Published: June 5th 2008
May 28th 2008
So, we left Dubrovnik, and we were not too happy about that. The place was fantastic, and we really missed it, especially after where we headed next.
We took a morning bus to Herceg Novi, Montenegro, from where we were hoping to catch another bus to Bar and then the night train to Serbia. We got to Herceg Novi, couldn't get a bus to Bar for a few hours and ended up taking a bus to Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, with Steph and Gaz (two english people we had met on the first bus).
The drive was really cool because there was a lot of great scenery along the coast. We then went inland and through the mountains and they were great as well. And then we arrived in Podgorica. This is one of the few places that I have ever read about in Lonely Planet where they reccommended that you get in, and get the hell out asap. Out asap wasn't an option because the first bus to Belgrade left at 8pm. We just chilled in the bus station for the 8 hours, receiving stares from all the Serbs. It is not an exciting bus station. That being said, there is more to see there than in the rest of the city! All in all, we were very bored an looking forward to getting out of there. Who would of guessed what we had in store.
We got on the night bus and fortunately it was only about 25% full. How to describe our journey? Well, for starers....The scenery was great; there was a 300 metre drop to a canyon on one side, and a 1500 metre high mountain on the other. We didn't have much time to enjoy this however as we were whipping along the road, passing 3 or 4 trucks at a time and then swerving back into our lane to avoid the oncoming cars that were blaring their horns at us! Montengran drivers are insane!!! Maybe it was a good thing we got a night bus! Sleep on this kind of ride is out of the question for the most part. I think we got 3 hours sleep combined on the 10 hour bus ride, with Peter getting a good 2/3's of it.
We arrived in Belgrade at 6am, and bought our tickets for our next night train. The best way to discribe Belgrade is that it is not an attractive city. Think of Oakland, but with bombed out buildings. I shouldn't say that, it's not all that bad. The Citadel is nice. It's in a massive park, and was the site of 150 battles over time because it is the meeting point of the Sava and Danube Rivers. There is also a military museum where we got to see parts of the stealth fighter jet that the Serbians shot down in 1999. The other thing to see in town is the Nikola Tesla museum where you got to see demonstrations of how many of his little machines work. The coolest part was the 50,000 volt generator lighting up the dead fluorescent lightbulbs that we were holding in our hands. We were so bored that we even swung by the Canadian embassy, just for the sake of it. That and to escape the intense heat. The day was ridiculously hot! We were wandering around in 37 degrees with no wind and Kif picked up a bit of sunstroke as a souvenir. He wasn't too happy about it. En route to the embassy, we saw the remnants of some of the buildings that the USA had bombed in 1999. They were massive piles of twisted metal and stone and they were quite the spectacle! We caught another night train that night, and it was off to Romania.
We arrived in Bucharest, with the intention of leaving that night. Lonely Planet gives Bucharest a bit of a bad rap. It isn't as bad as they say. We saw 8 stray dogs and only a handful of gypsies. There were even some remotely attractive buildings. And besides, it's not Belgrade!!!
We walked passed the Palace of Parliament, the worlds second largest building (330,000 sq feet) after the Pentagon, and then walked along what was the communist response to the Champs-Elysees. Paris did it better. They have some lovely electrical wiring in Bucharest too with 50 wires or so all coming down to one pole and then being attached to the poles with twist ties. It just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside...They also drive like maniacs in the city. No one slows down, looks or signals. It felt a bit like Richmond at times. Also, everyone parks wherever they want so people were double-parked and even triple-parked all over the city! We wandered a bit more, and saw where Nicolae Ceaucescu, the former communist leader, gave his last speech in 1989 before being captured, arrested and executed by a mob. It was pretty cool.
One of our quests in Bucharest was to find an internet cafe so we could book accommodation in Budapest, our next city. This was exceedingly difficult because we couldn't fin an internet cafe, so we eventually went into a Howard Johnson hotel and asked someone in there for directions. A nice Romanian guy was giving us directions, and then we explained why we wanted the internet. It turns out that he had been to Budapest a couple of times and loved the city so he took us back to his office and helped us find a place to stay. He then called them for us and we booked our accommodation. He was awesome.
After that, we hopped on another night train (our third night vehicle in a row) and headed off to Budapest!
Bye for now,
Peter and Kif
What we learned on our Eastern Road-trip
-Never take a night bus, unless you want to tempt fate and lose sleep
-Bombed out building do not add to the architectural aesthetics of a city.
-Romania smells like Chilliwack!
-The Romanians are almost as friendly as the Slovenians.
-Lonely Planet locates some places on their maps, which aren't actually there but 5 blocks in the opposite direction
-The Canadian Embassy in Belgrade is a lot nicer than the American Embassy; ours has windows
-Sunstroke is not a great souvenir, no matter what country you pick it up in