Chapter 7: The Forgotten Lands

Trip Start May 10, 2006
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Trip End Dec 17, 2006


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Flag of Serbia and Montenegro  ,
Tuesday, August 8, 2006

During this portion of the trip I was in six different countries. Yes, that would be a lot of brief histories to write up so maybe just a quick synopsis of the Balkan States region then anything of recent interest (of which there's much) as I write about each country. That seems only fair as many of these countries are forgotten by the western world (I received e-mails from friends asking "where's that?" when I'd tell them where I was). The [Western] Balkan States comprise the area west of Bulgaria and south of Austria-Hungary. As with Bulgaria and Romania, the Romans took control in early history. Various groups would move in and out of control for several centuries. Later the Turks would defeat those in control and rule for about 500 years (their influence is still present in religion, food, architecture, etc...). Many of the countries in this area are part of the former Yugoslavia. Various regions formed this country post-WWI. At the beginning of WWII, Yugoslavia supported the Axis but withdrew so Hitler had the country invaded. The communist party, led by Josip Tito, fought back and paved the way for future communist rule. Tito and the communist party ruled post-WWII. Slobodan Milosevic took over as communist party leader in the 1980s and had a vision of a "Greater Serbia" that scared some of the regions and led to their withdrawal from the republic (there were other issues as well, but this was kind of the final straw). The republic was pretty much reduced to Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo by the early 1990s.

I left Bulgaria by bus for Skopje, Macedonia [July 19]. Macedonia was part of the former Yugoslavia and had a peaceful split (independence) in 1992. The bus ride took about five hours with border crossings. There's a YHA hostel close by to the bus station so I just walked there (plus there's no other hostel in town). Went for a wander around town - there's a clock stuck at 5:17am from a big earthquake in 1963 that destroyed most of the city, some pedestrian shopping/cafe streets, plenty of mosques, fortified walls up on a hill and a Turkish market area. Somewhere along the way I lost my student id...probably wasn't smart of me to put it in my money pocket as I would be pulling stuff out often (it must have fallen out). Guess I won't get nice discounts 'til I can get a new one. Mother Theresa was apparently from Skopje and there's a statue of her here. And Macedonia is pronounced "Mackedonia" as that's what I heard the locals saying. I went out again in the evening, but the only nightlife was the cafe scene.

Woke up bright and early to catch a 7am bus to Ohrid on the western border. There were several buses packed full of young kids going there. Took a few hours to get there and I was met at the bus station by some room touts (for which I was thankful 'cuz I didn't know where to stay). An older guy got me and said he had a room for €10 so I went along with him. It was a little bit from the town center, but not too bad. I went for a wander through town and along the promenade by the lake. Further out along the lake there are a few sort of beaches with people laying out in the sun (it's really just grass next to the lake). Back at the pension, I met another traveler, Matt, from the UK. Talked with him a bit and he shared some peaches with me. Had one and soon felt an allergic reaction. Damn, I'm allergic to peaches now too. But I like peaches! :( Guess this explains why my sister-in-law's peach cobbler made me feel bad (never could figure that one out). That went away after about an hour and we went out to dinner at an Italian place by one of the monasteries in town. After dinner we went for a couple drinks at cafes along the promenade where we could people watch. Nothing too exciting.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!! Well, my birthday turned out to be just an ordinary [travel] day. I wandered around the old town checking out the fort on the hill and castle walls. There were a few monasteries to see in the area as well.

Went back to the pension, put on my swimmers and wandered out to the lake to lay in the sun. Unfortunately, there weren't any hotties in the area. I know they're around...I've seen them in town...I just couldn't find any of them by the lake. Laid out there for a while and to the pension again. No one was around so I just went out to dinner by myself (no, I didn't splurge). Checked out the cafes but it would be lame to sit at a table alone. So I went to the i-net cafe and spent the evening finishing the previous update (told myself I'd just do one hour, but then it seemed like I was almost done so stayed two. not quite done so stayed longer. turned into three hours). I did stop off for a drink after that.

