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.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Well, we're home.

The trip was a bit 'glitchey' but all in all not too bad.

When we woke up on Wednesday, it was raining, again. As a matter of fact, we noticed all along as we drove to and into Slovenia, that the rivers were very high.

We packed up the car and left B-L in good time. As we reached the outskirts of town, our back right tire went completely flat. Fortunately we were withing metres of a service station. The mechanic there didn't speak English, but the problem was rather evident!

He jacked the car, (with us still in it) and removed the tire. He inflated it and gave it the bubble test. He could find nothing wrong with it. He was obviously concerned about something, so he phoned a friend who spoke English. Through his friend he told us that the tires on the car were not very good... especially if we encountered snow. As the car was a rental, there wasn't anything we could do about it.

We decided that we had time to return to the rental shop. There, my husband phoned our Serbian tutor for help, as the rental guy didn't speak English. Through her, our problem was explained. The man agreed to change the tire. He asked dh to follow him. While we were starting the car and trying to get the windows unfogged, the man disappeared. We hadn't seen him leave!

Dh drove into a couple of sidestreets, but there was no sign of the man. Finally, we see him in another car and follow him. We did, just about the whole breadth of Banja Luka to an Italian tire shop (the car was an Alpha Romeo, so I guess it needed Italian tires?). At this point we knew for sure that the nice breakfast we'd planned to have on the way out of town wasn't going to happen.

Dh thought that, as we were just sitting around, that he'd walk over to a bakery and get some sandwiches. He returned 20 minutes later looking half drowned. He'd left his wallet in the car, so there were no sandwiches!

Changing the tire meant hauling all of our abundant luggage out of the trunk and putting on the spare, which was not a 'donut'.

Anyway, we're finally back on the road but running a bit later than we wanted to be. We decide to forgo food(I did have a few snacks in the car at least)until we were much closer to the airport and could judge our time.

We arrived at the Ljubljana airport and checked in. We had time for a quick bite, which we all thoroughly enjoyed!

Then we said good bye to dh/daddy and boarded the plane.

We arrived in London about 2 hours later. The baby had slept for most of the flight. We collected our abundant luggage and went to catch our shuttle to Victoria Station. We had been told this was the best way. From the station it was a short ride to the hotel.

The ride into the city was interesting. I don't think any two seats had occupants who shared the same language. I dubbed it the Babel Bus.

When we arrived downtown, we were essentially dumped, with our luggage, on the sidewalk. Not a luggage cart or cab in sight.

The girls and I stand and figure out what to do. I leave them with the luggage and try to figure out where we can catch a cab. Our plan was to relay carrying the luggage so that neither pile of luggage be unattended. One of our bags was very heavy, so two of us would have to haul it any distance.

On my return, I had eliminated one path to find a taxi. As I was about to set out in another direction, one of four men who had been sitting on a window ledge near us stood up and asked, in heavily accented English, if they could help us.

Now, I'm not totally naive, and I've heard the warnings. But were stuck, and a little voice told me it was okay. So I thanked them and said yes, we could use some help.

They descended on the luggage, hoisting even the heavy bag effortlessly (this fellow reminded me of a Serb...very tall!) and started marching us out to the road, where the tall man hailed us a cab.

We got one, got loaded, I thanked them and they left.

The cabbie asked me who the men were. When I said I thought they must have been angels, he said that this must be our first time in London, and that we really must be more careful! He had us count our bags to make sure everything was was!

I gave him a little comfort when I told him that I HAD followed admonitions to go only with 'Black' cabs. I was warned by two different people NOT too ride with anyone offering a 'good deal'. They would be the unregulated ones. That seemed to appease the cabby. I told him that I trusted that he was taking the shortest route to the hotel!

We arrived at the hotel, which was a 200 year old building. It was quite a nice place. We got settled and decided to have a bite in the hotel restaurant, as it was rather wet outside and we were tired!

The next morning I called the airport to confirm our flight to find out that our departure had been moved ahead THREE HOURS! That meant that instead of leaving at 9am, we were leaving at 6am! And we were now too early to use the airport shuttle! The desk was not much help, so I got out the phone book and started to make calls. Eventually I found "Airport Cars" which would charge us about the same as the shuttle would have cost. It was still very expensive, but much cheaper than many of the other places I called.

We were out of the hotel by 10:00 for our day of sightseeing. We took the 'tube' right downtown and the first thing we saw upon leaving the station was Big Ben!

We saw Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Parliament Block, Hard Rock Cafe London(we have a little collection of HR pictures from various places family members have been. Still trying to figure out how to get a pic of HR Cafe Kandahar!). The kids and I went on the London Eye. If you're going to do that, get a GOOD guidebook. We saw people with the cheaper book and they were at least as frustrated as we were without one at all. It's hard to figure out which building is which from so far in the air.

I have just found out that the day we were in London was the last day the double decker busses were running...and we didn't ride one! They do figure in at least one of the pictures we took, though.

We got back to the hotel, despite some tense moments as we found ourselves just a bit lost on the tube, to finish packing and preparing for our very early morning. My attempt at a bit of sleep was thwarted by a very fussy baby. By morning, he was running a fever. Good thing I still had some liquid ibuprofen.

Despite a scarily heavy fog, our little airport car (which seemed to absorb our was amazing. It was a Skoda Octavia) had us at the airport at 4am. We were to board at 5am. That time came and went. Turns out someone had left a bag on the plane from the previous flight, so the police and bomb squad had to be called. We were in the air, finally, at 7am.

Everything was pretty smooth after that. The baby slept most of the trip. The girls were enthralled by the movies.

It was nice to get home again, even if it was in considerable disarray. I gathered that ds's fascination with housework was short-lived.

Now, I am thinking about the past few weeks...I suspect this is where the 'reflections' may really kick in.


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