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New Europe

Day Fourteen: Mostar to Sarajevo

Mostari divers 
click to enlarge 
file size
With the fast-flowing Neretva River below, Mostari divers, members of one of the most elite dangerous sports clubs in the world, leap 70 feet into 15 feet of water.
Michael Palin - New EuropeMostar railway station, from which we hope to travel to Sarajevo, is a sad, neglected place. The platforms are functional and bare. The 'M' of Mostar is missing from the only sign and wild flowers sprout from the track.

There are so few people waiting that my belief in the existence of the eight o'clock to Sarajevo is diminishing by the minute. But, bang on time, I see a headlamp beaming out of the tunnel and the metallic green diesel locomotive and three coaches that comprise the Ploce to Zagreb express squeal to a halt beside us.

The compartments are comfortable enough but give off the dusty, sweaty smell of stock that is often used but rarely cleaned. Once we're on the move north what we lack in creature comforts is more than made up for by some fine scenery as we follow the Neretva into a narrow gorge with dramatic walls of twisted, folded rock.

A Bosnian-Croat army officer is travelling up to Sarajevo. His face is like one of the Easter Island statues, long, with protruding eyebrows and a big, firm jaw. His eyes and his hair are both deep black and he learnt his English whilst training in Texas. He's another who talks admiringly of Marshal Tito and the skill with which he played off West and East.

'Technology from US and Europe, arms from Russia.'

He regards him as a visionary, a man who genuinely tried to create a third force in politics by allying himself with people like Nehru of India.

'I cried when he died,' he says. 'Nowadays everyone says, "I didn't cry. He was a butcher." But I cried.'

Alongside us, as the valley widens, trout farms and ageing hydroelectric plants make use of the river. My soldier friend shakes his head at their condition.

'But what can you do. Over fifty per cent of our qualified people have gone abroad.'

'Do they come back?'

He laughs. 'In the summer!'
Mostari divers 
click to enlarge 
file size
With the fast-flowing Neretva River below, Mostari divers, members of one of the most elite dangerous sports clubs in the world, leap 70 feet into 15 feet of water.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day Fourteen: Mostar to Sarajevo
  • Country/sea: Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Place: Mostar
  • Book page no: 37

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