Bosnian Small Towns: Jajce & Travnik

Among Bosnians the Jajce Waterfall is iconic. My friend Amir is from there and he was going home to visit his family so I tagged along to do some sight seeing.

Jajce is a medieval town where the last of the Bosnian kings lived and died. I visited the castle and climbed up on the wall to do some writing and drawing.

I met an older woman there who was studying an English grammar book. She lives nearby and often comes up to the castle to read and socialize with the tourists. The two of us became friends and we spoke partly in English, partly in Bosnian (which I mostly just pretended I understood). She asked me if I had to be somewhere at some time that day and I said “Not at all, I’ve got all day.”

She said, “Ohhhhh that’s good. Then we can spend all day together,” and she led me all over town showing me her favorite things. She watches everything and everyone that goes by and takes joy in all of it. She points out even the dandelions along the side of the road and wants to stop and talk to everyone she sees. She gave a thumbs up to some little girls roller skating past and they grinned at her.

She said, “I’m going to take you to see the mlincici (watermills), but I’ll make you some lunch first.” So I went to her apartment where she made me food and coffee. I googled mlincici and saw that it was 5 miles away, and I asked, “Are you sure you want to walk all the way there? It’s really far away!”

She said, “What, you don’t think you can make it?” So we walked all the way to mlincici together, passing Pliva Lake along the way.

When we arrived, she was squealing with happiness, saying, “Aren’t you so happy to see this?” And I was. Mainly because I was happy to spend the day with someone who took such delight in everything around her. Here is a woman who doesn’t travel much but she doesn’t let her location or age or anything else stop her from experiencing and enjoying everything around her. She really takes advantage of life, milking it for all it’s worth, and I’m grateful I learned that life lesson from her.

The next day Amir and I went to Travnik, where they have the best cevapi in Bosnia, some famous cheese, and they give you a cigarette and matches with your coffee.

It’s a fun town to walk around in, full of interesting coffee shops and bars and buildings that have been around for centuries.

There’s a castle there too, which is always a highlight for me. It’s crazy to think, “Yeah, here I am sitting on top of this wall that I paid $2 to see, and people hundreds of years ago were shooting at their enemies from this very spot defending their people’s lives.”

Back in Sarajevo I heard about the piaca (market) in Ilidza, a suberb of the capital city. It only happens on Sundays so I rode the bus to check it out. My friend who told me about it gave me directions, saying, “When you get off the tram just follow the people,” and he was right. I saw people returning from the piaca with shopping bags full of anything you can think of, from kitchen supplies to clothes to old cameras that don’t work anymore. The vendors saw me taking photos and everyone wanted a photo of what they were selling. It was like stepping into another world. Guys at their tables were advertising their goods, yelling, “Zenski, Muski…” (Ladies and gentlemen…).

I asked one lady if I could take a photo and she posed for the camera, holding up her best selection of meat.

It was finally time for me to leave Bosnia so I took off with a new backpack I scored at the piaca and said goodbye to my friends. But I’ll be back.

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