I have this idyllic vision of traveling with my two girls: that they’ll be quiet, well-behaved, and take in the sights with curiosity and reverence. Instead, they move around their spaces like two blind bumblebees, buzzing and bumping into things repeatedly. They talk at the top of their lungs and fight constantly. And they’re more fascinated by poop than, say Picasso or the Parthenon. Specifically zebra poop.
So far, we’ve done the typical tourist things here in Sarajevo: walk through old town where vendors hand them toys they cannot keep; chase pigeons at the aptly named Pigeon Square; drink Fanta at outside cafes and try new food.
My kids hate new food the way cats hate cucumbers. As soon as the plate is on the table, they immediately declare “I don’t like it!” and try to run away like a spooked feline. Our first night, because they were so hungry, we got them to eat a stew and cevapi, delicious oblong meatballs. Things were promising.
We also tried to hike the ruins of the white fortress at the top of the hills. After a shared lunch of cevapi and some Fanta on a sunny day, we took a taxi to the hills. Our driver dropped us off at a restaurant at the top of the mountain and arranged to pick us up later. And like a sleep deprived toddler, the weather suddenly went dark. The wind roared, throwing sticks and chairs everywhere. We tried to take refuge in the restuarant, but it was filled with a thick haze of cigarette smoke. We stood outside instead, choosing the risk of being impaled by a passing stick than second-hand smoke, much to the chagrin of one of the waiters. As we shielded the howling girls from the howling winds, D texted our driver to come back. It hadn’t even been five minutes. Idyllic indeed.
But, being a tourist only lasts so long with little ones who crave some normalcy. And I’m realizing that traveling with kids means that you just have to be a kid. Thankfully all kids love the same things: playgrounds, picking flowers, and animals. Especially animals that poop. And luckily enough we had a friend who took us to the Sarajevo Zoo which had all those things.
The zoo was small, but it was right-sized for kids. We stared at monkeys with enormous butts (Butts the kids yelled!), growled at the lion and fed grass to some livestock. A wiry canine that looked more like a dog than wolf paced its hill, sniffing all the elusive prey on the air. And, to Squirrel’s great delight, the zebras pooped. The girls, as to be expected, spent more time on the playground than with the animals. And that was just fine, considering the one small hotel room that we had been sharing for several days. Let them run around outside like the deranged animals they are if it means they will sleep later.
“Why are they yelling?” our four-year old companion asked her aunt. “Because they’re having fun. You can yell too,” she suggested and all three girls were soon shrieking down slides and running away from “monsters.”
They did this for at least an hour until we bribed them back towards the entrance where the rides were. The rides — a swinging merry-go-round and a broken train — were rickety looking and were operated, in the loosest terms, by a man who turned a rusty key in a box and walked away for a smoke break. But the swings and train couldn’t have been a bigger hit. If I can get smiles like that every day, then we’ll all be alright.