Peja didn’t do the Kozara country dance, but his face lit up when he saw the monument to victims of the Nazi pogrom.
I spent most of Sunday in town. Because of some problems with the internet, I didn’t manage to upload the texts and photos when I'd planned, but I don’t think now that that time was lost – quite the contrary.
I went for a stroll around the town with Daniel (Little Dragon), we had some coffee, a good talk, I met two friends of his; so that afternoon was quite well spent. I want to thank Daniel for his tremendous help and because he welcomed me like a brother, provided me with a garage for my bike, welcomed me to his house and gave me a place to sleep, helped me with my handlebar issues, introduced me to his friends Oskar and Zril, showed me the town, explained to me how to get to Kozara, and of course, kept me company. :) Due to all this, he now must change his nickname to Great Dragon as little dragons don’t have such a big heart. :) Daniel, once again: thank you very much for everything. Also, a big thanks to Andrej for his help with fixing my bunk in the middle of the night. :)
I must boast that I tried the Banjaluka kebab made of mutton, and I must admit that it was quite good.
At about 15:00, I started towards Kozara, along the road leading to Prijedor. At first, I was slightly afraid of the police, yet since I was already late once again, I broke the speed limit for several times yet again. The landscape was beautiful. Luckily, the road was relatively straight and without sharp bends since I almost didn’t keep my eyes on the road, but was looking around. On the way to the national park Kozara, there was a turn in the place called Kozarac and from that moment on, the road led up the mountain. When I approached the foot of the mountain, the road, although two-way, became extremely narrow. Anybody who has ever driven to the top of Avala knows how 'wide' that road is. This one on Kozara leading to the monument park was only slightly wider, but as I'd already said, it was two-way. What was even worse, the road was really winding and some of the bends were extremely narrow, the so-called hairpin bends. Owing to all the wide roads which I'd passed until that moment, I became a little frightened. Throughout the entire way to the peak of Kozara, I might have ridden the bike in third gear for only a couple of times – everything else was in second gear.
At last, I arrived at a large park on the top of the mountain. I parked beside a little shop where souvenirs were sold, and I asked the guy who worked there if he could keep an eye on my bike. I looked around and was surprised at how superbly preserved that plateau was. A little downhill was the hotel Monument, which had been either built or renovated relatively recently. At that moment, I spotted a few families with kids who were having a picnic. On the opposite side of the hotel were stairs leading to the peak of the mountain.
I optimistically started climbing those stairs, but when I saw how numerous they were, my enthusiasm for getting up there as quickly as possible waned a little. Up there on the top, the feeling was, to put it shortly, magnificent. Everything had been perfectly maintained, the grass mowed, a small museum to the left which had been built on a slope looked as new, there was a small park designed for children, and I saw families with small kids who were rambling around, young couples… And as for the monument – incredible!
I remember that when I was in primary school, while I was flipping through a book, I came across a photo of the monument and a man standing nearby, and I knew the monument was large, but it was not until I saw it in the flesh that I realized its enormity. Kids can squeeze through a gap between the pillars which give the monument its shape since the pillars are joined only in the central part with one concrete cylinder. In fact, each of those pillars stands on its own. Try to figure out how high it is by judging from the photos. Behind it are passages that lead to an open chamber, on whose walls there are names of fighters who lost their lives at the battle of Kozara. Something similar can be seen in the US on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. On the slope below the monument was a small museum which was closed. Its architecture seemed to me exceptionally modern and unusual. In those small chambers there was infantry armament which partisans used, as well as various documents. At one entrance, there was a cannon, while on the other, there was an armored vehicle. As I already said, this monument park has been maintained and preserved, and families use it as a picnic site, too. There is a small recreational park for children, the area in front of the monument is so great that you can play soccer on it and there would be enough room for the audience as well… Simply put, amazing. Everything looks as if Tito were still alive. :)
From Kozara, which left me with a profound impression, I moved on to Bihac. I dropped by at a shop in Kozarac and when I was getting out of it, I met a barman from the café. We started talking about bikes and travelling, about a bike gathering organized by the Hell Angels on the Croatian coast, etc. We were chatting for around 20 minutes. Then, I carried on with my journey and once again I ignored the speed limit - I was supposed to be in Bihac by dusk. Passing through Prijedor, I got to Novi Grad and from there, along the river Una, I traveled towards Bihac through Bosanska Krupa. All the time on the left hand-side, there were rainy clouds in the distance, so I had to outstrip the rain, at least at this stage. For the last 40 km or something, the landscape was beautiful. The Una was almost turquoise, perfectly clean. I had to stop at some point and take a photo of its waterfalls.
Riding down the canyon of this river is something every biker should try if he/she passes nearby. Reshape your route since passing through this terrain is really worthwhile. The winding roads are in good condition, flanked by the river on the one side and high rocks on the other – the feeling is really special. These new tires from Gevara so far have proven pretty good and I've had absolutely no problems during the ride even though I am loaded with stuff. Riding through this terrain made me feel relaxed and enjoy the ride.
On Sunday evening, around 9 PM, I arrived in Bihac, just at the time when the youth, boys and girls, were gathering around to watch together the FIFA World Cup. Everyone was dressed colorfully as rooters and with flags, as if they were on their way to the stadium to root for their team. They were driving around and singing, just like when our national sportsmen and sportswomen are welcomed in Belgrade after winning a medal. I checked in at a motel in the heart of downtown, and there I met a photographer named Izet. For the past ten years he has been working on touristically promoting the municipality of Bihac, without any help of the state or the municipality. All the help has come from his friends and people willing to aid something admirable and useful.
The rain brought into question the route I'd planned. It is not that heavy, but the roads are slippery. I will consider it from this point of view – that will be a true test for these tires. ;) What I intend is, from Bihac, to go to Ostrelj and Drvar, then to Jajce and to finish the route in Mostar. I will have to bypass the monument on Grmec…