Balkan Frenzy Pt. 1

It is said music is a language without boundaries. True as this may be (and this has helped me out in many countries already on this journey), it seems the true lingua universalis is football. The humble country of Holland has never been more recognizable abroad than it is now, characterised by the feats of the Dutch national team. Although the Bosnians and Croats may not be able to pronounce my name properly, this is in no way a deterrent as they just call me Robben or van Persie. Kicking Spain in the cojones was in the interest of many a football-loving country tired of seeing Spain dominate the sport in recent years.

Although both Bosnia and Croatia have been sent home already, the matches I watched with the local population were nothing short of amazing, owing to the ardour with which the goals in favor of the team were celebrated (the lethal fireworks tossed around will stay with me) and the zeal with which the opposing team was cursed for their every questionable move.

Although I do not give a shit about football of course, it is hard to remain impassive. I watched NL-AUS in a Zagreb beer hall, jeering at the Aussies who were in town to watch the match, as I was part of a small band of enthousiasts who supported Holland dressed in orange. To be fair, I was the only one without an orange shirt, and the only one speaking Dutch.

Hitchhiking took me from Vienna (thanks Gloria Mayer and also Pip Tablilla for awesome times and hospitality) to Zagreb and to Banja Luka, where I enjoyed the boundless hospitality of Георге Карађорђе Мандић who showed me around in his Yugo and brought me home to his family in the Bosnian countryside to the consternation of his sister but to my utter enjoyment, as I got to see the friendliness and day to day life in a small village in Srpska.

Finally took my first bus from Banja Luka to Sarajevo, as hitchhiking was all but impossible: the 200 km journey to the capital through impressive gorges and impossibly built villages on the steep wooded hillsided is considered to be an extraordinary journey rather than a two hour drive as it would be in the Netherlands. Finding a driver headed for Sarajevo was considered a fruitless but entertaining enterprise by the local population, who took their time to get comfortable as they watched me trying to smile my way into getting a driver to stop for me on a sun-blasted crossroad.

My time is filled with reading (Shantaram is highly recommended), playing guitar, giving free guitar lessons and hiking through the cities/countryside.
And of course drinking and spending my time with an endless variety of people.

Tomorrow I will hitchhike to Mostar with an Australian backpacker, after which I will travel to Dubrovnik to play the tourist crowds with professional busker Bernie Bolt. If the current planning holds, I will then meet up with the one and only Jan Deijns in Podgornica to party through the two countries that have not yet been crossed of the list: Montenegro and Albania.

Zdravo!

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