The Perimeter of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH)

Joan Joesting-Mahoney

June 19, 2006


     While bicycling the perimeter of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it seemed that I was asked at least 100,000 times why was I bicycling around this country.  I shall never forget the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo when we were invited back to Sarajevo.  Then, I heard about the terrible war and wept for Yugoslavia and all the wonderful people who had put on such a poignant Olympics.  Therefore, I had to return as the pull by Sarajevo was strong having lasted since 1984.

    All my previous 21 other country perimeters helped to prepare me for the perimeter of  Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) but nothing prepared me for the eternal mountains.

    On May 4, 2006, I administered the final exam to my students in Melbourne, FL, drove my rental car 60 miles on the brush fire detoured roads, and flew from Orlando to London and within 2 hours had to get a bus from London's Gatwick to its other airport Heathrow.  The British people were extremely helpful but I had a problem with their trolley or cart for my luggage.  I never found one that I could push straight.  But what did I have on it?  I had my knitting bag which substituted for bicycle panniers or suitcase + bike case which is nothing but a battered suitcase holding my folding Bike Friday.  A Bike Friday is an excellent and indestructible folding bicycle.  Please see

    From London, I flew to Belgrade and because of a local convention. Belgrade Airport Tourist Information could not find me a place to stay there.  I decided to get a bus to my perimeter starting point but that meant taking the JAT bus from the airport to Belgrade main bus terminal and then getting a bus from Serbia to the closet border city Loznica.

    Travel by bus is difficult in any situation but when one doesn't speak the language it is even more of a challenge.  I had to race across the bus station a few times and of course couldn't leave my 2 pieces of luggage for fear of them being stolen.  It was exciting but finally I was on the bus.  It was the most crowded bus I have ever been on.  It was hot and there was no air conditioning.  Buses in this part of the world have a driver and also a conductor sort of guy who collects tickets.  The guy who had graciously filled my bike water bottle before I got on the bus at Belgrade was the bus conductor and woke me up to check my ticket.  Blessed few moments of sleep!

    Then, the bus was stopped to wait its turn on a one lane bridge that had suffered from recent flooding.  No one complained about the heat, the crowding, or the almost eternal delay.  The bus was so crowded that not a single additional person could have been possibly squeezed on.  The aisles were packed, too.

    Finally, the bus began moving and when the bus stopped at the next stop, I got out, and found a taxi.  The driver did not take me to the closest hotel right away but instead had to talk to his friend for what seemed a long time.  He drove me to a hotel that had no vacancy and finally found me another hotel that cost $64 US for a tiny room up many stairs.   Only a few times in all my travels overseas have I had a ground floor room.  I do believe that when hotel personnel see me coming they add additional flights of stairs.  Ha!

    After my luggage was safely in my room, I had to buy food at a supermarket.  Remember that I didn't speak the language so finding a supermarket was difficult but I did and so to sleep but the next morning I had to put my Bike Friday together.

   The hotel officials graciously agreed to store my bike box for me since the Belgrade Airport had no "left" luggage room.  All the other airports I have flown into have had such storage places where one can safely leave one's luggage for a per day fee.  One is always issued a receipt so that he/she can happily go on his/her way and return to one's luggage.

    But I had to get to Bosnia and it caused me to pester many people to determine that I was a long way from Loznica.  I had spent the night in Sabac, instead.  When I tried to get on another bus at a bus stop, the conductor began yelling at me, the bus door was shut on my arm, and it drove away.  But I still had to get to Bosnia on the bumpy traffic filled roads and I did but with a sore arm from the bus episode and a bad "taste" for Serbia.

    Finally at 1:20:32 PM on May 6, 2006, I began the perimeter of Bosnia biking south.

It is my rule when biking in countries where people drive on the right hand side of the road to bike counterclockwise so that most of my turns are to the right that is much easier than a left hand turn.  The opposite is done in countries like UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

    But there had been no money exchange places at the border and I knew that I needed some Bosnian money.  Fortunately, the next town Zvornik had a standard ATM machine that I found after asking many people where the Banka was.  This was the Bosnian word for bank.  There was also a motel and I did ask if there was a cheaper hotel.  Yes, I was told there was a less expensive hotel about 5 kilometers south of Zvornik.

    After using my Debit card at a Zvornik bank, I bicycled that 5 kilometers and found a hotel for 24 USD.  My room had a balcony with a perfect view of the river and it was so wonderful sleeping beside the river.  However, before bed, I needed food so I had to bike back into town to find the local supermarket.

    The next morning I had miles to do before I slept so I began one of the most incredible bike rides of my life.  There were several tunnels with the longest one being 386 meters long and then the road left the river and it went up and up.  I decided that hell was not down but instead up and up.  Being a conservative scared-to-death mountain bicyclist, I had to walk down the mountains and found cars, at times, trying to make a two lane road into a three lane road.  Then, it began to rain sweetly but quickly turned into helmet pounding hail and sleet.  There was also the confusion as to where a hotel would be located.  In most of the other countries, I have "perimetered" I have had either a map with hotels listed on it or the list of local hotels.  Not in Bosnia!  This added to my anxiety.

