Balkan Reflections

This blog has been set up to assist in communicating with friends and family while we are in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Location: Ontario, Canada

Striving to a better day.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

People in this area have many ways of getting around.

Walking is done far more than at home, it seems. Even very elderly people can be seen out daily walking and buying their groceries. And they aren’t afraid of carrying things! I seldom see a backpack, but I do see people carrying large quantities of nearly anything you could imagine, from ducting, to a live pig (okay, two men were struggling with the pig!)

Bicycles are also very much used. Many of these bicycles are also ridden by rather elderly people, particularly men. The majority of the bikes are ‘one speed’ types and very old. Often, on the return trip from the market, the bicycles are walked, with large sacks of cabbages or potatoes balanced across the frame. This practice seems more common with women’s bikes, I think. Their bikes don’t have cross-bars!

Cars are everywhere, including the sidewalks. Some are museum-worthy models of makes which are seldom seen in North America: Fiats, Renaults, Yugos. Many are Volkswagens (very few of the new Beetles, but lots of very new Passats). Some models I’ve never seen at all, like the Volkswagon Polo. Some are makes I haven’t seen at all, like the Seat (I’m sure that has to be pronounced with two syllables, but I’m really not sure) and Opels. In with the mix of ancient little cars are the new, luxury, little cars like Mercedes, and Skodas. Japanese makes are scarce, but Fords are certainly here.

All the cars are small! There are few mini-vans (called people movers) or SUVs.

B-L has a bus system. It took us a while to venture on to it as we weren’t sure what we were working with. After the war, several countries donated busses to the area. These busses haven’t been repainted, so they come in several styles and colours. We thought they were all separate bus lines! None seem to have stop signals that work, but it is a fairly reliable system. It also goes quite far out of town. We noticed this of Mostar’s system as well.

There is a little train that putts through here several times a day. It serves many cities. It is electric. The little toot-toot it gives out compared to the big diesel engines at home still makes me giggle.

We still see horse drawn carts. As a matter of fact, we passed one in the mountains as we were leaving B-L on Wednesday. Imagine coming around a steep mountain curve and suddenly seening a horse cart in front of you! Funnier still was that it caught up with us later as we were stopping for a refreshment break.

There are lots of large trucks…Mercedes, Man, TAM. There do not seem to be any designated truck routes, so they’re nearly everywhere too. And watching them pass each other on the narrow mountain roads gives one concern, I’ll tell you! More on that another time…

We’ve seen a few modes of transport which defy categorization. In B-L there is a roving band-saw. It is mounted on a platform with a motor (no cab at all!) and is driven from job to job. When we were coming back from Croatia, we saw a home built creation which looked like a buckboard with a motor. Steering appeared to be the handles from a rototiller. There were four people, including a lap-held infant, sitting on the seat across the front. And yes, both of these vehicles were on public roads.

We have also seen various motorized two-wheeled vehicles. Some are driven very young drivers. I haven’t seen a helmet yet (and that goes for bicycles, too).

I have been getting some interesting questions about some of my posts. I will try to answer some of these as I go.

And I have a couple of corrections and updates. I have found baking powder. Interestingly, it’s called “Baking Powder”…but in Serbian. I’m not sure why it was so hard to find.

And my friend in Zagreb tells me that she’s quite sure Međugorje has never been part of Croatia. I think my confusion comes from a very early discussion I had…over 10 years ago…with a Polish friend of mine as we were trying to find it on the map (it wasn’t there). Perhaps it was our speculation that made me think it was in Croatia. Thanks Ivana!

God Bless!


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