Albania has an interesting recent history. The area was under Ottoman rule for many centuries. The region was split when Kosovo was given to Serbia in 1913 (which would lead to problems later in the 20th century). During WWI, various armies occupied the land of present-day Albania. They were forced out in the 1920s but the Italians invaded again in 1939. Enver Hoxha founded the Albanian Communist Party and led the resistance against the Italians and Germans during WWII. Albania declared itself a country in 1946 with Hoxha as president (and ruled until 1985). Yugoslavia tried to get Albania to join, but they broke relations in 1948. Albania allied itself with USSR and followed their economic model. Relations were broke with USSR in 1961 because Khrushchev wanted to setup a submarine base there. Then they decided to follow China's model. Albania feared possible Soviet invasion so Hoxha had 750,000 bunkers built for defense (you still see them all around today). Albania's relationship with China broke off after the death of Mao Zedong. During Hoxha's rule, the country was very isolationist and didn't allow in many visitors or outside influence. Ramiz Alia took over after Hoxha died (1985) and tried to change things around. Following demonstations, the communists allowed other parties to run in elections. In 1992 the Democratic Party won elections but economic problems led to the Socialist Party winning elections in 1996. Then in 1999 there was a huge influx of Albanian refugees from Kosovo to deal with. The country still has a lot of economic problems to work out and to recover from all the years of isolationism.
In the morning I caught the bus out around the lake to the border with Albania. Walked across the border (out Macedonia, in Albania) and found a taxi on the other side. The roads were immediately worse on the Albanian side. The town of Predovic on this side of the lake looked kind of nice. I caught a minibus through some pretty winding mountains to Tirana. A woman in the minibus was carsick for most of the ride. I went by Tirana Backpacker's Hostel just after arriving, but they were full so I put my name down for a reservation for Monday. Walked a bit to the bus stop and caught the town bus to the "northern bus station" - a dirt lot with old buses. I found the bus for Durres and got on. The bus ride out of Tirana was slow as the whole area is all torn up for construction. It took about an hour to get to Durres (on the coast) and I missed my bus stop. Since the destination was Durres, I was expecting the bus terminal there to be the last stop but it continued south along the beach where lots of hotels are. Eventually I just got off and figured I'd check prices - €40. Too much so I bussed back to the main part of town. Walked around where Lonely Planet showed were the cheap hotels, but it was very run down and dirty so I didn't feel like staying there. Had a taxi driver take me back to the beach area in search of Green Villa which LP said was ok price. We couldn't find it and no one he asked knew of it. We checked at one of the hotels in that area and the girl said it was €50/night and my shock was obviously evident 'cuz she asked if I thought that was too much. Damn straight it is! She went on to tell me all the amenities they have - tv, refrig, a/c, parking space, private beach. I don't care about any of those things. The taxi driver knew of a cheap place not on the strip and took me there. It was only €15/night and relatively nice. I gave the taxi driver an extra tip for getting me to a cheap place and he was very thankful. It was a bit of an extra walk to get me to the beach area, but not bad. I wandered around and checked it out. There are various hotels and restaurants along the beach and a promenade to walk along. The beach seemed to be filled with unattractive people. Why is it that the largest people like to wear the smallest swimsuits? Everywhere I looked hurt my eyes. Plenty of people playing soccer, volleyball and other things to occupy themselves. People on the beach just throw litter all over so at the end of the day there are guys who come through raking it all up and tossing it into a dumptruck. I walked for a long while along the promenade and eventually settled on a place to have dinner at. Checked it out for nightlife, but mostly just people walking. There's a danceclub in an old boat so I went to check that out - there was a cover so I peered inside and saw just a few people sitting (no one dancing) and there were only guys arriving - so skipped that.
The next day I looked around town. There's an old Roman Amphitheater and some medieval walls. Most of the city is just bland, unattractive buildings (many rundown). I found another seaside promenade on that side of town that was nice until I got to the beach. It was literally a garbage dump to get to the beach area. Nasty.

