Leaving Sarajevo & 1984 Olympic bobsleigh track behind, one cannot shake thoughts of how a place can change over time. Transformation from Olympic venue, through Serbian artillery position during the Siege of Sarajevo, to a current landmark as ruin and a memento to things which cannot be undone.

Here we are, on the road again. Winding roads, no highways. Slow traffic. Trucks. Slow trucks. Not much chances to overtake, but when opportunity arises, I am ready. Patiently waiting. So are two other drivers. One in front, one behind me.

Here it comes. Slow easy curve opening into long straight, great visibility, no cars in opposing lane. The race is on! The driver in front of me goes for it. So do I and the third driver from behind. Shift into third, full throttle quick overtake. Civilized. Luis Hamilton would be proud.

And look! The racing trio also has some fans along the road. More in the middle of the road. Nicely dressed too, blue uniform, nice hat, waving the signal stick around. There were two fans, overall. The second siting in his nice fancy “Fan” car with signal lights on top. Great I think, we are in for a talk!

Fan #1 pulled us and other two cars over, tells us to sit sight. We sit tight, while other two drivers go and talk with Fan #2 in the fancy “Fan” car. As they leave, we hear them say “100 Marks” (Bosnian currency, around 50 Eur).

OK, my turn to be interviewed. Walk over, sit in a fancy “Fan” car. Passenger seat, nice! Following is the transcript of the “interview”:

Fan #2: “So, Peter (looking at my drivers licence, I am not famous), problem.” 

Me: “I know, sorry, full line, shouldn’t overtake. I apologize.” (Has this ever worked for anybody by the way?)

Fan #2: “Big problem, Peter. Full line, bridge, a major offence in Bosnia”

Me: “I am truly sorry, had no idea there was the bridge.”

Fan #2: “Peter, Peter.. Very big problem..

Me: “???”

Fan #2: “Lowest penalty, 300 Marks, your papers confiscated for one month. Big problem…”

Me (thinking): “???!!! F@*!K… no way I am leaving my papers here…” 

Me: “Can I pay here and keep the papers?”

At this point, the above conversation repeated itself about three time, for some 10 minutes.

Fan #2 (writing on paper): “OK Peter. 300 Marks = 150 Eur. Pay 100 Eur here, keep papers and go”

Me (thinking): “Sh!t”

Me: “Cash in the car, one minute.”

Fan #2: “:-)”

One minute later, back in the fancy “Fan” car.

Me: “Here”

Fan #2: “Peter, drive safe, slow. 

Me: “OK”

At this point, I leave the fancy Fan car but only after shaking hands with my most expensive Fan. Oh yes, one other thing. Here’s a puzzle for you.

Above situation: Two Bosnian drivers leave the scene paying 100 Marks penalty. I paid 100 Eur penalty under threat of taking my papers. 1 Eur = 2 Marks. I got no receipt for the fine whatsoever. How much did I pay and how much did the Fan #1 keep for himself?

***
It goes without saying, that I was totally at fault and deserved to be fined.
***

Further drive to Mostar was fine, no other “fan” cars in sight.

Arrive in Mostar in the evening and what a confused arrival it was. You’ve seen the picture of old Mostar town with its famous bridge, correct? Gives a feeling of being in a small village, secluded among mountains. Well, no.

Its a town. Considerably large one. Apart from the aforementioned old city center, Mostar is rather large construction site with buildings unfinished, old and new. Previous socialist presence again, very visible. On the other hand, the old city is as beautiful as the pictures. Or isn’t it?

On the first view, yes. Mostar’s “Stari Most”, or “Old Bridge”, is just lovely, with locals keeping the diving tradition alive, albeit for 25 Eur per jump collected from the viewers. Both sides of the river are lined with lovely restaurants, although a little bit “touristy” for my taste.

My photographic “bucket list” always included the shot of Mostar’s Stari Most, which I got now and which you can see above. There are several places one can take this sort of shot from. One of them, chosen also by us, is right underneath the bridge. There’s a formation of rocks people stand on and take selfies, with view of the bridge unobscured. Fantastic!

Sad part is that the view is nice and all, but that is as far as it goes. City sewage being emptied just below the bridge, covering up any nice scents going out of restaurants above. Smell of freshly flushed toiled just doesn’t add up to the overall experience, does it?

Moreover, there seems to be a common habit to leave ones trash behind, making the “would be beautiful vantage point” into “soon to be garbage lot”. Just there, under probably the nicest bridge in Bosnia.

Above left me wondering. How far should photography go and depict “as is”, and how far is it OK to go and show the “pretty face”? With Mostar, I felt the latter went a little bit too far. If otherwise though, would we still choose to visit? Pictures we’ve seen served their purpose.

Overall, we are happy we went. Some might say not to focus on the ugly and enjoy the beautiful. Agreed. However, what point is there to travel and only focus on the nice and pretty? We might as well just look at the pictures.

CROSSING BALKANS – OTHER POSTS

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