Building bridges

Mostar BH

Mostar

(I’m touring Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia. To read about Slovenia, please see the previous post, “Breaking free.”)

The region now known as Bosnia-Herzegovina is a melting pot that never melted.

The country has three major ethnic groups, three self-governing territories and two alphabets. Its schools are segregated.

Bosna i Hercegovina is the country’s official name. It is also called Bosnia-Herzegovina and sometimes abbreviated to BiH, B-H or B&H. For the sake of convenience, I’ll refer to it as Bosnia.

The country is the size of West Virginia with a population of nearly four million. It is bordered by Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro. Sarajevo is its capital.

Bosnia’s currency is the convertible mark, but most Bosnian businesses accept euros and Croatian kuna as well. Bosnians joke they are the only predominantly Muslim country in the world with no oil. Continue reading

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Breaking free

Town Hall, Ljubljana SL

City Hall

The Slovenian city of Ljubljana (yoob yee AH nah) spent most of World War II in solitary confinement.

In 1942 Fascist Italy imprisoned the city, encircling it with nineteen miles of barbed wire.

On the perimeter, 206 watchtowers and bunkers were built. Land mines were set. Nearby homes were razed. Twenty-five-hundred guards patrolled the wire.

For over three years, Ljubljana was cut off from the rest of the world. The city’s residents struggled to stay alive, as their conditions worsened.

Italy’s intention was to stop the city’s support for Yugoslavia’s anti-Fascist forces. The plan didn’t work.

Throughout the war, the underground movement in Ljubljana succeeded in sneaking people, supplies and information through secret passages under the wire. Continue reading

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High old time (Part 2)

Machu Picchu PE

Machu Picchu

I’m in Peru, preparing to hike the Inca Quarry Trail and visit Machu Picchu. To read “High old time (Part 1),” please see the previous post.

After breakfast, our group of nine turned in our packed duffels and left Cusco in the rain. The day cleared as our van headed toward the Sacred Valley, an area that has supported farming for centuries. Both sides of the Urubamba River are terraced for growing crops.

The van turned onto a dirt road and climbed through adobe villages into the mountains. Election signs were painted boldly in black and red on whitewashed stone walls. Twice we were stopped by herds of sheep in the road. Continue reading

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High old time (Part 1)

Qorqor PEA few days before arriving in Peru, I began taking acetazolamide pills as a precaution against altitude sickness.

Some people are not affected by high altitude, but I didn’t want to risk enjoying my trek to Machu Picchu in order to find out if I was one of them.

Other measures that were suggested included acclimating over several days, staying hydrated, taking ibuprofen tablets, drinking the local coca tea and chewing coca leaves. I followed all recommendations. Continue reading

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In the animal kingdom

Sea lion, GalápagosI had every intention of following Galápagos National Park’s simple rule: Maintain at least six feet of distance from the wildlife.

However, the animals were not as compliant.

Blue-footed boobies waddled right up to my hiking shoes. Sea lions grazed me playfully when I snorkeled. Brown pelicans stood side by side with me, as together we watched the fishmongers in the harbor.

Even giant tortoises lifted their great heads and ambled in my direction, as if they recognized me from long ago.

In Ohio, wild animals run for cover when humans appear; in the Galápagos Islands, they yawn.

Continue reading

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Rocks of ages

White House, Canyon de Chelly

The history of the American Southwest is written in stone.

It is written in silver ore and petrified wood. In lava flows and cinder fields. On the walls of canyons and caves. In the ruins of pueblos.

It is written on tombstones. And on Spider Rock and Petroglyph Rock and Newspaper Rock. And most intentionally on Inscription Rock.

The Navajo say, “We will be like a rock a river has to go around.”

Instead, the river cut through the rock at Canyon de Chelly (duh-SHAY) National Monument, gouging deep channels over millions of years. Continue reading

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Bright lights, dark sky

The lights dart across the Texas desert, pulsing, merging and then disappearing.

Some people believe they are UFOs; others, the ghosts of Spanish conquistadors.

A cowboy first reported seeing them in 1883. He thought they were campfires of the Apache.

Other theories as to the origin of the mysterious lights include swamp gas, St. Elmo’s fire and the glint of minerals in the moonlight. Continue reading

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