Went back to my hotel and changed then to the beach nearby to lay in the sun. The beach actually smelled of rubbish even though there wasn't any near me. Gross. In the evening, I found a creperie and had some great crepes for cheap. Wandering along the promenade again the carnival rides were going and one of the kids' rides was playing a lovely song by Ludacris for the youngsters:
"move b**ch, get out of the way
get out of the way b**ch, get out of the way...
...and I been thinkin' of bustin' you
upside ya motherf***in' forehead"

Guess not too many of them understand English or they just don't care. Just another mellow night for me and back to the hotel.

Can't say I was disappointed to be leaving Durres. Bussed back to Tirana and went to the hostel. The people there couldn't find any record of a reservation for me, which didn't really matter as they were kicking everyone out due to the toilet being broken. The guy working there was nice and helped hook me up with another place to stay. It was just a pension and the guy running it came and picked me up in his car. From the outside, the building looked shabby but it was very nice inside. A little pricey at €20 but Albania doesn't seem to have cheap accomodation. Set off to explore Tirana and see if I could find the bus to Kruja, what LP says is a cute town in the mountains nearby. I searched all over where it was supposed to be based on my maps and couldn't find anything, though Tirana's bus stops are kind of non-existent. So I just wandered around town looking at stuff...not really much to see. In the evening I went out in "the block" area, which was cool. Lots of bars and restaurants around there and people out. There were many kids less than ten going around selling cigarettes. It didn't strike me as the least bit odd until I actually thought about it. Guess Eastern Europe is rubbing off on me.

In the morning I had the fun experience of trying to find the bus stop for Shkoder (in the north). According to LP, the bus should leave from the northern bus "station" (that dirt lot), but it didn't and a guy there kind of gestured to me 6 blocks east. So I walked and walked eventually realizing there was no bus stop in that area. I asked someone around there and he pretty much instructed me to go back where I came from. Walked all the way back and talked to a taxi driver who gave me better directions for finding it (just a block east and down the road). Of course I missed the 11:30am bus but there was another at noon that I got on ok. Bussed up north to Shkoder with no a/c sweating bad. I think I should invent a new perfume/cologne called "Eau d'Eastern European" that smells of not washing for a couple days, sweat and b.o. It will sell like wildfire! Arrived in Shkoder just as a thunderstorm started so took shelter in a nearby hotel with a bunch of other people. The information I gathered online said there'd be a bus at 3pm to Montenegro but a taxi driver and the people at the hotel said there wasn't one (at least not today) but there'd be a bus at 5pm. So I just sat there waiting and watching the rain. A guy came up and asked me if I was going to Montenegro. I said "yes" and that I was waiting for the 5pm bus. He came back about 10 minutes later and said he'd give me a ride to Ulcinj for €5. I was very suspicious as this is about the same price as the bus so I double-checked he'd get me across the border to Ulcinj (not just to the border) and really for €5. He verified so I went along with him. He really did get me all the way there for €5, no catch. I was lucky. Kind of nice to be out of Albania. I heard that the beaches in the south are very nice...and the postcards make it look good. There are also some towns in the moutains that could be worth visiting. I didn't feel like dealing with Albanian transportation and high [accomodation] prices to go there though.

As soon as the taxi crossed into Montenegro the roads were immediately better. Montenegro just recently became its own independent country from Serbia & Montenegro (formerly part of Yugoslavia). There's still a good relationship between the governments of the countries (and many Serbians come to Montenegro for the beaches). Got a minibus from Ulcinj to Bar, then another minibus to Budva. Arrived in the early evening and had the long walk to Hippo Hostel. I checked-in there and walked to town. There's a long promenade along the beach filled with restaurants and bars. This town is VERY touristy. A lot of people from Belgrade (and other parts of Serbia) come here for their beach holiday. Hung out at the hostel with other travelers, and a group of us went out to Acapulco bar next to the beach that night. I mostly talked to a nice kiwi couple.
I hadn't made it to the old town in Budva the day before so went there in the morning. It's a cool walled old city with cobblestoned streets and nice buildings. There's a beach on the far side of it that seemed quite popular with the pretty crowd.

