Sep 2:  Sarajevo to Ostrog

My alarm went off at 7:15am but I was already up from the call to prayer and the noise in the foyer.  The Italian guy was having a booming conversation.

We caught a 9am bus to Ostrog.  At 10:45am we had a rest stop somewhere inside the Bosnian border.

At the rest stop, Gorana directed me to this photo spot.  So I took a photo.  But it's a decidedly unspectacular river.

The bus continued on a winding mountain road, so narrow we had to keep pulling over to let opposing traffic pass.  It was somewhat scary because there was no guardrail between the bus and a sharp drop off a cliff.  Then we entered Montenegro (country #38) and the 1-lane treacherous pass became a 2-lane comfort cruise.  Montenegro's on the euro and apparently that EU money makes a difference.  There was some stunning mountain scenery here, that I couldn't photograph because the bus window was cruddy.  And photos from a moving vehicle rarely turn out well.  We rode through a gorge beside a reservoir/lake that went on for miles, and went through many mountain tunnels.

Whoa...for the first time since 4-30-71 (the day before I turned 2 years old), my age equals my number of countries visited.  Fun fact:  Montenegro's capital Podgorica used to be called Titograd (that's what I said--Chicograd), which strikes me as being a poor man's Leningrad.

We arrived at Ostrog Monastery.  There were no single rooms here, or rooms for couples.  All 4 guys had to stay in one room and all 9 girls in another.  Under the bed in my room was a pair of forgotten sandals, and I remembered the John Kerrys (flip flops) I lost in Rio, and figured I was now Even Steven.  I didn't wear or keep them, though.  After we checked in, the 4 guys assembled outside to wait for the rest of the group.  I surmised that the girls were having a slumber party already, and that they'd be a while.

My previous 3 tours were to exotic continents, and this one marked my return to Europe after almost 3 years.  I was reminded of how much I liked Europe, and decided that my next trip would have to be to Greece.  It's a nice part of the world, especially near the Adriatic.  Greece would be appropriate as country #40 as I join the 40-40 club (40 countries before age 40), and it's the kind of place younger people are attracted to so I'd likely get a more familiar age range.

We had dinner between 5pm and 7pm at a cafe below the monastery.  Once again:  cevapi, kajmak and beer.  I wasn't expecting beer near the monastery, but there it was.

Our accommodations were in the Lower Monastery area, but all the action is in the Upper Monastery.  I knew the latter was built into a rocky cliff, but not that the cliff itself was up 1700 m (Gorana's estimate).

Hiking from Lower to Upper.  You can take the paved road--longer but less steep.

Part of the Upper Monastery.  The commonly-photographed part is to the right, but it was past the point where Gorana told us not to take photos.

The valley below.  We arrived in the area somewhere down there and went in minibuses up a long winding road to get to the monastery.

In the monastery we lined up to see the corpse of St. Basil.  But he's covered, so you can't actually see him.  You just have to take their word for it that he's under the sheets.  Kind of how religion works in general.  I was disappointed that once again I was in the vicinity of a famous person's corpse and failed to get a direct look.  All the pilgrims coming to pray reminded me of when my mom took us to the church where St. John Neumann's body is on display, when she was ill.  [As I type this on Sep 14 I'm holding a relic, which I just retrieved from my room.  I forgot I had it until now.]  On the walls of St. Peter's in Rome, Neumann is misspelled Newman.  (Wow, I mentioned Newman and it has nothing to do with Seinfeld.  Didn't see that one coming.)  There's another room/church up there that contains the hand of an entirely different saint, but it was locked.

One of the draws of the monastery is the option to sleep on a bench under the stars (and this place has a lot of stars, the ones you can't see in populated areas).  I'd wanted to do this because it sounded quite blissful.  They I got an idea of the number of visitors who'd be up there, and Gorana said we'd pretty much have to leave at dawn before services started.  So I started to like the idea less.  The three other guys were still planning to do it, and I realized if I didn't, I'd have the boys' room in the Lower Monastery all to myself.  I adjudged that the conventional sleeping practice would afford a more peaceful and satisfying night of slumber.  Ultimately 7 members of our group stayed at the Upper Monastery to sleep, and Gorana and the other 5 of us went back down the hill.  On the way we passed a car with a howling dog inside (presumably locked inside by someone spending the night...religious types have intriguing concepts of right and wrong), a cat that was too inaccessible for me to pick up, and numerous unseen Jungle Beasts.  I was a bit nervous about all the hooting and rustling from the latter, because I'd read that a guy in Texas allegedly captured the feared Chupacabra, which means it really exists.  The Chupacabra is a poor man's Jersey Devil.  The road down to the Lower Monastery was dark so Gorana lit out way with her phone, often casting giant shadows of us.  Sol Rosenberg would have been terrified.  (I mentioned the "Sol's Phobia" call and recited parts of it.  God and baby Jesus help us!)

Upper Monastery through the trees on the way down.  For a zoom shot with little light, this looks pretty damn good.


We went back to the cafe from dinner.  Most people had ice cream but I had a Coke because I was parched.  But then I had ice cream too.  We retired to our quarters at 9:30pm and I went to bed in my SINGLE ROOM shortly thereafter.