Friday, 30 January 2009

not so smug and missing home

Oh, it serves me right. Having been so rude about the ability of males to fight off a poxy flu virus, I only went and came down with it too. And you know what? It isn't very nice. I have a lot more sympathy for them now than I did this time yesterday. High temperatures and hacking coughs are debilitating.

So with all four of us laid low, we have had a pretty sad day. It is the first time that D and I have both been stricken at the same time, which meant that there has been no escaping childcare duties, no matter how awful you feel. I did though pull a bit of a trump card by getting a recurring prolapsing disc to prolapse again which put Dave onto the front line.

And for the first time I am really missing home. Although we have plenty of friends here, there wasn't anyone we felt we could call up to say 'we are having a shocker - please come and help!'. I didn't want to infect anyone else, I didn't want to force anyone else outside into this shocking miserable weather to take Jess for a walk, I didn't feel that I could dump my children onto anyone whilst we recuperated. In other words, I couldn't just ring up my Mum and behave like a 3 year old, whilst she came rushing to my rescue and fed me hot tea with soothing words and a damp flannel on a fevered brow.

So we soldiered on, got through the day and are all looking forward to the end of this bug, if only so we don't have to watch 101 Dalmatians again.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Doctors and antibiotics

All good things have to come to an end. Realistically, our run without having to make a trip to the Doctors was never going to last. The boys (and D so it is obviously a male thing) have been laid low with a stonkingly high temperature and hacking cough. Temperatures were responding to Calpol and Calprufen, but they were too high for me to be comfortable with, so I bundled my poorly males up and we made our first proper trip to the doctor that we had found way back in August.

It was a drop in clinic, we didn't have to make an appointment and we were seen in a few minutes. Quite refreshing after the NHS queues and battles. We did have to pay (still a shock to our fairly spoilt NHS coddled systems) but it was only 15KM (about £7.50) per visit.The Doctor smiled at the kids, took their temps, looked in their ears and throats, diagnosed flu and promptly dished out about 5 different forms of antibiotics. We are more used to a fairly robust NHS doctor who only prescribed antibiotics if you were dying and 'most definitely not for flu which is a virus and therefore unaffected by antibiotics' so we were surprised, but when in Rome/Tuzla...

Still they have sorted out the slight ear infection Adam had, the temps seem to be under control and I'm hopeful that life will be back to normal by Monday.

In the meantime the weather is dreadful so I don't feel too guilty about snuggling up with the boys and a couple of good dvds of an afternoon.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Bosnian rumours

Of interest to the Brits who read this blog and further to my post yesterday (here) - one of the candidates rumoured to be in the running for the job of High Representative is Chris Patten. This is true Bosnian rumour and probably not based in any truth whatsoever, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Taking the English out of England

Yesterday was a truely vile day - the type of day that you expect in England in February. Low low cloud. Drizzle that goes on and on and on. Only sounds being the sounds of cars driving through puddles. No light. Just dank, grey, depressing.

Being Brits we felt right at home and were the only ones to be seen out walking, wellies, coats and rain hats firmly on, wet dog at our side.

Back home we couldn't resist the traditional Sunday lunch. A full on roast beef, roast potatoes, yorkshire pud affair. All that was missing was Ski Sunday or Rugby Special on BBC2, and we'd have had a proper British Sunday.

boring but important

There's a magazine in the UK, The Week, which is a neat summary of all the news, comments, editorials etc. in the UK press. One of their sections is called 'Boring, but Important' and I feel that accurately sums up the gist of this post.

Regular readers (hello Mum!) will know that I try to steer clear of the Bosnian political situation, but occasionally there is an important development that I feel I should point out. On Friday the international community's representative in Bosnia, The High Representative, resigned - leaving his job to become foreign minister in Slovakia.

The High Representative is probably the most powerful person in Bosnia (Brits may remember that Paddy Ashdown held the post for a couple of years a few years back). Unelected, he has the power to force the Bosnian politicians to do all sorts of things that they can't normally agree upon. Opinion is divided on whether having a High Representative is a good thing. Certainly, the office has been able to push through a number of laws that have been unpalatable to the nationalist politicians that dominate the political scene here. Others think that this permits the politicians to hide behind OHR; they have not needed to learn how to take difficult, potentially unpopular decisions.