Actually, all the beaches were just packed. I took a bus out to Sveti Stefan - a peninsula of buildings that's been made into a hotel. It's pretty and makes for good pictures. Hung out at the hostel again and met a Swedish couple, Penny and Alex, plus an Irishman, Cormac. Penny has a very strong, dominating personality and liked to talk, talk, talk. She seemed to like being in charge, leading the way, ordering for everyone, and was keen to pick fights. She was fun to hang out with that first night. We all went out to bars along the promenade then to a dance club. The dance club was lame though as there were tables all over the dance floor so really nowhere to dance. We all got separated there and I went back to the hostel about 3:30am.
Was up early in the morning for a bus ride to the nearby town of Kotor. It's at the end of a fjord so is quite pretty coming down into town on the bus. Kotor also has a really cool walled old town. Too many good picture opportunities in there (unfortunately my camera seems to have a smudge on it for many of the pictures as you may be able to notice in the pics). I hiked quite a ways up a hill to a fortress for views out over town and the fjord. That was cool too.

The lack of sleep was getting to me and I trudged back down and caught the bus back to Budva for naptime. Wandered around Budva some more then back to the hostel for hanging out. No one was up for another night on the town so we just hung out there.

The next day I got an early afternoon bus to Durmitor National Park to the northeast. It was a long bus ride with some pretty views as we got closer to the park. We arrived in the early evening and first order of business was to get a room. Wasn't hard as there were people waiting at the bus station with rooms for rent. Went off to see the park while it was still a bit light out.

Pretty mountains and a lake. A thunderstorm rolled in and I got caught in that. I stopped in a pub to escape the rain, had a beer, ran through the rain to the next pub, had a beer, on to the next bar... Eventually the rain eased and I made it back to the pension. Just had dinner and an early night.
In the morning I rented a bike and went out the direction I had come in on on the bus 'cuz I'd seen some views I thought would make for good pictures. Got some pictures of small churches and fields with the mountains in the background. Back to town, dropped off the bike and went for a walk along a path to Black Lake. It has the mountains right behind it so is a good picture spot. I walked around the lake - the water is pretty in some parts. Had lunch, napped and wandered around some more. Got dinner and to a bar in town for a beer. The bar was relatively quiet when I arrived. Soon a group of about five pretty girls were next to me. "Guess I'll have another beer." Not long and a large group of girls was on the other side of me dancing (even though the bar was quite small). "Definately having another beer." I felt really short around them though...only about 3 of the 15 girls were my height. Like being surrounded by Miratskys or something. The bar proceeded to get packed and there was little room for moving (or dancing). I asked one of the girls in Serbian if she spoke English but the answer was "no" and she just kind of stared at me for couple minutes, which was very awkward. Wish I knew how to speak all the languages of the various countries I visit. My stomach was feeling a bit dodgy from dinner so I had to skedaddle and get back to the place I was staying.

Woke up early for the long bus ride back to Budva. The gang at the hostel was happy to see me back. Met a couple new people, Naomi and Adam. Went for lunch with Penny, Alex and Cormac then down to the beach. The water was absolutely freezing so we didn't go in far. Had a nap back at the hostel. Hung around there then went out with a big group to Acapulco for dinner and drinks. We were there a while then went to a bar called Tanga Beach. A boatload of people arrived from the main beach in town just after we got there. Danced a little then just hanging out. I was tired and had to be up early so I snuck away (I told Naomi I was going) - 'cuz I knew the others would try and convince me to stay. Still it was a late night out.
I was up bright and early to catch a 7:30am bus to Dubrovnik that never showed up. At 9am I asked what was going on and the people at the bus station told me to keep waiting. At 10am they made an announcement that the bus had been cancelled so I got my money back. Ergh! Walked back to the hostel and crashed in bed a bit longer. Had lunch with Penny and Alex then back to the bus station for the afternoon bus. This one actually showed up (apparently it didn't make it the day before). At this point you may be noting that this is a little different than my last published schedule. Well, people I met along the way kept telling me Croatia was crowded and expensive during the summer months so I decided to postpone my visit to the majority of that country. I'd just visit Dubrovnik before heading northeast into Bosnia.

