We were sad to leave Croatia and Carlo’s hospitality, but excited for our next stop, Bosnia. It wasn’t on our original itinerary, but it was only about 10 miles out of the way. How could we pass up the opportunity to see a country we normally wouldn’t have a chance to experience? Our jubilation ended quickly though, because as we crossed the border, the guard asked for the car’s registration, which turned out to be expired. We were both at a loss for words. What do you do now? The guard repeated to us, “It’s expired.” We gave him a dumbfounded look. Really, what are we supposed to do? He directed us to a building and said buy one there. OK, not the end of the world, but when I headed in no one spoke English. I held up the registration. “No here,” was the response. I tried a few more doors, but had no success. So we went back to the guard, got the look, and he waved us on. Fortunately, it was only a few miles to the hotel. However, we hadn’t listed Bosnia as a country we were visiting so we didn’t know the ramifications if we tried to call the car company.
Driving into town was an interesting mix of modern structures and abandoned leftovers from the war. As we country hopped it was hard to image Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia were all one country just a few decades ago. While Croatia and Slovenia seemed on par with each other, the neglect in Bosnia was far more visible. We made it to the hotel in Bihac without incident. Given the unexpected nature of Bosnia, we booked one of the nicer hotels (Hotel Pavilijon). It didn’t disappoint. We were greeted like friends and it was nestled between a small park and the River Una. Locals were frolicking in the water, diving off the mini falls, and having a blast. Jennifer could tell a wedding dress request was coming. However, the first order of business was finding Castle Ostrozac. Little was available about it and we weren’t even sure if we would be allowed on the grounds. So after a quick lunch, along the river where the trout are kept in cages summered in the river. Well satisfied with a great meal, we headed out to the castle. It wasn’t a far drive, but it was a harrowing one. It was easily the most precarious turns I’ve ever driven on. Adding to my fear were the frequent radar guns and possibility of being pulled over without a valid registration. However, after a few wrong turns we pulled into a deserted lot that seemed like the place to park.
There was an exterior wall to the castle ground standing before us with a sign we couldn’t read. It seemed to indicate a euro entry fee. Sure that would be great we thought, except no one was there to pay. The large entryway was wide open, so we headed in. We were quickly joined by an unexpected guest. A cute puppy. There were many dogs running around in general, but here he seemed king. Not shy at all, of course Jennifer had nothing to do with attracting him, he joined us for our amble. The grounds had an odd assortment of statues, but given that we didn’t know if it was ok to be there we moved quickly to what we hoped was the main building.
Finding it, we were pretty close to perfect light, at least for the day, and worked quickly. Problem was, Jennifer’s companion wasn’t going to leave her for the shot. Instead, she/he (we are not sure) jumped up and down on Jennifer. The best we could do is to get the pup to sit by her side for the shot. Once done, we hightailed it out of there. A few locals were about, and they seemed more curious about us than anything, so all was good.
We had dinner by the river and planned our next day. There was a national park not too far away, but we were paranoid about driving. The weather turned out to be gray and cloudy, so instead we just explored the town and surrounding neighborhood on foot. There was a great disparity between the poor and the better-off. Unlike in the USA where neighborhoods separating the wealthy from the poor, here they were side-by-side. Many houses had significant wood piles prepped for the oncoming winter. They were adorned with many fruit bearing trees, shrubs and grape vines. While utilitarian in nature, there was a subtle beauty to the design. Later in the evening we met another hotel receptionist who was actually from Croatia and decided to give him a copy of our original book. He was blown away. We had already given the smaller book to the first receptionist, so we took him by surprise. He was exceptionally grateful and it led to a long conversation about life in general. Apparently, he had a law degree, but unlike in America, an education isn’t enough. He claimed the politicians were all former criminals from before the war and if you aren’t aligned with the political powers you had little opportunity to advance. The scariest realization about how little opportunity there was in Bosnia is that he was asking us about the potential to work in the tourist industry in the States. On its own, not shocking. However, what he was specifically inquiring about was working at a water park in Wisconsin. Nothing against Wisconsin, but I wouldn’t think you’d travel across the globe for the opportunity to work in their water parks.
You can see the photo larger and the rest of the trip in our Europe 2015 Gallery.