OHR mandate was due to end in 2009, but many believe the current political stalemate (see Nov 16th post and Economist article here for more details) in Bosnia will mean it will have to be extended. It will be difficult to find anyone to take the job without knowing what their mandate will be. It looks as if the political impasse is unlikely to finish soon.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Playgrounds! In Tuzla!

Although there is a great playground in Sarajevo (see earlier post), the rest of the playgrounds in Bosnia leave a lot to be desired. In addition to the limited, poorly maintained and broken equipment I now have a new gripe - mud. The mud would do a trench in The Somme proud. In Tuzla it is that especially thick, stick to your shoes and make them 3 times heavier type of mud. And it is everywhere. Of course it then goes all over the limited, poorly maintained equipment making any play that might have been possible messy.

But, but but. Someone, somewhere has heard my whinging about the state of playgrounds in Bosnia and has done something about it. Now, near Slana Banja park and the saltwater Panonica Lakes, there is a whole army of bulldozers, diggers and trucks. We've been watching with interest for a while (trucks! diggers! bulldozers! Small boy heaven!). But at our last visit I realised, with a lifting of the heart and a soaring choir of angels, they were building a playground. And what a playground it will be. There are climbing frames with tunnels. There are climbing walls and things to climb all over. Slides. Swings. A load of other stuff that hasn't revealed itself yet, but looks good. It even looks as if it will have that spongy blue stuff on the floor to stop everyone hurting themselves when they inevitably fall down.

I have no idea when it will open, but we are likely to be first in the queue. Just hope they have managed to sort out the mud.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

The Legend of Lukey

Luke reached the grand old age of 2 yesterday. Only 2 - it feels like he has been around for much longer (that may be to do with his disincilination to sleep). Full toddlerdom awaits us and I feel he will embrace the terrible twos with enthusiasm. He is a sweet little boy, loud, rumbunctious, stubborn, charming and a real one for an audience. He does exactly what he wants to do. On a walk, he will decide he wants to go back to the car and set off, without looking back or stopping and with or without the rest of us. Luke has taken to Bosnian life with enthusiasm. He likes nursery, he likes the food there and he is loved by the Bosnians who are charmed by his attempts to speak Bosnian and penchant for blowing kisses.

We had a small party for him on Sunday. I made a cake (which tragically collapsed, I have yet to get to grips with the different types of Bosnian flour, and am still trying to work out what might constitute self-raising flour, which most my cake recipes call for). Still the 15 or so people who came round sang Happy Birthday and gamely ate the stodge.

The tradition is that you take a cake to nursery on the day of your child's birthday. I'm quite happy to submit my friends to my baking attempts, but thought better of public humiliation at nursery so I asked Tanja, our lovely cleaner, if she would mind doing the honours. The cake appeared, the biggest cake I have ever seen, resplendent with Bob the Builder on top.

Bosnian cakes are quite different to the British ones, lots of layers and cream and coconut flakes. I have to say, I'm not the biggest fan. But the Bob the Builder cake was greeted with delight at nursery and none of it was left at the end of the day. The nursery did a really great job of making his birthday special - they sang Happy Birthday in English and Bosnian, danced dances and generally had a right old party. He won't remember it, but I do feel he had a pretty decent birthday.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

It doesn't have to be tako je kako je

The Bosnians are remarkably American orientated (particularly around here) so I wasn't too surprised to discover that the American Corner in Tuzla's Library would be showing Obama's inauguration live on TV. They had also arranged for a woman from the American Embassy to come and give a talk.

Her talk was remarkably good, concentrating upon why it is so historic having Obama elected now. She focused upon how much has changed in such a short space of time and of how important it is for the general population to engage in the political process.

I hope that the reasonably large crowd of Bosnians were listening. They are highly suspicious of their own politicians, suspecting them (usually accurately) of corruption and of serving their own interests before that of the population. However, they choose not to get involved in politics to try and change it. An astonishing number of people don't vote, let alone try and change the status quo. Instead they moan and bitch about their politicians before shrugging and saying something along the lines of tako je kako je - translating as something like it is how it is.

If the election of Obama proves anything, it proves that it doesn't have to be how it is, and that seemingly insurmountable change can come about remarkably quickly if you really want it to and are prepared to work for it. The Bosnians themselves could help change their own country by engaging in the political system rather than leaving it for those who want to be politicians.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

I'm in the mood for dancing!

