Thursday, May 2, 2013

Shop 'Til You Drop and Walk 'Til You Wilt

We started out with another early morning because Kate’s host mother was taking us to the "white fort," which was the ruins of an old Turkish fort from the Ottoman Empire, and it was quite a long walk, mostly uphill, and it was supposed to be a hot day so she wanted to beat the heat. She made us a heavy breakfast of eggs from their neighbor’s chickens fried in a ton of butter and served with homemade rolls sprinkled with a seed I didn’t recognize, slathered with sour cream that's not sour and homemade plum jam from the plums in their orchard, and a cup of tea, Kate’s choice over coffee, especially since I had just brought her a box of Tazo Earl Grey from home, which is her favorite.  Nizama served me two eggs and three rolls!  They think I am too small and want to feed me to make me grow!  They call me either "Kah-tee-mama" (Katie's mama) or "Mala Mama" (little mama) and Nizama is "Big Mama."  They think this is very funny!  After breakfast, we started out on our adventure. The new Bosnian word I learned that day was, "paloko," which means, "slow down." I am a fast walker, even by American standards, so I had to force myself...or be go at a leisurely Bosnian pace. It was a good three miles to the fort, up the side of the mountain. We stopped at a little roadside store to pick up bananas, and then we continued on our way to the viewpoint at the top, where there was a little café. It felt great to sit down and put our feet up on the fence rails in front of our chairs. Then we ate the bananas and ordered strong, black Bosnian coffee and Turkish delight. It’s never been my favorite candy, but of course eating anything from its source is always better, and I have to say the taste and texture were pretty good! Refreshed, we continued our hike, now going down, down, down. This was almost harder, because it was so steep in places that our already tired legs felt quivery as they supported us. We came to the little white fort and rested there...well, Kate and Nizama rested and I climbed the ruins and made Kate take my picture at the top of what was left of the gate. That worried Nizama...she is a true mother at heart! I climbed back down with only a scratch on the palm of my hand and a dirty spot on my pants. We then continued down the hill towards town. At one point Nizama turned down a narrow alley of cobbled, crudely carved steps. The houses were much smaller here, built right against the alley, and not very well cared for. Nizama turned to us and whispered in Bosnian, gesturing to us by putting her finger to her mouth to be very quiet. I could only understand one word: Gypsy. Kate translated for me:  We were in a gypsy neighborhood, and Nizama didn’t want anyone to hear us speaking English and know that we were American. She was afraid we might be hassled or even stolen from. So silently we picked our way down the rough steps down the side of the hill until we finally reached bottom and a real street and a safe neighborhood. Apparently Sarajevo is a very safe city with very little crime. Kate walks home alone in the dark regularly and has never felt afraid. But a gypsy neighborhood is different. That’s where the crime takes place, and you never go there at night. And, as we learned, Americans shouldn’t go there at all, even in the middle of the day on a sunny afternoon.

