Snow! Kralovec Family Holidays to Bosnia i Hercegovina


Ollie and Ocean are pictured above preparing snowballs to throw at our car. We were excited to see lots of snow on our trip to Sarajevo. We are on fall break and are exploring Serbia’s neighboring country.

We got off to a slow start yesterday with many errands to do around the house. I cleaned the car, fixed the rearview mirror, and helped Nadia pack. We made a delicious pancake breakfast as well as downloaded stories to listen to while driving. After exchanging some boots for Nadia, we were on our way.


Serbia has many single family farms still
Serbia has many single family farms still



We had a slight change in plans even before we got started. We had originally planned to stay near Visegrad, a town just across the Serbian border. The town was made famous by Nobel Prize laurate, Ivo Andric, a famous Yugolsavian author. He wrote “Bridge On the Drina”, a historical fictional account of the town. I blogged about the book here. We did not stay there because the best place in the area according to the guidebooks, was used in the 1990’s as a rape camp by paramilitary forces in the Yugoslavian civil war. The Bradt Guide to Bosnia didn’t mention this. Young and beautiful Bosniak women from the Visegrad area were kept there. Nadia felt queasy about staying the night in a such a place, 16 years after. I didn’t realize how much of the war happened in Visegrad. Many Bosniaks fled the area and what used to be a mixed area, is not predominately Serbian. That is consistent with the history of the place. Much violence happened there over the centuries, from the Ottoman Turks taking Serbian boys away from their families to be raised as Ottomans, to the Austro Hungarians subduing the Ottomans.


The Drina Bridge At Night
The Drina Bridge At Night



Perhaps it was a rainy, cold night, but the town felt a bit depressed. We stopped and I took some pictures of the bridge and walked out to the capia. There is no car traffic on the bridge. It is quite an impressive architectural feat, considering how wide the river is and how long ago the sultan ordered the bridge to be built. I used Serbian RSD to buy gas in the city.

The highlight of the day was the beautiful snow in the mountains. On the Serbian side in Zlatibor, there was lots of snow. We stopped at the Hotel Mecanik for a late dinner, just outside the village of Mokra Gora. We wanted to spend the night, as Ocean vomitted and the kids and I were tired. There was no rooms available, so we decided to go on to Sarajevo. It snowed the whole way and I was a bit disappointed not to be able to see the beautiful canyons and mountain views as we were approaching Sarajevo. Being from northern Michigan, USA, the snow brought back memories of my youth.

We finally arrived in Sarajevo around 10:00 PM. Distances are deceptive in Serbia and Bosnia as the narrow, twisting mountain roads make progress slow. It took about 200 hours to travel the roughly 100 kilometers. The hotel we booked was full so we found another nearby. Initial impressions are a lively, beautiful city. I can’t wait to explore it.


The Pleasures of Family Travel - Cleaning Vomit off a Car Seat
The Pleasures of Family Travel - Cleaning Vomit off a Car Seat



We are having a bit of car trouble. The temperature gauge is cold even though we drove through the mountains all day. I think it is a thermostat problem, we’ll have to get it checked out today or tomorrow before we leave on Tuesday.

The Bridge On The Drina – Ivo Andrić

 I just finished reading “The Bridge on the Drina” by Bosnian writer, and former long-time Belgrade resident, Ivo Andrić. He won the 1961 Nobel Prize for Literature.
UPDATE: I visited the bridge on October 17, 2009. My blog post on the experience is here

Andrić lived a full life and he is a great example of the idea of Yugoslavia. His parents were Croats from Sarajevo, Bosnia. He spent his childhood in Višegrad, a small town on the border of Serbia and Bosnia. He studied in Sarajevo and Zagreb, Croatia. He was imprisoned during WWI by the Austro-Hungarians as a revolutionary. After the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes gained independence Andrić began a career as a diplomat for the new government. He held posts in Hungary, Austria, Italy, France, Belgium, Switzerland, and finally, in his peak position on the eve of WW II, to Berlin, Germany. All during this time, Andrić was writing and publishing poems, essays, and short stories. When Hitler occupied Poland, he tried to resign, but the Yugoslav government rejected it. When Germany bombed Belgrade in 1941, he retired from the foreign service and lived the rest of his life in Belgrade. During the war, he wrote three novels that would earn him the Nobel Prize. He donated the prize money to build libraries in Bosnia. You can read more about him at Ivo Andric Foundation web site.

I highly recommend the book, “The Bridge on the Drina.” The Drina is a river that separates Bosnia and Serbia. The bridge he refers to in located in the town of Višegrad, Bosnia. The novel is an epic historical fiction beginning in the 1500’s with the construction of the bridge by the Ottoman Turks and ending with its destruction during World War I. I love history and as all good historical fiction does, it brings alive the facts of history. It got me to think more about the legacy of the Ottomans. They had a large empire for many years, but are not that well known or studied in the US. Andrić tells of the Ottoman’s blood sacrifice, in which the Turks would raid Serbian villages and kidnap young Serbian boys to raise them as Turks in Istanbul. He also describes the public “staking” of a man caught vandalizing the bridge during its construction. The Turks were here in Serbia for a long time. As the novel progresses through time, it is good to have a bit of background of Balkan history. Besides the historical stuff, he tells good stories of people and families. My only criticism is he slides into a bit too much of “magic realism” and I got burned out on that by reading Garcia Marquez and other Latino writers.

The picture above is of the Hotel Moscow which I took in August of last year. Ollie is pictured in front of the fountain. A friend tells me it was one of Andric’s favorite hangouts here in Belgrade. I will go visit his museum soon. The apartment where he lived is now a museum and it will give me a better idea of the man and his works, and I will do another post on the visit. I will also most likely read some more by him. I am especially interested in reading his essay on Simon Bolivar. If any of my blog readers have a copy of that, preferably in English (I am now at the stage in my Serbian language development which I call “early caveman” – for example, Danas lepo toplo i kizovo (today very cold and slippery).