Sunday, September 29, 2013

Trip to Jajce with Mom

In Wednesday, Mom and I went on a road trip to Jajce (just over an hour away). We stopped off in the Vrbas river canyon to see where the World Rafting Champs were held:
 And at Krupa na Vrbas to see the mills (and get some flour from my "friend" there)
Before we made it to the lovely city of Jajce (which is pronounced "Yait-se")
Where we stopped off to see the lovely waterfall:
 Before going for cevapi, a Bosnian speciality: (grilled meat fingers... yum!)
While sitting under this historic monument - the Omer-Begova house:
Before heading to see some of the rest of the lovely old town:
 And walls of the fortress:
Then we left lovely Jajce behind to go back the other way over the mountain - stopping off at the Pliva watermills on the way:
This is Mom's 7th visit to Banja Luka (her and Dad came once to Zenica when I lived there) and the first time the weather was good enough and I had enough time to take her to Jajce! It was great that the weather played along as we had a really wonderful day! Now the rain has come to accompany her back to England tomorrow. As usual the stay has gone by so quickly and it will be sad to see her go :(

Monday, September 23, 2013

Zagreb with Mom :)

Mom is here in Banja Luka as part of her round the world travels to see her kids (we are in Canada, England and Bosnia, so she has to get around!). As she flies into Zagreb to come to me, but has never actually been to the city, this time we decided to stay overnight and see some of the sights...

We stayed in an apartment near the Cathedral - and we found this guy enjoying our street too:
We walked through the main square to the funicular (why walk when you can ride!) up to "Gornji grad" or "upper town":
Where Mom found yet another metallic friend (should I be worried about her?)
And we saw St Mark's lovely roof... and I found out something about Zagreb that I didn't know. All the lamps in the upper town are still gas! They light them every night and put them out each morning... here is Mom with a gas lamp at St Mark's:
On our way down from the upper town we spotted this Croatian tie - did you know that the tie was invented by the Croatians?
After we finished with the upper town we stopped for a lovely lunch... and the only pic we got of us together:
Before carrying on the sight-seeing in the Dornji Grad or "lower town". Here is Mom in front of the weather station with accurate weather readings:
We really enjoyed the full day of sight-seeing before heading back to Banja Luka where Mom will be visiting me for a week! Yay!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Balkan triplet...

As our Educational Centre is part of a project through the Finnish organisation, Fida, they organise, from time to time, joint seminars for all of their partners in the Western Balkans (Kosovo, Albania and Bosnia). They try to have them in different places, so through these trainings, I have been to Montenegro and last year to Ohrid, Macedonia and also to Dubrovnik! This year it was the turn of Albania to host and as we saw that it was going to be mid-way down the country... closer to Greece... the plan started to form.

My crazy team decided that we could stop off in Greece on the way there (even though it is a much longer way round, most of it is on highways, so it is actually kind of nice) and have a team-building time in Greece. Although we weren't all able to come (David and Irena just had a little baby girl in August), those that came along had a great bonding time (spending that much time together on the road does do strange things to you!)

We drove 12 hours the first day through Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia... and when we arrived in Greece, and as many of our team hadn't been before, we stopped at the border to get a shot of this: I kind of like that effect of the sun (completely unintentional!) kind of like the promised land...
We went straight to Thessaloniki and had nice evening wander around some of the sights - below is me at the Arch of Galerius - and grabbing a nice "gyro" for dinner before heading on to our final destination...
Olympic Beach! My Finnish colleague, Rami, found us a great deal in this little place by the sea and we were happy that our "day off" on the way was by the seaside: Dragana, Ljilja and I enjoying the seaside bar :)
There are actually a lot of Serbian people here, as it is quite close to Serbia, and one of the closest places to go to the sea... and we discovered that there are actually people also from Banja Luka in a fun way: We asked a guy to take a photo of us at the sea and he said to Ljilja "are you from Banja Luka?" And she said "yes, but why did you ask particularly for Banja Luka?". It turns out that he works at the market in Banja Luka and sees her there when she takes the parents from our sponsorship project there to buy clothes for the kids. So, she didn't recognise him, but he recognised her :)

Here is a picture of Sinisa and I actually at the water: (I didn't get any good photos with him or with any of the 7 Finns, so this will have to do...sorry). Later on we did actually get into the water as well!
The next day we were on the road again EARLY and on the way went past the "other side" of Ohrid lake (we had been to the Macedonia side last year) we saw many of the bunkers built when Enver Hoxha was leading communist Albania against the rest of the world...
Albania was a mixture of quite surprisingly nice roads and horrendously horrible potholey ones... and of course I didn't get any pics of the nice ones... but here are some of the not so good ones:
The bridges always seemed to be the worst:(
And here is one of my favourite photos of the whole trip - Ohrid lake, a donkey, an old couple and lots of potholes...lucky shot through the car window!
The seminar was held in Lushnje, and of course I didn't think to get any photos of the seminar. Oh well... it was the boring bit of the trip anyway :)

We did get to go to the lovely city of Berat on one of the days: Here we are with some of the team from Tuzla at the Castle in Berat. It was amazing:
 And BIG:
 
And very picturesque:
 With some stunning views of the old town:
Which was also stunning: Can you see why they call it the town of 1000 windows?
 There was a lot of contrasts through: beautiful new university building, really old buses:
There were some funny things to be seen everywhere: On many houses they have bears or stuffed animals hanging on the houses: it is supposed to keep bad spirits away...
We managed to learn some Albanian along the way: This isn't related to the English word at all, but means "for sale"!
Also, the waiter seems to have a sense of humour as this means "Ms Stubborn" or I am told, literally "Ms Hardheaded": (although I am going to take it as the good side of the word, like tenacious...)
After the seminar was over, we came back via Montenegro, and stopped off in Trebinje to see Ljilja's family for a very quick hour... before carrying on for the total of 13 hours it took us to get back. In the end we travelled over 2000kms, through 6 countries and were in the car for over 30 hours (granted over 3 days - but in our car Sinisa did all of the driving...luckily he likes to drive!). But as my Finnish colleague, Rami, commented on my facebook page "it was an amazing experience".

Friday, September 06, 2013

Sarajevo and Zenica

I went this past week to Sarajevo for the first time since 2009. I used to go quite regularly as there were other people in YWAM there, or I needed to get visas (and I had a car which was mine and not just shared!), but since the others left and I have a British passport (and I share a car since mine was stolen!) I haven't been in FOUR YEARS... even I was shocked when I realised!

I needed to go to meet up with people there, and talk about bringing the Faith and Conflict conference (which I attended in May in Northern Ireland) there in 2014. I had lots of meetings, and coffees, and even a couple of lunches and it was great to catch up with all the wonderful people down there! I wish I had been intentional about getting photos, but I didn't even take one the whole time I was there, oh well.


I then went to Zenica for a couple of days just to catch up with people there (I used to live there many moons ago). It was lovely to see old friends and catch up with them as well. I had been there 2 years ago, so it wasn't quite as bad as Sarajevo...

I remember the first time I went to Sarajevo in 1999, it was on my first trip to Bosnia, and I was only there 2 days, but it was one of those moments in my life when I couldn't believe I was actually there in that particular place. It had only happened to me once before: on my first trip to Belfast in 1997. Both places torn apart by conflict, and both places trying to deal with the consequences of that conflict in the lives of its people.

This is why I think the Faith and Conflict conference, which was born in Belfast, is needed in a place like Sarajevo. Even though we don't have all the answers, we can seek them together, not just for Sarajevo, but for all of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The meetings went well, and I believe that it will be good to have it in Sarajevo next year: now to continue the organising!
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