A Travellerspoint blog

June 2005

Herzogovina, Bosnia and Srpskan Republic

On leaving Dubrovnik, i did something that i had been meaning to do for years. Previously, i had always entered Dubrovnik by boat, but had always wanted to do the land journey. The reason for that is Neum. As a concession to the Bosnian people in the, guessing, 50's, Bosnia had been granted a short stretch of coastline off Croatia in order to give it access to the sea and for trade. This means that theere is no connected land route between Dubrovnik and the rest of Croatia to the North. And because of the mountains behind, in order to get from BiH proper to Neum, the main road takes you through Croatia anyway...

In actuality, much of the coast is of no use for a port, and Bosnia is not exactly world reknowned for the vast numbers of things it exports. All that has really happened there is the growth of a resort town (Neum) which has Bosnian taxes, and so attracts daytrippers from Croatia etc due to its cheaper prices.

The bus ride itself was uneventful, but i kind of had to do it once. At the southern end, there was a cursory passport check (he looked at my cover and ignored it), and the northern end, the guy did at least take it and have a quick flick, but thats it. Wasn't overly exciting, but another random quest ticked off!

Stopped in Ploce to change. Ploce is another place i've been curious about, despite it being essentially a sh1thole. It's got the only railway station between Split and Bar, so in Yugoslav times, was well used with holiday makers going to the resorts, or onwards to some of the islands. Now it kind of functions as the Bosnian port that Neum should have been. Had a coffee in one of the many coffee houses, all empty and underneath concrete tower blocks, in the centre, and wandered around the station, impressively large for the number of people around (i.e. me).

At 4pm, got one of only 2 international trains a day onwards to Mostar, in Herzogovina. Border control was non existent (nobody), so i entered Bosnia proper with no checks, but Neum with at least somebody having a brief look, which seemed odd. Between Ploce and the border, all of the local stations had been newly rebuilt, lit and 3 or 4 even had perfectly rebuilt station houses, with station staff. Bearing in mind the 8 (all local) trains a day and lack of passengers, that seems a little overkill, and i would put them forward as the most boring or waste of money jobs in Croatia!

Virtually as soon as the border had been crossed, we started winding up along the river valley. For some reason, i never seem to think (or remember) BiH as being green, but huge chunks of it are. So we wandered alongside the river up a very pleasant valley amongst lots and lots of green and some rocky outcrops as the terrain got hillier. Got to Mostar a bit later (huge, rebuilt concrete/glass station and just 4 trains a day, total) and was picked up by the only old lady there. As she was the only one, and i the only traveller, it wasnt a hugely difficult choice to make!

After checking out the room and leaving my bags, i wandered into town, wondering what i would find and how it had changed. I had been here once before, but it was several years ago, and only limited clearing work had been redone then, so it was a horrible dour mess, and the felling in the town had been one of despair and regret more than hope. Now, the central areas has been fully cleaned up, and the friendship bridge and old quarter, brilliantly rebuilt. The central street was filled with pavement cafes (the whole BiH/Srpska area is big on their coffee and cafes), but just looking above, there were several old buildings which had been destroyed or damaged beyond repair which were just sitting there, falling apart due to lack of money/will, or perhaps, as a reminder of the sheer destructiveness of it all. Outside of the central core, more and more sign damaged buildings existed, some with big holes in, others riddled bullet holes.

The first thing you notice about Bosnia, is the sheer numbers of (mostly late 80's model) VW golfs which are around. Its not an exaggeration to say that maybe half of all cars are VW golfs, and if you include the whole VW family (VW, Audi, Seat, Skoda etc), it covers probably 80+% of all vehicles. Whoever had the import rights must have made an absolute killing. In mostar in particular, the number of armoured vehicles and 'peace keeping' forces around was quite substantial, and forces from Italy, Chile, Croatia, Germany, Austria, Ireland and Portugal amongst others were in evidence, although mostly doing very little. A relatively high amount of police cars/officers were also on view, whilst the Croatian broken arm curse was also in effect here.

