Showing posts from December, 2010

Happy New Year!

For the first time in a long time we're staying in on New Year's Eve. Last year enjoyed a mild evening in Dubrovnik's old town, listening to bands of various qualities. The year before we were treated to Laka performing outdoors in a freezing cold Spanish Square in Mostar. The last New Year we spent in England saw us standing on the banks of the Thames for at least four hours to witness ten minutes of awe inspiring fireworks from directly opposite the London Eye. The previous year we braved Times Square, in New York, to watch the ball drop and the year before that we were in Cape Town, although we did stay in with family that night. Having done trips to Zagreb and Mostar within the last ten days we felt no great urgency to get out and find some entertainment tonight. There was a good gig happening in Sarajevo but seeing as we'd had one of those in Mostar on Wednesday the seven-hour round trip to the capital seemed a little excessive. We'll probably clamber up onto t

More driving fun

Today we drove from Mostar to Jajce in brilliant sunshine. Despite the fact mountains cast shadows on the roads leaving many a snowy or icy stretch of tarmac to be carefully negotiated it was a great day to be out driving. Driving north gave the dual advantages of not just being headed home but also mostly having our backs to the sun. It's easier, and safer, when your view doesn't alternate between dense shadow and dazzling sunlight. It's hard to pick a highlight from the drive although the intense double rainbow caused by one of Bosnia's hydro-electric dams gushing from all five of its gates probably takes the prize. Sadly there is no accompanying photo for that. You'll have to make do with this video where I show you one of my favourite views, from yesterday's outward journey.

What have we been up to?!

It's been just over two weeks since our last post which means one of two things: either we've had nothing to talk about or there's been a little too much going on to find the time to talk about it. This video should help you make you mind up about which one it's been.

Feeling all Alpine!

Sunday afternoon is, traditionally, a good time for a stroll. And so yesterday afternoon, with the snow falling thick and fast, Rowan and I headed out to catch a glimpse of a different kind of Jajce. Such eagerness to run out and play in the snow is undoubtedly a result of our childhoods in England, where snow was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it phenomenon. All that has, of course, changed in the two years since we left. Last week my hometown had it's heaviest snow fall in fourty-three years, apparently. The snow is Jajce is unlikely to go anywhere for at least a week, accept from the roads and pavements, where a very efficient cleaning operation had everything snow-free by the time we were back from a trip to Vitez today. That's one reason I'm happy to have grabbed Sunday's video, for the full alpine effect! The photo is from about half past eight this morning, somewhere approaching the town of Travnik and the Vlašić mountain. It was a great to be out driving this morni

Fairytales vs Platform Games

Rowan was reminded of ice daggers, the sort plunged through the hearts of unfortunate, and probably unsuspecting, victims in fairytales; shortly before some wholesome, heart-warming hero arrives on the scene to heal the hurts and ensure everyone – except, perhaps, the ice-wielding bad guy – lives happily ever after. I had images of old-school platform games, or perhaps even a Nintendo original hand-held classic like Donkey Kong. The aim was to complete a successful dash through the Tunnel of Doom, while dodging the game-over inducing objects regularly falling from the ceiling. Earlier this week we were telling friends in Mostar that our walk to work – or the supermarket – was a relatively easy one in all weathers as half of it was through the road tunnel under Jajce's castle. As if to prove that nothing in life is really that simple the weather threw us a curve ball this morning. This is not photoshop, a fairytale or Nintendo's finest; those really are icicles over three

An Inexcusably Short Drive

We haven't owned a car since we left the UK and, despite having access to vehicles through our work with Novi Most, I think we can say we've significantly cut back on our personal use of the combustion engine. The truth is, however, that this hasn't been driven by any strongly held environmental convictions but simply by the fact that both in Mostar and now in Jajce it is quicker and more convenient to walk, due to how close we've lived to where we are working. But as with every rule there are exceptions, here's evidence of us about to make an inexcusably short drive!

Paper Trails

We were down in Mostar yesterday and today. This provided us with two paper-trail related tales to tell. Yesterday: Novi Most owns a couple of Volkswagan Transporters, one of which we are using in Jajce. To make fuelling easier about a year ago we got fuel cards from a chain of gas stations that are well represented in Herzegovina. Moving to Jajce we realised they had no forecourts in the immediate area so it was suggested we get a card from a different, Bosnian-based company. Two weeks ago, somewhere in north-west Bosnia, I used this card for the first time. It took the two gentlemen behind the counter fully fifteen minutes of conferring with one another and consulting sheets of A4 paper on the wall be behind the till to finally get the appropriate machine to spit out a little slip of paper for me to sign. Yesterday, I was in the Novi Most office in Mostar when the envelope arrived containing the bill for the account for the last month. There, stapled to the top right corner of the

A Presidential Drive-By!

We were standing in the kitchen this morning when I heard a Police siren outside the window. In our experience here that can mean only one thing: dignitaries being ferried about the country in a high speed convoy. Rowan had seen on Facebook that Ivo Josipovic, the Croatian President was dropping in on Jajce today. Sure enough, half a dozen blacked-out people carriers, a few others vehicles whose description I can't remember, and a couple of ubiquitous white Volkswagen Golf Police cars were snaking their way down the valley from the direction of Banja Luka. I can't claim to have seen the President but if he was looking out of the window he may well have seen our house, if not us gawping out of the window! I've just received an email from Balkan Insight that contained a link to an article explaining why he was in the area. As it was a promising piece politically I thought I'd couple some of the stand out sections here in the hope you'll click the link to read the

Snow Falls

Yesterday I needed to cool my head down, literally, to stave off the tiredness and kick start some clear thinking. I could have gone and sat in the spare bedroom but it was much more inspiring to head out into a snowy Saturday night. When I saw the snow swirling around the floodlights I knew I needed to make a video. The picture below is the view we woke to first thing this morning. Today ended up being all bright blue skies and mild weather, so while there's still some snow around it doesn't look exactly like this anymore. The next time it snows I need to make time to get some good photos or video of the castle and city walls as they certainly suit a bit of snijeg.

Of Villages and Boys Toys

After being involved in youth work for more than fifteen years you've heard lots of reasons, and occasionally excuses, as to why people didn't show up when you were expecting them too. Today I heard one I'd never heard before. Rowan and I used to do a lot of youth work out of a school youth centre in a rural part of Sussex. Even there this never cropped up. Jajce is more rural still, as this picture indicates. It was produced by one of the young people who did make it to our first Novi Most session in Jajce. He was one of almost twenty who responded to the invitation and came to see what opportunities could open up with Novi Most now working in the town. It was a very positive couple of hours. We'll run a similar introduction session next weekend for those unable to be there today. Some of them were at a school event happening in town, which is familiar territory; others, however, had to go to a village and slaughter some pigs, which is definitely a new one for me! In

Snow and Rainbows

While the town we came from in the UK is in the grips of some unseasonally large snow falls, Jajce has not yet plunged into the depths of winter. No doubt it will come. Today we had enough sunshine to add a rainbow to a now familiar view. Yes, a rainbow needs a little rain and we've had a bit but nothing like what's going on back in Mostar at the moment. Rowan was looking at some pictures on Facebook earlier and said she never saw the Neretva so high in the two years we were there. Apparently the border at Metković was closed due to flooding in the town . With so many of Bosnia and Herzegovina's main roads running alongside rivers I've often thought how vulnerable this network is to rising water levels. Snow, however, it is well equipped to handle, at least in our experience. Gritters and snow ploughs operate around the clock keeping the main routes passable, if not entirely clear. The requirements to put winter tyres on every November and carry snow chains help too,