At the end of our first full day in Bihac, I asked Amy if she could think of a town that we liked less, that was more depressing, and that we wanted to get out of sooner.  She thought for a moment and said no.  I agreed.

To be fair, we weren’t seeing Bihac at its best.  We arrived after spending over 6 hours on a bus and the sky was overcast.  And it was Sunday, so nothing was happening and nothing was open.  The town itself was at a low-point, since the main bridge over the Una River was blocked off for reconstruction, with a tarry smoke rising from it, and a green space that looked like a nice park in aerial photographs now looked like an abandoned construction site, with lots of litter and the occasional pile of lumber.

The river itself was a bit of a disappointment, since it was reputed to be the most beautiful in Europe.  It wasn’t.  It’s very pretty, to be sure, but it wasn’t even as beautiful as the river we’d seen less than a week before in Mostar.

The people weren’t as nice and helpful as we’d encountered in other parts of the former Yugoslavia.  We were hauling our bags toward the river because we’d read that Bihac had more B & B’s than most towns in Bosnia and most were by the Una.  It doesn’t.  Walking down the street near the river, we spied a building proclaiming it had rooms, but a man on the street asked us if we wanted a room, and when we said yes, he said they didn’t have them anymore.  We continued down the street to see what else there was but it turned out there was nothing.  Why the man didn’t let us know that and save us a walk is a mystery.

Later we stopped at an internet cafe and were told they were cleaning the computers, four laptops on a table, so we couldn’t use them.  Sure enough, they were dusting them, but we never quite got why we couldn’t use one.  Later, at a second internet cafe we went to, the woman running it turned me away saying there wasn’t a computer available.  Actually, though, she was using one, and when we’d been in there earlier we saw that all she was doing was chatting with her boyfriend online.  We use internet cafes a lot, and it’s not unusual for the employees to use a computer when one is free, or to let a young family member or someone have free use, but they always, always, give up the computer for a paying customer.  Except in Bihac, where the customer is always last.

Every meal we had here was unexceptional.  The hotel was clean and roomy, but also with one of the worst planned bathrooms I’ve ever seen.  To give you just an idea how bad it was, the towel warming rack is on the wall directly facing the showerhead, less than 4 feet distant.  Put your towel on the rack and it will be nicely soaked by the time you need to dry off.

The town center is so small it can be walked in about 5 minutes, and that is not an exaggeration.  We’ve been to lots of big cities and small towns, and we usually seek out the center, which is almost guaranteed to be one of the oldest and most interesting (though usually also touristy) parts of any city.  Unfortunately, Bihac’s town center was mostly new buildings and utterly without charm.  Even the theatre was taunting us, showing Marley and Me, which was not on our to-see list.  To paraphrase a line from Bill Bryson, I would rather have bowel surgery in the woods with a stick.

Amy suggested that it might not be any fun to visit but it could be okay to raise a family there, and I agreed, except for the landmines.  Did I forget to mention the landmines?  The town is at the northern end of a national park, but two sources suggested not walking out of town without a guide, since there are still many unmarked landmines left over from the fighting of the early ‘90s.

So it may have just been the atmosphere, the people, the food, the accommodations, the dull town center, and the landmines, but for some reason we just didn’t like Bihac.

Advertisements