Author Archives: alwilbuba

Kotor

Hitchhiking in Balkans is like catching a taxi. It took us something like two minutes to catch a hike to Kotor. This time it was a nice couple from Denmark, who were spending their holidays in Montenegro. When I mentioned my nationality, it turns out that the Danish girl was actually half-Polish and she spoke Polish very well. By then, I’d started to think Polish grew to a rank of international languages. At least in Balkans. And Igor was getting more and more depressed that suddenly nobody cared about Spanish anymore. I felt just a little bit of sadistic pleasure seeing him suffer.

Sky after the storm. on the way to Kotor

Sky after the storm. on the way to Kotor

We got to Kotor in 20 minutes and already as we were approaching the town we got absolutely amazad with the beauty of the bay. It was amazing. When we arrived, the first thing we did was to sit down on a first banch we found (with a beautiful view on a wall of old city. A usual, old wall) and we started to dig in our lousy food. Igor was very happy about his spicy chorizo. As we were delecting ourselves with an old bread-old anything else (but chorizo) sandwiches we saw somebody is waving at us. It was another backpacker wanting to where we were going to camp. Even though we communicated quite well with in backpackerssign language, he decided to come down and talk to us.

The wall

The wall

Kotor bay

Kotor bay

He turned out to be a Lithuanian hitchhiker traveling with his friend. Just like us, they just arrived to town and they wanted to find a camping place, where they could leave their tent with stuff inside without a worry. We had a kind of a conflict of intrests there. We heard from the Germans that a good place to stay is Kotor castle. After 8PM there was no one to charge us 3 euros for entrance and the views had to be amazing. The only thing about it was that to get there, you had to climb 1500 steps.

random photo from Kotor

random photo from Kotor

view on the bay

view on the bay

We’ve decided to look for some better camping places and meet up just before the sunset. We started the search (not very thorough though,we knew we wanted to go up). On our way we met a couple of young Polish hitchhikers with a guitar: Alicja and Tomek and we told them to come to our meeting point. “Great! We’re get fucking wasted” was the answer. I’d missed Polish mentality.

Then, we went to a shoping mall (a paradise to every backpacker, with all those free toilets and stuff), where we saw to our surprise that everybody smokes walking around the shoping mall aisles. But beware! Sitting on a ground next to a wall is strictly forbidden!

In the supermarket we saw some typical Spanish hyppies. It turned out they were hitchhiking around the area as well. Kotor seems to be a favourite hitchhiker destination, for some reason.

Anyway, when we all met up in the meeting point (some other hitchhiking Poles appeared, what a surprise!), it was the time to decide. Lithuanians found some guarded place, where they could stay, but we knew what we wanted. We wnated to write in our blog, we slept in the Kotor castle, and we got “fucking wasted!”.

So we took the Polish youngsters with us and we started to climb. I must say, it was an hour of a complete nightmare. But man, it was worth it!

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Hostel Milingona

This place deserves a separate post!

Hostel Milingona (not Milonga, as we thought at the beginning :P) is a truly magical place much different from impersonal big hostels I am used to. Milingona means ant in Albanian and I think there is no better name for this small, cozy place.

Hostel Milingona

Hostel Milingona

 

Even though it is next to the city centre, is quite tricky to find, as it is located in one of these narrow streets in the old district and has no sign (apart from an ant painted on a front door). But as soon as you find it, you feel like you´re back home thanks to very homey interior design and, above all, very welcoming atmosphere created by the owners of the place.

Backyard

Backyard

 

We arrived there (after some struggle) way after midnight and we apparently woke half of the guests and all the stuff up. But still, we we were received in a very warm and welcoming way.  We put our tent in the backyard and enjoyed a moment with a beer after a long and exhausting trip. The fact that it is possible to camp in the backyard for lower fee is an excellent solution for backpackers traveling on a budget, as ourselves. Especially, that in the morning we were surprised with a mouthwatering Byrek for breakfast, included in the price.

