October 10, 2004

The Long Way Home

The very long journey to Klagenfurt, where I was flying home from, was meant to start at 5am. It actually started at 4am, as my clock stopped in the middle of the night, and that was when I happened to wake up. Unable to return to sleep for fear of my clock stopping again, and my alarm not going off - I read for an hour, before I set off on the walk to Sarajevo Bus Station.

I went to buy a ticket for the 6.30am to Zagreb, but happened to be 2 KM short of the correct price. The guy at the desk happily accepted a couple of Euros instead, and all was well. The bus was very empty, and I sprawled lazily across my double seat, and watched the suburbs of Sarajevo pass by. Outside the old city, the architecture was distinctly Communist concrete.

The bus wound its way through the mountains, along narrow roads with hairpin turns, passing small towns and villages, many containing buildings destroyed by shelling, that had yet to be rebuilt. We passed into the Republic Srpska, which is the part of Bosnia and Hercegovina inhabited mostly by Serbs. It looked little different, except now there were signs using the Cyrillic alphabet that Serbs use, rather than the Roman alpahabet of the Croats and Bosniaks. The bus didn't linger long in Banja Luka, the capital of the Republic Srpska, and nobody got on or off. The mountains disappeared and turned to motorway, and we crossed the border into Croatia. A policeman asked me what I had in my bag, and I replied 'clothes'. He laughed, and enquired if they were 'dirty clothes'.

At 3pm I got off the bus in Zagreb, which was teeming with football fans, as Croatia were playing a world cup qualifier that night. I made my way to the train station, and booked a ticket to Villach in Austria, leaving at 6.10pm. The train would take 4 and half hours and would cross the entire country of Slovenia. A quick walk, and some lunch later, I was on the train.

The train was (of course) of a higher standard than I am used to in Britain, and apart from the delay at the Croatia/Slovenia border for passport checking, moved swiftly on its way. There were no border checks between Slovenia and Austria, as it seems that since Slovenia is now part of the European Union, the Austrians are happy to disregard border controls.

I arrived in Villach, which is a twenty minute train ride from Klagenfurt, and found a hotel for the night. The next morning, I had a delicious breakfast in the hotel, and took a very punctual Austrian train to Klagenfurt. The Villach/Klagenfurt area was very pretty - with lakes and rolling hills, and I arrived at Klagenfurt exactly on time.

There was a city bus to the airport, which not only left exactly on time, but actually waited for a minute at a halfway stop, because it was ahead of schedule. My journey was nearly over, but as the bus turned down the road to the airport, the driver put on the radio, and - I swear to God - 'Rock me Amadeus' by Falco came on. He's very big in Austria you know...

Posted by paul at October 10, 2004 06:06 PM