I started this travel blog, firstly to avoid sending out over-long group emails updating everybody on my travels. You know, the ones where you feel slightly snubbed by the impersonal nature of, “Hey, everybody! (but to no one in particular)”. I thought a blog would be fun way to update folks, avoid a dreaded travel diary and would hopefully combine second-rate-misanthropic travel journalism
with exquisitely amateur photographs. Et Voila!
Soon after I hit the road, however, I procrastinated and struggled to write things-up as esteemed travel-writer Paul Theroux observes
: “...the very things that stimulate writing are frequently obstacles to the writing process. Travel is a great stimulant...but it is hell to write while you are travelling.”
And I couldn't agree more.
But I didn't give up; looking back over my many hard-written blog entries (oh, you don't realise how hard) I realised that writing has been one of the most worthwhile things I've done on the entire trip. I hoped that Francis Bacon's
maxim of "Reading makes a full man, conversation a ready man, and writing an exact man"
might be proven true.
Hope you enjoy the writing and can share in some of my adventures!
October 26th 2010
I had become weary of my travelling whilst in Zagreb, the endless churches, castles and ‘sights’ - but how can something extraordinary suddenly become ordinary? The answer is when see it every day for weeks at a time. So whilst in the baroque masterpiece of Mozart’s Salzburg I bought a train ticket to Amsterdam - 700 kilometres away. It would the longest single overland journey of my trip so far and also my last before arriving back home to Britain. I looked at stopping over in Germany somewhere along the way and I noticed that Munich’s Oktoberfest was on. However, when I looked into it hostels were asking for a minimum of 50 Euros for a single night in a youth hostel dormitory; I didn’t love beer and thousands of Aussies - that much. Besides, it ... read more
October 19th 2010
“I had had a bellyful of travelling ... I wanted to arrive.” url= http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0141189142/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=103612307&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=014024980X&pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_r=0ZTRWM4HT9RW555GRYXW The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux, p. 378 From the bus station at Belgrade I caught a coach to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, a journey between two states that were also arch enemies. Both have been the victims and agents of ethnic cleansing not only during the Second World War (Croatian Fascists the Ustaše but more recently during the bloody disintegration of Yugoslavia of which atrocities were committed by both sides. They are different to each other: Croats are Roman Catholic and use the Latin writing script and Serbs are Serbian Orthodox Christi... read more
October 18th 2010
I was alone again - after a couple of weeks travelling in cars, buses and more buses with Jon we finally went our separate ways in Sarajevo. Jon had caught his bus north to Slovenia and I had boarded my flight to Belgrade, the capital city of Serbia. I wasn’t expecting much. Belgrade, according to Wikipedia has been battled over in 115 wars and razed to the ground 44 times. Sounds like they're a combative lot then and now. And I knew that modern Belgrade was extensively bombed during two campaigns in World War II, the first undertaken by the Luftwaffe in 1941, and the latter by Allied air forces in 1944. Oh, and in 1999 it was heavily bombed by NATO, during the Kosovo War. The strikes lasted from March 24, 1999 to June 11, ... read more
October 14th 2010
From the Montenegrin border Jon and I bought a ticket for a bus that would take us to neighbouring Bosnia & Herzegovina and the city of Mostar - the very name of which evoke images of bloody carnage and, of course, thatbridge. But things didn't quite go to plan. What we thought would be the bus taking the direct route inland to Mostar instead turned into a coastal route up through Croatia. High above the sea the 'Jewel of the Adriatic' suddenly came into view - Dubrovnik - the medieval walled city was very beautiful but I chose not to stay. I would leave it for another time when I could stomach the crowds. We picked up some passengers and then we drove further north up the coast entering Bosnia Herzegovina's slither of land that gives ... read more
October 12th 2010
Once in Montenegro I sat back and let Jon take control of things - he had the Lonely Planet guide to Eastern Europe whereas mine was only a PDF on my lap top so he did the reading and I took a back seat. I had two ambitions upon arriving in Montenegro, first up was getting to a beach and second was to find out about Montenegro, one of the newest countries in Europe. Jon chose wisely on the beach front. We caught a bus up the coast to a place called Sveti Stefan and what a place! A former fishing village on a island has now been converted into an exclusive hotel - and is now connected by a causeway. It is a beautiful view - but somehow it’s too well restored and the bright ... read more
October 5th 2010
From Saranda in the south of Albania I planned to return north along the coast - this time with my new travel companion. Not only did we share the same name and passport we also shared the same birthday. Jon, was originally from Penang in Malaysia but had lived in the UK since he was 18 and had worked for the National Health Service as a radiographer for ten years. He was now a British passport holder and had moved to Alberta, Canada to work. This was Jon’s fourth time to the Balkans and we shared the same basic itinerary of Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Croatia. He loved it, especially Slovenia which I had also loved having been on an activities trip in the Soča River a few years previously. The morning we headed to the ... read more
September 28th 2010
From Berat I took a bus southwards to Saranda a port city on Albania’s Ionian Sea coast. We passed some pretty mountain scenery interspersed with some of the 600,000 concrete bunkers that were built during Hoxha’s communist dictatorship (enough for a family in each) to survive a nuclear attack (I’m guessing here). It got more interesting however when during the four hour journey, a number of pensioner ladies got on and a prolonged shouting match ensued with the driver - who was giving as much as he got. From what I could deduce he’d sped past them at an earlier town and now that they had caught up on another bus they were very angry with him. With them on board there were now not enough seats for everybody - but let this get in the ... read more
September 25th 2010
When I got to the bus station at 10am the next bus from Skopje to Tirana in Albania was at 7pm and would travel overnight. Incredibly there was only one bus a day to the capital of a neighbouring country - and in a country that had a significant population of Albanians. I couldn’t figure it out but plan B was to get the next bus to Kosovo and then hope for a connecting bus south to Tirana, it would also give me a few hours in Kosovo, the world’s newest country. The next bus was in 20 minutes so I bought a ticket and quickly got myself some byrek - a filo pastry thing with meat or cheese or veg - which is everywhere in the Balkans and Turkey. The woman behind the counter had ... read more
September 22nd 2010
After about a week of fun in with Cvetko in Sofia I headed westwards to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The reason for the convoluted name is that Greece - good old fashioned nationalists that they are insist on it because they believe it implies territorial claims over Greek Macedonia - which they obtained in 1912 in a carve-up of Macedonia post defeat of the Ottoman Turks. I was headed to the capital of Skopje, about 220 kilometres away and after six uneventful hours on a bus and 1 easy border crossing later - I was there at the bus station. The ‘Tourist Information’ sign frustratingly only led to led to an empty room so I ignored all the cab drivers stood outside trying to rip me off and in the wilting heat (this blog ... read more
September 16th 2010
It was night-time in Sofia and Cvetko and I boarded a dimly lit crusty orange-coloured tram. It was full of old age pensioners sat glumly on seats staring morosely at me and my large backpack whilst Cvetko explained the low-down on Sofia (basically, don’t fuck the gypsies). We had the apartment to ourselves as Cvetko’s parents were away on holiday so I was set up in his parents’ bedroom. Cvetko then began to make us something to eat - grilled herbed sausage with salad - delicious and downed wit copious amounts of Menta (мента) a peppermint liqueur that is mixed with Sprite and is bright green - Cvetko’s favourite. We stayed up talking into the night about the English twats I’d met at the Spirit of Burgas - and I thought about how generous and open ... read more