In the living room

In the living room

I think there is nothing we didn´t like about the place: the design with some old-fashioned furniture and walls covered with stencils, the relaxed and friendly owners (it´s a family business) that were treatig travelers rather as friends than customers, Yoga – the cute dog that bravely protects the property and all the guests, other travelers that fit in the chilled-out atmosphere of this magic place and of course the old district full of bazaars and lively cafe´s.

Stencil

Stencil

Yoga

Yoga

 

Tirana

Tirana

 

I know it looks like a comercial, but it´s just our way to say thank you to all the people we met at hostel Milingona!  You´re magical!

 

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Ohrid

Ohrid is a beautiful city. Before coming here, we heard some contradictory opinions about it. “It is a really nice city, you have to see it”, versus “It is so turistic, it is  hard to stand”. Now we really have to see it, we thought, and decide on our own what we think about it.

Just when we got here we already knew it is a little bit of both. Just us we got of the car, we got “attacked” by the locals offering us private accommodation. With every step the price got lower. The cheapest offer was 5 euros per person, not a bad deal, but not at all attractive for us, we felt still fresh and clean after having the last bath in the river, and we wanted explore some cool camping spots in Ohrid.

When we got to the city center we got honestly surprised by the beauty of this small city. We  did not expect a typical mediterranean town with small white houses spread around two bushy hills. With a beautiful view on the Ohrid lake. The water in the lake has color as lasure as the mediterranean sea at the Lasure Coast, but with refreshingly fresh water.

Ohrid lake

Ohrid lake

We were so charmed with the city, we couldnt get bothered with looking for a place to camp before the dusk. We just sipped some beer admiring the views and wondering what is waiting for us on the other side of the lake ( we could see the hilly Albanian shore of the lake).

somewhere in Ohrid

somewhere in Ohrid

When we finally decided we should look for some place to camp, it took us about   ten minutes to find a good place to camp, quite remote from the houses, with a lot of trees around and some flat places to put a camp on. When we already decided where we wanted to stay, we saw some men with torchlights. Our imagination started to produce macabre images  in our heads, of serial killers hunting for victims in the forest. We had to run.

At the bottom of the, on the cliff coming down to the lake, we found a nice church with a pretty an appealingly flat lawn. There were still people visiting the orthodox church, some couples making out and some kids drinking probably their first beer, and the church was pretty illuminated, but we decided that this is our place. We took out the guitar and practiced a bit our travel song.

In the morning we knew it was a good decision:  the views were better than in any other place, there was a stone bench with a great table, where we could have  our breakfast of champions, and a potable water point, were we could refuel our water supplies and even (a complete luxury) clean our teeth and faces.

In the house of our Lord

In the house of our Lord

The Church

The Church of St. John at Kaneo

One of the best breakfast spots!

One of the best breakfast spots!

Just below the church, there was a small beach, where we spent our whole afternoon.  The most of our attention drew a local wiseman with a long white beard. We didnt actually understand what he was saying, but he spoke with a such a low, deep voice, all he said sounded as words of wisdom. To contrast his general appearance, his actions weren´t so sophisticated: he was gutting small sardines and storing them in an empty Marlboro box. He was accompanied by identical twins, two local sirens with long tanned legs and heads full of lovely wavy hair. We suspect the local authorities send these three to the beach as a tourist attraction.

wiseman and his marlboro sardines

wiseman and his marlboro sardines

In the lake

In the lake

Another special detail of the beach was a couple of hairy cats from a local bar. One was completely grown and was a fierceful hunter of all the insects. Other one was just a baby, learning the art of catching small animals. He was such a dutiful student, he followed a dragonfly all the way until the bottom of the lake. Once everybody saw this pitiful animal, all wet and shivering, it got more affect and attention than all the sun, beach, lake, drinks with umbrella and all the touristic crap all together.

Our little friend

Our little friend

After the beach, we hade a lunch and decided to continue our journey.
Ohrid is a nice city, but one day is enough.  And being constantly on the move is for us an addiction we can´t (and won´t) give up.

