When diplomatic giant Richard C. Holbrooke died in December, 2010, I was grief-stricken, as if I'd lost someone I personally knew. Actually, I didn't know many of the details of his life and his accomplishments, just his imposing personnage and his presence representing the U.S. in many diplomatic hot spots. In the discussions of his life following his death, I heard a review of his book, To End A War, his inside view of his role as the chief negotiator of the Dayton Peace Accords which brought an end to the war in Bosnia. It was as exciting and suspenseful and tragic as any Tom Clancy novel I've read.
The personal note was struck because Husband and I had motorcycled through Yugoslavia in 1980 including some of the towns involved in the Bosnian war which he wrote about. It had been sad in subsequent years to hear in the news of the destruction and death taking place in those ancient cities.
My big plan has been to write brief reviews or comments about the books I read (that's the other page in this blog) . . . not anything really heavy, just my take on them. Holbrook's book sent me rummaging through my old photo archives, looking for Yugoslavia pictures. (You may also note that despite having thought to do it over three years ago, you don't see any reviews here yet!)
I haven't always been the frequent flyer across the ocean that I've become. First Husband and I did the break-from-college thing in 1959 when we intended to bicycle through Europe. What we intended and how it worked out were very different things. But that's a whole other story.
Avid motorcyclists, not long before Second Husband and I got married in 1978, we met a guy who led motorcycle tours in Europe and that immediately sounded like the dream ride. I needed to go to work right after our marriage and warned prospective employers that I required a vacation in September, 1980.
We set out for Germany with three other motorcycling friends and joined a good-sized group of bikers in traveling in Germany, Yugoslavia, Italy and Austria. I rode behind the Husband on one motorcycle, since we couldn't afford to rent two. Our luggage was carried by van with a mechanic, and we traveled in small groups or just the two of us from stop to stop.
At home we rode full-dress motorcycles with windshields and fairings and aftermarket comfy seats. Our rental was a Yamaha, pretty much bare bones. We'd brought a clamp-on windshield with us, but the pegs for the passenger's feet were up so high that my knees nearly punched me under the arms and I had a perpetual case of cramping in the hips and thighs. Oh, and knees and feet. Nevertheless, it was a spectacular trip.
Those were the days of film cameras; photos were more frugally shot. I took pictures with a regular little film camera. Husband had a nice Canon SLR and took slides. The slides, much more numerous that the prints, are still in slide boxes, awaiting my running them through my digitizing device. A few of my scanned photos of Yugoslavia, sparse in number anyway, are what I've included here.
|Predjamski Grad, Yugoslavia|
"May he live in interesting times" is said to be an old Chinese curse. Quoted with a good dose of irony, we could say we live in interesting times. 1980 was an interesting time as well. Tito, the dictator, the communist, the partisan hero in the fight against the Nazis, was recently dead. Yugoslavia was cobbled together by Tito from a mosaic of peoples. Some background reading can be found in Rick Steves' Europe: Understanding Yugoslavia in a chapter by Cameron Hewitt about Planning Your Trip. My favorite description of Yugoslavia is, "As the old joke went, Yugoslavia had eight distinct peoples in six republics, with five languages, three religions (Orthodox, Catholic, and Muslim), and two alphabets (Roman and Cyrillic), but only one Yugoslav — Tito."
We didn't have the benefit of Rick Steves and entered the country oblivious to its complicated history. We had the first encounter with this authoritarian regime at the border crossing. Guards bristled with guns. We worried that our paperwork wouldn't be accepted. There were signs, but nothing at all was readable, the Cyrillic letters perhaps, but definitely not a language with the same basis as English or French or Spanish. Husband was taking pictures surreptitiously. One of the guys from our tour had his camera taken and the film ripped out and thrown in a barrel of liquid.
(My unexpanded notes from 2015 original draft: Language problem, film seized at the border, authoritarian, Tito recently dead, sense of differences in the people of different regions, rather than subliminal, scary gravel roads, coastal roads on sheer cliffs with pounding wind, beautiful coastline, somewhat like California's Rte 1 coastal area)
|Chapel in Predjamski Grad|
|View from the hideout cave of the partisans|
at Predjamski Grad
|Dining at Hotel Duilovo, Split, Me in blue windbreaker, |
Husband in plaid shirt, dining with fellow travelers
|Train ride into Postojna Caves|
|Sunset view of harbor from|
Hotel Astarea, Mlini, Dubrovnik
|Boat ride to a fish picnic at an island off Dubrovnik|
|View off Dubrovnik|
|Seaside view of Dubrovnik|