Posts Tagged With: Balkans

Sarajevo First day

From the outskirts of the city we took an old charming blue tram to the city center, catching people’s eyes again with our big backpacks and our foreigner faces, but specially because of the Pulguita’s meows. However, we started to realize that Sarajevo will be one of the more multicultural places we were going to see (and not talking about tourists).

Old charming blue tram

Old charming blue tram

The Tram left us in the city center. We wanted to look for a cheap place to sleep. We had heard about private backyards to place the tent and we also had the address of a hostel from the previous landlady from Mostar. We wandered around  the city center that is the Muslim neighborhood, made up of narrow streets with maximum 2 floor buildings, full of cafés, souvenir shops, mosques and people everywhere, looking for the tourist information office.

Mosque

Mosque

Arabic Souvenirs Shop

Arabic Souvenirs Shop

Arabic Souvenirs Shop II

Typical coffee shops

After spinning around a little bit we got a map with some hostels marked in, we decided to try with the one we were recommended but in the way something change our plans. In one of the main squares of Sarajevo just in front of Jesus Heart Cathedral and in one of the most trendy cafés of the city we met… Habib again.

Jesus Heart Cathedral

Jesus Heart Cathedral

He was very glad to meet us  (we like to think so), because his friend had already left him, and  so were we, because we didn’t have any plans for a Friday night in a so lively city as Sarajevo. He invited us to drink a beer and we´ve decided to meet up again for later that night, hewanted to to show us the Turkish cuisine.  After the fast beer we had to continue looking for the hostel we knew, we walked for a while so we could see how the city changes when the old town becomes a new business area with big skyscrapers, cinemas and fast food restaurants with some 5 or 6 floors old building still wounded from the war. Anyway, we found the hostel and it was full, so we did the same way back looking for any hostel in our way, we were quite tired, Habib was waiting for us and we saw the prices didn’t vary too much in Sarajevo so we ended up in the hostel Tito 46, guess the street and the number. It was a huge hostel with different types of rooms, a big living room with a kitchen and not-too-friendly receptionist. We took a dry shower (i.e. no shower at all) and we went to meet Habib in the city center.

Tito46 Hostel view

Tito46 Hostel view

Again in the Arabic area, he led us to a street where we chose one of the several Arabic style restaurants, in all of them the specialty was, without any doubts, the Ćevapi, so I had one as well as Habib.  It is a typical Bosnian (Balkan) dish made from minced meat (pork, lamb or beef) usually served with with chopped onions, sour cream, kajmak, ajvar, cottage cheese, minced red pepper and salt. Aleksandra had a great Mediterranean salad (with feta cheese and black olives) and all together we shared a baked potatoes with sauce.

Ćevapi

Ćevapi

Habib

Habib

After that blow out we really needed help our stomachs digest, so we decided to go to one of many tea houses, usually placed in typical Arabic patios in the middle of the block of buildings, where we had an authentic Turkish tea accompanied, of course, by a water pipe. We had a very nice night and we are very grateful to Habib, thank you!  

Typical Arabic patio

Typical Arabic patio

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Kotor II, drink and recovery

As Aleksandra explained, Kotor was the town where we crossed more hitchhikers, so we had to celebrate it with a proper party. I don’t know how but we managed to bring all of them together at 7,30 pm on the Old town entrance. Finally, from all of the travelers we where there, only us and a young Polish couple were enough brave to climb up the 1,350 stairs to the top of the Castle with the backpacks.

Kotor old town entrance

Kotor old town entrance

We started at night, because from 10 am to 8 pm you have to pay 3 euros and that was too much. It took us around one hour and a half and 5 kilograms each. But finally all the effort was worth it, because the view from the top was really impressing. First of all, we looked for a place to put our tents. There are several covered rooms on the castle, but usually destroyed and full of rubbish, so we decided to settle in the only  more or less flat grass field we found. Then we cooked some soup in our burned pot (for the last time before throwing it away) and ate our dinner. In a nearby roof they were two Germans drinking some beer, so after the dinner we invited them. For that special occasion we  switched to wine for the first time on the trip and it was quite tasty but not so good for my stomach. We were playing guitar all night long and we finished sitting in a roof, 280 metres above the ground, contemplating the Kotor bay.

Kotor by night

Kotor by night

Famous Spanish singer

Famous Spanish singer

We woke up the next day already surrounded by early tourists quite shocked about our presence, the same as me about theirs.  It was very hot, and we understood straight away that to come down was harder than to walk up. Once downstairs, we walked around the beautiful old town and made some pictures. We both started to feel a little bit down, so we decided to spend the day on the beach. As you can see on the map, the bay of Kotor is a piece of water into the land and Kotor is a town, that is furthest in the inner land. That also means it is the most contaminated by the big amount of boats and big cruisers that sail around there every day. The beach was quite artificial, but the surroundings were still amazing.

