International Writers Magazine:
year was 1985 and Yugoslavia was still an undivided country.Having
left the enchanting fortress city of Dubrovnik two hours earlier,
our rented Yugo was winding down the spectacular sea coast road
as my wife and I headed for Mostar, to see its famous 500 year-old
arched stone "Stari-Most" bridge, connecting that combined
mosque and church city. After an hour of taking the mandatory pictures
of the bridge with and without local kids diving into the Neretva
River below, admiring Mostars magnificent white marble mosques,
doing the tourist shops, we lit out for our days final destination,
the Olympic city of Sarajevo.
Driving along, we
noticed that most roadside Tavernas had rotating spits out front, roasting
what looked like goat. Curious and hungry, we eased our Yugo to a stop
in front of one. Motioning to the owner that we wanted some of what
he had on his spit, we watched as his wife rushed over, took her husbands
knife and cut for us what seemed to be extremely generous portions with
neither bone nor fat. Then she invited us into her kitchen to proudly
show vegetables picked from her backyard garden and to help make a salad.
While we were eating, the wife and husband brought to the table a bottle
of wine pouring us each a glass, before raising theirs in a shared toast.The
lamb was delicious; crisp, moist and spiced just right. Add to it the
overall warm, wonderful shared experience, prompted adding a tip to
the cost of lunch, in a country where no one tipped; the total coming
to the equivalent of an embarrassing ten U.S. dollars. Before we left,
momma hugged us both, while poppa smiled and shook our hands. All the
above with not one spoken word understood between us. Just smiles.
The continuing drive, on the road that Tito had built for the 1984 Yugoslav
hosted Winter Olympics, was spectacular, tunneling through mountains
that dared reach the road. Imagine, a 30-mile stretch, actually a gentle,
rolling ribbon of a road, constructed inside a gorge, with a running
river below on the right, mountains reaching great heights to the left
and the road bound by the golden leaves of aspens at their Fall prettiest.
Never, anywhere, not even in my New England love affair at leaf turn
time, could I recall experiencing the euphoria of those 30 Yugoslavian
miles. Neither my wife or I uttered a word; nothing said could compare
to what we were seeing and feeling. A half hour later, we motored into
Sarajevo, a city with a coexistence of cultures; austere buildings from
the Austrian occupation paralleling secular overhanging balconied Turkish
Walking the centuries old cobblestones, we reached our dinner pick restaurant.
With no English spoken, but with the waiters indulgence, we solved
our communication block with pidgin German. The result of our limited
chatter being delicious lamb kabobs, rice and veggies, plus a bottle
of Rose Bibich, a touch of sweetness, sweetening our dinner. Afterwards,
window shopping the bazaar with its gigantic mosque, we wandered the
winding alleys of 12 foot wide, by 30 feet deep shops, offering jewelry,
leather, household goods and more Hookah water pipe variations than
one could imagine.
That Sarajevo visit ended next day with a stop to see the former Olympic
village, before heading for the airport and a flight to Zagreb, It was
in Zagreb that we experienced a most magic moment, on our last night
there, our last in Yugoslavia. Dressed down in slacks and shirt with
light-wear jackets, we walked passed the majestic Zagreb Opera House.
A Russian Ballet was scheduled for the next night so we werent
completely surprised to see people milling about as if waiting for a
cheap-seat rehearsal performance. However, as we drew closer, we realized
these were entire families with children, all dressed in their fineries.
A young usher who spoke English, explained, "tonight is a once-a-year,
traditional childrens night show."
"Darn", I said, "we would have loved to see it. Especially
since this is our last night in Yugoslavia. In the morning we fly to
"L.A.", he almost shouted, "I Love L.A. Someday, I hope
to go there."
Then, he whispered, "Would you like to go inside?"
"Yes, of course.", we whispered back.
Pointing to the mezzanine, he said, "wait till all the theatre
doors close, then meet me up there."
As instructed, when the lobby was empty and doors closed, we walked
up the broad marble stairway, meeting him at the top, where he led us
to a door he opened with a key. Inside was an extremely large, empty
box. "Sit in the back out of sight," he cautioned. We noted
that the chairs were beautifully brocaded and the box was center theatre,
just above the stage. The musical was a charming "Hansel &
Gretel" take off. We enjoyed it thoroughly. Our friendly usher
had instructed us not to leave until he opened the door, which he did
after the theatre had emptied, Obviously, we thanked him with great
enthusiasm for both the play and the wonderful seats. Laughingly, he
said, pointing to the Crest-of-Arms on the wall behind us, "these
should be wonderful seats, this is our Presidents box.".
Taken aback, we offered him a thank you gratuity. His reply was an eye-tearing,
"No please! Thank you for visiting our country. We Yugoslavians
Memories of a Yugoslavia that, sadly, may never
© David Russell
all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility
- no liability accepted by hackwriters.com or affiliates.