Because of its proximity to the tourist hub of Dubrovnik, it attracts a fairly large number of daytrippers and coach parties, but few who actualkly stay the night, so by the time i had arrived, they had all left, and the number of tourists around was few. As such, just sitting having a coffee or beer, it was easy to strike up conversation with the locals, which despite my lack of Bosnian (i.e. essentially Serbo-Croat) were not too difficult.

I really like Mostar. The general feel and buzz there now is one of hope, friendship and unity (again), and despite the fragile nature of the country and area, very little hostility, which was great to see and be a part of, albeit briefly. In addition, the fact that so many buildings, even central ones, are in a perilous state, and obviously because of war, you are never far from a reminder of how quickly it can all fall apart, and the sheer human suffering and tragedy behind it.

The following afternoon, i took a bus on the 2 and a bit hour trek to Sarajevo. Again, lots of green and mountains, and we followed the same snaking valley until climbing up over the mountains about 2/3rds of the way through, in the hands of a routinely-balkan (i.e. psychotic) bus driver. The trip, although hot, was wonderful in itself. As many of you are aware, I'm a sucker for mountains anyway and the trees, river and occassional gorge or small lake etc did me just fine.

Arrived in the adopted home of Bolero (1984) and found the hostel i had reserved after walking around it twice. I hadn't needed to bother, as i was the only guest, and had my pick of 30 or so beds. The member of staff working insisted i take a private room (no odds to me), although the traditional charge for sheets in hostel - i carry my own to avoid this - in this case included the pillow and blanket so i was forced to shell out the extra. I was on the 5th floor of a large tower block near the station, it was all brand new (or refurbed, i don't know) and included such interesting quirks as a bomb proof door, large windows which opened fully - perfect for that suicide or drunken attempts to fly to the concrete floor below - and hot water which had to be turned on 90mins before use to heat, but turned itself off after 60mins of heating...

Central Sarajevo is split into 3 distinct sections, whch literally start and end just like that with no overlap. The West end with the station (and where i was staying) is the business district, with a few glass high rises and some banks and stuff (which stay open until 8pm - why cant we do that in the west??!!!); then comes the old Autro-Hungarian sector, with a big cafe culture and streets and hapsburg architecture which would be in no way out of place in Wien or Budapest etc. Finally is the stunning old town, which includes lots of alleyways and wooden shops not dissimilar in style to those in German cities Xmas markets, plus a large mosque, lots of small restaurants and little local shops, and with a smell of cooked food not entirely dissimilar to a Morrocan Bazar.

As with Mostar, Sarajevo has a really relaxed feel to it, and a huge coffee culture, which means that even around midnight there are still loads of people just milling around drinking coffee, beer or just walking, which i think is great. Spent a couple o fdays wandering around being touristy. Went to a couple of the 1984 sites, the site of the Archdukes assassination in 1914 (museum shut), the stunning but derelict old town hall and just wandered at random. Again, Cevapici was the thing, with whole restaurants in the old town serving nothing but.

Left Sarajevo on the 5am bus (to all those at T-K in particular, i know the idea of me being up at that hour is laughable, but honestly, it is true), heading towards the Republic of Srpska. Srpska is a strange entity. Not quite a breakawy republic, but covering a large chunk of the North and East 'Bosnian' country. They are essentially more Serb than Bosnian, and use the Cyrillic alphabet instead of Roman (the Serb-Croat-Bosnian language uses both alphabets in different parts of the region). About half way through the 5 hour trek towards Banja Luka (and 5 hours on Bosnian roads is quite a trek - driving standards tend to be quite, urm, idiosyncratic), the signs suddenly started changing to Cyrillic text, whilst the cars on the rods suddenly contained huge numbers of foreign reghistered vehicles, as opposed to the Bosnian/Corp Diplomatique of Sarajevo.

