30.07.2004., petak


Travel journal Sarajevo – Zagreb June 2001

Warm, overcast.
Clouds scrape the tops of the southern hills.
The city rapidly recedes, gradually wakes.
Parallel to the Miljacka, flanked by a tram.


Rolling green hills and cleavages
Peppered with houses.
Jagged edged skyline of concrete blocks saws the sky.
Another fallen building, peeled wings.
Mount Igman looms, its summit concealed.
Road crosses the river of its country’s namesake.
Scattered houses now
Peopled by shrouded men of straw.
Pill box stands sentinel
Perched above a verdant swathe of pine
And houses more recently blackened
And those, more recent still, built to replace the fallen.
Rusted cars richly patinated return to the soil,
Driven into a ditch.


Road follows a winding cleft,
A river valley carved by ancient currents.
Gentle fields of cultivation,
Those neglected bloodied with poppies.
Figure scythes in a tiny clearing.


Road traverses a wide, steely green lake
Receiving and reflecting the great sweeping hills
Overwhelming the fringe of small dwellings.
Crossing the Neretva exposes the distant range of mountains
Blue karst, brooding.
Deep valley gorge inhabited by pylons and ghosts,
And fish farms.
River between two roads.
All roads lead to Mostar.
Black cypresses, white gravestones.
Verticals in a flattened plain.
Colourful billboard advertises soap powder.
Even the mountain is pockmarked.
The Old Bridge recreated,
Painted on a wall.
Front line, bell tower territory.
On the radio ‘This is the road to Hell.’
Roadside littered with little monuments,
And car parts.

Scattered settlements suddenly grow
Unfinished but ownership claimed by ethnic graffiti,
Invisible borders known only by those who live here.
Vegetation thinning.
Flag anticipates the border,
The UN’s looks pale and tired, nothing stirs.

Fishing men, pleasure boats,
Tethered cow lazily grazes.
Pinewoods patch the hillside.
Road rises and skirts a cultivated plain.
Rocky outcrops shape the fields
And water channels around them.
Terraced olives.
‘Dubrovnik is your friend.’
Finger of a peninsular pokes the sea
And points accusingly at a short stretch of overdeveloped coast.
The sea breaks open, warm breeze,
Breathing the heady scent of herbs mixed with evergreen
I lie back and fill my eyes with sky.

Coursing the artery of this peninsular, little shade.
Villages of stone grow organically from the hills
Or dug from the earth.
Small windows look out on a parched distance
Until the land falls away.
The razor-edged mainland
Reveals itself in the shimmering haze.
A road sign used for target practice.

Prickly pear

Coca-Cola as ubiquitous as the crucifix.
Crossing sides
We plunge down into the town.

Orebić clings to the shore
In fear of the mountains nudging it into the sea,
Resisting the advancing scrub.
The boat pulls out

The white surf parts.

Axis of the old town points to the New World,
Sheltered from the Bura
Twenty-five minutes walks every street.
Shimmering reds
White walls crystallised at the sea’s edge.
Bleached olive greens.

The sea takes on a new intensity.
The landscape unwinds
Between two blue layers
The horizon ahead is curved.
White sails drifting in a blue calm,
Clouds above unmoved.

Zigzag road stitches the mountains together,
Gradually tapering, increasingly sparse.
Vapour trail is the sky’s shoreline.
The light house a full stop.
Starboard side leaves the shade
And the mainland comes into focus.

Trogir – Šibenik
Lines of stone drawn down to the sea
Anchor the mainland
Its undulations, ribbed.
‘Fish Picnic.’
‘Sretan put – Good luck.’
New marina agitates its surroundings.