    I was being chased by darkness when someone told me about a hotel in Sokolac but meanwhile when I tried to take a photo, the bike's kickstand failed and the bike took a huge bite from my left ankle.  My Gore-Tex pants were now decorated with blood but the hole in my leg was not a problem as long as it didn't get infected.

   While biking, a woman was herding sheep and her dog tried to attack me but she quickly called him off.  The dogs in Bosnia were not as aggressive as the dogs in the US.  In fact, in all my foreign country perimeters, never have I had a serious problem with attacking dogs.  Only in the US, have I been bitten by a dog while biking the perimeter of Palm Bay, FL!

    But I had to find the hotel in Sokolac that was an essentially flat town.  I asked a policeman who said a hotel was about two kilometers away but I biked by what I thought was a hotel complete with the tiny cubicles for keys but the woman behind the desk began yelling at me and I didn't understand.  When I returned to my bicycle outside a woman disguised as a angel who could speak English had me follow her and her son "the Bosnian way" which I discovered was through parking lots, overland, but never on the roads.  There was a hotel where I lost the battle for the bike in my room.  The man "manning" reception insisted that my bicycle stay locked up in another building over night.  I had had a bicycle stolen in Brighton, England, when it was left in a shed.

   May 8, 2006.  This morning, my left hip was hurting so bad I had to begin my ride by taking my faithful pain relieving generic aspirin.  Today, I biked through more tunnels that were not long enough to be dark and dangerous.   I could see Foca across the river but had to search for a bridge to get to the city.  While crossing the main bridge, I saw two young women walking and I asked, "Do you speak English?"  Yes, they did and I politely asked them if they would take me to a hotel.  They did but one of the young women wanted to know if I was rich.  I told her to look at my blood stained Gore Tex pants, my already dirty Gore Tex jacket, my lack of jewelry, etc. and asked her if she thought I was rich.  She agreed that I wasn't but I didn't tell her how perimeters of countries have made me the richest woman in the world in terms of meeting incredible people, seeing the sights other people only dream of seeing, etc. 

    The bicycle was carried up to my room by a kind man but then I was worried about money so I had went to an ATM machine and withdrew money but forgot two credit cards, and my Florida driver's license on the step beside the ATM machine. When I returned from grocery shopping and the local Internet cafe (when I had asked a boy where the Internet Cafe was, I got the usual tour: on tiny paths, behind apartment houses, twisting/turning overland, the Bosian route) a kind bank employee returned these precious items to me.  Only in BiH would this have happened.  The citizens of BiH proved to be the most honest, caring, sharing, most wonderful people of all 34 the countries I have visited.  I will be eternally grateful to them for all their help.

    May 9, 2006.  Bicycling south of Foca, there were police roadblocks that were common in BiH.  As Tim Clancy, author of the guidebook Bosnia & Herzegovina, the police hold up a lollipop size stop sign and have motorists stop.  Usually, the driver of the vehicle gets out of the vehicle, produces some kind of papers, a conversation ensues, and I don't worry about what happens.  I always stop at any police roadblock and ask, "Is OK?"  The police always nodded and I continued on my way.

   Seventeen miles from Foca, my bike computer quit and the mountains had also "worn me down."  I was in the Sutjeska National Park and fortunately there was a hotel that had just opened.  I believe that I was their first guest as they really didn't know what to do with me.  No one spoke English and although my Bosian/Serbian/Croatian was improving with the help from the guidebook, there were problems with communication.

As usual, an English-speaking hotel supervisor just happened to make a "call" and graciously spent about half an hour with me.  I was provided with a room with a view of a mountain that I might have to climb tomorrow) with writings on the closet walls, no hot water (I was shown another shower with hot water), provided with a hamburger to eat (no grocery stores around and arrangements were made for breakfast.  She suggested that I walk on the trails and enjoy myself which I did.  She did warn me about the coming four mile unsurfaced one lane road ahead but if I could get this far, I certainly could handle it tomorrow.   She noted my guidebook and said that all English-speaking tourists had this book as it is the only one about BiH.

    May 10, 2006.   Yes, that four mile stretch was one of the worst rides/walks of my life but there had been worse when I did the perimeter of Iceland.  There was little traffic but when a car/bus/truck wanted to pass me, they simply honked and I hugged the edge of the road while they went by.  There were salamanders on the road but I missed taking their photos.  There was also a woman knitting while she was herding sheep but I missed this photo, too.   The landscape had suddenly changed from lush green to a semi-arid rocky forbidding mean terrain. It seems that I always take the photos that I don't need and never take the photos as that I should.  Huge, snow-covered mountains seemed to harass me as they became almost living threats.

    May 11, 2006. Gasko, like most Bih towns, had a steep downhill approach but was very depressing and the roadside was "decorated" with trash that was the norm in BiH.  There was almost no glass on the road as beer bottles were recycled but plastic bags, paper, etc. was scattered about the roadside.   This was unlike Finland where I encountered school children picking up trash from beside the highway.

