|I guess it goes without saying but even in overcast conditions and sporadic rain this was another exceptionally scenic rail journey. The two hour trip down (or vice versa) from Sarajevo to Mostar is in many guidebooks as one of the great train rides of europe. [I just made that up up but I bet it is]. Actualy, I'd read about it before I took it - with recomendations for which side of the train to sit etc - but after about an hour of pleasant views I was wondering what the fuss was about. The train followed a shallow valley with a few good hill views, then all of a sudden the valley opened out and I could see the route ahead. In one hillside the track descended from the mountains to the plains via a series of switchbacks, viaducts and tunnels. From the top I could see 3 or 4 sections of the track vertically below me. Once at the bottom of the descent the train followed the river all the way to Mostar, switching from one bank to the other at regular intervals, the river a magnifient bluey-green colour which couldn't have been a reflection of the sky which was slate grey.
I'd just about dried my coat on the trains heaters when we arrived in Mostar. Guess what? The heavens opened and a huge thunderstorm rolled over, Thor hates me! A chink of light and luck though, the local accommodation touts got to me and when I told them I'd prebooked they asked where? "Maj-das" said I phonetically, "where?" said they, Majdas - Oh, you mean mai-da? If you say so, said I. There she is they all pointed and majda, pronounced Maida, said you must be Sean, follow me. She had picked up an Austrailian couple but didn't know that I was arriving on the same train. I was saved, one quick dash through the now biblical rain to her car and I was driven to sanctuary.
After lovely welcoming cup of coffee and some traditional Herzegovinan bread and sour cream, I set off to explore. The old town of Mostar, reconstructed after the war, was beautiful, the Stari Most (old bridge being the highlight).
I've never imagined let alone seen some of the destruction still in evidence from the war, a war that ended 12 years ago. Unfortunately, despite the claimed peace I still felt signs of tensions in the city - graffiti, and the odd (very odd) people walking down streets chanting obviously political or racial slogans. Majdas was an unbelievably friendly oasis from this, I spent the evening reading Huckleberry Finn and helping her translate extracts from tourist literature about Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The following morning I was quite sad to miss out on her brother, Bata's tour of the area as I headed off to my early bus to split, it was warm and sunny without a raincloud on the horizon.