Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls…in Bosnia
Last Friday, Majmun and I decided to cap off our Bosnian Bonanza with stop in Travnik before jumping in the famed waters of Jajce. This meant we had to take a roundabout route west of Sarajevo before heading back east to Belgrade. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize how roundabout this trip would become.
The road from Sarajevo to Travnik was uneventful but slow due to the two-lane highway overrun with trucks and Yugos going below the speed limit. A warning to Balkan travel planners: distances are further than they appear. Small highways, mountains, and trucks make those two close points on the map a longer drive than you’d believe. Still, driving in Bosnia offers beautiful sights, and the main roads aren’t bad. At times I felt like I was in a BMW commercial, gliding through curvy roads along a green mountainside. Minus the BMW, that is.
We reached Travnik, our midpoint, in about two hours. The Ottomans made Travnik the capital of their Bosnian stronghold in 1699, resulting in numerous mosques and Ottoman architecture that still stands today. We climbed around Travnik’s medieval fortress and dipped our hands in the plava voda…before realizing a catfish farm was depositing water nearby. Hmmm.
Travnik is also famous for being the home of Pulitzer prize-winning author Ivo Andric and for making world-class Bosnian coffee. Okay, I made up that last one, but it was truly delicious.
After the coffee kicked in (whee!) we pressed on to Jajce. Jajce is a medieval town flanked by stone gates and ruins. It’s also home to a famous 20-meter waterfall and nearby lakes. I hadn’t discovered a lot of information about Jajce, but the photos I saw looked amazing. Majmun and I were excited to see it in person.
Jajce is about a two-hour drive from Travnik on the M-5, a major North-West highway. Or so we thought. After about 30 minutes on the M-5 we were met with an ominous sign: Jajce was crossed out with red tape. I spoke to a gas station attendant who confirmed the news. The major highway to Jajce was closed.
Not to fear! we thought. Majmun and asked “Jack” (the name of our GPS voice) to find a detour. No dice. We consulted a map and saw a small road and even smaller town that could connect us to Jajce. Using this as a GPS waypoint, we drove on smaller roads through mountains, passing few cars. At the rakija stand I wrote about on Friday, Jack told us to turn left at a gravel road next to a logging truck. It was definitely the road less traveled…but I’m supposed to take those, right?
After 30 more minutes of driving, we pulled over. Jack had brought us to the right road…we just didn’t realize it was an unpaved logging road. At this rate, it would take hours and a possible flat tire to reach Jajce. We had to abandon our plans. Five hours of driving from Sarajevo led to a filthy car and a failed mission; but it also led to great coffee, even better rakija, and an important lesson brought to us by TLC.
Thanks, ladies. I’ll stick to the Sava and the Danube I’m used to.