The bus ride into Croatia follows along the coast for some pretty views. The view over Dubrovnik's old town is quite stunning. When I arrived at the bus station in Dubrovnik there were many room touts waiting. They seem to have a policy of not stealing someone away from another tout so once I was talking to someone, no one else would talk to me. It made it difficult for comparing prices. I just went with an older guy who had a room available at an ok price (the only hostel in town is crazy expensive at €27/night - that's more than Paris!). We waited at the bus stop for like 20 minutes but no bus seemed to be coming so we hiked up and up a bunch of stairs to get to his place. Poor guy looked like he was about to die once we arrived. His wife cooked dinner for me (stuffed peppers) and then I went to Stari Grad (old town) for night pictures.

It was very beautiful (medieval walls, cobblestone streets, old churches) but packed full of tourists. And most every shop/restaurant in the old town was tourist oriented. There's an English language bookstore so I was able to get a new book that Billy recommended. Kat (from Plovdiv) recommended an ice cream shop there so I tried out their kiwi flavoured ice cream. It was reasonably good but not quite up to the hype she gave it. I wandered around a while before going back to the pension for bed.
Back to Stari Grad in the morning for daytime pictures. I walked all over the place again thoroughly checking it out.

Lovely during the daytime too, though there are even more tourists (the tour groups from the cruise ships come in during the day). I changed at the pension and took a bus to a beach in the western part of town. It was all rocky so I just put my towel on the rocks and endured (oh, how I suffer). Laid around, read and went for a swim. Once the early evening shadows made it to me, I bussed back to the pension for a shower. The old guy was there to make me drink some of his homemade rakia (moonshine) - oy, that stuff burns. Out again to the old town area. I sat in a park next to Pile Gate eating dinner when an older woman sat on the bench next to me. After a while she started talking to me and said she rents rooms from her house. I thought it was a little weird or unperceptive of her to ask if I needed a room as I had none of my bags with me. I told her I'd be back in Dubrovnik at the end of summer though so she showed me on the map where her place is (right in old town). She continued talking to me for a while then gave me some money and asked me to go buy her some cigarettes and I could get myself a beer. I tried to say no thanks, but she was persistent. So I got the stuff and sat a bit longer. She told me a little about during the war when Dubrovnik was bombed by the Serbians. Dubrovnik's old town served no military purpose whatsoever so the bombing of it was purely to hurt/kill civilians and destroy historical buildings. The lady said she had to get back to her husband and I went into old town and wandered around again. The way it's lit up at night is really cool.

I woke up early and caught the morning bus from Dubrovnik to Mostar in Bosnia. Had quite a few border crossings as the bus first has to pass through an area on the coast that's part of Bosnia (Croatia - Bosnia - Croatia then head east into Bosnia). Bosnia -Hercegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. War broke out in 1992 when Serbs killed civilians in Sarajevo. The Serbian forces began a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" to join the Serb ethnic areas of Bosnia with Serbia. Muslims and Croats were the target of a much of this "cleansing". The UN came in in 1992 but did little to prevent the Serbs from their mission. In September 1995 after two weeks of NATO air strikes against the Serbs, peace talks were accepted. There was still some ethnic divides post-war, including bitterness between the Muslims and Croats, but that's getting better. When I arrived in Mostar there were touts again. A younger guy said he had rooms close to the station so I followed him. The place looked very nice and modern on the inside. Mostar was heavily damaged during the war with Serbia in the 1990s. A bridge there, Stari Most, was blown up during the war and seemed to be in a lot of photos...kind of symbolizing the war. It's since been rebuilt, probably another symbol of unity and their recovery post-war.

I didn't hear any bad talk against the Serbians from anyone. I'm sure there has to be some lingering bad sentiment. Mostar has many buildings still damaged from the war so I walked around the city seeing many of those (plus bullet holes were in walls all over). There's an old town area with a Turkish market. The Ottomans obviously left their influence. That was a cute area to walk around. I hung around a couple of the cafes there and later had dinner. Took some pictures of Stari Most at night.

