Europe · 12 Days · 19 Moments · July 2016

Balkan - 7 Countries in 13 Days

5 August 2016

Day 12: Sarajevo, Bosnia After completing the second half of the drive up from the south, we were back in our beloved Sarajevo. We checked into a very central Airbnb and then went for lunch to a vegetarian restaurant - sorely needed after all the fat and meat that is basically all you can get in south-eastern Europe. We went for a last drink to an Irish pub (you can't get alcohol in Sarajevo's Muslim center) and then discovered there is no water in our apartment so we had to gamble on a morning shower for everybody. On the bright side, the beds were super comfortable.

4 August 2016

Day 11: Niš, Serbia After a delicious breakfast in Skopje, we began to make our way to country number seven: the infamous Serbia. After crossing the border, we went on a fruitless hunt for a place to get lunch and ultimately, after a few failed tries and many hungry growls from our stomachs, we ended up in a strange little town called Niš. We didn't see much (and we suppose there isn't much to see), but we did run into a Viennese couple of all things and had Italian pizza and Greek salad. After a lengthy drive, we got to our Airbnb in Middle of Nowhere in Western Serbia. We fell in love with the place immediately - not only is the house *not* infested with cockroaches, instead it has a doggie and a pool that we immediately jumped into even though it was already ten pm. Tomorrow we're embarking on the last stretch towards Sarajevo, the last stop on our journey :(

3 August 2016

Day 10: Priština, Kosovo After fleeing our cockroach-infested apartment in Skopje, we went to the bus station for a day trip to Priština, the capital of Kosovo. After some minor immigration issues (Kosovo did not want to let Stefan in and he was held at the border for about an hour), we got to our destination with a slight delay. In a nutshell - Priština is not like you imagine Kosovo. We're not sure what we expected but it wasn't what we saw. It is an incredibly diverse city, from modern, clean, rich-looking official buildings, over decorated mosques, to the older parts of town with houses going back to the 17th century as well as the occasional burning trash can (didn't seem to bother the locals at all) and socialist-looking complexes. We had a very friendly museum tour guide and the weather was perfect for a walk through a city, so all in all we were pretty stoked! We are now back in the cockroach-infested apartment but it's only a matter of hours until we can leave.

2 August 2016

Day 9: Skopje, Macedonia We got to Skopje from Ohrid at around 5:30, checked into an apartment that seemed fine as per our first impression (we would later learn the opposite was true), and met up with Nana's brother-in-law Darko. Darko is a local and a historian and gave us a very interesting (only slightly biased) tour of the capital city, including a crash course in Balkan politics. As it turns out, Macedonian politicians are a bit closer to Recep Erdogan than we had thought (and hoped)... we'll remain on the edge of our seats. After the tour, Darko took us out to dinner, which concluded with some Turkish coffee, much to my delight. We've now arrived in Priština, the capital of Kosovo.

1 August 2016

Day 8: Ohrid, Macedonia We eventually arrived in Ohrid after a small odyssey: we had managed to find the street we were looking for - just in the wrong town. After finding our Airbnb - a lovely little apartment complex near the lake - we immediately went swimming. We sat in the sun, played cards, had a lot of laughs and made a bunch of photos. The people in Macedonia drive a lot more carefully than the Albanians so all in all it was a very relaxing day :) We're now off to an Irish pub to drink and play some poker.
Day 8: The Borderlands, Albania-Macedonia Goodbye beautiful Tirana, and goodbye crappy apartment! Goodbye backed-up toilet and goodbye gross, uncomfortable couch I slept on! Goodbye illegal hookers and disgusting men running away from me as I step into the alley behind the construction site where we lived! Goodbye Albanian gas stations without gas, and goodbye sweet little old men saying the same Albanian sentence to us over and over hoping we'll understand it the sixth time around. Hello Macedonia!

31 July 2016

Day 7: Tirana, Albania pt 2 After coming back from Durrës, we went on a free walking tour and learned some history and politics about Tirana. As it turns out, Albania was under a communist dictatorship until 1992, and our tour guide described the regime as comparable to North Korea today in terms of isolation. In 2007, Albania became a member of the NATO, and as a result, had the president of the United States visit, who, at the time, was George W. Bush. Ever since then, there is an honest-to-God George W. Bush Street in Tirana 🤔 On the 5th and 6th pictures you can see a bunker as well as part of the Berlin Wall, which was gifted to Tirana by Berlin to celebrate the fall of communism.
Day 7: Durrës, Albania We had another day at the beach today, in a coastal town called Durrës. This town goes back to the Roman times and is 2300 years old - though the 20th century has already arrived in the town. Yes - the 20th century, they do have a way to go until the 21st ;)
Day 7: Tirana, Albania After waking up sweating in our hot, crappy apartment, we managed to flood the toilet first thing in the morning (apparently a few pieces of toilet paper had overloaded this incredibly sturdy system), and then said 'fuck that, we're going to the beach'. Downstairs, we had a coffee and spotted a turtle walking down the street like nobody's business. It seemed scared of the traffic (we could relate!!), so we saved it and put it inside the park. :)

