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Cameras: Canon 70D DSLR, iPhone 4 and GoPro Hero.
Campsite in Otocec, Slovenia, where I am forced to engage in a little light breaking-and-entering after dark.
Holy vineyards in Croatia, en route to Zagreb.
My hosts in Zagreb, who could not be kinder.
My second host in Zagreb – a lovely guy and keen cyclist, who rode to Iran. It was far more liberal than Turkey, he tells me.
High in the hills, just 15 mins outside Zagreb.
A decadent pint-heavy evening… of herbal tea. They prefer ‘non-industrial’ food and drink, they say.
The owner of the cottage, who works in the market with his parents and gets up at 4am every morning.
Decor inside the cottage. Croatia is a deeply religious country, with about 86% of the population identifying as Catholic
I hunker down in a building site en route to Bosnian border after running over a dead snake and deciding to shun long grass for a while. All fine, except for when a dozen bulldozers crank up at 6am and roll into the fields just metres from my tent. A handy alarm clock, though.
Throughout the Balkans, from the Croatian/Bosnian border onwards, I discover that almost no-one renders their houses due to lack of funds. Many remain unfinished and derelict due to over-ambitious plans that drain the coffers before completion.
My saviours! This beady-eyed 19-year-old sees me expiring in the heat and takes me to his grandma’s for food and drink. Hooray!
After a hearty meal of eggs (from her chickens), salami (from her pigs), bread (from her oven) and tomatoes (from her garden), grandma whips me up the biggest sandwich I have ever seen, a bottle of squash and a hefty slog of her home-made cherry sherry (strength unknown). What a gal.
A sandwich of kings, which I am still digesting now.
My teenage saviour’s 37-year-old mother – and pup.
And his house, where only the downstairs is used. His parents are building a new one beside it because the four-room building will be ‘far too big’ for just the two of them after he moves out, he says.
And their pregnant pig.
And his tractor.
My hot set of wheels.
I celebrate my first night in Bosnia with a wanton night under leopard skin.
For my second night, I find a cosy spot to camp behind a half-built church. A little spooky as night descends, and I turn deeply religious for the best part of eight hours.
Trespassing is clearly taken seriously in Bosnia. They wake you at the crack of dawn and force you to drink homebrewed rakija, the fiends!
After we’re sufficiently tipsy for 6am, the builder shows me around the church.
The lovely, simple church interior.
Beautiful views en route to Banja Luka.
I take a brief detour on my way to Banja Luka to see the pretty waterfalls of Krupta River.
High in the hills.
I spot this soon after #piggate in the UK. Could there be a connection?
Fiendishly expensive shoes in Banja Luka. Apparently people pay top whack here as a means of showing off their wealth and status.
Well, Dervla Murphy (a famous solo female cyclist from the 60s) had a .25 pistol, so why not?
The Cathedral of Holy Trinity in Banja Luka (the centre of Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb Republic), was completely destroyed by the Nazis in 1941, with Serbs, Roma and Jews ordered to carry out the demolition. This rebuilt version was completed in 2009.
Small shrines like this can be found throughout the Balkans, all the same style. I’d be grateful if anyone can tell me who they are for. Roadside deaths, perhaps?
This is not a road, Garmin, it’s really not.
The lodge of the Zelenkovac Ecological Movement, high up in the Bosnian hills, owned by artist Boro Jankovic. B&B, art gallery, eco-centre, jazz festival, hippy retreat, nightclub… anything you’d like it to be. Truly a salve for the soul.
P & S, the French & Serb managers of the eco-lodge, showing me how to blend with the natives.
Breakfast at 8am. I think my Balkans initiation is complete.
For the sake of sectarian harmony, cigarettes have warnings in all three national languages, Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian, even though the first two are identical to the letter. Brilliant.
An extortionate €3 pack of cigarettes.
The eco-lodge from outside, growing and developing every year.
Brief lakeside picnic stop en route to Jajce.
Stunning waterfall in the centre of Jajce, in the Federation of Bosnia & Herzegovina, where the Pliva river meets the Vrbas. Just one of an intimidating 24 historical sites located throughout the city.
Maud at rest.
The 20m-high waterfall, which is a little terrifying.
A niqab-clad woman by river – the first I have seen on this trip.
St Mary’s Church, Jajce, believed to have been built in the C12th. In 1582, it was converted into a mosque and named after the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. It later burnt down several times, leaving behind nothing but walls.
View from the Jajce Fortress, built in the C14th by the city founder.
Another view from Jajce (it has some rather lovely views).
Sarajevo old town.
Sarajevo hills and rooftops.
The Sacred Heart Cathedral in Sarajevo, built in 1889 and believed to be the largest cathedral in the country. It has become a symbol of the city, despite Sarajevo being predominantly Muslim.
The Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque, described in the literature as ‘the most monumental mosque of the Ottoman period’. It was built by Beg in 1951, and designed by the chief architect of the Ottoman period, Ajam Asir Ali.
Shoes outside mosque.
Worshippers – and texters.
One of the many ‘Sarajevo roses’ throughout the city: mortar explosion marks filled with red resin to mark where one or more people died. The explosions occurred during the Siege of Sarajevo by the Army of Republika Srpska, from 5 April 1992 to 29 February 1996. It was the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare.
Bosnian stew: a delicious concoction of veg, potato, onion and pepper. It could do with a touch more herbs & spice, however.
A Serb journalist-turned-translator, who tells me about the rise of religion in Bosnia. People were much more tolerant before the war, he says.
A British investigative journalist working in Sarajevo. Corruption is deeply entrenched and the country is in a parlous state, she says. On the bright side, her husband works for the UN and is making a laminated toilet pass for UN Global Advocate Daniel Craig as we chat.
Deep turquoise lakes en route to Montenegro.