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Our journey back into Croatia started pleasantly enough on the local bus to Novi Sad . We soon found ourselves on a badly maintained Serbian bus with a poorly functioning air conditioner , it must have been 50 degrees in the bus.We saw little evidence of wartime damages in the twon despite the fact Anka had mentioned the sky was alight at night frim the NATO/USA bombing. On crossing the Danube into Croatia there was an immediate improvement in road conditions. The modern air conditioned bus stop at Osijek was a welcome relief from the heat. The Croation bus to Virovitica was marked improvement over the previous leg. We found Lidija’s house and she was there waiting on the balcony. Lily had been to Virovitica 30 years previously and didn’t recognize the place; it is a city now. We visited Bukova and met Matija Perina who is 87 and has a very large vege garden and is one of he most inspiring women I’ve ever met; and Matija Pavina who made apple strudel! We went to Trapinska where I was born and saw the beech forest that has totally overgrown the area. On the way back to Virovitica we went through Suhopolje and past the other house we lived in prior to moving to Australia and wondered how 4 of us fitted in that small place! Lidija kept us full with all her cooking despite being unwell herself, and we went to my cousin Rudi’s for dinner and he also drove us to Bukova.
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My aunt and I recognised each other straight away on the very small station at Sremski Karlovci. Anka is a very warm caring individual and we both felt welcome straight away. Her and I talked flat out all the 3 days we were there about everything imaginable while Rick tried to understand, amused himself as best as he could. Anka has a lot of wise sayings such as; a a wise man doesn’t need to be given money and a fool doesn’t know what to do with it! Anka also is a very generous cook, so we ate up hearty meals of mostly home grown fruit and vegetables and meat. We went to the cemetry which has her husband Stevo and my grandmother Boja buried there. It was good to go there and see the site but sad to see that Ankas face and birth date is already etched next to her husband on the granite stone , all that is necessary is her casket and her date of death which hopefully will be a long time as she’s only 68! The town is one of the cultural centres of Serbia and has just been made the official legal centre with the main court of Serbia moving here in Belgrade’s process of decentralisation. The has been part of several different dynasties starting off as a Roman fort , passing over to the House of Hasbbourg , the Ottoman Empire and back to the House of Hasbourg(later the Austrian-Hungarian Empire) following the treaty of Karlovitz- which was signed here and ended hostilities between the two. The solid stone buildings of its streets are heritage listed. The population is largely Serbian in origin. At the end of Ulica Mitripolita Stratimirovica (Anka’s street ) is a mineral spring which runs continuously and has people coming from far and wide to collect the water. The town is situated on the Danube river 8 km from Novi Sad . During a walk along the banks of the Danube there were many frogs hopping into the water when I disturbed then and I also happened across a metre long black coloured snake which no doubt preys on them .
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It was an early start catching the bus from Sarajevo at 6 am , with our packed breakfast from the hotel. The countryside out of Sarajevo was again spectacular with us climbing out of Sarajevo over the mountain range and finally down onto the flats near the Serbian border. There was a brief stop for coffe/breakfast at the top.After the border formalities , which didn’t take too long , there was a distinct change in the quality of the roads for the worse – explaining why the last 150km to Belgrade would take over 3 hours. The land in this area is dead flat and full of corn fields. They must use the corn to feed livestock because it was rare to ever see it on a menu anywhere in the Balkans . Finallly we arrived at Belgrade which is really just a typical big city – the train station however when we found it suffered from a distinct lack of trains! We bought tickets for the train to Sremski Karlovci which is on the line to Novi Sad . The platfroms have no signs indicating where the train is going on the platform and you will almost certainly not understand the Serbian announcement – as the locals have trouble getting it , but there is a screen in the ticket area which we were able to work out. There was a conductor on the platform whom we asked whether this train was to Novi Sad as did 90% of the locals that walked past him. The train was appalling and crowded , much worse than Melbourne. There were no announcements about where the train was stopping ( in Switzerland they announce it in about 6 languages) , at some of the stops you couldn’t make out the signs on the platform , at many of the stops there was no platform! Somehow between a combination of smart phone technology , asking locals who possibly might know , we got out at the correct place. There was another lone Australian travelling in our carriage , as we were about to get out I said ” Hey mate , this will make the trains back home look really good .” He said “I’m glad my stop is at the end of the line ” .When we got off onto the very narrow platfrom Lily’s aunt Anka was there to greet us and a friend drove us the short distance to her house in the town of Sremski Karlovci.
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A run was definitely order given my ankle seems to have recovered. I find it is further than I realised and is 5.7 km to the outer edge of the old dock. After getting back to the hotel I make way to Cava beach .I snap a few shots from my phone of the surrounds. The little fish of many colours accompany me while I swim. In fact where the water depth drops off sharply to 5-6 metres they are still calmly there – I guess that means everything that eats them has been caught. As I am getting my gear back on my eye is caught by a couple covered only by a towel no doubt getting their rocks off on the rocks.( If you look closely at the image you may see them in the shadows – I didn’t when I took the shot ! ) Following a buffet breakfast at the hotel we get a bus down to the main bus depot . The lady opposite us doesn’t realise Lil understands her swearing in Croatian about all the tourist’s bags! We purchase tickets to Sarajevo. The trip goes over 3 borders , from Croatia to Bosnia back to Croatia and finally into Bosnia . We get to see Neum and Ploce in the daylight this time . The trip goes through spectacular country following the Neretvar river . Along the way there are many buildings riddled with shell and bullet holes and I note about 10 identical gravestones dated 1994 as the bus slows down alongside a Mostar cemetery. There is a gradual change as we travel from large crosses to more and more Mosques ,yet there are still ,in Sarajevo even ,very few women in head scarves . How do you tell the difference between a Bosnian Serb ,a Bosnian Croat and a Bosniak — you can’t and what are 3 main causes of war – religion , religion ,religion . Sarajevo ,despite Torvill and Dean , unfortunately is not spectacular; maybe it is in winter.