    The only hotel in town was $25 and there was loud music until 9 PM.  This was the only time I was plagued by loud music all too common here in the US.  The director of the Internet Cafe spoke English and asked me where I was from and asked me for already the millionth time how old I was.  Even though I use a visor to shade my face, my face is still wrinkled and proves that I am 68 years old and am a 1937 model.  The boys at the Internet Cafe kept staring me whenever they could spare a glance from their computer games.  Yes, I was able to prove to them that I could get email from home and always let anyone who wished read my email as I read it as I have no secrets.  I do have the advantage of having taught speed reading in 1963 and have maintained this speed so nonnative speakers of English are at a disadvantage.  Sometimes, I have even been told to slow down so they could read my email with me.  Ha!

    But I was already "beaten down" by the mountains and knew that tomorrow (May 13, 2006) I needed a rest day that is always my favorite "perimetering" days.  The guidebook had mentioned Trebinje and I found the wrong hotel.  The guidebook had recommended the Platani as being a "cheaper alternative" to Hotel Leotar that I booked into Hotel Leotar by mistake.  But I loved this hotel!  The Platani was downtown in a noisy section while Hotel Leotar was quiet on the Trebisnjica River complete with perfectly elegantly dressed diplomat type people staying there.   And the bike was welcomed in my room.

    However, I had a chilling experience while trying to find the hotel.  I was biking across bridge and saw two jeeps each with several bumper stickers.  One read "Landmine clearance."  I did wave at the men in the jeep and they returned my wave.

   In Trebinje, there was even a beautiful park with a Tourist Information Bureau.  The young man at the Tourist Information Bureau had a large picture of Tito hanging in his office.  Like many people in BiH, he praised Marshal Tito.  This very helpful young man seemed impressed that I knew Marshal Tito had died in 1980.   He was able to contact the local Inman who allowed me to visit the mosque but as in all Muslim places I had to remove my shoes.  I knew this was custom as I have tutored Arabs, have read the English version of the Koran and had carefully read the very helpful guidebook.  I would never travel in any country without both searching the Net and finding an English guidebook

    I also visited the church, kissing the wall as I had seen other people doing wishing for no more mountains.

    In one shop, the manager was counting his money and I pretended to grab it and he acted as if he was going to chop off my hand.  Everyone laughed and this was one of things I really loved about BiH.  People loved to laugh as much as me!  My only worry that I could possibly inadvertently offend people.  I offend/upset people even when we speak English and I am always sorry.  Never have I intentionally harmed anyone unless attacked first or threatened by someone who degrades my gender or is cruel to animals or the environment.

    When I was checking into the hotel, there was a young man who wrote down the name of a man who fixed bikes.  My bike needed a check up and I was able to find this man who gave my bike an overhaul and oiled it so that it leaked oil on the hotel carpet.  Later, I had to scrub the oil away.  However, he could not fix the odometer so I resigned myself to biking without it.

    The bike shop was near the swimming pool that had not been filled with water yet but I remember how when I become 70 years old, I want to go after that 400 IM swim record as few women my age want to suffer (Ha!) that long in the pool.  My muscles were aching in advance!

    The hotel had a lovely free breakfast buffet and I shall never forget while "cleaning out the buffet" seeing a pet white rabbit on the other side of the river eating his/her breakfast on the grassy river bank while I ate mine.  It hopped back into a white walled courtyard.  The next morning, the same thing happened.   These little things are what make me so happy!

    But the worst problem of the trip so far had been that the road signs are in the Cyrillic alphabet while on the map the towns were in the standard Roman alphabet.  This meant I had to remove my map from the map holder, find someone who would look at the map and point.  The map became shredded.

    It was hard to leave the luxurious Hotel Leotar the morning of May 14, 2006, but my legs were ready for more biking and more adventures.  An unsheared sheep  tried to knock me down on the road but I had jerked my bike to the left & did not get hit.  I knew it was Sunday as I saw a woman walking down the road with her Catholic beads while a boy went around me on his inline skates.  I arrived early in Ljubuski and this was good thing as the Hotel Hercegovina was closed and so was another hotel.  I had to load my bike in a cab to find Hotel Most on a river with a very nice staff.  Then, I had to walk back to a grocery store where I saw a young woman decorating parked cars with ribbons for a wedding procession.  She had a razor blade as a pendant hanging on a fragile chain on her neck.  I have no idea what this meant but she was going to the wedding reception.  Soon, the wedding procession of decorated cars came down the road with one car flying a red/white/blue flag with a gingham center.  Guess that nationalism goes to weddings, too!

    At the Hotel Most, I met a Croatian fireman who had seen the brushfires in FL on TV and I suggested that he come and help put them out.  He explained that he was too old and as usual, I was asked my age.  I also handed out a computer printed rather primitive card that I have handed out to so many people inviting them to come visit my husband and me.  I have done this repeatedly and one day about 5000 people will come and visit us and all the rental cars will meet in our Melbourne, FL, neighborhood complete with a massive traffic jam.  My husband and I laugh at the thought of this!

