Thursday, August 9, 2007
Jajce - town of the extremes
When I arrived in Jajce, it rained. It had been raining all day long and I had more or less given up hope that the weather would change.
Jajce was not even on the map I had bought in Germany. The only reason why I had come to this town in central Bosnia was because someone had told me that it had the "12th most beautiful waterfall in the world". I wonder who ranks these things...
Getting out of from the bus station and finding my way into town was not too difficult. The women at the tourist information (who spoke both, excellent German and English) named a pension where I could stay for 10€ a night. As it turned out, its was her sisters house that I slept in and her son who came to pick me up.
After I had unpacked and treated myself to a beer, I decided to take a walk around town. After all, I was to stay in Jajce for at least two days and I didn't fell like spending the time inside, whether it would rain or not.
Walking trough town, I thought that I had made a terrible mistake by coming.
Literally all of the houses had bullet holes in the walls and some had passed the stage of decay and already started to collapse. In some places it looked as though the neighbors had opened fire on each other from their living room window. Even numbers against uneven ones, Muslims against Croats and Serbs against everyone.
Nothing was left of the orthodox church, except for the main tower and the stone floor, covered in plants and litter. In contrast to that, the construction of the new Mosque in the middle of town was almost finished and it wasn't the sound of bells ringing every hour, which I heard in Jajce. It was the voice of the Muezzin.
It sounded from the Minaret, was thrown back from the walls of the collapsing houses and spread itself out across the whole of Jajce, together with the rain and fog, like Muezzins prayer carpet.
War was in the air.
It was looking over my shoulder, hiding behind every corner and jumping into my face where ever I looked. War had been part of the reason why I had come to former Yugoslavia.
I wanted to find out if I would be able to stand the sight of it, cope with the pain and suffering that was still so obvious.
The beautiful nature, the waterfall, the old town and the castle, all that stood back behind the cruelties which the people of this very country Bosnia had inflicted on each other.
Ten minutes into every conversation, the war would turn up as a topic, even if I had not spoken about it myself. Even those who did not speak about the war, told me about it.
You could see it in their eyes, in their walk, in their empty sleeves and trouser legs, held with pin needles just underneath their hips and shoulder plates.
"I've got to get out of here at once", I said to myself. If I was going to stay, it would ruin everything. I would turn into an emotional wrack and stay depressed for the rest of the trip.
Meanwhile, the rain had turned even harder and lightning was cutting the sky in half.
Back at the pension, I calmed down a bit and had a chat with the son of the family. As it turned out, he was going to havehis birthday party that night and invited me to come over and celebrate with him and his friends. I felt relieved. Company and a drink (sure I would have more then one) were just the things I was longing for.
That night , Jajce showed me a different face. The bar where the party was going of was crowded as hell and not only had most of the young locals come there to celebrate, also the infamous "diaspora" turned up.
I knew that many of the young people of Jajce were now living abroad. In Austria, in Germany, Sweden and Norway. Only I had had no idea that they would all come back at this time of the year. Ten minutes after I had arrived , I found myself talking to three girls from Scandinavia, a DJ living in Greece and a guy who had been living in Cologne for almost half his life.
That night, the kids of Jajce gave me my nickname, which I would carry for the rest of my stay.
"Šwabo" (=German) was what they called me and since nobody would remember my actual name anyways, I decided to go by that.
When I woke up the next morning, the sun had come out and its rays were playing on my face.
"Ok" I thought. "Lets give this place another chance".
I had not been out on the street for more then half an hour, when I heard a somehow familiar voice. "Šwabo! Come sit with us". It was the three Scandinavian girls. I talked with them for a while and they told me where the party would go of that night. Even though Jajce is (by Bosnian standards) a rather big city, there is only two bars in the whole of town where the young people go to.
For the next three nights, I was part of the crew.
I chatted, drank, laughed and sang with just about everyone. I met and had some of the most interesting people and had some of the most exciting conversations since I had left Germany. I met a race car driver, a journalist, I met the DJ again and also came across a girl who studied German and had lived in Duesseldorf for a couple of years.
A particularly interesting guy, who studied medicine, explained me the situation of Jajce, his family and himself during thew war and also the situation of Bosnia, twelve years after its end. He invited me over to his house to meet his granny, showed me the lake and the nature around Jajce and took me to the grave of the last Bosnian king, who had been beheaded in the surrounding mountains.
He opened my eyes in a lot of different ways and might be the one person I have met on my journey so far, who brought me in touch with this country, more then I could have ever asked for.
All, seriously all of the people were so oped and friendly to me, that I even started to feel ashamed at some points, because I didn't have the feeling that I could give them back as much as they gave me. Then again, it didn't seem to matter too much.
In the end, I stayed two days longer then I had intended to and when the bus left the "kolodvor" (=station) for Travnik, it was the first time that I felt seriously sorry for leaving.
Jajce is the one town that I will come back to for sure and I want to make use of the moment to tell all those boys and girls I met there to thank them for the terrific time I had with them.
HVALA! Hvala to all of you.