Cooking in the centre of Ohrid

Cooking in the centre of Ohrid

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More about Matka

Just a few more words about Matka Canyon. It is a beautiful place just twenty kilometers from Skopje. It is easily reachable by the city bus (number 60) That takes you just to the place in about an hour. A price of a ticket is 35 Macedonian dinars, which is about 50 cents. This is a really low price for getting to the (relative)  wilderness, an oasis of nature with a refreshing river in the middle of the canyon, a paradise for thirsty, dirty and tired of city noise hitchhikers.

The river (O, dobra rzeko, o madra wodo.)

The river
(O, dobra rzeko, o madra wodo.)

It is a great place for one day getaway (as a hike to monastery that we did), as well as a starting point for a few days mountain hiking trip.

Admiring the views with the pedo cap

Admiring the views with the pedo cap on

The monastery

The monastery

Mountains

Mountains

I was personally absolutely charmed with this special place. Maybe that is way I got furious when I saw locals shamelessly littering the area and, even worse, throwing plastic bags and bottles to the river.

 Our place by the river. Sadly, full of rubbish when we got there.

Our place by the river. Sadly, full of rubbish when we got there.

First fire!

First fire!

But I guess it is a matter of lack of knowledge and information about environment. We thought it might be a nice idea to make some kind of environmental voluntary project there.

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Inđija to Skopje

Inđija-Skopje

Inđija-Skopje

Upon leaving Inđija, we had some coffee and ice-cream for breakfast. One scoop was a size of three normal ones and cost 40 dinars – 0.35euro (I might have mentioned that before, but I’m still in owe). Although my banana flavour tasted like lemon, it was still really good. Coffee (70 dinars = 0,50 euro) was crap, but you know, you can’t always get what you want.

Our ice-cream. So big, so cheap, so good!

Our ice-cream. So big, so cheap, so good!

So let’s go back on the road! Next stop: Skopje! (?)
This time it wasn’t so easy. We had to walk all the way from the city to the pay toll. It seemed much less in the car. And with Igor complaining all the way, it seemed even longer. OK, we are here. Let’s begin.

Part1: From pay toll to Belgrade. Waiting time: 20 minutes.
A really nice, but a bit crazy driver from Zadar took us. wanted to make sure he’ll leave us at a right place, so he called his wife so that we could explain here where we want to go in English. Really fun ride. By the way, as it turns out, it’s completely normal to use rear gear at Serbian highways :).

Part 2: Belgrade – Vranje. Waiting time: 30 minutes.
After a short while Marian, a Serbian truck driver stopped to take us with his truck. He was going to Vranje, a city close to the Macedonian border. We felt bad all the way we couldn’t communicate well. We tried some Polish-Serbian mix, but it which worked more or less, but it wasn’t enough for a decent conversation.

We got out at the outskirts of Vranje. It was already late and dark, no way we could continue today .Marian left us at the exit to Vranje, so we had to walk about 500m to the gas station. The way wasn’t illuminated and we didn’t have any reflective bands. Tip for backpackers: it’s really important to have something to be visible at the road, better safe than sorry. It’s decided – it’s our next purchase.

We slept directly at the gas station. By now, we don’t care anymore about hiding.

Our camping place next to Vranje

Our camping place next to Vranje

Dinner: Noodles with bread crumbs - Yummy!

Dinner: Noodles with bread crumbs – Yummy!

The next day everything was going quite smoothly. We arrived to Skopje in two goes: first we caught a ride to Serbian-Macedonian border.

We passed the border walking. We were so busy arguing, we didn’t even realize we are stepping on the Macedonian land.
We were stopped by the policeman, who concluded we are Polish-Spanish backpackers mafia. He let us through anyway.

Upon crossing the border we already knew that gypsy beggars were ruining our business. We decided to try our luck. Fortunately we look (and are) too poor to attract them. We waited about 20 minutes, but it was clear people were annoyed so they either didn’t want to stop or and drove away in anger. Apart from that, strong smell of piss was hard to bear.
We had to move. We moved 20 m away and all we had to wait to catch a hike was 5 minutes. A Macedonian trucker, Igor stopped to take us to Skopje. He knew some Russian so we could communicate mixing Polish, Russian and Macedonian. After 30 minutes we were in Skopje. Trip Inđija – Skopje in 24 hours.