Was met at Banja Luka by Ivana, a CSer i'd been talking to for months, and who had kindly offered to put me up and show me around. I have been fascinated (or, at least, intrigued) by the idea of Srpska for a while and Banja Luka is a strange place. The capital of a self proclainmed region, with a democratically - more or less - goverment of its own which isnt recognised by the Sarajevo/Bosnian central government.

The city itself is not insubstantial - 400,000 or so - but missed out on all of the fighting and shelling and so is essentially unscathed. Partly because of that, it doesnt fit the profile of how you imagine a Bosnian city to be like. The outskirts were filled with large annonymous aluminium sheds/out of town style stores which kind of seemed wrong to me, but also didn't feel as if it was in quite the right place. It did have an eastern feel to it, but if you ignored the Cyrillic writing, it could just as easily been a random town in, say, France, as in the Balkans. It just feels kind of annonymous, which interested me in itself.

Despite more rain during the couple of days, had a great time in Banja Luka. After the inevitable but still very tasty Cevapi (Banja Luka instead of normal, meaning they are blocks instead of sausage shape). Got to take a wander with Ivana over to her work on the Sat afternoon, so got to see the delights of where our taxmoney is going. Ivana works for a former British forces radio station, oxsigen fm, and still works on the EUFOR base there. As she was presenting a film show for a couple of hours, i had a bit of time to wander around and see what was going on. Security screening wasn't up to much - i realised after we'd left that i'd been carrying a camera around the whole time - and as with my visit to Miha's station in Ljubljana i was struck by just how small and seemingly insignificant a place radio stations are - it was 2 porter cabins squashed against the side of the storage terminal with a couple of antenae. Was given the low down yet again on the evil Sarajevo based bitch woman intent on closing them down, had a coffee in the nafi where i got to see a bit of sky sport cricket coverage, which was surreally both for the glorious British sun it was being played in, and for the fact that England+Wales were well on top and winning, and talked to a some random Bosnians and Brits for a while. And i didn't break anything or even start a new war.

We had a wander around Friday night B-L, visiting the Roman castle - huge area, so of definite importance - a couple of random riverside bars reached down an assortment of twists and turns that i never managed to follow (even by the end, i manage to acquire not even a basic orientation of the city. I was always coming out somewhere unexpected) and ended in the inevitable yet funny Irish bar. I tend to enjoy experiementing Irish bars abroad, just to see how they work (or otherwise) and how Irish they feel (not at all in this case).

This one had huge Budweiser adverts all over, a huge Russian flag pinned to the ceiling and band playing a combination of Croat and Serb folk songs with the occassional western (but never Irish) song chucked in for no apparent reason. Indulged my normal fascination of ordering a Guinness so i could watch somebody with no idea what they are doing pouring it very badly. In fairness, it didnt taste too bad at all, but whatever was served wasn't Guinness...

The following day saw the inevitable rain for most of the day, so we kind of wandered around, drifting between coffee places and just watching the world. For probably the dozenth time on my trip, i started pondering long and hard about calling it quits and buying an appartment or house. I really need to stop paying an interest in house prices on my travels or i'll end up with several by the time my trip is over. That evening, her family had returned, so i got introduced to parents and grandfather, who were extremely friendly if slightly bemused by the random foreigner, and who's mother did the same as every other mother (and host) i was subsequently to meet did - try furiously to shovel as much food and drink into me as humanly possible. During a break in the clouds, I cheated utterly (it wasn't my fault - i was quite happy to walk) on my hill quest and we were driven up to the top of the local hill to look at the world at a strangely communist looking concrete structure with helpful graffiti writen all over it (e.g. Go Scotland).

