With the sun shimmering across the landscape, a group of new traveller friends and I decided on a committed beach day. In swimsuits and flip flops we wandered through Budva to the coast, we chose our location of a double beach connected by a cave with a rickety wooden bridge. Unfortunately the idyllic location also consisted of fiery shards of tiny rocks instead of sand. But with the view so grand and the water so beautiful, we pushed through the lapping waves to find the perfect cliff shaded spot.
We set up with fluffy towels and a picnic of every sunny day snackage you could hope for. The day was spent sunbathing, cliff diving, swimming and swapping amazing tales of travel. I have a game where I just say to people I meet “tell me a story” with no other prompt and I promise it has the most hilarious, fascinating and wild results. It was the perfect day of tans and relaxation.
For the evening, the 8 of us had a family dinner style get together. We went over to the airbnb apartment a couple of the girls got and indulged in glasses of wine while the guys cooked for us. It became a divine spread of risotto, chicken and tomato feta salad. We dined in excess and chatted the night away, again sharing the wonderful and mad lives we had all lived. The group was entirely different ages, genders, backgrounds and therefore experiences, so conversation never ended. At the end of the night some of us walked back to our hostel, taking in the night time delights of the city and had a very deep sleep.
When one is offered a ride on a boat, there only truly is one answer. So with the water shimmering right on our doorstep, we got a “water taxi” and set out on an aqua road trip. Sailing along at high speeds, our hair whipped around wildly and the water sprayed against our faces. The sunshine was beating down and lighting up our seaside adventure. Both with adrenaline and peace at high levels, we relaxed with cocktails and took in the beautiful weather.
We whizzed up alongside 2 tiny islands; one man-made, one natural. With almost no one around we climbed onto the land and did a few loops, admiring the architecture and landscapes as we went. It was totally serene and away from the madness and bustle of people. So we took time to chill there in the sun and then returned to our ride for more excitement and joy.
We sailed around longer, giggling and basking in the bumps and the splashes. Until we reached the small island of Parast. We were given plenty of time to wander round and see what the town had to offer. It was the perfect quaint seaside location where you could sit at a beautiful restaurant and just watch the water glenty lap against the sand; again I must say, it felt like paradise. We of course indulged in some ice cream as we wandered the summery grounds, then looped around and headed back to our boat.
We sailed out into the ocean where no one was around, the waves elegantly crashed against us showing both power and gentleness as we glided by. We took a swim break and unfortunately due to a fresh tattoo and newly dyed hair, I couldn’t participate. But there was plenty of laughter, fun and splashing all round and it was a lovely way to end the trip. We cruised our way back to our original beach and sat in the sun with picnic food, tans and a day of good memories.
I’d picked up a fellow traveller that wanted to go the same way, so we agreed to travel together to Kotor in Montenegro. First we got a bus to Mostar which only lasted 2 and a half hours and had spectacular views. From there we joined another guy and got a shuttle for 4 hours, which was a breeze in comparison to the 9 hour bus option.
We piled into the tiny car and began our journey, which despite the heat, was lovely. We were spoiled with rocky and luscious green mountains, glistening lakes and rushing rivers that joined us for the ride. Both Bosnia and Montenegro had the most awe inspiring landscapes that made a road trip worth it. We got to stop off and explore a tiny town where our unrecognised faces were stared at like we were aliens. But we got some lovely lunch with milkshakes and hit the road again.
When we finally reached our destination of Montenegro 4U hostel, we were practically in shock. We were right on top of a stunning beach, where the water shimmered in the blazing sun and the background was lined with mountains. We were met with a hug, high five and shot of rakia; a truly warm welcome. We had the option of everything from renting paddle boards, kayaks and boats to treehouse parties and bar crawls. Pretty sure we got dropped off in paradise.
During my final day in Sarajevo, I went exploring to see the heart of the city. I saw beautiful cathedrals, statues and art galleries, really taking my time to feel the atmosphere of these places. Then I went to Sebilj fountain in the middle of Baščaršija square. The legend is that if a traveller drinks from the fountain then they are destined to return to the city someday. So I filled my water bottle, took a sip and wished to come back to Sarajevo.
For Ramadan, the end of fasting each day is signalled and celebrated at the Yellow Bastion. We were told that the festivities weren’t to be missed so our evening plans were set. We hiked up the steepest of cobblestone hills, past a sad but stunning all white graveyard, then reached the top. The view was breath taking, seeing the whole of Sarajevo stretched out in front of us, the sun setting in the distance. We gathered round with everyone, waiting anxiously, intrigued by what was going to happen. When it was time, a piercing cannon echoed out across the city and lights lit up around us, then the chanting began. The whole experience seemed very communal and filled with togetherness. Everyone enjoyed some food and we left them to the rest of their ceremonies.