Could be better, but you know, it’s all about the journey!

Continue reading

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Already in Serbia!

Budapest-Inđija

Budapest-Inđija

Day two.

It’s 9 o’clock and we’re ready to go. But it seems that drivers aren’t. No movement at the gas station. So let’s have a morning coffee (guess, whose idea was that). Surprise! With two cappuccinos we got free chocolate rolls.

This time it was easier. At 12 o’clock we caught a ride. Atilla was going from Netherlands to Turkey and was so nice that he gave me a ride and amused us with a conversion. Our destination was Inđija, a town between Novi Sad and Belgrade. So we took off at the gas station that seem to be the closest: 10-15 km away. Still quite far to walk next to the road under the burning sun with big backpacks. OK, we’ll hitch-hike. We made a banner, again, misspelled! Someone was so nice to tell us that.

Let's try something new. didn't work

Let’s try something new. didn’t work

Nobody was going to Inđija, but a nice young couple in white Reanult 5 (sorry, we didn’t get your names) offered us a lift to the highway exit to Inđija. Waiting time: 5 minutes.

Later, just after passing by the pay toll, we caught another ride, a truck. We didn’t have any common language with the driver, but as I understood from our Polish/Serbian dialog, he was going some other way, but decided to to leave us in the center of Inđija. Hitch-hiking in Balkans IS easy!

Inđija was the first Serbian city we’ve seen. First impression: it’s so cheap!; second: they REALLY like ice-cream!

On a 100-m long street we found 5 ice-cream places. Igor felt a little bit like home with all the bars and „terracitas“ all the main. We easily found home of Igor, our CS host. He had a really nice place, with two lovely kittens and a sweet dog at the backyard. He was also hosting another Polish girl, Zuzia, who was coming back from her hitch-hiking trip from Georgia. Thank you for some traveling tips, Zuzia!

 

After arriving, Igor took us to Belgrade by car, so we could see a little bit of this interesting city. Once I’ve arrived there, I felt a little bit like home myself. There are a lot of small details in Belgrade that reminds me of Warsaw. But I must admit, Serbians seem to have more relaxed and chilled out attitude than Poles, especially those from the capital.

Belgrade!

Belgrade!

 

In the evening we went to a free beer festival (watch out – the security is checking for lighters at the entrance and throws them away!). We drunk some beers and listened to Serbian music. What a great beginning of our trip!

Polish accent in Belgrade

Polish accent in Belgrade

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On the road again!

Budapest-Szeget

Budapest-Szeget

Hitch-hiking is easy they said. It’s like catching taxi, they said. Well, maybe. But first, you have to get there. We started our hitch-hiking trip in Budapest. We checked the spot at hitchwiki.org . We chose the place that was indicated as „easy“, where cars could easily stop to pick up the hitch-hikers. Average waiting time: 20 minutes.

With a bit of a stage fright ( we haven’t hitch-hiked for an year now), but full of hopes, and expectations, we got to the outskirts of Budapest,. We prepared a nice banner „Belgrade –Беорад “ and we started.. Twenty minutes passed by fast – nothing, not a slightest sign of interest. The summer sun already begun to burn our skins, and our feet started to cover with dust.

After 2 hours we felt exhausted and our high hopes vanished completely. We realized that many drivers show us they go somewhere else. We’ve checked the map: our perfect road was situated before the road ring – the cars could go to any direction from there.  We also realized we’ve misspelled “Београд” in our banner, we were so proud of. Oops! We still need to learn a lot about the Cyrillic alphabet.

Finally, in the 5th hour of waiting, a car stopped. Istvan, a nice Hungarian guy, took us some kilometers ahead. We don’t even know how many, time passed by fast as we had a nice chat.