With all the family returned and a lack of sleeping space, i spent the night at another CSer's place and one of Ivana's DJ colleagues, Alex, who had just got back from playing a gig in Srebrenica, which i typically only found out about after it had happened. Predictable to a flaw. Unfortunately a lack of time between his return and him also having the lucky position of Breakfast DJ meant we didnt get a huge amount of time to talk, which as he seemed a really interesting guy was a shame.

And so Bosnian-Srpskan time comes to an end. Yet again i say the same thing, in that I really wish i could spend a proper amount of time in the country as it is utterly fascinating to me. Any country where everybody drives the same (and foreign) car, they eat Burek and Cevapi (which NEED to be brought to the wider worlds attention), buildings have big holes in them and a huge number of people have broken arms deserves more time. Unfortunately, i don't believe that Sten has plans to open T-Kartor Bosnia-Herzogovina just yet...
It is a stunning and utterly misunderstood country with some amazing people, but unfortunately, i think only a matter of time before it collapses in on itself once again. The hodge-podge of alphabets, ethnicities and religions can work together, but the people seem to have a great need for leadership of some description, and as such can be susceptible to the wrong kind of person coming in and "leading" them.

Oh well. Next stop wherever the heck i end up. Probably a Bosnian immigration jail cell.

Posted by Gelli 04:06 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Comments (0)

Part 3 of a.... You know what i mean by now.

Dubrovnik

With Slobo and Mel having to leave to return north (the delay in getting here had eaten too big a chunk of time to be able to reorganise things), i took the boat south for the 4 hour trip to Dubrovnik. Played cards very badly with Aussie girls (if i remember correctly, Kristy, Gina, Sam and Tash, all Sth London based), happy i hadn't staked my life savings on it.

In Dubrovnik, was picked up by wonderfully cheery landlord Mladen (pre booked - and both his wife and 2 next door neighbours had arms in slings) who spoke at best, limited English, and went to his place in the hills. A lovely old house, where his family live, but which had also been converted into a number of flats, housing a good 30 or so backpackers.

After a wander around town (i never once went the same way through the alleys between Mladens and the old Town, and by the end i was actively trying to!), returned to shower and then went out into town with a cherry Melbourner, Scott. Melbourne seems to be the centre of the earth at the moment, with scores of people i meet either from there or going there, yet i havent met a single Sydneysider.

We went hunting the inside of the fort perimiter walls for one of the outside bars (i.e. you walk through the wall to a perched bar on the outside) which we found with relative ease - a nice place and idea, but dark with no moon, and kind of more romantic than either of us was ion the mood for - and remarked that the lack of a Chinese restaurant combined with the sheer number of cats in the Old Town really could not be coincidence. Moved on to the inevitable Irish bar - within the old town, there are no western fast food chains etc (in fact, there is no Maccy D's at all in Dubrovnik, which is great), and most shops are locally owned as well, although there were both Irish and English bars within - and met up with a couple of Irish girls and their cousin who Scott had met the night before.
Managed to collect an extra dozen or so Irish folk, and after discovering the club outside the walls was closed, went to a terrace bar nearby where we talked utter sh1t until being moved by the police around 6, on what was, strangely considering over 2 weeks had past, my first real night out.

The next day was spent mostly doing the touristy things in the old town, and also exploring the areas outside of the walls in teh rest of the city, which offered a strange contrast in teh most part. Dubrovnik's old town really is amazing, and they are rightly proud. A vast fortress, still entirely intact (or in allot of cases rebuilt after a year long and mostly spiteful seige by the Yugoslavs in the early 90's war), and not taken over at all by Western retailers or signs, so that it still looks authentic, at least in the main. Guessing it will be horrible with the numbers of tourists in the height of summer and heat, but in late May, it was still more than bearable. Only real point of note was that nature started her revenge for the fly by having 2 seperate pigeons cr*p on me barely an hour apart.

