Bicycle Diaries: The chief scout rolls in Bosnia

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22.8.06

The chief scout rolls in Bosnia

Today's a short, unoriginal post. I started volunteering for The Working Bikes Co-operative this morning. They're rebuilding bikes to be sold for a College of Cycling fundraiser in September. And I totally rebuilt a Schwinn lady's bike ... YAH! You can't secure the cables in the usual way...

When I got back I discovered this from Lord Baden-Powell. It's my nostalgia roll for two reasons. I was a professional scout between college and grad school and I worked in Bosnia-Herzegovina during and after the war. I never knew until today that Baden-Powell had rooled there.

So here you go with a little photo editorializing.
There is a motto which says, "Be good and you will be happy" — my version of it is, "Be good-humored and you'll be happy." And I want every Scout to be happy, and one of the best ways I know of being happy is to go for a good bike ride. Let me tell you about my biking experiences in Bosnia.

BIKING IN BOSNIA

As you know, Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia. It was here that the Great War originated, because the Crown Prince of Austria was assassinated in the city, and the Austrian Government accused the Serbs of having planned and carried out the murder; and thus the row began.

Now, perhaps you have forgotten where Bosnia is. It is the bit of country lying south-west of Serbia on the east coast of the Adriatic, adjoining Herzegovina. It is a beautiful, mountainous country with a remarkable history and a quaint mixture of people inhabiting it. They include almost every religion under the sun —Moslem and Greek, Catholic and Jew, etc.

THIS QUAINT BRIDGE AT MOSTAR WAS ACTUALLY BUILT BY THE ROMANS

Well, I was in Sarajevo a very long time ago—so long that when I rode there on my bike it was the first that had been seen in those parts with pneumatic tires.

There had been a boneshaker or two before, but never a fat, rubber-tired one, so I was a bit of a hero before I got there.

I had gone by steamer to Metkovitch, an old pirate lair among considerable marshes on the coast. Then I rode by the mountain gorges up to Mostar. This was a quaint little town on either side of a river rushing through a deep ravine, the bridge across which had been actually built and used by the Romans, and it still continues to carry the traffic of the town over its quaint old humped back.

When I visited it the country was ruled by the Austrians so that the main roads which they had made for moving their troops about were excellent for biking upon, and the post offices, inns etc., were largely run by German-speaking people. So altogether it was not so difficult a country to travel in as one might have expected. But it was very primitive.

WATER-MILLS IN BOSNIA ARE ERECTED ON BARGES ANCHORED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREAM!
For instance, all the boats on the rivers were mere dug-outs hollowed out of the trunks of trees. Then the people had a simple way of running their water-mills, and this was by anchoring a barge out in the middle of the stream with a water-wheel attached to it which ground the corn in the hold of the vessel.

The country people were a wild, picturesque lot; and they interested me greatly, but not nearly so much as my bike and I interested them. I remember coasting down a hill on one occasion just after sunset, and as I whizzed past an old Lady on the road she gave a shriek and hurled herself down the bank, thinking she had seen some form of a devil flying by.

THE HORSES DID NOT LIKE THE LOOK OF MY BICYCLE
On another occasion, riding along the face of a mountain, I met a wagon-load of farmers going to the fair. The horses, having never seen a bike before, at once made up their minds to go home, and swung round with the intention of doing so, which would have capsized the wagon and its contents over the cliff. Fortunately I jumped off and hid my bike, while the terrified men got their horses' heads turned the right way again and dragged them past the dreaded monster that I had been riding.

It was a most enjoyable and novel journey altogether. I cannot here go into all the little adventures that I met with in that country, but I must confess that in the end I was beaten by my own machine.

In those days a puncture was a disaster. Patching material, etc., was very primitive, and I got a bad puncture towards the end of my journey. Fortunately I was near the railway and able to finish my trip by train till I got to Agram, the capital of Croatia, where I put the machine into the hands of an old cycle dealer, and it took him the whole day to effect the repair.

In the meantime a deputation of the Agram Shooting Club paid me a visit and offered me a formal welcome after my "wonderful journey," and invited me to a banquet and reception, which decided me to leave the place the very next morning.

It is amusing to look back now and think that half the population of that country are probably riding to and from their work on wheels and to feel that one was once a hero for doing it.

But on the whole, in spite of motors and airplanes, a bicycle is one of the best means of getting about that exists, and every Scout ought to make it his aim to save up his money and be the possessor of a bicycle, so that he can move about where he wants to go with ease and comfort, and also, as a Scout, he can thus be of service to his country for dispatch-riding when necessary.

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