30 July 2016

Day 6: Tirana, Albania After an eventful drive from Cetinje across the Albanian border into Tirana, we checked into a slightly terrifying Airbnb. "Slightly terrifying", by the way, also describes the dirt roads (even if you're used to dirt roads), the power poles (the "poles" being dead trees leaning against a fence, see picture 6) as well as the traffic in Albania. Nobody seems to know, or care about, what stop signs or turn signals, or even lanes are. Something to get used to for sure. The city is somewhere between interesting and weird - it has a very rich center but the rest seems to be rather neglected. We're now sitting at a restaurant having a relatively expensive dinner and planning our day for tomorrow :)
Day 6: Lake Skadar, Montenegro On our way through the beautiful hillside of Montenegro, we stopped at a national park and went on a boat tour. I was pretty surprised to see how mountain-y Montenegro's landscape is - and how beautiful. On the last picture we're crossing the border into Albania, and the first thing we saw inside the country was an honest-to-God horse standing on the side of the country road all by itself, no supervision :D

29 July 2016

Day 5: Cetinje, Montenegro We spent our first (and only) night in Montenegro in a lovely little village called Cetinje, about twenty minutes inside the country from the coast, where we passed through the party-town Budva. We eventually got the cocktails we had been jonesing for since the beginning of our journey, as well as a delicious breakfast in the morning. We've learned that Montenegro, despite using the Euro, is not part of the EU or the monetary union - in fact, they used have the D-Mark before 2002 and when Germany switched to the Euro, so did Montenegro. Only without anybody's consent. They essentially stole the currency :D We're now on the way to a national park by Lake Skadar and then we'll head on to Albania, country number four :D
Day 5: Dubrovnik, Croatia After leaving Zanton at 10 am, we headed for Dubrovnik, all excited and expecting. Dubrovnik, while understandably famous for its beauty, did not like us very much. We parked in a garage for 10€/2hrs, then walked towards the castle (aka King's Landing) in what felt like 40 degree weather, only to get stuck in a horde of tourists and prices way too high for our tolerance. We proceeded towards a café where Nana and I sat down to book an apartment while Stefan and Fred went to collect our car and pick us up. However, Dubrovnik was not in the mood to comply. It took Stefan and Fred half an hour to get the car out of the garage, only to get stuck in massive traffic and having to text Nana and me to come to the garage by foot. While walking, Nana fell down and cut her knee open (adding to my injuries from the previous day). As we eventually reunited, we had a stress-cigarette together and went to find a toilet (that cost 1€ each to use).

28 July 2016

Day 4: Zanton, Croatia We moved into a little apartment on the hill overlooking the south-Croatian bay near Dubrovnik. Between many stray cats and surprisingly expensive food, we had a lovely afternoon swimming in the sea and relaxing in the shade. The view from our balcony at night (see picture 2) was the backdrop to our struggle of having to plan the holiday we were already on and couldn't be bothered to properly organize up to this point ;)
Day 3: Blagaj, Bosnia We left our Airbnb apartment today in the late morning and headed south towards Dubrovnik. But before leaving Bosnia we went to Blagaj, a creek surrounded by a mountain, for a late breakfast and some selfies :D

27 July 2016

Day 2: Mostar, Bosnia We arrived in Mostar at around six pm after a two-hour drive from Sarajevo. After settling into our airbnb apartment, we went to visit the town center, which, as you can see on the photos, has a very oriental vibe. The part of town we live in has nearly none of this vibe but looks more like a Mediterranean holiday area. Tomorrow we're off to Dubrovnik for a short beach holiday before we head further down south to Montenegro :)
Day 2: Sarajevo pt. 2 We spent the morning in Sarajevo doing a walking tour and then had a traditional lunch. On the first picture, you'll see the only active synagogue in the city. There are about 600 Jewish people living in Sarajevo - but none of them is a rabbi. So a rabbi travels to the city once a year to hold service. The second picture shows the bridge where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914, the event that triggered WWI. On the third picture, a dog says hello from a roof and on the fourth you'll see a Muslim graveyard with headstones dating back to the 15th century :O Finally, the last two pictures show the center of Sarajevo.

26 July 2016

Day 1: Sarajevo, Bosnia After a nine hour bus ride and arrival at exactly five o'clock in the morning we were at our destination: Sarajevo, a city split down the middle - Europe on one side and the Middle East on the other. Part of the city is modern with famous franchises and chain stores while in the old town, you can walk through meandering little alleys with wood-clad facades and beautiful mosques with prayer mats outside. After a much-needed afternoon nap, we went to visit the Srebrenica museum dedicated to the eponymous genocide and the Siege of Sarajevo between 1993 and 1995.

25 July 2016

Day 0 Welcome to the beginning of our odyssey through the Balkan countries. First stop: Sarajevo. It's only a 9-hour bus trip, after all. See you on the other side.