Monday, 10 August 2009

Games to play on Bosnian road trips

For various reasons we do quite a lot of driving around Bosnia. So, although we live in Tuzla, which is in the Federation part of Bosnia (the Bosnian Muslim and Croat bit), we do spend quite a lot of time driving around the Serb part of Bosnia, the Republika Srpska (almost always known as the RS).

This doesn't usually entail any problems. It is still a part of the same country. The cars all have the same licence plates, the money is the same, the language is the same (bar the odd semantic difference about whether you are speaking Bosnian or Serbian, but for us to be able to notice the differences between the languages would need us to speak it a whole lot better than we do). The police forces are different but by in large they can't face dealing with the English driver so both forces tend to leave us alone.

By far the biggest difference for us, is the script in which the road signs are written. The Federation operates in the Latin script. The letters all look like what we're used to. We might not have a clue what the signs mean, but at least we can have a decent stab at what the word actually is. In the RS the signposts are in Cyrillic. Not only do we not know what they are saying but we can't even read them. I get sudden bursts of sympathy for my boys starting out on learning to read. Now I know how they feel, a maze of symbols which mean absolutely nothing to me.

We are not totally clueless though. We know for example that a sign that says 'CapajeBo' equates to Sarajevo. A building with 'pectopar' written on it is a restaurant. This gives us a certain number of letters from which we can start to construct the word.

So, as we drive along we tend to have conversations that go something like this:

Driver: Where are we?

Map Reader: I don't know

D: There's a signpost - what does it say

MR: I don't know.

D: Get the map out.

MR: The map is in Latin, the signpost is in Cyrillic, I still don't know where we are.

D (stopping the car in front of the sign, often with an audible sigh and a form of well if you could mapread properly in the first place you would know where we are anyway): Ok, there are 8 letters.

MR: Alright, do we know any of them?

D: Blank, S, Blank, Blank, R, A, Blank, Blank, Blank.

MR (hunting frantically on the map for any name that might fit the bill) er, not sure, can't quite see anything that fits, is there a Z anywhere?(we know what Z looks like too, it is a back to front 3)

D: No Z

MR: How about a C?

D: I don't know what a C looks like.

MR: Well do you think the last 3 letters could be VIC?

D: Dunno. Probably.

MR: Oo, oo, I think I can see where we are. Oh no, sorry, that town only has 6 letters. Are you sure that it is 8 letters? Is there a D?

D (by this point the driver is usually getting quite irate and there have been a couple of cars tooting us as they pass us): Yes it is still 8 letters. No, no Ds. I don't know if there's a D. Maybe there is a D. Anyway you've had enough guesses, that's hangman, you lose, it's your turn to drive.

And off we go, only for the whole process to be repeated at the next signpost or town, whichever appears first.

We've been places and we still don't have a clue where. We spent an entire afternoon once driving around the area to the East of Sarajevo and were in quite a big town and to this day we don't know where we actually were. We have now decided to take action and are developing our own crib sheet, one with all the letters on, to help us. But, I have a sneaking suspicion that we'll still be playing our own Bosnian version of hangman most times we go out for a drive.


London City Mum said...

Does sat nav work in Bosnia at all? Just wondering as it may help with figuring out where you are/have been.
Having said that my other half always has a go at me as I tend to disbelieve it on occasion - and rightfully so, especially when the irritating Doris woman tells you to "turn left" and you KNOW your destination is to the right.

Love the hangman bit though!

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

LCM - Bosnia is a bit of a blackhole sat nav wise. We did look into it, as we really have spent far too much time driving around in circles, but no joy. I'd never be able to work it though so probably just as well.

Nicola said...

I don't know how you do it. I am sure if my ex and I were ever in that situation it would have been a primary factor in divorce. We were always such rubbish navigator/driver combos at the best of times. Makes for very funny reading tho.

Mumof4 said...

Hope you don't mind but I have tagged you to do a lovely little meme:

Mwa said...

I have a good trick for learning a new script (which I used to learn the Greek letters): write each other cute notes in English, but in the other script. To start with, they will be illegible, but after a week or two you will know the alphabet. Worked for me!

ellen abbott said...

That sounds like us driving anywhere.

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Ladybird World Mother said...

!! Map reading for two is not to be recommended... husbands get too Cross and Grumpy. Did giggle at your trying to decipher Bosnian signposts... better luck next time.

The wife of bold said...

This sounds fun:) I have no sense of direction, and me and hubby always argue whenever we head out on the road together - how are you still married?

Anonymous said...

I have had exactly the same experience in airports trying to work out which Russian word is the right destination!

It can be entertaining in an I'm-bored-and-have-run-out-of-books sort of way, but not if you only have 15 minutes left to catch your plane...

Metropolitan Mum said...

What a great game. There are no adventures left to be embarked on in this part of the world. Keep on driving! (Congratulations on keeping calm. This sounds like the typical situation to get Big M and me into a proper row.)

gaelikaa said...

Get a cyrillic alphabet book - that might help you!

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Nicola - we long ago worked out the best map reading driving combo and try to stick to it.

Mumof4 - thanks for the tag, looks great.

Mwa - Good plan. I'm impressed you can read Greek letters!

EA - yes, well, we did have similar conversations in the UK, but lets gloss over that!

LWM - Luckily, I demonstrated my superior map reading skills early on in our relationship, and am not frightened to remind Dave of that fact!

WoB - keep reminding ourselves that we are on an adventure and that it'll make a good story later... hopefully.

Mud - it is weird isn't it. Not being able to read or work out where you are going.

MM - It is fun, we do have days when we can't work out what we are doing for the giggles, but quite often we have a little, shall we say, difference of opinion.

Gaelikka - I know we should, but somehow I feel it is just going to spoil the fun.

Athena125 said...

This is from the Slovene Wikipedia, I did check the English version, but it's plain stupid. You'll be interested in the "srbska cirilica" columns, and the Latin transliteration next to it. The order of the letters is according to the Azbuka (Cyrillic alphabet), but you can always write them down in "your" order.
Yes, I'm a member of the generation that still had to learn this in school. In Slovenia, we learned Serbo-Croatian in those days. Noone else (than us Slovenes) learned Slovene in those days.. ;-)

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