   May 15, 2006.  Postusje was a dusty hilly town.  Today from Grude, I had a narrow road with horrible traffic but then had a wide road with a steep hot climb. The only hotel in town was a one-month-old 4 star hotel that cost me $50.  But why is a 4 star hotel in such a poor town?  The receptionist was extremely nice and allowed me to use her computer to read my email.  While I scrolling around, she saw "HUD scandal" and asked what it meant.  "Oh, just one of the many problems and scandals in the US," I replied.

   One of the reasons that I do perimeters is that I have an excessive love for clean sheets that I did not have to wash or iron.  And in BiH, every accomodation was spotless.  One could actually eat off the bathroom floors but don't even think of doing this in my house.  I am always too tired to be much of a housekeeper.  Why am I always too tired?  I am always training for another perimeter or running/biking/rowing race or even a triathlon.  

    May 16, 2006.  Livno.   This morning began with an excessively elegant 4 star breakfast with the perfectly folded napkins and all the spoons.  In BiH, there are special spoons for yogurt, for the delightful Bosian coffee, etc.  This is one of the few times that I was sad that I was alone and later emailed my friend Mary Ramba in the US that I wished that I could have shared this very formal breakfast with her.  But I had to get on that bike and had mostly a flat road that is a 7% grade is flat in BiH.  I walked up and down a mountain viewing a lake called Busko Jezero.  The guidebook's author Tim Clancey recommended the Park Hotel in Livno but the Livno Hotel reception area was smoke filled, dreary, no English spoken.  No!  Mr. Clancy had mentioned but not recommended in his 2004 guidebook the Hotel Dinara but I liked it very much and decided to stay there although the bike was not allowed in my room.  Again, there was a very nice receptionist who explained that in BiH they do not steal bikes but they do steal cars.

   May 17, 2006.  This morning at the free hotel breakfast, the radio played an old song:

"Take Me Home to the Place where I Belong" and I began uncontrollable weeping as I missed my husband so much.  At the reception desk, the cleaning lady gave me a paper towel to wipe my tears.  All women love a love story!  This is one of the few times I have

let my emotions to show but I do love my husband very much.  I am frequently asked I why I travel with him.  We are both extremely independent and married late in life. Before marrying my husband at the 1993 Florida Ironman Triathlon finish line (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile run) I had already done two solo perimeters of Australia and was "set in my ways."  Before I left for BiH, a friend and I were bicycling together and he described how he and his wife were going camping together in the US.  I explained that I would kill my husband if we tried this and he replied, "And I know you would."

    But I had to get on that bike and continue my perimeter.  I try to take any unusual photo and saw an isolated church surrounded by a cemetery but beside it all was a basketball court.  When I stopped to take this photo, the flies "had a go at me" just like they did in western Australia. 

    There were now signs about US aid and it felt good to be a US citizen.

   As I biked on the western border of Bosnia, there were nothing but bombed out houses (the deliberately smashed roofs were incredibly sad) that was extremely depressing especially since some of the homes had obviously been used as deliberate target practice.  If anyone is in favor of any war, he/she should be forced to bicycle this route.  In these bombed out homes, once there was love, families, happiness, pets, and all the good things of the world.  My psychic has been forever changed and as a result of my very now vocal complaints about war, I have lost friends/family members who believe in war.  I sincerely believe that war can be prevented.  But I keep hearing that wars will always happen but offer this analogy.  In about 1840, it was decided by the scientific community that human flight was impossible.  Two bicycle mechanics believed differently and proved it wrong.  Wars can be prevented by simply stopping disagreements before they get "out of hand."  People must understand that no one is above the law.  Locally, I have had problems with Space Coast Runners and their hearing impairing boom boxes at local running races.  These people ignore laws against loud music and obviously feel they are above the law.    Could a war result from this?  I seriously doubt it but when I complained about this hearing impairing noise on the Internet my life was threatened several times.  Now, if I were attacked and defended myself, with other people getting involved we have tiny seeds for a war.

   But I had miles to go and finally biked into Bosansko Grahova, a truck stop like place.

One of the waitresses could speak English and she described how they rented rooms upstairs with a bathroom I would to share with men.  She showed me the hook on the inside of the bathroom door so I had no problem with that.

    The roadhouse personnel were very kind to me and gave me directions to buy groceries in the town that was being repaired from terrible destruction.  Later, I spoke to the very kind English-speaking waitress and she told me that she didn't hate anyone, even the people who had destroyed the town.  She did ask me a question about the US that I couldn't answer.  She wanted to know the cost of a pack of cigarettes in the US.  I am terribly allergic to any smoke especially cigarette smoke so have never purchased a pack of cigarettes in my life.

    May 18, 2006. When I woke up, I could see from the window of my room the walls of a shelled house that I shall never forget as long as I live.  There was fog in the morning but I had to get on that bike and ride.  When motorists went around me, I could tell that they could see biking in my reflective vest that I had purchased in Slovenia.

