Adventures in Sarajevo

I woke up today to the most fabulous blue skies you could ask for when your plan is to spend the day sight seeing.  Travis missed his flight and won’t be back until tomorrow, so I had the whole day to myself. I admit that I languished around the hotel for a few hours, enjoying a long hot shower and the fact that I had a queen sized bed all to myself (usually I share a single bed with Wasi… its crowded).  But eventually those blue skies were too tempting to ignore.

My initial plan was to spend the day driving along the sights at the outskirts of the city and up in the surrounding mountains so that I could get the dogs out of the car and do some walking.  However, attempting to find my way through a city like Sarajevo without a GPS proved next to impossible.  Even with the GPS to get me to my first sight, I got lost three times when the road it told me to turn on turned out to be literally too small for my Subaru to fit down.  I had to reverse down two roads, which as anyone who knows me could tell you, is really very terrifying.  It took me over an hour to end up at the Yellow Bastion, which is less then five minutes walk from my hotel.  The views of the city from there were breathtaking.

Unfortunately, while I was attempting to get myself out of there, an old man insisted on coming down a one lane road when I was already half way down it.  I tried to get over enough for him to get by, and scraped my front bumper against a wall (don’t worry, plastic bumper, no damage)!  That freaked me out enough to decide that driving for the day wasn’t worth the hassle and stress it was causing me, not to mention the wasted time and missed photo opportunities.  The down side of this decision was that it meant leaving all the dogs except Wasi in the car for a few hours, which just breaks my heart.  Fortunately the temperatures are cool now.

Wasi and I wandered down to Pigeon Square, where there actually are what seem like a million pigeons landing on everyone and begging for bread.  I thought about trying to convince some to land on Wasi, but he was watching them with a look in his eye that said he was hungry so instead we headed off to enjoy the market.  The last time I was here it was raining and night time, so there weren’t many people around.  Today the market was bustling with life, and it was hard to decide where to look and which little alleyway to walk down next.

Somehow, I found myself standing in front of Gazi Husrev Beg’s Mosque, the most monumental mosque of the Ottoman period and one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture in BiH (so the tourist information sign outside it told me).  I stepped just a few feet in to the courtyard just to read that sign, and was promptly scolded by a guard to get my dog out.  A really lovely old man saw Wasi’s vest, and came forward and explained to the guard that he’s an Assistance Dog and the guard waved us on.  I actually hadn’t moved yet, as I was still immersed in the sign, when a second guard came over much more aggressively.  This time a young teenage boy stepped up to try and translate, but after a moment, I smiled and walked the few feet back out of the courtyard: I didn’t want to be disrespectful.  I never would have walked in the mosque with a dog, obviously, but I was disappointed I couldn’t wander around outside, as there was so much to see even there.

Instead, we headed towards “Sarajevo Meeting of Cultures,” where the East meets the west.  It was incredible to literally feel like you were walking from one culture in to the next as you stepped across the line.  Where as old town is narrow, cobblestone streets, beautiful market stands and such vibrancy in colour, the west side is far more modern, larger buildings, bigger streets, and with a certain coolness to it after the warmth of the east side.  Can you tell I prefer Old Town?  I didn’t stay on the west side long, preferring to go back towards the hotel and find myself something to eat.  Wasi and I shared a pizza and fries and the attention of pretty much every passerby for about an hour.

Pet dogs seem fairly common here in the city, but not of the size and impressiveness of Wasi.  Obviously, I’m biased and think Wasi is pretty much the most gorgeous dog in the world, but even without that bias, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a striking and eye catching breed to be strolling around with.  Interestingly, despite the fact that everyone clearly wanted to approach, no one pet Wasi without me noticing and waving them over to give the okay, everyone was super respectful.  Wasi of course, was his usual adorable and snuggly self; that dog would go home with whoever gave him the best pets, he has no loyalty whatsoever.

After eating, I decided that I should take the dogs for a walk.  That’s right, all seven of them… together.  Its hard to pick and choose which dogs to leave behind, and with sunlight running out, I knew that I could either get them all out on one real beneficial walk, or only get little groups out on useless potty break walks that would leave them miserably full of energy and me feeling even guiltier then I already did for leaving them for a few hours.  I knew this was risky business, since I am no longer the young teenager that can handle countless dogs without even thinking about it.  But generally, I’ve always been able to handle all my dogs together, though I can’t actually remember the last time I walked them all on leash at the same time (usually at least some are loose).

I figured if I went uphill, away from the city centre, we probably wouldn’t run in to too many problems, and I was right.  Though we stopped every ten feet or so for me to make useless attempts at untangling the leashes, we managed a very unexciting hour of walking and I got some brilliant photos of the sunset over the city.  Even the stray cats were easy enough to handle, as my dogs all know the leave it command and seemed happy enough to listen as long as it meant we kept walking.  We also made the day of about a dozen taxi drivers, who probably have seen many unusual things during the course of their job, but seemed to find my pack particularly enthralling, and stopped to ask if they could take photos, which of course I obliged.  With seven dogs pulling me along, the fact that it was all very steeply uphill wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been either.

We were almost back to the car and the hotel, when I heard a yell and a whistle behind us.  I glanced back and to my horror, saw an unleashed brindle pitbull type dog chasing us down, its owner running helplessly behind it.  I immediately broke in to a jog, encouraging my dogs to continue moving forward and uphill.  The car was in sight when Syn caught our stalker out of the corner of her eye.  As if they have some sort of Twilight werewolf type mental connection, they all turned as one mass, while I tried to grab for the fence post to hold them back, and yelled frantically to the owner “my dogs aren’t friendly!”.  But my dogs weigh a combined 515 pounds, and they had turned downhill.  The next thing I knew, I was skiing across the cobblestones, this time on my butt, with that poor, friendly pitbull’s eminent death flashing before my eyes.  My dogs are actually all dog friendly individually, but when that pack mentality kicks in, so can the bloodlust.  And even seven friendly dogs coming at one poor dog at once is enough to make anyone fear the worst.

Just as we would have reached the dog, it seemed to realise the danger it was in, and turned back towards its owner.  Simultaneously, Nibble and Moomkin, neither of whom is known for their gracefulness, stumbled and fell, tripping the rest of them up and bringing me to a painful and sudden stop in the middle of the road.  I heard brakes screeching and looked up to see a taxi skidding to a stop behind me.  I managed to scramble to my feet and tried to get the dogs off the road, except they had become a tangled mess of legs and leashes.  I can’t even imagine what a sight that must have been, one tiny woman standing amidst seven mostly huge dogs, none of whom could seem to regain their feet.  Many onlookers were laughing, and despite the road rash on my bum, I couldn’t help but join them.  It’ll probably be a while before I forget this episode and think I can handle them all at once again.  It was worth it though, as I now have seven very sleepy dogs who are all content to rest for the night.  Needless to say, today was definitely one for the memory book!

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