Saturday, August 07, 2004

Feeling The Heat


Things caught up with me a bit yesterday. After a broken night's sleep on the train then several hours wandering round the city in the blistering heat, my body finally decided it had had enough at least for one day. My feet have now come out in open revolt against the rest of me, and even though I've been lenient with them and used public transport for the first time, the right one especially is still looking pretty angry. Back at the hostel all the talk of "club" "techno" and "6 o clock" led me to decide on an early night. I feel a lot better for 12 hours in bed, all I need is for the temperature to cool down a bit.

Friday, August 06, 2004



A lot of stuff is being built in this city just now. Walking around the place there are cranes everywhere, knocking up impressive tower blocks, hotels and the like. I'm staying in the old East part of town and though you can still just tell the difference between the two halves, if you didn't know this city had once been divided you'd never be able to tell now. Haven't seen any sign of the wall either, presumably what's left of it is lost under the weight of all the new stuff that's being built.

Thursday, August 05, 2004



Being in a city full of museums, I decided to check a couple out. Found a cracking - and unusually for the continent, free - exhibition of photos of the natural world on the side of the road near the Museumplatz. There must have been 60 or 70 huge pictures and they looked great lit up last night and again in this morning's sunshine. Also went to the sumptuous and newly-reopened Albertina gallery. It was considerably less good with a host of Emperor's New Clothes modern art and lots of stuff in very over the top state rooms. Vulgar lot, the Hapsburgs.

There isn't much spirit or soul about this place. Coming here from Bosnia - which has it in spades - is a bit like going from the house of an exciting new friend round to your stuffy old great aunt's country mansion. For middle-aged and rich Japanese and American tourists Vienna must be like a wet dream. But it's not my kind of town at all.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Tourist Toytown


If there's one word to describe this city, it's grand. The buildings are ornate and imposing, the roads wide and the people apparently overflowing with wealth. Men in white suits sip their expensive coffees and puff on huge cigars while women dripping with jewellery look at the boutiques. It's also full of big spending tourists who are being led around the place in ridiculous carriages by local men in absurd outfits. Quite a contrast from Bosnia, I can tell you.

No sign of Midge Ure yet though.

24 Hours to Vienna


Mostar turned out to be spectacular at night. Four of us went out to dinner at a place overlooking the floodlit bridge and four courses was only ten euros each. We were pretty much the only Westerners in town who weren't soldiers but I'm sure all that'll change before long.

The infrastructure needs a bit of work though. The bus from Mostar to Zagreb made slow progress - at first due to the hourly breaks so the drivers and all the passengers except me could get off for a smoke, then things turned into a crawl around Bihac when the main road turned from what we'd call a B road in Britain into an unmarked dirt track. It wasn't a shortcut either - articulated lorries were gingerly picking their way down it, minefields on either side.

Eventually made it to Zagreb after ten hours, then jumped on a train to Munich, getting off at Salzburg to get one along here. A journey of just a shade under 24 hours all up but it seems like it's going to be a fine day so I'm off to take a look around the city.

Monday, August 02, 2004

The Bridge


Some two and a half hours south of Sarajevo through yet more stunning scenery is this old place, the biggest city in the Hercegovina part of Bosnia-Hercegovina. It's been a roasting hot day and the water around the famous bridge looked very inviting until I dipped my toe in and realised it was freezing. The bridge is the only show in town, it was originally built in the 16th century but the Croats blew it up in 1993. It's been rebuilt and was officially opened again last week. Whether the Muslim and Croat halves of the city will be similarly reunited is a bit more doubtful but on a sunny day like this that all seems like the distant past. It doesn't feel like Europe at all here, it's completely Middle Eastern, right down to the carpet shops and swarthy looking beggars. It'll be a huge tourist trap - just as soon as there are any tourists.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Bang Bang Gavrilo Princip


A local guy showed a few of us round some places last night. The best of them was a bar that only the Bosnians know about, it's not signposted from the road and you have to go through an alley down some stairs and into a kind of grotto. Bono spent New Year's Eve there in 1995 and although there was no sign of him last night the bar was still good and I stayed out drinking beer and tequila until the early hours.

Went looking for the spot where Archduke Franz Ferdinand got shot in 1914 earlier on. The assassin Gavrilo Princip used to be a big hero in Yugoslavia and had streets named after him all over the place, but being a Serb nationalist he's not too popular in Bosnia anymore and there's hardly any trace left of the momentous event. The street's name has been changed and once they've finished rebuilding the Gavrilo Princip bridge that was destroyed in the recent war they're going to call it something else. The nearby museum's long since been shut and now there's just a cursory plaque at the roadside that doesn't even mention the fact the shooting sparked off the First World War. In a city full of painful history it's just one more thing they want to forget about.