Getting to Sarajevo
I am writing this on Christmas Day, it is snowing big, fat snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes, and it is gorgeous, just gorgeous to be here.
But what a journey it was, from Paris to Sarajevo with Croatian Airlines. Firstly the plane took off late from Paris – a little anxious-making as I had a fast connection to make in Zagreb. But the surly air hostess onboard told me I wouldm’t miss my flight, because it was also with Croatian, so it would wait for me. Then, on arrival in Zagreb, all the Sarajevo passengers were taken aside and told our flight had been cancelled due to bad weather conditions in Sarajevo. No planes had been able to land for the last two days, we were told. We would take a bus to Sarajevo instead (5 to 6 hours apparently, as opposed to 55 minutes in a plane), it would leave in 45 minutes, so we should collect our luggage, go through Customs, and get the bus from out the front of the airport.
Then my luggage didn’t turn up. There were about 9 of us still waiting for our bags when a flight from Frankfurt landed. Their bags came out, but we were still waiting. Meanwhile, the time to go and get the bus was fast approaching. Oh, to cut this part of the story short, the bags eventually arrived, after all the Frankfurt bags. Maybe someone had gone off on a coffee break or something, and taken the trolley with our Paris bags on it with them. So I grabbed the darn thing, now twice the weight it was when I left Melbourne, due to souvenirs and Armenian cognac, and headed outside to find this bus.
I didn’t mind the idea of the bus- it sounded like it could be fun. We were just a small group coming in off the Paris flight…. I imagined us all chatting, sitting in a cosy minbus, being chauffured to Sarajevo. But it wasn’t quite like that. The bus was packed. At first there seemed doubt that they could even get me on it. I stood there in the frosty air, kind of exhilirated by the cold, I must say, and hopped from foot to foot while I waited for their heated debating to abate, and someone to tell me what was going on. Apparently, all the Sarajevo passengers from all the cancelled flights were on this plane.
So, they squeezed me and another guy on, I took a seat beside a sulky looking woman who had the physical energy of a VERY hungover teenager (and two teenage boys sitting in the seat behind her). A young Serbian woman from the Paris flight who spoke French translated bits of the driver’s comments for me. It took the bus a further 40 minutes to depart.
Within 15 minutes we had pulled over. First because of a child needing to vomit, then because a rowdy, lively crowd down the front of the bus wanted to buy more beer. This pattern of stopping for beer continued hourly throughout the trip, and, as another passenger wryly pointed out to me, “That only means MORE stops!” It really slowed us down, I thought.
We pulled into Sarajevo bus station at 11.45pm – 8 hours later! All that time I had been surrounded by people on mobile phones, calling their loved ones and friends to make plans to meet. But I had no number for Kenet, and worried about how he would know where I was, what I would do if he wasn’t there when I arrived…. so imagine my relief when I stepped off the bus and heard this Bosnian-Australian accent saying, ” Welcome to minus 10 degrees!”, then saw a guy in a peaked corduruy cap emerging from the crowd to lift me into a big bear hug! All was well… a big relief.
But the plot thickens too, about the cancelled flights. Apparently Croatian Airlines was the ONLY airline to cancel their flights into Sarajevo on Devember 22nd (and again on the 23rd). Every other airline flew in and out without any trouble. It looked a bit suspicious… as if it waved them money to not fly in at all, to stick us all in a bus. I have started to compose a sternly worded letter. Of course, if it is an issue of safety, and the right flying conditions, then the bus was the right solution. But if the flying conditions were fine…. it looks a bit dodgy from my point of view.
It feels amazing to be back here. The moment we crossed the border I realised my energy levels were right up. I was sitting up straight, staring out the window, all my nerves were primed. The ten months I spent here were a pivotal point in my life and I invested a lot of myself – my values and energy and spirit – here. I’m feeling incredibly alive and …. connected… somehow. Can’t wait to get to Mostar – we go there tomorrow.
Merry Christmas, all. I hope it is a joyous and peaceful time. Love and kisses.