   When the sun finally chewed away the fog, it got hot and I enjoyed using my "camel back device" for drinking water.   I had to climb a mountain into Drvar where I stopped for juice at a bar.  A student from BiH who had been studying in Switzerland warned me about the coming 3000 foot climb to the Ostrojj pass but to be wary of landmines.  He was right!  The climb was not a joyous occasion but the landmine signs were shocking!  I think I am one of the few cyclists in the world who has biked on a highway through a luxurious forest with landmine signs.  It was scary but I felt safe on the road.  Believe me, I stayed on the road although I wanted to stop a motorist to take a photo of me in front ot the landmine signs but there was no place to pull over.  Vehicles just drove normally by disregarding the landmine signs. Fortunately, the photos came out beautifully.

   But then I had an awful forever walking descent into Bihac but this road had looked flat on the map until I saw the tiny sign indicating a steep descent.  I was exhausted, somewhat dizzy, and maybe even slightly dehydrated.  The mountains had eaten me alive.  I am always in a hurry to get to towns to find safe lodgings for the night and then to buy groceries to refuel my body.

   Most Bosnian towns were in valleys and from the road looked like miniature villages with all the red roofs like many people have around their Christmas trees here in the US.  This was a repeat occurrence in BiH.

   But I had Claney's book that helped me locate Pansion Edo.  He called it "probably the best deal in town" and I feel it was and probably the best deal in BiH, too, even though my first night there the neighbor's dog barked all night and the next night someone frequently screamed.

   May 19, 2006.  Bihac rest day.  I searched for a rafting adventure as described by the guidebook but was finally told that these are only done for groups.  I had problems finding a bike shop because of language difficulties.  As in most countries, I easily find the markets and purchased another reflective vest like the one I got in Slovenia.  It will be nice having a clean "fresh" one.

   I used Clancy's book to find Cardak na Uni on the Una River where I ate the recommended fresh trout.  It was delicious and I really loved eating on a tablecloth with an extremely attentive waiter.  The chocolate ice cream for dessert was very good, too.  For some reason, the waiter said that I could have a "drink on the house."  I chose juice and enjoyed it.  A young man told me that the Serbs were savages.  He had survived the war when he was 12 years old.

    While eating the delicious fish sitting beside the Una River I had some wonderful thoughts that beauty is healing as the Una River was every healthy shade of blue/green and all the colors of emeralds and turquoise.  I was happy all over silently telling the Una River to say hello to the sea for me and then cross the Atlantic to tell my husband that I loved him.

   I was able to send a newly purchased backpack home to get those BiH stamps.  Finally, I finally found the bike shop.

   That evening when I returned to the Pansion Edo, I noticed a touring bicycle parked in front of it.  I knocked on the door and Mario Karacic, a Croatian MD, came out.  He didn't know where reception was but I showed him and he got a room for the night.  After his shower we sat outside and talked, it seemed, for the entire night.  When he first began talking in English, I noticed that he was quite educated so I asked him about it.  He was an MD and had planned to camp out but had noticed the landmine signs.  He had bicycled 200 kilometers that day opposite the way I had come but he could see that the mountains that I had ridden over kept getting closer and closer.  He insisted that my route tomorrow would be flat and it was.

   He described a Florida alligator as having eaten a whole man and indeed when I arrived home I read about an alligator that had bit off pieces of a person but didn't swallow this woman.  Mario insisted that coke cola was alkaline and good for long distance cyclists.  Then, whenever two touring cyclists get together the bicycle tales begin.  His favorite was the time he was charged by a cow.  Now, I know there are translation problems so I asked him if it was a "Frau cow?"  Yes, a girl cow and not a boy cow.  Bulls are known to be more aggressive.  He was wearing red and his mother had told him that cows charge red.  The cow had charged him, he scared her away, and she went and got reinforcements.  The cows lined up across the road so he couldn't get through them so he had to change his route.

   He insisted the education is the key to the world peace.

  I am taking Digoxin for heart problems and he told me that Croatia research shows this drug does not prolong life but instead enhances the quality of life.  I have had so many bad experiences with US doctors that I consider most of them impossibly greedy and hateful.  I would never trust a US doctor but I would trust doctors from most other countries as they aren't controlled by greed and the large drug companies.

   Our landlady joined us and showed us photos of her daughter who is an MD and lives in Clearwater, FL across the state from me.

   With much reluctance, we went to our rooms as we both had to leave early in the morning.  During the night, there was much yelling and I was worried about the safety of my landlady but knew she could speak the language so the police could take care of the situation; nevertheless, the next morning I found a man's socks draping her potted plants.

    May 21, 2006.  Yes, it was mostly flat and I bicycled almost 100 miles.  I arrived in

Bosanska Dubica and found a room above the repair shop of a gas station.  I was somewhat afraid as I was alone but I locked up everything and went to sleep.

   May 22, 2006.  Today, I bicycled beside more bombed out buildings along the border in terrible traffic.  My knitting bag luggage thing kept falling off and when I stopped to get another bungee cord, I was asked what I had been told about the Serbs.  Like an idiot, I told this very nice person that they were savages.  He told me that he was a Serb.  When will I ever learn to keep my mouth shut?  I was given a prayer card that I can't read to keep me safe.  They also took photos of me promising to send me copies.