On the following day, took a wander into town with Joanne, a kiwi-canuk girl and up onto the walls. From above, they are even more impressive. A full circuit was a good 2km, with a height difference of over 50metres between the tallest of (i think) 14 towers and the lowest point on the wall, and the battelements in the main were surprisingly wide as well. The view from above showed that the city was downset into the ground more than expected - i always expect the insides of forts to be flat - and also highlighted what an amazing job of repairing the extensive war damage they had done.

Had a great plate of the local speciality, Cevapicci (a kind of small kebab meat sausage), and then in the 35degree heat did the one thing i really shouldn't have, and made the walk to the top of the hill behind. Up a barren cliff on a zigzag road in the midday sun. Again it was worth it, although i again perfected my drowned rat look, and also wasn't overly impressed that within 3 minutes of reaching the bottom, it clouded over a bit, cooled down, and even rained a little. Bah! Met up with the Irish girls and Rada - a nice if slightly scary Serbian girl staying in the same small dorm - and passed out on the beach after my walking exertions.

That evening started talking to the guys in the other connected dorm (2x 3bed rooms plus kitchen, bathroom and balcony in our enclosed flat) and proved yet again what a small world it was, by discovering that they were from UKHO, and one of whom, Alex was likley to be showing (probably) Sten and the other T-Kartor guys around the Taunton facility the following week when they went over for tender discussions.

Showing a complete disregard for my own feelings, and thinking only of the interests of T-Kartor, i forced myself to go out with them and Rada that evening, and have a few beers. Again we went to the outside bar, and then found a true local place out near the old town harbour, where officially (or not) some locals had set up some music and a fridge of drinks and were selling to whoever as they set on the rocks watching the harbour, although it was only locals appart from us. Note to anybody reading this involved in the process of deciding payrises - even on holiday, i am the model employee, thinking only of the good of T-Kartor. Yes, i know. I know.

And that will have to do now. I know it is not in my normal style, but i'm suffering acute diahorrea whilst writing it (not connected) so just slapping it down as it comes out. Still several weeks behind, and still no pictures, but i will catch up and put lots of pretty images in soon, i promise. Doubtful that i'll learn how to type though!

Greetings all.

Posted by Gelli 06:58 Archived in Croatia Comments (1)

part 2 of what should have been a 1 parter.

I know it's delayed, but lots of things are getting in the way of mundane things like online journal - bloggy thing writing, so its had to take a bit of a back seat. I know it isn't good enough. I truly do. But thats just tough.

As we left off in Rovinj i won't start there. I'll start further down the road in Rijeka. As it was still low season the boat was only sailing 3 times a week, meaning that any plans to stick around would cost me a couple of days. In Rijeka had a couple of hours to kill before getting the overnight boat to Split, so had a wander.

It doesnt have the worlds greatest reputation, but to be honest, i've seen a heck of allot worse. Having said that, it was notable for only 2 things. Firstly, i saw the most beautiful woman i have ever seen (real life, pictures or tv). An absolutely stunning blonde. And she was driving a knackered old taxi. Where is the justice? The other point of note was the huge number of people who had their arms (mostly wrists) in slings. I'm not exaggerating when i say that in about 3 hours, i saw over 10 people with their arms in slings, and *THREE* seperate people who had both arms in slings. With my record and ability to break bones at will and in stupid situations, i knew it wasn't a good place for me to be.

It was European Cup Final night (none of this C lge rubbish), and oddly, i was in Croatia again. I've seen 3 of the last 5 in Croatia, for no apparent reason. This time it was on the boat. Unfortunately, we were just that bit too far off the coast for a perfect picture. We saw about 35mins of the first half, and missed all 3 goals. At half time, remarked that i wish i was near a bookies so could put a couple of quid on Liverpool, which most people laughed at. So wish i could have :( Then saw the first 2 liverpool ones before it went dead for good. From then on, a group of a good 25 people were relying solely on an intermittent radio contact, and mobile phones. By the time it got to penalties, it was just getting silly. Sms's going off at all angles after every pen, but a slight time delay meant that we were'nt always entire sure what the curent situation was until the end.