For my last evening there we had to continue our night. We returned to the Goldfish bar and a steampunk style waiter in a top hat served us cocktails for the rest of the night while the rain poured down outside. We made a wish on the fish of gold and headed back to our hostel for a new day.
I was going to do a piece about all the things I saw around Sarajevo but after visiting Gallery 11/07/95, I knew I had to focus on just that. It’s a memorial museum and gallery in honour of the lives lost during the 1995 Srebrenica genocide. In total, the number of confirmed deaths are 8372 and you are strongly confronted by this fact in the exhibition. If you have the chance to visit, please go and get the audio guide because the stories you hear really add more depth to the experience.
The first part is what I found the most difficult; a room where the walls are lined with photos of over 600 people who were killed. All stared into you, in black and white, so you could imagine the pain each individual went through. Sometimes we get lost in the huge incomprehensible numbers, but this made you face each person and know that their lives were taken. Their eyes were haunting and I stayed for a very long time in that room just trying and failing to take it all in.
The following room was filled with stunning and heart breaking photography, each image with it’s own story told by the photographer himself. The photos ranged from the mass graves, to the attempt to identify bodies. But the one that broke me was of a mother stood at her doorway. Many families lost all the men in their lives; fathers, brothers, husbands and sons. The photo was described as the death of hope because it portrayed when woman would be informed that their loved ones had been identified and did not survive. Just imagining the heartbreak brought a tear to my eye.
What I found very jarring was the photograph of a woman on a bus with anger in her eyes. This was because people were being shuttled to mass funerals and the path to the ceremony was being led by police officers. The photographer brought light to the situation by explaining that the very people protecting them during that time were often the ones that previously executed the loved ones they were about to honour. It’s impossible to understand how one’s mind would have to process that fact.
Next there was different forms of art showing the pain of the country during that time. Then finally there was the wall of names, too many to process. Many with repeated last names showing whole families that were lost. It was a heart breaking experience but very important tragedy to learn about and I’m glad I went.
On my first night in Sarajevo I went for a night out with 3 guys at the hostel. Having not seen anything yet, just walking the streets felt like a delight as I saw monuments of significance. The eternal flame flickered in the night, it’s resilience radiating out. Then was the Sarajevo Memorial for Children Killed During Siege glowing the colour of jade within the water. Strong and full of respect, standing tall and reflecting the light in shards.
We went to Kino Bosna, kino meaning cinema. This is because it was a renovated old cinema, with black and white images of movie stars lining the walls and a large old school projector commanding the room. It had been turned into a bar that hosted live music of a very traditional kind. This evening was a three man band of a guitar, a drum and an accordion. I got my cocktails and grinning from ear to ear, I watched and clapped along to the jolly music while the rest of the audience sang enthusiastically. It reached the point where they spotted my enjoyment and came to our table. Then they began giving us our own improvised performance and serenaded us. It was such a lovely and personal experience that we stayed there for a while.
Next we went to Zlatna Ribica or the Goldfish (named after an actual goldfish that is swimming around in the centre of the bar). The style was like my dream, filled with antique clocks, old pulley systems, tiny black and white TVs and adorned with golden jewellery and masks. Even the toilets were special, with an electronic voice welcoming you in and decorated even more grand. The waitress, dressed in full black lace corset and jewelled necklace, took our orders and we all sat around taking in our surroundings. The bar is normally very busy so we were lucky to get a table. We chatted the quiet night away, sharing travel tales and exciting adventures, just 4 strangers sharing a drink.
This journey was a new one for me as it would be a shuttle ride. I imagined some sort of bus but it was pretty much just a guy rocking up in his car and road tripping us where we had to go. The two other passengers were locals, one a little girl and the other her grandmother. The guy’s driving was mad and the young girl squealed with delight anytime we hit a bump, while the old woman tutted each time. She was however a sweetheart and in true grandma fashion, she fed me the whole way.
It was a 5 hour journey that went by very quickly and only required one stop. After easily passing through passport control, we were in Bosnia. The scenery was magnificently mountainous, all lush and green, reaching for the sky. During the drive, the young girl wanted to practise her English with me so we exchanged names (her name was Mariya), I was asked how many numbers I was and then she named animals and made their matching noises. However I’m not sure if it was a mistake or if Serbian birds rawr.
We did some colouring together and I don’t mean to brag, but I totally stayed inside the lines in the princess picture. We had the exciting moment of cows crossing in front of us where Mariya had to be practically restrained from going to play with them. Then finally we arrived and despite the rain, Sarajevo was a beautiful place. Already upon entering I had seen cathedrals and galleries and restaurants, all in a row. Despite this once, not so long ago, being such a dangerous place, it now looked like my kind of paradise.