An unexpected night out of fun, dancing and beer for the adults of our household, without having to wipe a snotty nose or debate the merits of making patterns in the snow with wee once. D and I were tragically overexcited.The boys had been left behind with babysitters and we were ready to paint the town red - I'd even put some make-up on (once I'd managed to actually locate my make up bag, which took far longer than it ought).

Downtown Tuzla on a Saturday night was buzzing. The Korzo - the pedestrianised main drag through the centre of town was full of people strolling up and down, despite the freezing temperatures and drifting snow. All the bars were packed, music was being played loudly and everyone was having fun.

We were off to to dinner with some Bosnian friends at the latest restaurant in town, run by the Bosnian equivalent of Jamie Oliver (in the always on tv sense, rather than the changing the eating habits of Bosnian school children sense). He learned his trade in London and is selling a slightly bizarre Bosnian / Indian fusion cuisine, which was really very very good. We were in heaven. I was even more so when it turned out the restaurant he trained in in London is down the road from where I grew up. I've eaten there. For us Brits, used to eating a different type of cuisine every night, it is such a treat to go somewhere where we can get something outside of the usual Bosnian fare.

Buoyed up by the consumption of a fair amount of wine, we were loath to bring the evening to a close, so off to The Underground club we went. We know this venue, we used to go there during our previous stay here in our carefree childfree days when we didn't need to get a babysitter or get up early the following morning. It hadn't changed much and is like many other clubs around the world, but it served beer and had a live band playing covers and (non-turbofolk) Balkan hits. We rocked the night away and had a great evening.

D drew the short straw and had to get up with the boys at 6.30am this morning. He is still suffering.

Friday, 16 January 2009

the road less travelled

A while back I asked all my friends to send me and the boys a post card should they be travelling anywhere. The idea was that we would add the postcards onto the large map of the world we have stuck on the wall and this would get the boys into the idea of maps (what can I say? I'm a geographer, I like colouring things in blue and believe SATNAV is a cheat).

The request went a bit viral and lots of people have sent us cards from all over the world, including amongst others Hongkong, Philadelphia, New Zealand, Vanuatu, Canada, Antarctica. The postman always looks at me askance as he hands over another postcard from some foreign land.

Today however came the pinnacle. A postcard arrived from Timbuktu. I'm so excited. This cannot be a standard or well worn postal route. And a big congratulations to the postal systems of Mali and Bosnia. I'm not sure the British system would have made it.

after the big freeze

Who'd have thought it? After weeks were the temperature barely managed to get up to -9C, it has rallied and we are now basking in a balmy +4C. The lethal ice has melted away, and everything is becoming one big slushfest as the snow starts to melt.

This has bought with it a whole load of new issues for a fraught Mummy to deal with. We can now walk the dog, and the soft layer of ice on the snow is brilliant for the newly invented game of crunch walking - who can get the biggest crunch when walking on the snow. However, the amount of mud, slush, filthy water and general gunge that now accompanies us whenever we step foot outside is making me loath to venture out much.

The boys, now used to daily sledding and snowball fights, are wanting to go out as much as possible. So the mud fest outside is rapidly appearing inside. I'm already nostalgic for the cold snap - at least the snow makes everything look pristine.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Ice skating

Looks like Adam got his wish to try out ice skating sooner than expected. The temperature edged up near freezing last night and a very light drizzley rain fell. It then dropped again and all the water froze into a perfect ice rink that is covering the city.

Treacherous? Ah - just a little. So far today I've seen 2 people fall pretty heavily, 2 cars slide into the ones in front, did my own graceful, elegant, unrequested and rather slow 90 degree spin in the car on the road, have watched Jess slide into the fence at the bottom of the garden and it is only 9.30am. I'm planning some indoors activities for this afternoon, no way am I going to attempt to take out 2 toddlers and dog in this.

Adam appears to think that we are going to buy some ice-skates this afternoon. Luke, who doesn't like the snow and cold at the best of times is delighted with this latest turn of events.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Serbian gas and generosity

The gas spat between Russia and the Ukraine has been resolved. Gas should start pumping back through the pipelines to Bosnia (amongst other countries) in the next couple of days.

An unexpected side effect of the crisis has been an improvement of relations between Bosnia and Serbia. Apparently Serbia, also badly affected by the crisis, managed to negotiate a deal for some emergency gas provisions from some other EU countries and offered some of the gas to Bosnia, at no cost and therefore providing some very much needed domestic heating over the weekend when temperatures were reportedly as low as -29C (See more on this story here).