   Today I stayed in Derventa and had to pay 37 USD for a very hot room close to the road with awful traffic noise.  However, the very nice man receptionist called Dami who owned a bar in town and who promised to take me to his bar so that I could read email.  Dami had lived in Chicago during the war and of course his English was excellent.  I certainly appreciated unlimited email.  His mother came to see me while I was avidly emailing.  And his bar had ice cubes.  By now, I was craving ice cubes as there had been none in BiH.

   May 23, 2006.  Because I couldn't eat the free breakfast until 6:30 AM, I got a late start.

However, I appreciated the English menu and the almost excessively attentive waiter.  Extremely polite attentive waiters were, without exception, the rule in BiH just like the extremely clean rooms already mentioned.   The waiters were usually men while the women were the constant cleaners.

   Tablecloths were all over.  Many people had tables outside their homes where they were drinking something.   Since alcohol is prohibited for Muslims, I suppose if they were Muslims they were drinking the delicious Bosian coffee while others were sipping beer. These informal tables had tablecloths!!!!  But who washes and irons all these tablecloths?

   But I had a perimeter to finish even with the late start.  Today it was hot with horrible traffic.  My notes say that I am not happy anymore and want to finish this ride, now.

   Tonight I spent in Brcko.  When I first went into the hotel I was told that they were full but finally the receptionist admitted that they had a fourth floor room and no elevator or lift (from British English).   No, I wasn't going to carry the bicycle up four flights of stairs so the bicycle was put in the laundry room with the mother cat, father cat, and kittens.  This day had been a horrible ride because of the road signs being in one alphabet and the map signs in another.

   May 24, 2006.  Finally, I will finish although it seemed to take forever. It felt that I was bicycling through jello on jello legs.  Ha! At 11:09:31, I finished where I had started at the border crossing.  But it seemed like Sarajevo was calling so I had to get a bus there.

First I had to get to Zvornik and change buses.  Remembering the Serb problems with the buses, I found a young man who waited at the bus stop with me and finally after several hours of waiting, a bus came, and the young man explained to the driver how I needed to get my bicycle on the bus.

   Rarely, do I take the bus over the road I had biked on but this is what happened to Zvornik.  At Zvornik bus station, I had to find the bus to Sarajevo.  Suddenly, a woman began translating for me.  I asked her if she was German and she told she and her husband were Finnish.  When I told her that I am about 1/4 Finnish, she hugged me, we loudly cheered all the Finns in the world, and generally celebrated.  The BiH people kept an eye on us but no one said anything about our loud behavior.  She gave me a card for a pansion in Sarajevo and described it as being very quiet.  After all the previous noisy accomodations, I couldn't wait!

   The bus ride to Sarajevo was over mountain roads but the bus driver was the best!  I met a young woman who gave me her phone number but described how the US had bombed the Serbs. She explained that Time Warner hated the Serbs and showed them in a bad way when they were not.  I heard that several times but some people were glad that the US had bombed them because it stopped the awful war.  The worst thing about the war was that everyone I talked to about the war couldn't understand why.  This was even mentioned in the guidebook.   But this is the essence of wars.  Why?   I even took a photo showing "Why" with a peace sign on each side painted on a wall in Sarajevo.  It would seem that alternate means could be used to settle disputes without violence.  The old argument is that nothing can be done about wars.  I want to scream: wars will cease if people want this bad enough.

     As recommended by my new friend, the bus driver let me out just above Sarajevo but I had to get a taxi to take me to my pansion.  He called my landlady and let me out at his cab station near the pansion.   I found my second floor room in the pansion to be excellent with my bike sitting in the hallway.  As usual, I had to buy food but then I got lost and went to a jewelry store to get directions.  The young man there surprised me by getting his keys, walking beside me to the pansion and then opening the door.  His mother was the pansion owner! 

    May 25, 2006.  It was so wonderful spending the day exploring Sarajevo.  The owner of the pansion told me about her son's rescue of me and we both laughed.  I learned so much from her.  She had lived in Melbourne, Australia, until she was 17 years old and then came to Sarajevo to get married.  She had survived the war during the siege, the longest ever in modern history.

    She told me she was Muslim but only went to the mosque about every five years.  No, she has never worn the veil but her mother does when it's not too hot.  Everyday that I was there, she was dressed as a Paris "fashion plate." Would you believe she says she loves cleaning her pansion?  Indeed, it was spotless!

    Sarajevo has a few fast food places where I met a young Dutchman who explained that in order to drive 300 miles in Europe, one needed to know at three languages; whereas the US is the fourth largest country in the world with its neighbor Canada, the third largest country so it isn't necessary to speak other languages.  English is just fine!  He had just completed an MA thesis in sociology about the different way people were treated who had left Bosnia during the war and had returned.  They were seen as cowards but they did bring new ideas that they wanted their country to follow.  We discussed how to have peace.   We decided that the rights of every living must be established and punishment for the violation of these rights must be quick and fair.  He described how mosques had been burned in The Netherlands when the Muslims had killed a Dutch playwright who wrote a play unfavorable to the Muslims.