"My baby takes the morning train. He works from 9 to 5..." Wait, I don't have a job, but I did take a morning train. The train ride from Mostar to Sarajevo winds along a river valley with some beautiful scenery. At the train station in Sarajevo, I caught a shuttle to the hostel in town. The hostel itself was just ok - the people running it weren't very friendly and the furniture was run-down. Some of the beds had bed bugs and people had bites all over. Luckily, mine did not. I'm thankful for that. The hostel was in a good location right next to the old town so it was convenient for my wanderings. The old town here is also like a Turkish market with many of the shops selling carpets and such.

Lots of mosques in the area too. Actually, there's one part of town with four different religious buildings within a 100 sq meter area (mosque, synagogue, Orthodox church, Catholic church). Not many cities have that kind of religious diversity...and getting along as well. Met some people at the hostel and hung out with them. We went out in the evening to City Pub and saw some live music. The band had a very cute French singer (I got my picture with her). All us guys were smitten. The bar service here is strange as you can't order your drinks from the bartenders, only the waitresses. So there are 3 bartenders standing behind the bar looking bored and 3 or 4 waitresses running around to all the tables really busy. We all thought this was an inefficient way to do things. Stayed at the bar 'til the band was done then back to the hostel for bed.
Took a morning stroll along the river and around town. The city has a good vibe and cool atmosphere to it. Later in the morning I went on the war tour the hostel sponsors. They took us out by the airport to the tunnel that was used to get food and supplies delivered to the airport to the people in the city ('cuz if they tried to take it directly from the airport, they'd be shot). People would walk the 800m (about 1/2 mile) with up to 50kg (100lbs) on their backs! I just couldn't understand how they could possibly get enough food through there to feed an entire city for nearly four years. After the tunnel we bussed to the Jewish cemetery where our guide gave us a talk. He has some personal opinions about the U.N. and their role during the war, some of which doesn't quite jive with what's written in Lonely Planet. The following is based on what the tour guide told me (i.e., it may not be completely accurate). NATO was going to respond when Serbia started bombing Sarajevo but the U.N. intervened and came in. Once there they said Sarajevo was a "safe area". Obviously it was not since snipers were shooting people and the city was being shelled with mortars. The U.N. signed a deal with the Serbians that opened up the airport (which was a good thing for delivering food and supplies), but part of the deal was no weapons could come through and the U.N. could not respond with force. It essentially made them powerless. Another town, Srebrenica, had over 6000 people massacred by the Serbians and the U.N. did nothing to stop it. This town was also a "safe area". Soon after this the U.N. pulled out and NATO bombed the Serbian forces around Sarajevo for several days. Within 5 days the Serbians withdrew and the siege was over. You can kind of understand why the Bosnians may feel a little bitter towards the U.N. During the war people were still trying to keep life normal - there were sporting events, concerts, an annual film festival was started, etc... Our guide told us a couple jokes from that time too. One goes - there's a guy out digging. Another guy comes over and sees he's digging a deep hole. "Why you digging such a deep hole?" "Well, I'm hoping if I dig deep enough I'll hit oil. Maybe then some of the other countries will help us." The people still maintained a bit of sense of humor. The guide also pointed out that the war wasn't so much an ethnic war as it was just a crazy leader (he called Milosovic a fascist) trying to get more land and power. The tour took us to some viewpoints before we headed back to town. Had lunch with the group then I went and took a nap. Walked around a little. The wind was blowing my hair in my face and that was annoying me (bangs actually down to the end of my nose) so I got a haircut then back to the hostel for hanging out. A large group of us went out and we got split up. The few I was with chose a restaurant that turned out to have extremely slow service. About two hours later we were able to leave and go in search of the rest of the group. We found them at a cafe and joined for a beer. Out to City Pub again to see the same band. They only played a couple songs though. A few of us went wandering off trying to find another bar but just ended up back at City Pub. That was a late night...probably to bed like 4am.
Gray, cold and rainy morning in Sarajevo. Joe, one of the people I'd been hanging out with the last couple days, was heading the same direction as me so we went to the bus station and got our tickets for a night bus. We stopped by and saw the Holiday Inn (it was the only functioning hotel during the war and had all the journalists) and the History Museum on the way back. The History Museum had lots of interesting information and pictures from the war. There was even a special display on how they made cigarettes. Aw, how the Eastern Europeans love their cigarettes. Can't live without them even during war. I went souvenir shopping as I had to find a magnet somewhere...the choices weren't too plentiful. Did my best to avoid cevapcici for lunch (it's like sausages in pita bread) as I've grown tired of it. It's the cheap food you can get all over. More chillin' out at the hostel before going back to the bus station for the overnight ride to Belgrade. Sarajevo definately has a good spirit to it and was a great place to spend a few days.

