Jajce

I promised myself that I would do mini adventures every other day until Travis’ return, and so far, I’m sticking with it.  Today I had one of those “eyes bigger then your stomach” moments, and planned three towns when one was clearly more than enough.  Not to worry, the town I choose turned out to be nothing short of spectacular and now I have two more mini adventures to the other towns to look forward to!

First, I got the ideas for which places to visit in BiH by asking on my favourite travel FB group, Girls Love Travel.  I received loads of advice on places not to miss and I compiled them into a list that I am working my way through.  Jajce was suggested multiple times, and being only about 75 mins from Kupres, seemed like a good choice for today’s mini adventure.

Jajce is a “large” (for BiH) town situated between two major rivers, the Pliva River and the Vrbas River.  The rivers meet right at the foot of the town, where the Pliva tumbles in to the Vrbas creating one of the most stunning waterfalls I’ve ever seen, with the town as its backdrop.  It’s not often that you get to see a waterfall IN a town, and this town is literally brimming with them!  There are waterfalls welcoming you in, waterfalls bidding you farewell, and even more accompanying you on your stroll through the streets.  I was a rubbernecking pro as I drove around stopping at every turnout trying to get photos of as many as I could!

While I probably could have spent all day just waterfall watching, Jajce has more to offer.  A 14th century fortress still graces the top of the mountain, and makes for an incredible photo op.  You can walk up to the top for views of the whole town, but I had Wasi with me, and had to make the call that it might be a bit too many stairs for his ten month old hips (one of the realities of traveling with and working a still growing Assistance Dog in training).  Instead, Wasi and I went to visit Bear Tower (I couldn’t read the signs to figure out why its called that) and the catacombs.

I wasn’t actually expecting to be allowed in the catacombs with Wasi, since the sign clearly said no dogs and as I’ve mentioned before, Assistance dogs aren’t really a thing in BiH.  But the lady at the ticket stand was so nice, and there weren’t any other visitors, so she let me go on down.  This was Wasi’s very first trip underground, which can be very challenging for dogs; many underground tourist attractions throughout Europe are completely off limits to Assistance Dogs, even Guide Dogs, because many dogs find being underground so uncomfortable they can’t perform.  Wasi walked down the first flight of stairs and into the upper chambers without seeming to notice, but hesitated when I started down to the lower chamber.  Despite being fairly well lit, even I was pretty creeped out, and would have turned back if Wasi wasn’t willing to go any further.  Before I could turn around though, Wasi walked down the stairs and strolled past me.  Sometimes I think we are getting no where with his training, and then he does something like this and reminds me that just because he’s slower then Nefsi, doesn’t mean its not all getting through.

Wasi and I didn’t linger in the catacombs, but took a few photos and then hurried up only to be blinded the moment we stepped back outside.  The weather today was absolute autumn gold, with shining sun and cloudless sky and the last of the warm temperatures so I’ve been warned.  I took advantage by strolling along the town’s cobblestone streets and taking photos of everything from the ruins to the new mosque to (of course) more waterfalls.  Since I had Wasi, I decided to skip another solo meal (with some relief admittedly).  The entire adventure in town probably only lasted around two hours, but once I was back in the car, I knew I had expended all the energy I had for solo adventuring that day and opted to head back to Kupres instead of continuing to the next town on my list.  All in all though, I consider it another successful day of being on my own and not hiding out in the cabin, so definitely a win!

Advertisements

Obstacles to Exploring

I’m on day two of being alone, and I woke up this morning knowing that if I didn’t create a routine that would get me out of bed every day, I was liable to just sit around and sink in to a depression over the next two weeks.  This is one of the main reasons I didn’t opt to travel alone in the first place: I know I am susceptible to regular and often severe bouts of depression, and I find that having someone around to feel responsible to helps me fight them off.  Luckily, I still have the animals to care for, and am responsible for the daily upkeep and exercise of the horses here at the farm, so it should be fairly easy to keep myself on track.

One of the things I’ve promised myself that I will do at least every other day is leave the farm and go out exploring.  This is challenging for me, and not just for the usual reasons of having anxiety and such.  I also don’t have access to WiFi or phone service once I leave the farm, which means getting lost is a very real concern.  Additionally, Assistance Dogs aren’t really a thing here, definitely not outside the major cities, so that means if I want to go inside anywhere, I have to go without Wasi.  I’ve been getting really good at going in to stores and shops without a dog, but always with Travis, so this is going to be a really big push outside my safe zone.

Despite these concerns racing around my head, after I finished my morning chores on the farm, I set off determinedly to check out some of the things in the local area.  I visited the churches in Kupres and Tomislavgrad since I am surprisingly fascinated by churches for a non-religious person.  Part of the reason is the architecture and history of these places for sure, but I think another big factor is the fact that for whatever reason, churches always feel safe to enter without a dog.  Both churches were beautiful, and sadly, both are new.  The church in Kupres was destroyed not once, but twice during the war.  The fact that this history is so recent, literally within my own lifetime, was heart wrenching to think about.

After the churches, I attempted to visit the ancient tombs that are scattered all over this area of BiH.  In one of the tombs, a perfectly intact mummy and his shroud were recovered from 3000 B.C.!  I plan to visit the museum that houses these artefacts at a later date, but for today, I just wanted to wander over the hills that had once housed them.  Except I didn’t do my research very well, and I forgot that out here in the countryside, many of the would-be tourist sites are not very well marked.  I found the road sign indicating the turn off for the tombs, but despite nearly 40 mins of driving down an unpaved road, I’m not actually sure that I ever managed to see the tombs themselves.  There were some rocky hills that looked different from the rest of the landscape, so I snapped some photos of those in case they were it.  I’ll have to ask Mate or Marko where I went wrong…  this is me as a solo traveler in a nutshell.

I may not (or may, to be determined) have found the tombs, but I did visit quite a few cemeteries along my route.  Like the churches, these sites serve as really poignant reminders of how recent the tragedy of war is here.  Kurpes was a major battle site of the war because of its important mid-way location for communications through the mountains.  The remnants of war are still visible everywhere, from houses bearing bullet holes, buildings blown to pieces, signs warning of mines, and into the eyes of Marko, boss two, who served on the front lines and still clearly carries the weight of what he saw.  There are memorials everywhere and I stopped and took a moment at each and every one that I saw because I think we owe it to peace not to forget.

I ended my first day of solo exploring by forcing myself to stop at a local restaurant and have a meal all by myself… not even Wasi for company.  I went for comfort food, pizza and French fries, and tried not to notice how crowded the completely empty restaurant started to get as I sat there.  I’m not sure I can remember the last time I ate a meal in public alone, and I definitely don’t know the last time I did so without a dog at my feet.  I managed to keep the anxiety attack at bay by focusing on editing some of the photos I’d taken of the day and scrolling through Facebook.  By the time I made it home, I was feeling both relived and proud of myself.  I made it through the day intact, without succumbing to the fears or anxiety that were pressing in on all sides.  I even enjoyed myself, enough that I’m already looking forward to my next mini solo adventure.  This time I think I’ll try planning a little more thoroughly, so that I know for sure if I make it to the site I’m trying to reach!