I delighted in the dome-shaped haystacks, shepherds prodding their sheep, children romping in the grass with their dog. I wanted to pull over at every home, magically be able to speak Bosnian, and sit and talk for hours learning about their family and national history. But I couldn't. All I could do was smile, wave at cute little kids strolling along the highway with sticks over their shoulders, and grin at the dapper old men taking the air in flannel trousers, blazers and hats.
My heart lurched as I saw hillsides covered, absolutely covered in headstones, both Muslim and Christian, women clad in black carrying armloads of flowers. I know every town has a cemetery, but usually the stones are old, covered in lichen, almost hidden by grass, a few new ones noticeable by their glossy marble and fresh flowers.
But not here. Here they gleamed, almost has if they had been erected yesterday. Row upon row of white crosses and black marble pillars. Hundreds of them in tiny mountain towns. My heart ached for the intensity of their loss.
Even as I soberly reflected on the devastation war has wrought on this place, we turned a corner and my heart again lurched, but this time for joy. A jewel of a lake tucked between forested hills, glistening and still, exquisitely reflecting everything around it. We pulled over and just stood there, staring, drinking in the peaceful beautiful of this unexpected place. After a bit some of us clambered down the bank, squelching our way through marshy grasses accompanied by the deafening chorus of thousands of frogs singing their hearts out. We couldn't see them, but we heard them, and smiled. :-)