Morning view 1

Morning view 1

Morning view 2

Morning view 2

Our home

Our home

We didn’t recover the energy for the hole day, we even decided not to search too much and simply place the tent in the park, nearby the beach. We went to the supermarket and then straight to the park, waiting for the tourists to go back to their hotels. Then, again the hitchhikers luck came to us. We were drinking a beer and playing “I cross the border with” (very suitable for that situation) when two girls approached us. They asked if we where hitchhiking and where we planned to sleep. After a few words they invited us to sleep at their rented little place, They were two very very nice Lithuanian hitchhiker girls: Vida and Zivile. We spent the night talking about travels (they were quite experienced travelers), and the boring day turned into a great night. In the morning we also could have a shower. Thank you so much!

Kotor Bay

Kotor Bay

Nice street

Nice street

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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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From Skopje to Ohrid

Skopje-Ohrid

Skopje-Ohrid

Hitchhiking in Macedonia is like taking a taxi. We had three different drivers and we waited in total around 5 minutes. In the whole Balkans you can see the city where the cars are from on the plate, so if you want to get a quick ride you should wait for a wanted destination and ask the person to join the ride, that’s it.

Ohrid

Ohrid

The first was JJ, a guy with a big Audi who used to work in Switzerland and speaks German. Aleksandra could refresh a little bit her German knowledge. He was so nice that he called his friends that drove us from Tetovo to Gostivar. They where three black dressed big guys, that looked a bit scary, but they turn out to be also very nice. They spoke English so I finally could spend a trip speaking.

The last one was an old young man (that kind of person very difficult to guess his age). He didn’t like to speak too much but he did his job, quite fast by the way.

The first thing we saw in Ohri: wonderful market full of colours

The first thing we saw in Ohrid: wonderful market full of colours

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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!

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Belgrade

Belgrade

Belgrade

I’m not really an easy person to impress, but I sincerely loved Belgrade. It’s nothing concrete, I loved absolutely everything. In my personal opinion this city had some kind of soul that I didn’t find for long time now, so I’ll try to explain it.

Imagen

City center

I found that Belgrade caught the best of its general influences, Soviet, western European, Mediterranean and their own Balkan one. You can find those big and cold Soviet building as well as stately ones. You can also find a cobblestone little streets and markets hidden in a cute spots with very eastern style full of small corridors, stairs, different levels and, above all, amazing fruits (specially grapes and wild berries). The city was built in the confluence of two rivers (Sava and Danube) with soft hills all around, so the surroundings are also great.

Another pro about that discrete lovely city are the people. Every Serbian who we talk with, was helpful and hospitable (I’m writing this from Ohrid and we can extend that to Macedonians), in a way very rare to find in western Europe where everybody distrusts everybody . They are open and talkative, but not in the excessive way as we do in Spain, actually the city is lively but pretty quiet at the same time. I specially liked to see people from all range of ages on the streets and parks . Grandpas with children eating popcorn and ice cream, young people drinking beer and whole families in a rock concert (we went to the Belgrade beer festival, with free concert all night long). Apart from that, there are tourists (we are in August) but it’s not the Barcelona’s overwhelming craziness at all.

Imagen

Riverside

Imagen

Market

I could also gladly feel that the Serbians are still not influenced by all those stupid European rules and laws that tell people what to do, moreover everything remains respectful. I don’t want to drain my limited adjectives background and leave some for the other cities. Anyway that’s an obligatory city to visit or come back.

Nice graffiti

Nice graffiti

Cathedral of Saint Sava

Cathedral of Saint Sava

Branko's Bridge

Branko’s Bridge

Nice patio

Nice patio

 

 

 

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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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Introduction

Very rough itinerary of our trip

Very rough itinerary of our trip

We’ ve decided to make this blog about our trip hitchhiking the Balkans because of several reasons.
First of all, we want to show our adventure to our friends, family and rest of the people, so we thought that a blog was the most creative and less boring way to do it. Also the possibility to be updated regularly keeps our parents calm.
Secondly, we hope that the the present blog will become a usefull guide for other hitchhikers, as other blogs had been for a us. There are too many details that you only realise when you are hitchhiking around a specific area, so we find an interesting to clear them up from the field.
Thirdly, this blog is a personal project because of my studies in journalism and my passion for travelling. I’ll try to do my best to combine both interests and get experience to face future more ambitious projects.
Last, but not the least,, we consider the blog a kind of tribute to all the people who is going to help us on our way and as our way of gratitude. Last year, we met around 60 people and majority of them were great and interesting persons, but it is impossible to keep in touch with that amount of people. Other barriers of that commitment is the dificulty to keep a lot of numbers and mails, is because of that that this year we decide to give a sticker with the blog website adress to everybody who helps us, who we meet on the way, who we like and we think they like us.

Peace!

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