ralph at Delta Unplugged in Tigre, Argentina? We had an amazing day with them at their home and on their boat. In fact we are still penpals.

What about the feeling at some of the wineries on the Finger Lakes where they treat you like family, and not just another taster? Yes agains.

And what about Bube and her mother in Dubrovnik? Her mother, who spoke a few words of English, was the only one there to greet us after our 13 hour expedition to get from Newark, NJ to Dubrovnik, Croatia by way of a race through the airport in Frankfurt.

Bube’s mother showed us to our cottage where we dropped our bags, and then she brought us up to her roof, for an amazing view of Dubrovnik.

Once we realized that the walk up 300 or so steps (cars were not allowed where we were going) was absolutely, positively worth it, she asked us “Drink?”

After spending ten minutes with this lovely woman, we realized that her English vocabulary was limited. Wanting to make this as easy as possible I replied, “Water?”

She replied “Beer?”

And that was that! Yet another resounding yes.

These are just a few of these memories that make me smile. You don’t, typically, have these experiences in hotels where you are one of hundreds of guests. There are very few fond memories from my time staying in hotels. Do I remember the kindness and the hospitality they had? Yes, of course. But do I remember those memories as fondly as these truly personal touches of kindness and local hospitality? No, of course not.


WHY leave?

This week’s WHY Wednesday questions why some travelers leave their comfort zone, only to eat foods that they are familiar with and know.

This was in the NYT and is crazy! The best part of traveling is eating like the locals…I don’t travel to faraway lands so I can eat cheese fries.

I have so many fond food memories from my travels but some of my favorites are getting freshly sliced cheese from a Swiss cheesemonger, spicy sausage on a roll with the local sauce in Bosnia and some unidentified tapas plate in Spain that the bartender sent over.

Personally, I’m not traveling just so I can eat something that I would eat after a night out at the bars when I was 22.

Eating while traveling is about finding a local market, tasting things on the menu you can’t get at home and being offered foods that you wouldn’t otherwise try. I ate fruits I never heard of in Costa Rica, I ordered fondue in Brussels only to find out that was actually mozzarella sticks and drank locally sourced milk at a market in Denmark!

Yes, sometimes there can be a negative experience. Like the time the boyfriend ordered the daily special in a small town in Tuscany and wound up getting a plate of fresh meat. So fresh, and chewy, in fact that he, a meat lover, had to follow each bite with a glass of water and a sip of wine. The place was small, and the staff attentive. Not wanting to insult, he finished most of the plate. I went with the pasta special of the day. Even now, years later, I remember how good my gnocchi and wine tasted. But he tried his, didn’t like it and didn’t insult anyone either and now we have a great story.

If something is on the table that you’ve never seen or tried, at the very least, take a bite! You’ll find yourself eating foods you wouldn’t have otherwise found!

Now the exception to this french fry story is ordering pommes frites in Belgium…you’ll need to get them topped with a few squirts of mayo, just like the locals!

Do you have any fond food memories? Feel free to post in the comments section.