Some of Yugoslavia's history is written in the first paragraph. Milosevic was defeated in elections in 2000, but tried his best to keep the winning party from taking power. Vojislav Kostunica took over and restored relations with Europe and acknowledged war crimes in Kosovo. In April 2002 the federation of Yugoslavia was ended and the republic of Serbia & Montenegro was formed.
The overnight bus wasn't terribly bad. We arrived in Belgrade about 5:30am and took the tram out to the hostel. At the hostel we found the guy running the place drunk as a skunk and still drinking. He was partially coherent and let us know we could get beds after 7am. I took a stroll in the nearby park then back to the hostel to go to bed for a while. Joe and I went out and got some lunch and looked around town a little. I was pretty good about being able to read the cyrillic street names for guiding us. Joe was impressed. Belgrade has quite a western feel to it - shops, restaurants and stuff. It's a nice city, not sure that I would call it special. Had some time on the Internet to upload photos for this entry before going out for dinner. There was a stage setup as if there was going to be a performance and a beer tent next door. We got some food and beer from there and sat around....no entertainment ever started though. Just hung out with a group of people at the hostel in the evening.
The next morning Joe and I went to the store and bought supplies for omelettes. We cooked up omelettes back at the hostel, though it ended up being cooking for half the people staying there. A group of us went wandering the city that afternoon seeing churches, parlament and the blown up Ministry of Defense.

It struck me later that I didn't see any mosques in Belgrade, but then I remembered that Milosevic's regime didn't treat them very favorably. I tried to figure out bus information at the bus station but the people there were less than helpful. One of the guys back at the hostel tried to help me find info online, but there wasn't much for international buses. We watched some Family Guy on one of the computers and just hung around the hostel. Many of the people left on night trains/buses so it was a quiet night.

I heard about a music festival going on in Budapest soon that sounded cool so that meant I needed to quicken my pace a little. I decided to skip Novi Sad as it just sounded ok. In the morning, I caught a train to Subotica with the intentions of just figuring out transport from there to Hungary. The train was a half hour late and I just missed a 12-noon bus to Szeged. There was a cafe at the bus station labelled "snack cafe" but when I asked about food, they don't offer any. ??? They need to change the name! Found another place for lunch and caught the 2:20pm bus up north to Szeged, Hungary.

Wow, I covered a lot of countries in a short amount of time in this entry. Obviously I didn't really get to know any of the countries all that well, but it was a nice introduction to each. The old towns in Budva, Kotor and Dubrovnik were cool (though touristy). Sarajevo was just a great place to experience for a few days. Most places were reasonably priced. Hopefully my stories and the map entries will help you understand the countries a little better and where they're located.


"Ice-age heat wave, can't complain.
If the world's at large, why should I remain?
Walked away to another plan.
Gonna find another place, maybe one I can stand.
I move on to another day, to a whole new town with a whole new way.
Went to the porch to have a thought.
Got to the door and again, I couldn't stop.
You don't know where and you don't know when.
But you still got your words and you got your friends.
Walk along to another day.
Work a little harder, work another way.
Well uh-uh baby I ain't got no plan.
We'll float on maybe would you understand?
"
--- "The World at Large", Modest Mouse
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Where I stayed
green villa
Tirana's backapckers

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denroth
denroth on

Sarajevo, Dubrovnik et al.
Hi Tom,
This entry sounds a little rushed -- maybe it's the writing, or maybe you did not linger and savor as much as in your earlier wanderings.