The thing about winter

The temperatures are remaining pretty chilly here. The thermometer hasn’t got above freezing (or even close) for the last 2 weeks or so, and I dropped the boys off at nursery this morning in a fairly bracing -9C. For an English family who squawk when the thermometer touches 0C, this is pretty cold for us. Going outside requires that everyone is wearing a lot of clothes. Getting all the clothes on everyone takes some time, and has altered the pattern of our day.

Getting ready to go out in Winter

1. Tell everyone we are going outside and need to put lots of clothes on. Try to locate fleeces, waterproof dungarees, scarves,socks, gloves, jumpers, coats, hats, boots (x3 – each boy and me) so as to be ready for the marathon dressathon that lies ahead
2. Try to persuade everyone that they MUST do a wee, otherwise they will have a problem once their dungarees are on. No one pays any attention.
3. Try to catch one of them to start dressing them. Squeals of laughter and a new game starts as everyone charges around the house trying to avoid Mummy (who is starting to get a bit cross) chased by the dog who recognises the signs that a walk is imminent.
4. Catch one, who then crys. Forcibly put on socks, jumper and trousers. They complain they are too hot. Ignore and go after the second.
5. Catch the second who also starts crying. Get socks and jumper on but they wriggle off and start the ‘lets run away from Mummy’ game again.
6. I get crosser but decide to ignore everyone and get myself dressed, but then get very hot.
7. Catch the second one and finish getting them dressed. Tempers fraying left, right and centre.
8. Luke tells me he’s done a poo. Think about ignoring him, but he gets terrible nappy rash if left so investigate as far as waterproof dungarees will allow. Can’t see (or smell) anything, but this doesn’t mean there isn’t one there. All clothes come off for a proper nappy investigation. Nothing. All clothes go back on again
9. Adam has taken off his socks and trousers and is running around again.
10. I get cross and shout.
11. Luke tells me ‘there’s a poo in there’, smell confirms that there is. Curse that I missed the signals that he wanted to go and the opportunity to put him on the potty. Trousers etc off for the 3rd time. Nappy changed, all clothes back on again.
12. Still need to catch Adam to get him to put the rest of his clothes on. Luke opens the door, goes out in his socks and gets wet feet. Need to find more socks and put them on and put on boots. Luke walks around the house in his boots getting mud etc everywhere.
13. Finally get clothes onto Adam, including coat and boots.
14. Lost hats, scarves and gloves. Spend 10 minutes looking for them. Locate them by the front door where I thought they were but hadn’t spotted them as they were lying under a pile of dirty laundry taken out of the laundry basket by Luke when I was getting Adam’s clothes on.
15. Get my boots on, find my keys, get out of the house and lock up.
16. Back into house for all the things that i have forgotten.
17. Adam says he needs a wee. Get him to go outside and make wee patterns on the snow. Luke harasses him and the dog is also interested. Adam gets cross and throws a load of snow at Luke. Luke cries.
18. Understand why housewives got into taking valium in the 1950s. Wonder if it is such a bad thing. Realise I quite need a wee too, but can't face the logistics so head on out and hope for the best.

Time elapsed from starting the ‘Lets Go Out And Play In The Snow And Take Jessie For A Walk’ process: approx one hour. Has been up to 1hr 30mins.

Getting Ready to go out in the Summer

1. Check everyone is wearing their sandals
2. Lets go.

Time elapsed from starting the process: About 2 minutes.

Rock on Summer.

Monday, 12 January 2009

popping down the road

I have long realised that Bosnians, much like our parents, aren't interested in talking to us; they suffer our company in order to play with the boys. The villages I do research in are always asking after the boys, how they are getting on, whether they are learning Bosnian, how they like Bosnian nurseries and so on.

I had the opportunity yesterday to go to lunch at one of the villages I work near Zvornik (about an hour east of Tuzla), so took the boys along for the ride. It's always a fun journey for them, the road is beautiful and there is a tunnel to go through (now with lights in, which is much safer but spoils some of the into the black hole fun which the boys find hilarious). The boys behaved beautifully all afternoon, kissed the right people, ate the right food, didn't spit it out until they were outside, didn't destroy any curtains and were generally charm personified.

