Croatia -Bosnia- Serbia 10-21 August

August 22nd

3-day-break in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, where we stay at Martin's, Gabrielle's brother. We 've found there a forgotten feeling of confort and of being at home (a feeling we'll forget again in a few hours) which is so familiar, reassuring and simple.


It gives us time after a little more than ten days to take our story back where we had left it. Those ten days have taken us along the Sava river, for a journey which, ten years ago, would have been from the 2nd to the 1st city of Yougolavi, from Zagreb to Belgrad.


In what used to be Yougoslavia, I enterd with the memories of some books, of some 15-year-old news breaks, and of the fellings I got from all the talks I had with people who had been or grown up there.  I also have in my mind the images and the sounds of Kusturica's films, especially those of Underground , that I have seen thousand times.


I, therefore carry on with me on top of my so heavy luggagge, many ideas, images, sounds, which my estonishment and surprise will test for the next ten days.


We can start with what correctly passed from the state of ideas to fact : No more Yougoslavia, but independent states, therefore, three borders to cross, where our bicycles join the line of estonished cars. We depressed a honest Bosnian policeman who stared at us both with boredom and sceptiscism : "but you do know that you are in Bosnia ?".


Forthe rest, everything is different from what I thought.


Bosnia for instance, we thought we were entering a country divided in entities; everyone at his right place after the ethnic purification and the peace aggreement signed in 1995.

But from one zone to another, one can move on freely, nothing even indicates that you've changed zone, appart from the parasols outside of the same cafés, Serian beers on some, Croatian beers, the Sarajevsko Pivo, for the others. Advertisments as the last mark of affiliation?


"Ethnic cleansing " then, and yet it is in the "Croatian" zone, in the district of Brcko, and again in Republika Srbska that we saw the first minarets  of our trip, and heard for the firt time the muezzin inviting the fidels to pray, event which didn't seem to bother anyone outside the cafés of Bijeljina.


We thought we were entering the balkan branch of the Axe of Evil, where behind each Burek seller would actually be hidden (in a quite indiscreet way) a man wanted in La Haye, where every man could play the bad guy in the next season of 24. Instead we crossed a puzzling country, a country which has managed to erase all obtrusive stains of the tragic wartime, a country where its inhabitants maw their lawn with a sort of religious faith and rebuild its mosques and churchs, one right next to the other.


We met by chance Vedrana and Dejan in Bijeljina. She is Serbian from Bosnia, was moved out of Tuzla, he is from Bijeljina, his dad is Serbian and/or Croatian, his mother is muslim (his grand father sang in Paris in the 30's before he stopped drinking.) She sings in the orthodox choire and in a couple of jazz orchestras, he is a bit bouddhist, (the Grand Vehicule of Master Yoda branch), vegetarian, and he works to improve the dialogue between the different communities, he studied anthropology in Belgrad, he teaches Yoga and Reiki, he speaks a bit of sankrit, studied the Black Gipsies (gypsies who don't know they are gypsies, and who speak a dialect close to the Romanian, just as the Valaques -hard to follow...), he didn't manage to visit his brother who moved to Louisiana after the war because of the Visa embargo, he is tired of Religion, she is not. They are radiant with love.


Do I need to mention that after talking two hours with them, I don't understand better, I understand maybe less, what happened here twenty years ago. No one seems to know though. And as they are waiting for an answer to that question, people live as well as they can, parias dof a Europe which refuse to give away a single visa (there is one country where the Serbians and the Bosnians can go : Croatia...), and as if they wanted to make sure they were living in the strangest country ever, they chose the Deutch Mark as a currency (2KM = 1 euro).


In France we convinces ourselves that there were good guys and bad guys, some war ends, maybe even a strategy, a goal, maybe a criminal one, some "direct causes" and some "undelying causes", that all the attrocities performed were part a bigger plan, that at least they made sens to the persons inflicting them.


In 24 hours all our beliefs vanished, and this wartime became even scaried and puzzling. It is as if people here hardly knew why it happened, and that everything happened before they could start to understand why.


"my actions overcame my thoughts", is the saying we could link to our time in Bosnia.


A muslim truck driver told us, "we are always like that, us Bosnians, immer witzig, always kidding".



As for the rest, what we saw, lived and found is a country Kusturica has not invented but that he has completely wrapped up in a compact and tight edditing in which holds together hundreds of geese, thousands of birds, too much alcohol, superbs faces and eyes, corn fields with hedges and wooden fences, drying sheds (for tobacco, corn, hay...), roads more or less bumped, Roms sellers of gold bracelets and necklesses, old men wearing hats, old women wearing scarfs, an hospitaility which leaves you dumbfounded, plums and stills for making alcohol, walnut trees three times bigger than anywhere else, rivers and roses, the same music from Zagreb to Belgrade, a 30-year old priest on a scooter, bridges on the Drina, sheep, an abandonned tank... such a strange land of plenty...