Here we are, two Swiss in the middle of the Balkans. Anyone who has been here before or follows our blog knows about the overwhelming hospitality and helpfulness of the people here. Hardly mentioned, however, is a somewhat different quality, which we could call, for lack of a better word, serenity. It stands in stark contrast to what we in Switzerland know as a "Bünzli". There is no word in english which would describe this. A "Bünzli" is someone who plays by the rules but also wants to make sure that others, specifically his neighbors also do. It surprises us again and again how differently people react to situations here than we know it from home.
A small example: In search of a special place to spend the night, we ride our bikes along a small headland at the end of which there is a small island. This is connected to the mainland by a footbridge. When we arrive, it is full of fishermen trying their luck in the shallow waters. Of course, we don't let this dissuade us that easily from our plan and weave our way between them. This turns out to be quite difficult due to the high steps. When we reach the island, we realise that we can't spend the night here and so we immediately start our way back. Once again, the fishermen have to get out of our way or take in their bait so that we can pass. Inwardly, we wait for statements like: "By the way, this is not a bicycle path" or at least a wordless rolling of the eyes. Instead, we are asked if they can help us with the steps and there is joking.
We encounter this layed back way of living here in the Balkans again and again. Whether a horse and cart blocks the road, the bus leaves a little later because the driver is still chatting, or we pitch our tent in the olive grove under the eyes of the village children. In such situations loudly calling out to our inner "Bünzli". But how refreshing when instead of principles and correctness, the human being is at the centre. With this in mind, we are working on overcoming our inner "Bünzli" and saying goodbye to him bit by bit.