Driving back through the snow and singing at the top of our voices, I was struck that the idea of this trip, to a distant part of the Balkans, in the middle of winter with 2 small children would strike some as foolish. But really it is not that dissimilar to nipping down the M4 for lunch with your maiden aunt. Fewer cars, colder weather and a need to make sure you have blankets and emergency food in the car in case of an unexpected event - sure, but pretty similar nonetheless.

Friday, 9 January 2009

winter sports and fun

Whilst we were gallivanting around in Sarajevo over Christmas, they were busy updating the amenities in Tuzla. Most obviously is the new ice rink (on top of a rather nice clay tennis court) by Slana Banja park. It's proving to be quite a hit with the general population and at 5KM for an hour is great value for money. Adam is very keen to try it out, I'm less keen and have put off the moment of truth until the weekend when Daddy is also on hand to deal with bruised bottoms and tears. Yesterday, he was satisfied with watching some friends of ours, Amel and Ivana, have a go. Amel was a reluctant skater, most happy when clinging to the edge of the rink.

"Amel!" shouted Adam "you're not very good. I don't think your ice skates are working very well".

Next door to the ice rink they've put up 8 big trampolines. Oh my goodness me, how much do the boys love trampolines? Our daily routine has a whole new element to it. Now I pick the boys up from nursery, drive to the park for an hour of dragon fighting and exploring through the woods (otherwise known as a dog walk) which is then followed with a big long bounce. It's terrific. Who am I kidding - I love the trampolines too!

The temperature this morning when I dropped the boys off at nursery was -12C. There is still wrangling going on between Ukraine and Russia about the gas pipeline which has left about 100,000 homes in Bosnia without heating, mainly in Sarajevo, Zenica and Zvornik. I read an interesting blog comparing the situation in Sarajevo today to that during the 1992-95 conflict (click here). Fortunately for us, Tuzla doesn't rely upon gas supplies at all so we are toasty warm but watching the electricity supply carefully.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Gas spats and snow

Like much of Europe, Bosnia has been having a bit of a cold snap this past week. Temperatures haven't been above freezing point for a while now, the next weeks predictions are for a high of -2C and lows of around -15C. Last night about a foot of snow fell and everything has suddenly turned white. Normally, snow and cold aren't too much of a problem here, people are used to it, all the cars have (or are supposed to have) winter tyres and snow chains. Houses are well heated.

However, Russia and the Ukraine have been having a bit of a spat about something, and have turned off the gas pipe line in the Ukraine. This has had a knock-on effect for the supplies of gas in Bosnia which have stopped overnight (see article here). People are starting to panic and have bought out electric heaters in the stores. Tuzla is less affected than most, as many of us are on the municipality heating which is supplied by the industrial coke burning plant on the outskirts of town. However there are rumours that this isn't as secure as we had supposed; a similar smelter in Zenica may have to halt, halting that city's municipality heating whilst they are at it.

In the absence of gas, many will turn to electricity to heat their homes, which will cause rather a large surge of usage in the national grid, which may not be able to cope with it. Indeed, we have noticed the electricity going up and down like a yo yo anyway these past few days. I'm off to stock up on candles, locate our torches and test their batteries and to find our camping gas stove in case we lose power for a while.

As Bosnia hasn't got the cash or infrastructure to hold any gas reserves, this spat (which has nothing to do with Bosnia) has the potential to cause real misery here. Fingers crossed they sort it all out like the grown ups they are supposed to be.

Time to stop being flippant. Large parts of Sarajevo, Zenica and Zvornik (where I do most of my research) have now lost heating. They estimate there are 100,000 households are affected. I'm very rude about the massive power station on the outskirts of Tuzla, particularly when they light it up luminous green, but right now, it is my favourite thing in the world. Long may it keep pumping out noxious fumes.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Tuzla vs Sarajevo

The second week of our luxury jaunt was spent in Sarajevo. Still only a 30 minute drive to the ski slopes (so we did pop back for another go) but with culture as well. There's no disguising that I adore Sarajevo; having grown up in London I will always have a fondness for the bigger cities and their bustle and chaos, but I was surprised by how stressful I found the traffic and the parking situation there.

Back in Tuzla I can see the benefits of a smaller town but that hasn't stopped me drawing up a list comparing the two:

Things Sarajevo has that Tuzla doesn't

1. A functioning airport (people say Tuzla has one, and that it is an international airport, but I don't know where it is and as far as I can tell the only destination has been Marakesh, once, which seems highly dubious to me).