    May 26, 2006.   I spent the day in Sarajevo walking around again and found a used bookstore.  I purchased several English books.  The proprietor gave me a glass of lemonade and got out an atlas, found a map of the US, and through gestures asked me where I was from.  I pointed to where Melbourne, FL is although it is too small to be on most small maps of the US.  I always carried my Running Zone plastic bag with Melbourne, FL written on it.  We smiled, I enjoyed the fresh lemonade, and I thanked him.   Scott Shipman of Perimeter Bicycling has emailed me when I have become discouraged telling me that when I got lemons I made lemonade but this treat of lemonade at used book store was just one of the many examples of the kindness of the Bosian people.

     But one used paperback was "super strange."  The cover said the book's title was

"The Rich and Super Rich" but when I began reading it, it was about all the prison camps in Russia.  Weird!  I considered it a perfect gift for my atheist friend.

    My room was supposed to be quiet but that night I heard many sirens and finally the electricity went out in my room.  I packed my gear, got out my tiny flashlight, and went downstairs and outdoors to investigate.  There was a fire two blocks over.  Of course, a crowd gathered but the police were extremely patient.  Remember I couldn't speak the language but I obeyed the gestures of the police and did what everyone was doing.

    Believe it or not, a fireman was smoking a cigarette while holding the fire hose with his other hand.  One fireman had on shorts but quickly put on long pants.  My landlady and son saw me watching the fire and reassured me that everything was going to be OK. She had put a candle in my room.

    I took some photos that didn't come out well, got bored, and went back to bed.

   May 27, 2006.  This morning, a Frenchman was staying in the Pansion and I got to meet him.  To my surprise, he said there is no perfect city when I thought all the French in the world considered Paris to be perfect.  I liked him!

    Today, I spent "untangling" my British Air tickets and when I was doing my joyful "walkabout" I saw a group of people having a memorial service.  They were laying wreaths up against a building.  My curiosity ruled so I quietly asked someone about the event.  I was told that 26 innocent people had been slaughtered there 14 years ago at 10 AM.  I watched ladies dressed in black and men in their black suits laying wreaths but I began silently weeping when a gentleman began reading the names of the dead just like we do here in Melbourne when we read the names of the dead soldiers in the Iraqi War.   It's right that I couldn't understand the language but it was clear what he was doing. After everyone had prayed, I went to wreaths and did my peace symbols and got the attention of a newspaper reporter who asked my name.  I felt terrible when I gave her my card worrying about if this could possibly cause me problems in the US.   After all, I had been followed home by the Melbourne police when I had protested Bush's inauguration and have become paranoid as I am a pacifist and more of one after this trip.

   Something I noticed in Sarajevo that I have never seen in any other city: girls and women walking arm in arm.  It looked quite pleasant but in the often homophobic US it couldn't happen.

   At a fast food place, it was a poignant moment when the cook took a break and kissed her daughter.

   It was Saturday and liberty day for the German soldiers who were playing tourists.  I asked one about the landmines and he explained that there are 30,000 remaining unexploded landmines in BiH.  Later at home, I emailed a psychology professor friend and he explained that they probably never would find all the landmines.  Such a terrible thing for such a beautiful and kind country!

   I met a young woman from Detroit with two young men from Canada touring Sarajevo.

I shall never forget one of the young men from Canada insisting that woman would never be president of the US in my lifetime.  I couldn't believe it when I began stamping my foot in almost violent disagreement with him.  I feel so strongly about the first woman being elected president of US that in 1960, I decided that I would never cut my hair until a woman is elected president of the US.  My hair has kept growing and is becoming more and more of nuisance.

   They took my photo where WWI had begun and I showed them the sights that I had already seen including the eternal flame.

   I talked more with my Muslim landlady and she told me that Muslims are like Christians and come in all extremes.  She explained the 9/11 as the Muslims protesting that the US is in too many Muslim countries but agreed that it was terrible.  They should have protested in other ways.

   May 28, 2006.   Sleepy Sunday.   This is my last day in Bih so I am enjoying my last Bosnian coffee for 60 cents US. What is Bosnia coffee?  It is sold in a metal beaker with a tiny cup and much sugar.  The metal beaker has varying degrees of decoration and is served on a small tray with a tiny spoon.  Ash trays are on every table.  My notes indicate that I have never felt this free or this happy as I can do anything that I want all day.  Me of all people just sat and people watched in the pigeon square in Old Town Sarajevo.  There is a fountain here where people get drinks. 

   The following poem came: Sleepy Sunday, Sarajevo afternoon/ I'll be leaving soon/

Recall at the 1984 Olympics that we must return/But first Sarajevo had to be burned/

Under siege longest ever for any city/I talked to and gave the survivors my pity/But they are so happy now living in peace/And I learned that wars must cease/I read/hear that cannot be/There will always be wars for eternity/But they said 200 years ago no human could ever fly/But Wilbur and Orville Wright fly in the sky/I have returned to Sarajevo/And wept but I laughed and learned so much I know/I left my soul and so much sorrow/Because I leave tomorrow.

   May 29, 2006.  Had to get bike to main bus station but couldn't find it on the map so had to get a cab to get a bus to Belgrade. 