Once in town we toured the four main houses of worship, the Serbian Orthodox Church (which they consider Christian), the Catholic cathedral, the Jewish synagogue and the Muslim mosque. The synagogue was also a museum, so we were able to learn about the history of Jews in Sarajevo. The Muslims came with the Turks during the Ottoman Empire. The Catholics came from Rome (there are still Roman and Turkish ruins evident in certain parts of the city), and the Orthodox church came from Russia. Although Sarajevo prides itself on being a city where Christian, Jew and Muslim dwell together peacefully, there are definitely undercurrents of competition...even in the seemingly innocent acts of the Muslim call to prayer and the Catholic cathedral’s church bells. It’s not enough that the bells toll the hour, they also toll long and loud during the mosque’s call to prayer. Which is tallest, the minaret or the spire? And so it goes. By the time we were done touring we were quite hungry, so Nizama led us through the market streets to her favorite place for cevapi...Bosnia’s all-time favorite food. Kate and the other girls in her exchange program say they love it too. I enjoy true ethnic dishes, so I was eager to try it. The little restaurant we went to only served cevapi and nothing else, so there was one big fire oven for the dedicated purpose of baking the flatbread and grilling the meat. The restaurant was hot, so we picked a table furthest away from the oven. Within minutes our plates arrived...a huge round flatbread split in half and stuffed with what looked like breakfast sausages and diced onion. The meat is really closer to a meatball than a sausage in taste and texture, but it is shaped into "fingers" rather than balls. It is made of beef and highly seasoned, then grilled rather than baked. Some people put mayonnaise or ketchup or this creamy cheese on theirs but most ate them plain, which is the traditional way. To me, they were meat on a bun with onion and condiments...a big Bosnian burger! I actually thought they would taste better with some tzatziki or something with a little zip. And they were too greasy for my liking. But I tried them, and that’s what matters! Then Nizama wanted dessert (she loves her sweets!), so we went for gelato. She got three scoops and Kate and I each had one. She was concerned...why didn’t we order cake too? She tried to get us to order cake, "It is so good here!" But we didn’t. In fact, I couldn’t even finish my gelato. If it wasn’t for the walking I’m doing every day, I know I’d be going home 10 pounds heavier! By this time, Nizama and Kate were both turning pink from the sun. Kate received a text that we needed to go to the exchange program’s office to sign some papers, and Nizama gladly let us go on and returned home without us. She was exhausted! After we took care of the paperwork, we didn’t really want to go back home as the sun was still shining, so we went to Kate’s favorite mall so she could show me her favorite store. Then we strolled down to the artsy part of the city where the Art School was and then to a little café that made kebabs (not the way we know it), which was grilled flatbread stuffed with spicy chicken that had been roasted on a spit, lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, a garlic-yogurt sauce and a rich, flavorful orange-colored sauce. Now that was good! Much better than cevapi, in my opinion! We ate our kebabs sitting on the wall in front of the art school overlooking the river...and I’m proud to say I only got one drip on my blouse!! We decided to head back while it was still light out, and that actually gave us the evening with Kate’s family, everyone was present except the youngest son, with two English speakers, so everything was easily translated. That was a great evening together because we had a real conversation, in depth and full of interesting topics, questions, opinions and stories. Kate had told me that her family never mentioned the war, while all the other girls’ families did. But that night we talked about the war and how it affected them. I heard their story and answered their questions and asked my own. And then I got to share about God’s love for us...all of us, in every part of the world and how that transcends nationality and politics. Nizama shared with me how a Christian organization from the States had actually helped them by dropping aid packages by plane for them.  That had touched her many years ago and she remembered it still.  We finally climbed the railing-less marble stairs to our bedroom and crawled into bed, with a promise that the next morning we’d finally get to sleep in.

It was great to sleep until 7:30! Another gorgeous morning full of sunshine and birdsong. Nizama had another yummy breakfast for us of spinach "pita" and strawberries and coffee. Then we hit the road...another day of walking literally from morning until night!  She didn't join us...we wiped her out the day before and she had quite the sunburn!

Since we had already seen the main tourist places, I thought I’d take care of my shopping so I wasn’t frantically trying to find gifts on my last day. So it was a "shop `til you drop" day, with good food mixed in. I had a wonderfully healthy caprese salad for lunch and an arugula salad with grilled chicken, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese for dinner. I guess I did have some bread with each meal, but to dip fresh, hot homemade bread in olive oil and balsamic vinegar was too delicious to pass up. Then, of course, we had coffee...and crepes. Kate took me to her favorite dessert place that serves foot-long crepes filled with Nutella and served warm, sprinkled with ground hazelnuts, and topped with chocolate gelato and whipped cream. It was delicious. We tried to finish before dark, but there was just too much to do and eat! I just love Sarajevo’s patio scene! I think Portland’s food scene rocks, but you have to know where to go to find a good patio. Here, I would say 85% of the restaurants have patios and most of them are quite nice. Kate and I had so much fun people watching from our vantage point of a table on the street. We also had a great laugh that brought us almost to our knees and made us cry off all our make-up. Coming out of one of the stores in the nice mall, we turned awkwardly, each in a different direction, and Kate stepped on my little toe. Now, this wasn’t just any "little toe." This was the little toe with the big blister that had burst and then been rubbed wide open. It was swollen and very tender to touch. I had accidently scraped it a little bit open again when trying on a shoe earlier that afternoon, so it was throbbing a bit already when Kate stepped on it. Well, I gasped with pain and reached out to grab Kate’s shoulder for support at the same time she turned to help me, which caused me to miss her shoulder and grab her cheek, scratching her nose and making her cry out. Both of us were moaning in pain and laughing hysterically as we limped over to a bench and laughed until we cried, knowing the spectacle we must have made of ourselves in the middle of the mall. Crazy Americans! We could just feel it. Every time we’d sigh, wipe our eyes, and get ourselves under control, we’d look at each other and burst out laughing anew. I was a lot more humorous than it sounds here. It was just one of those moments.

We didn’t make it home by dark and we didn’t stay downstairs to visit with the family. We had to shower, pack and get to bed, because in the morning we had to catch our taxi at 6:15 and catch our bus at 7:15...heading to Dubrovnik!!


Gypsy neighborhood
Art school by the river
White Fort ruins

No comments:

Post a Comment