After having a fast coffee ( apparently Spaniards cannot do without it, no matter the circumstances), we started again. This time level: hard. After some time a few others hitchhikers appeared, all heading our direction.

The first car that stopped was the police patrol. They asked us a few questions in Hungarian, we just smiled shyly showed our banner and said “vacation”. They wished us good luck (that’s what we like to think) and continued to their hunting place, at the entrance of the highway. We’ve soon realized, they try to hunt down cars that don’t stop before the “stop” sign we were standing next to. I guess the locals knew about the trap, because every single one stopped. But as soon as a car with foreign plate appeared, it was doomed. We tried to show them they should stop. But who would listen to us. What happened next looked a bit like a National Geographic documentary. Poor victim passed by clueless and carefree, and just behind her back, a cold-blooded predator came out from the bushes and started to pursue  her. First slowly, to finally catch it with all his speed and strength, leaving her without any chance to survive. Oh well, at least a bit of entertainment for bored hitchhikers.

Meanwhile, we met Ivan, our second driver, who was so nice that he not only offered us a ride, but also came back for one more hitchhiker, who was going to the same city, as he was (Szeged).

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Hitch-hiking spot in Budapest. Perfect for cars to stop.

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Hitchhikers food with Hungarian accent: super sweet cocktail tomatoes and spicy peppers.

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Igor’s first guitar concert ( private, for me and the hedgehog). Szeged.

We stopped at the gas station before Szeged, a town next to Hungarian-Serbian border. 5 PM: We still have a chance to get to Belgrade. 6 PM: It’s hot, we’re thirsty, we will arrive there by night, but we can still make it. 7 PM: Strong need for a cold beer. Nobody stops, we start loosing our cool. 7:30 PM: Screw that, we’re staying here. We went for the beers. On the way we met some two guys from England, also trying to hitch-hike, guess where… yes – Belgrade. By now, we picture ourselves Belgrade as some kind of hitchhikers Mekka. We’re really curious to see it. Anyway, these two fellows had been waiting here from 1:30 PM. We’re not the worst! We told them we found a place to camp, and they are welcome to join, bought the nectar of gods we needed so badly and went to our cute spot, a bit hidden, between the trees, but really close to the gas station and all its facilities. After preparing the campsite, taking out the guitar and opening our beers, all we were missing was a company. “Let’s see what’s up with the Englishmen”. They were gone. Somebody took them Yeah, finally we’re the last. But we have a guitar, beer, cheese sandwiches with some hot Hungarian peppers and a company of a sweet little hedgehog. It’s great to be on the road again!

What the fuck... a hat

What the fuck… a hat

Hitchhiker but stylish

Hitchhiker but stylish

Where am I?

Where am I?

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Music soothes you soul

Just one small observation.

It turns out that it’s cheaper to buy a guitar on spot (35 euros) than take it with you on Ryanair board (50 euros, one way). Igor came back to be his jolly self with his first acoustic  after horrific 1 music-less day. Thank you Orsolya for letting us go through this journey by the sound of music!

DSC00588

Igor without a guitar

Igor already with the guitar

Igor already with the guitar

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First

First fight: check. When you come from different cultural background, you have different timing and different pririties, it’s hard not to bicker. Polish priority: comet to the airport waaay before the departure time and get the best place in the Ryanair boarding queue. Spanish priority: dirnk coffee and smoke a morning cigarette, no metter how late we are.

Fortunatelly, we managed to do both. And, as a bonus, we won a mini battle against Ryanair ridiculous rules: after squuzing Igor’s enormous backpack into Ryanair’s “baggage size check box”, we were denied entering with a sleeping pad (it was 2cm too long, they said). Explanations that it’s flexible and we can (not so) easily fit it, didn’t help. So we did. Ryanair -0, Backpackers-1. We also managed to (accidentally) bring a corkscrew (this deadly weapon) on board.

Backpackers! don’t let Ryanair get you! Budapest, here we come!

In Raynair

happy with sleeping pads and corkscrew on board

train to the airport

making up after first fight

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