The coffee breaks presented something of a currency challenge. The first one was in Croatia, and we passed up on the coffee because we didn't have any local currency and didn't want to get a pocket full of Croatian currency by way of change if we paid by euro. The second stop was in Bosnia. It was at this point that it dawned on me that I hadn't acquired any Bosnian currency before leaving Belgrade (which I could easily have done). And I knew that the bus station in Banja Luka was out of town and a taxi would be needed. The upshot was that we paid for our coffee in euro and received change (at a fairly dismal exchange rate) in Bosnian marks, which ended up saving the day when we arrived in Banja Luka. Here, we were deposited at the bus station set down point which was at the back end of the bus station, no where near any exchange booth or ATM machine - but right next to the head of the taxi rank! I suppose the taxi driver would have accepted euros, but I think we would have ended up paying an even higher price than the fare that we were forced to negotiate. In short, although euros seem acceptable in most places in an emergency, I am reminded of my rule (honoured in the breach on this occasion) not to arrive in a country without having at least a taxi fare in the local currency in my pocket.
All this leads to the point - where to stay in Banja Luka? I had done some research, and had narrowed the choice down to a couple of hotels on the basis that they were centrally located. However, we hadn't got around to booking anything before arriving. In the meantime, Sue had been making enquiries of her own - of relatives in Belgrade, fellow passengers on the bus and so on. I'm not quite sure of the exact wording that her question followed, but in hindsight, I think it must have been, "What is the best hotel in Banja Luka?" The answer on most occasions was, "The Bosna". This had featured on my research, as being the most expensive hotel in town. Oh well.
|Trendy tap in hotel bathroom|
On arrival at the hotel, we inspected the room, taking note of Trip Advisor's suggestions (a) to ask for a no smoking room; and (b) in the interests of a quiet night, to ask for a room on a high floor away from the open stair well. As to a "no smoking room", well, in Bosnia there's no such thing, but the room we have has an opening window and is well aired, so there's almost no lingering smell. As to (b), our request was accommodated, which was fortunate because there's an extremely loud party still proceeding at midnight on the mezzanine floor (which we can barely hear, but would be troublesome if we were closer). I suppose it's a wedding, although there is a conference of Serb cardiologists in the hotel - if the noise is from one of their functions, then I hope they're geared up to handle any heart attacks among their members!
|Christ the Saviour cathedral|
However, the hotel is good. It's centrally located as well as being opposite Christ the Saviour cathedral, where Sue attended Friday evening vespers.
We've had an absolutely fascinating first few hours in Banja Luka, so more about this in a future post.