2. Skiing

3. Traffic problems

4. A Chinese AND an Indian take away that delivers. We tried both last week in a state of high excitement. They were both great, but we may be poor judges as we haven't had Chinese or Indian food or flavours for months now.

5. Internet supermarket shopping that delivers to your door in 2 hours.

6. A Zoo (which I am not so excited about) with a HUGE playground (which I am).

7. Trams, which are a great afternoons entertainment for a 1 and 3 year old.

8. Cinemas which even show the odd film in English. Tuzlans say they have a cinema but no one knows where it is, nor what it is showing.

9. Tourists

10. A big city mentality

11. A lot of cultural events including an internationally reknown film festival, a jazz festival, a winter festival. You name it really.

Things Tuzla has the Sarajevo doesn't

1. The Bosnian National Theatre

2. Municipality heating (actually I don't know if Sarajevo has an equivalent but it is one of the best things about living in Tuzla during the winter - see previous post)

3. Big salt water Pannonian lakes for swimming in with associated cafes and bars for that beach feel

4. Parking (and lets not underestimate this one, parking in Sarajevo is a total shocker, always)

5. Easy to navigate and to drive around

6. Ilincica - the big, almost mystical woods and park on the hills behind the city, something out of Lord of the Rings

7. A big figure of a fireman up a ladder outside the fire station. Admittedly not so exciting for many people, but if you are a under the age of 4 this is pretty cool.

8. Ice rinks and trampolines set up on the tennis courts during the winter.

9. A Human Rights Film Festival

Thinking about this I realise that there are a lot of things that both cities have that are unusual in Bosnia. The immense sense of pride in their city is one. The genuinely multi-ethnic nature of both cities is unusual, possibly stemming from the fact that both cities retained their multi-ethnic population throughout sieges and massacres during the war. To be Tuzlan or Sarajevan appears to transcend ethnic labels. I suspect this contributes to the fondness that I have for both cities.

Monday, 5 January 2009

skiing in Sarajevo

Happy, merry and a merry happy festivities and new years to one and all. Back in Tuzla, our happy merry season has drawn to a close and looking at the detritus of 2 weeks worth of unpacking littering the house, I can reflect that it was a good merry happy festive moment.

Two weeks of luxury for us, with the first week skiing near Sarajevo. I was a bit worried about this. My entire family (and their girlfriends) were flying out for Christmas and I wasn't sure if it was going to live up to billing. There was unlikely to be any turkey, it was going to be very cold, there hadn't been any snow and we had no idea what the accommodation would be like. We've never been skiing with the boys who haven't shown much enthusiasm for the cold and snow. There was the potential for a disaster.

I needn't have worried. The apartments were amazing, it snowed buckets, the rental equipment was brand new, the lifts open the day we needed them to and everything was so much cheaper than the Alps. The family settled in beside many fires and were pleasantly surprised by what Bosnia had to offer.

The boys were given a sledge for Christmas and spent most of the week careering down various hills at highly unsuitable speeds and loving it. Adam ventured onto skis, and surprised everyone by a) not hating it and b) executing a few rather good parallel turns. He was less keen to try out the button lift so relied upon the lift of Mummy or Daddy dragging him up the hill. We may not have done as much skiing as usual, but we certainly got exercised. Luke is not such a fan of the snow and proved to be more of the apres ski hot chocolate kind of boy.

Being Bosnia the ski resort is remarkably child friendly. The nursery slope was gentle with a button lift which adults could walk beside to ensure children remain upright and reach their destination. Restaurants were not too crowded and no one minded if you lingered over your (homemade) blueberry juice. Indeed the waiters were more inclined to entertain the kids than bring the bill allowing the odd long, decadent hot chocolate.

With Christmas only celebrated by the (catholic) Bosnian Croats in Bosnia, Christmas is not a particularly big deal in much of Bosnia. This meant that the Christmas week was not particularly busy. So once the snow arrived, (overnight on our first night) there were no lift queues and very clear pistes with plenty of powder and no one else. D and I were the first ones up the lift on Christmas morning to find a clear run, amazing views and not another soul. I completed the moment with a suitably spectacular face plant.

In fact the whole skiing outing proved so successful we are thinking we may have to repeat it for a weekend in February. This is a huge and unexpected bonus.