   Very slow tedious bus ride from Sarajevo to Sabac where I had left my bike box.  It seemed that the hotel was the hotel very far from the bus station so that to first bike there, get the bike box from hotel personnel, and then take the bike apart.  Next, I had to get a taxi to the bus station and then to Belgrade.  I met two young women who treated me to coffee at the bus rest stop.

    Then, riding the bus into Belgrade, I saw people living on top of a landfill.  Later, I asked my landlady who were these people and she replied, "Four thousand gypsies or roma.  They are a problem."

    The next big problem was finding the hostel where I had made reservations.  There was a hotel with a big yellow sign but it was the wrong one and the man at reception told me it would cost 1400 Euros, about 2800 USD.  When I didn't understand, he began yelling at me, so I asked him if I leave my bike box and knitting bag in his lobby and go find a cheaper place.

   After running about for what it seemed was hours, I found the DownTownHostel that was up some very dingy scary stairs.  The young man and older woman were very nice and the young man went with me to get my possessions.  They turned out to be among the nicest people in Serbia.  I found a money exchange office so I exchanged my Bosian marks for Serbian diners.

   So I stayed in Belgrade May 29 and May 30.  I especially enjoyed my day "playing" tourist in Belgrade.  There's a pedestrian walkway with vehicles forbidden which was very nice and a castle with a basketball court in the middle of it.  I liked the Sava River and the Ethnography museum that presented a history of the region.  Yes, there were English explanations.  I also found a Chinese restaurant that was a delight.

   May 31, 2006.   Took JAX bus to Belgrade Airport with young man from hostel taking my too heavy bike box for me to the special JAX bus stop,  The JAX bus is the only bus that goes to the airport.  I had had to have window open at hostel because of all the cigarette smoke.

    At the Belgrade Airport, I met two race walkers that were flying to Moscow to compete in the 50 K and 30 K race walk events.   I really need this motivation as many years ago, I won the Southeast championship in my age group as a race walker.

   Talking to anyone who could speak English as I was bored, I found out that the US had bombed Serbia but I was told he/she likes like the US anyway as the bombing did stop the war.  I was told that the US couldn't be a democracy because it only had two political parties.  Actually, I had never thought about that but the US isn't essentially a two party country.  In Minnesota, they have the Farmer Labor Party.

   I had another poignant scene.  While flying to Belgrade, the pilot announced that we were flying over Hungary. I could see the complete silver expanse of Lake Balaton that I had bicycled around in 2004.  I don't believe anyone has ever seen a complete perimeter from the air of anything he/she has bicycled around.  This was a priceless moment.

   The landing in London was scary as we were flying over the Ferris wheel beside the Thames and numerous houses.  I wonder if they could hear our plane flying over their homes.

   In London, I had to change airports which wasn't a problem because I had ample time.

I was surprised and grateful that I got a senior discount on my bus fare.

   It was so wonderful to hear/read English in London.  I had been told that Gatewick would be the best place to spend the night.  I did check with a police officer who told me that it was very safe as they had police patrols all night long.

   But I had to shop!  English magazines, both women's magazines and running magazines!  Also, I had a few extra bargain gifts to buy, too.  

   The Gatewick lounge was like a United Nations as people from all over the world were sleeping on the comfortable couches.  There was a sign to the Hilton Hotel but many of us in the "budget class" couldn't even dream of it.  The airport merchants knew what they were doing as there was food and beverages available all night.  For breakfast, I had to search for a British pot of tea and after much trouble finally found one.

   Then, I met one of the people who had "bedded" down near me.  He was from Montenegro and he knew that his country was the newest country in the world by recently having voted to become independent from Serbia.  I told him I had purchased a map of Montenegro in Old Town Sarajevo.  I had thought of bicycling this perimeter but didn't have time to get the route approved by Perimeter Bicycling. He asked to see the map but it was in the bottom of my knitting bag luggage.  Yes, I pulled everything out and showed him the map.  He told me it would be a safe country for me to "perimeter" in.  He also asked if I had an extra copy of the map but I didn't and I did feel bad that I couldn't give him my Montenegro map. I told him about the tiny film shop in Old Town Sarajevo where I had purchased it. As usual, I never get home from one country without knowing the next country I will "perimeter.  Next summer, it will be Croatia that borders Montenegro.  Yes, Montenegro is on my mind, too.

    But I still had to fly home from London to Orlando and for some reason it was a "forever" flight but I did enjoy the politeness, caring, and gourmet food of the British Air.   British Air and Finn Air are my favorite airlines!

   On Father's Day, my wonderful father-in-law told me that my husband and I do extreme sports.  My husband is a talented ultra runner (anything over marathon distance of 26.2 miles) and I do these perimeters.  However, I never considered "perimeter" biking as a extreme sport but I guess biking the perimeters of countries could be extreme.  One must get on that bike each day, ride between safe accommodations, find stomach agreeable food, etc.  I guess that it is extreme but it makes me "extremely" happy and I have become a better but probably boring person because of it.

   BiH changed me forever in terms of my feelings re war!  I wish everyone who reads this peace, health, and as much happiness as I have found biking perimeters.  As long it is legal, please do what makes you happy adjusting your budget, time restraints, etc. to meet

your own goals!