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September 04, 2007

And so goodbye to Kosovo … almost

It was time to leave. The Summer School was over for another year, e-mail addresses had been exchanged, the last of the glitter had been swept up from the floor of the art room and Jane, Anthony and myself, having stayed a last night with Fikrije and Basri, were ready to drive home.

We didn’t want to take the motorway this time so we planned to cross into Montenegro then down to Croatia and Dubrovnik, into Bosnia Herzegovina for a few miles, then back into Croatia, up past Split to Trieste, across Northern Italy, up through France [dropping Jane at the Bellows Blown Border Bagpipe Festival near Le Veurdre, bien sur] and back under the wet bit care of Concrete Pipes R Us.

Some borders, we’d read, were closed. So we studied the maps and we talked to the locals. They, the locals, not the maps obviously [well Basri’s father to be precise] said that for Montenegro you go to Pejė and turn left. So, not being ones to ignore local advice, we went to Pejė and turned left.

It wasn’t quite as easy as that. Pejė is a bustling town and there was more than one crossroads to turn left at. So we sort of turned left wherever we could in a turning-left sort of way, all the while keeping the sun over our left shoulder, our eyes on the road and our sandwiches in a cool-box behind the driver’s seat.

And the road left the town and headed for the high mountain ranges that separated Kosovo and Montenegro. And there was a camouflage-net-strewn UN Patrol Post with guns and green vehicles and soldiers in funny hats with large red pom-poms and stern expressions which defied you to ask what exactly the red pom-poms were all about, and a large sign which read reassuringly: LAST UN POST IN KOSOVO.

The road threaded its way through spectacular scenery, following a steep-sided gorge, above a white-water river, up into the mountains.


All very nice. The sun was shining, young children splashed in the river where it widened out over shoals of pebbles and insects spent their last moments staring in wonder at our fast approaching, though largely unseen, windscreen. Then we got to the bridge, or should I say: …The Bridge, for it was here the tarmac stopped.


Er, ok, well we’d been told some of the border crossings were a bit rough. The sign said BOGĖ to the right and QOKORR to the left.


I took out the map and sure enough there was a fork in the road and yes there was a place called Bogė to the right and the left fork led to the border, though no mention of Qokorr it has to be said.

We drove for several miles along a dirt road, reassuring each other that this was indeed the way to a Major International Border Crossing.


Look – people going fishing to the border we said as we passed an abandoned people carrier. [Look, we said as we passed the abandoned people having a picnic]

The road got dirtier – we were driving over fallen branches and the bushes were beginning to brush against the side of the van – just as you would expect as you approached a Major International Border Crossing.


Dropping to second gear, we negotiated a bend where the bushes on one side threatened to push us over into the steep gorge on the other side, and found out why this wasn’t the busy road you might expect connecting two countries struggling for recognition in the European Theatre of Commerce.


Ah. Well it was the border, but no one was interested in us crossing over into Montenegro apparently.

We managed to turn the van round – just, and drove the hour and a half back to Pejė, waving at the soldiers in the red pom-pom hats as we passed. We went straight through Pejė and, er, turned left, sign posted: MONTENEGRO, simple when you know how.

Posted by john at September 4, 2007 05:18 PM