Friday, 25 February 2011

Fact or fiction?


I'll confess that at first the thought made me cringe. Google refused to come to my rescue and the growing realisation dawned: I may have invented a myth. That is a rather grand way of saying that the lies I told as a tour guide my brother took as truth and presented to YouTube. Obviously, I didn't intentionally set out to misrepresent my adopted home, or to mislead my brother, or his YouTube audience. I still maintain that my information came from somewhere other than my fertile imagination, but I have yet to find the facts to back this up.


Clearly a video about a different kind of tanning booth has great potential on the internet. It was only after seeing it titled and tagged that I began to doubt the description I'd given. Online all I can find is references to 'mills' or 'water mills'. (Now I know which sounds more glamorous; perhaps the local tourist office is missing a trick!) I quickly came clean to my brother about my reservations and he countered with the comment that most official signs he saw in Jajce confessed to unverified sources. No different from using Wikipedia then!


Much as I'd love to sweep this whole, slightly embarrassing, episode under the carpet I felt it a useful exercise in transparency and an interesting example of the issues surrounding much of the history of this region. The truth is out there but often it seems the only sure fact is that the facts are fuzzy or altogether elusive. I doubt I am the first foreigner who, with no ill intent, misrepresented history here, I probably won't be the last. And should it, by some strange chance, end up that my recollection was, in fact, correct I will nonetheless in future remain ever mindful of the fact of my own fallibility.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Squeamish?

The last couple of days it has been attempting to snow here in Jajce. This has jogged my memory, for better of for worse, reminding me of this photo from when we had snow settled everywhere earlier this year. Against the white blanket covering the ground this mystery object stood out as we studied the view from our kitchen window. Rowan declared in disgusting and I, employing a sensible look-don't-touch policy, reckoned it to be some kind of animal skin, probably removed at one of the butcher's shops near our house. Whatever its origin, and however it ended up opposite our home, it provided hours of entertainment for the local stray dogs. For the better part of a week we watched it get smaller and smaller until, with the snow, it disappeared altogether.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

A uni-hockey first.


Over the past couple of years I've written a number of posts about uni-hockey. However, I've never posted a photo or a video that shows the game in action. Thankfully, last weekend my brother was on hand to do the honours. This, then, is his first-hand account of his first experience of uni hockey, on his first visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Big Thumbs Up!



This isn't the first time we've had reason to write nice things about EasyJet on this blog. We hope it won't be the last. But least pessimism get the last word let's celebrate the bizarre experience that was collecting my brother and his family from Zagreb airport yesterday. We knew they were flying EasyJet, in fact we'd noticed tickets for the new route become available and recommend they book a cheap trip months ago. We'd since forgotten they'd booked on the inaugural flight.

Without this context we did wonder why we were seeing the aircraft ceremonially doused by the hoses of two fire tenders as is taxied towards the terminal. The presence of a media scrum in the arrivals hall had us wondering if a Croatian celebrity had shared the flight with them. When a lone piper struck his first drone note in baggage reclaim we were lost for an explanation. Thankfully the British Ambassador to Croatia was on hand to provide the missing pieces of the puzzle.

As we say on the video: big thumbs up to Easy Jet on this occasion. It was our nephew's first flight and were he old enough to remember it it was a very memorable experience. Thankfully his uncle has a slight video-making obsession so the moment is captured, even down to our Ambassadorial handshakes, which were a very welcome icing on this most surprising of cakes.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Undermined?

On today's impromptu after-lunch stroll my wander up to the view point overlooking Jajce's waterfall was interrupted by a familiar looking strip of yellow tape. MINE: not an indication of ownership but an announcement of clear and present danger. After a quick glance around I decided they was no need to do what Hilary said she did in Bosnia. I did not duck and run; I stopped and took this photo for you. Only last week I saw a new article posted on Facebook about a cliff fall a few metres from where I was standing. My mind was putting two and two together hoping for four. Was the danger not so much a mine as an undermined area? Is it wrong to suspect that MINE tape was being used as an all-purpose hazard tape?


Having experimented with various ways of capturing the view and the tape in a neatly composed image I wandered back down to the path that leads out to the side of the falls. The sun was in completely the wrong place for capturing a good photo – why I had headed for the upper view point in the first place – but squinting into its glare I could see that the fall had indeed take quite a chunk out of the cliff face. A path we once ventured down now ends end more abruptly than it did when we trod it. Something is being built by the base of the falls. There is a crane drilling deep holes down there. We've heard conflicting stories of what exactly they're up to. All that's obvious is there's some heavy machines and a lot of concrete down there. It wouldn't take a conspiracy theorist to conjecture there is some connection in all these goings on.


In closing, I should note that the view point is but a road's width away from a scenically placed petrol station. From its perspective I suspect neither mines or undermining are particularly good news.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Not lacking potential

A piece on the BBC website about the Easter Islands caught my eye this morning. It made me think about a conversation I had on Friday morning out by the lakes in Jajce. I was drinking coffee with a local friend who was saying it was a shame more had not been done to develop the potential of the lakes as a leisure destination. It's true they have huge potential, their banks bear testimony to various efforts down the years to capitalise on this, yet it's fair to say much of this potential remains unfulfilled.


I'll confess my knowledge of the Easter Islands runs little deeper than recognising the origin of the giant talking statue in Night At The Museum, but their story got me thinking over breakfast today about the pros and cons of achieving potential. The lakes in Jajce could easily become one of central Bosnia's go-to summer locations, but at what price to the local community. We know the lakes are loved by the local community but perhaps the price of overcrowding and possibility of permanent scaring on a beautiful landscape are worth paying for the jobs and revenue an upturn in tourism could create.


Jajce is a town, or city, with charm and character and fair helping of rich history and natural beauty. It does get tourists but it is not a touristy place. This gives it an engaging authenticity. We heard someone say Jajce used to be the biggest tourist destination in former-Yugoslavia, a fact which, if true, is not entirely surprising given its place in both Bosnian and Yugoslavian history. It has heritage if not the badge to prove it: the Easter Islands have their UNESCO World Heritage Site status while Jajce remains just a candidate of its. Nobody I've spoken to is sure if or when this status will change. And who knows if or when the town will. It is easy for me to say I'd hate to see it ruined by development, I think the more pressing issue for most local people is they'd love to see some jobs and some money return to the area.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Sun...and sexism?

The sun came out on Saturday. It's not that we haven't seen it for months but this was the first time for months that you could say it was warm, or at least warmish. Running around at uni-hockey training I wasn't the only one to end up in a t-shirt. Since the start of January, after training on Saturdays, Novi Most has been running a social session for a couple of hours. Most of the team will turn up joined by a number of other young people from the area.


So far this year the sessions have happened inside – apart from one snowy weekend that saw some impromptu 'ice hockey' happen in the area behind the building. This week the sunshine and warm weather prompted our co-worker to suddenly decide to get all the lads clearing leaves and generally tidying up the yard outside. He is unashamedly keen to have this space ready for the onset of barbecue season! And so an industrious half hour from the boys saw a splendid piece of early spring cleaning accomplished under the watchful gaze of the girls. Was it sexist not to hand one of them a broom? Not in this country. It's been our observation that gender roles here have well established and accepted norms. Many people seem to have a clear distinction between what is men's work and women's work, and I certainly didn't catch anybody complaining about that in this instance!