From Zlarin island
The distant layered hills are terraced in rows,
Fertile soil for growing settlements.
On this car-less island
A new road, empty,
Abruptly halts.
Continues, for now, as a small woodland path.
Pinecones decorate bare trees, dense and deadly packed.
Needles carpet the ground.
Waves shape the shore.
Young growth clings to ancient rocks.
Mariner’s memorial speaks only to the sea.
A clear glass bottle contains no message.
Rain hangs the sunflower’s head
And further on,
Where the path becomes impassable,
Gun emplacements still keep a wide-eyed vigil
On a view long since obscured.
Above the cove
Labyrinthine walls thread through wild grasses,
Where every bush and branch is barbed.
Stone piles look down on a huddle of houses.
Walls become streets and individual rooms.
Gradually, the plan of an ancient settlement is imagined
Until the summit gained
And a surviving bunker
Steps down into the earth.
The concrete is inscribed with names


That the wind carries down
The descending goat path.

Vegetation follows the rock’s fracture
Rising and dipping in waves.
Solitary figure waves from an uninhabited island.
Approaching the town.
Houses barnacle-encrusted on the hull of the hill.

Šibenik – Zadar
Road travels through an empty wilderness.

Little chapels
Road signs

Each town centre approached
Through the industrial zone
Bright green leaves
Cast purple shadows on my sprawling tent.

City walled and wide moated
Punctured in places
To allow the worn-smooth gleaming streets to breathe
On which bell towers cast long shadows
Stretching back to when the Romans
Carved their fluted columns,
Now segmented into sturdy foundations.


Radi kao da ne trebaš novac
Ljubi kao da nikad nisi bila povrijeđena
Plesi kao da te niti ne gleda

A mid-summer wedding blares past boats
Beached on stilts.
The air becomes their sea,
But sailing nowhere.

Writers write their names
In the names of the streets.

Ivan Tanzlinger
Mata Karamana
Frane Alfirević

Zadar – Ugljan
Crossing a diamond studded sea
‘Look out for a small island, a church, a palm tree.’
Boatman pushes out from the quay.

Monastery Island,
Six minutes measures the circumference.
Across the water lies the low-lying city,
Its church towers and tower blocks clearly etched and illuminated.
Zadar overshadowed by the Velebit,
Whose limestone peaks
Are barely distinguishable from clouds
Now almost lost to view.

Necklace of lights decorates the distant city’s shoreline.
A silken sea brooched by fishing boats, nets cast,
Only the ferry, pink tinged, ripples the stillness.
Monastery Island looks dark and foreboding,
At night becomes the Isle of the Dead.
The first row of stars appears.

Zadar – Rijeka
Rows of empty road-side stalls
Fruits still languish in trees.
Impact craters patched the only road,
Hing a convoluted coast
And screened by the weight of the crumbling Velebit.
While across the sea
A long-stretched pink strip of land,
Wind-blown stripped of soil and vegetation,
Grows only stones
In fields enclosed by stone.
KM stone 354.
Road signs caution rock fall and the prevailing wind.
Inhospitable, unsustainable terrain.

Goat bridges
Way side flowers of plastic.

Crossing the 45th Parallel at Senj.

The road straightens.
The hills soften.
The stones become concealed.
KM stone 245.
Eternal flame burns from the oil refinery
As we circumvent the ship yard.

Marco Polo

And descend into Rijeka.

Rijeka – Zagreb
Forging through clefts of rock
A rhythmic ascent skirts the valley
And leaves behind the sea and islands.
Rounding rounded hills pinpricked by occasional outcrops.
A shepherd watches sheep with binoculars.
Lines and cables criss-cross the hillside.
The forest changes texture.
Forests densely foliated.

Silver Birch

Rocks yield to bracken and soft grasses.
Fields become pollen-covered meadows.

Stations are wood-stacked, hedge-trimmed.
Tapped wheels chime.
Where villages appear meadows become fields,
Cultivated and scare-crowed.

Sap green
Golden green
Viridian green

Rivers only seen when crossed.
Klek, from a distance, firmiliar from all sides.

Unrepentant motorway, unfinished, ploughs the forest against the grain.
The landscape flattens and views open up,
Punctuated by pillboxes, following a river’s flow.
Fields scythed and burnt in patches, increasingly tamed.
The ember’s glow is the land’s setting sun.
Houses randomly placed and spaced.

The sky enlarges.
In the distance
The blue hills of Japetić approach.
Then Sljeme silhouettes itself against a falling sky.
All the greens darken.
Crossing the Sava
The city is entered

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