I was in Dubrovnik years ago, when I was 17. I hated it, hated the feeling. I think I was expecting downtrodden communists with no hope for the future, and so that's what I saw. My memories are of grayness, of people looking at the ground and not looking at me at all. It was indeed communist times when I was there, cold war and all that, but the feeling remains with me today. I have not been able to sort out what I perceived from my own prejudices.

I was pretty good friends with a woman from Budapest many years ago, when we were both young. She did not have a downtrodden cast at all, and she was somewhat privileged. I had the impression for years that people who could get out did get out, if only to NYC. I suspect I have held this distorted perception for years, and it ain't so. People who live in SE Portland and like 82nd avenue don't seem to know their own misery, says me, looking through the same distorted lenses. They don't get out either, and probably not because they live so well compared to the majority of the world's people who live in uglier, more dangerous places. I am working up a case for my notion that people are more comfortable with familiar misery than with the terrifying possibility of the grass NOT being greener on the other side of the fence. Most people, wherever they are, simply don't move very far from where they were born, Americans' reputation for being rootless and highly mobile notwithstanding.

I have forwarded your delightfully detailed accounts of your wanderings to the Bulletin group at Tonkon each time I've received one. I have not had much feedback lately, where at first half a dozen people expressed delight. Perhaps they have hooked themselves up directly with TravelPod, and perhaps they've already mostly forgotten you.

I know relatively few people who are genuinely comfortable being away from home for long periods of time, and fewer yet who are comfortable moving elsewhere and settling in. I love the notion, but then, I have always been more located by place than by people. I maintain contact with people who have lived in many places, and they are easier to stay in contact with than those who are in the same place forever. It's like a community of those unafraid to change their lives dramatically, not so much a group of displaced or refugees. It's a mindset, and while the idea of putting down roots or maintaining roots has its own sort of 'little pink houses for you and me' appeal on the surface, the underlying feeling is one of self-imposed imprisonment or of being trapped.

A dozen people have left and replacements arrived at TT since you left. I have no idea if this is normal for TT. Sarah is rather pregnant, mouthy and insouciant as ever, due to have her baby in late December. Chris and Sarah keep a rapier-sharp banter floating above our department daily. John's fired up about a football pool and his annual week off to go hunting soon. Deb is running a race in Canada today, and has been gone for training several times recently. I have not bogged down completely in my mission to drag IT into the 21st century, but I have been mired in the mud of Elite, this new accounting and information management system that we began to implement this spring.

I went to Orlando for a week in August, for the ILTA convention I found so worthwhile last year. It was hot and humid, lovely if you like that sort of thing, and I do. Sweetie Pie's son Aaron lives there, or did until he found a better job in Eugene and moved here last week. Caylin and I spent four weekends at her sister's place on Lake Sammamish east of Seattle this summer, an idyllic life if ever there was one, at least in summer. I am as tan as I am going to get in the NW. Next week we are going to SF for 4 days, staying at my Dad's apartment with the million dollar view. We'll see a play, drink some good wine, and his wife and Caylin will vie to see who can talk the longest without allowing an interruption They don't need interruptions, as they expect others to inject a word or two or talk at the same time. My dad and I mostly listen and I realize he and I like the same sort of women -- beautiful, strong, confident, self-reliant, maybe a bit boisterous. We'll all drink some good wines and eat too much good food.

I love hearing from you, Tom. Your travelogues are keepers. The world traveler types I was talking about earlier will likely enjoy your writing too, identifying with the bits of daily thrills and disappointments that are seeded throughout your tales. I do hope these pieces don't disappear from TravelPod before you collect them. And I think it's highly worthwhile and admirably persistent for you to continue to invest the time it takes to write them.

Best regards,
Danny Enroth

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