My cunning plan of cheap night sleeping on deck was slightly tempered by my being distracted by the football, and by the time i went to pick a good spot to avoid the direction of wind, it was too late - all the good spots were gone, and my sleeping bag was in the locked luggage room. Hence it was that i thought that instead of looking for shelter, the opposite might work, and rolled up in a ball on the center of the helicopter winchpad, much to the amusement of onlookers. And strangely, i had no trouble sleeping, baring the drunk local who thought it would be funny to fall over me about every 20minutes.

Got to Spilt at about 6.20, and it was already 22degrees. Had a trawl around the old Diocletian's palace before the tourists hit and by 7.30am, it had hit 30. And hotter it got. Chucked my bag (well, not so much a chuck, as an ungainly heave) and did the obvious thing. I followed my existing trend of climbing the overlooking hill, in the scorching heat. I didnt die of sunstroke or heat exaustion, which is probably the only bonus of the climb (not a bonus for you lot as you now get to read about it in excruciating detail), and in fairness, the view from the top was worthwhile. As i've been to Split a few times before, i didn't plan to hang around, and got the absolutely jampacked and broken airconned afternoon catermeran to Hvar Town. Suffice to say, that by arrival an hour later i looked not unlike a drowned rat.

Things went ok from there though, as i finally got some suncream after a week of looking and getting burnt just a tad more than planned, and we got picked up by an old guy at the dock area who had a free room in a really good location and with a view of the harbour area. Hvar Town was really nice. Not overly packed at this stage of the year, but lots of people just milling around taking it all in, and just by listening to the converstations and observing the meetings, you could tell that a large chunk were locals.

Hvar was officially voted in the late 90s as one of the 12 most beautiful islands in the world. Whilst it seems slightly suspicious to me that the list included only small, warm, holiday places (Anguilla, Bali, Bora Bora, Capri, Hvar, Kauai, Mykonos, Ponza, Upolo and Zanzibar) - what's wrong with, for example, Southsea? -
and it wasn't neccessary quite as stunning as all that, it was definitely not out of place on the list.

Ignoring another walk to the top of the cliff to go into the fort, did absolutely feck all except veg for a couple of days, although i also started my on running battle with nature, when i somehow managed to squash a (very) large fly by accidetally treading on it as it flew underneath. I guess he must have been poisoned by the smell...

A couple of days later continued onwards to Korcula, another island. Fecked up on the suncream front by missing a shoulder and then rolling my sleeve up, meaning i fast acquiired an evil left shoulder. Had a 50min drive right across Korcula from the catamaran landing at Vela Luka to Korcula Town itself, and along with an Afrikaaner, then managed to take advantage of the hoard of accomodation offerers and lack of backpackers by fighting them off against each other until we got down to 40 kuna (just under 4gbp, down from the normal 80-100). It was a strange old place, half a building site, but cheap and all i needed.

Korcula claims Marco Polo was born there, and whilst its true he was actually captured just off the island, nobody really knows where he was born. But its a selling point for tourists, so we did the inevitable Marco Polo Tower trip, which was just kind of pathetic, and then listened to a group of school girls singing acappela in a court yard with great accoustics.

The town itself was strange. Lots of money and effort has gone into making sure that it has been well landscaped and looked after, but many of the buildings seem to be eitehr falling into disrepair, or only now getting renovated. Guess they were waiting for foreign investors, but don't know.

That evening i met up with 4 Aussie girls i'd met in Hvar and on the ferry, and we went to a cool little rooftop cocktail bar - it's on the top of an old fort tower on the seafront, and is reached via a ladder and a hole in the floor, whilst the drinks are winched up the side of the building from below via a series of pulleys. Touristy and gimmicky, yes, but still worth visiting, although somehow we managed to miss (how can you miss it?) sunset.

Again, i'm warbling on waaay too much, so will stop now. Guess this 1 parter will end up with a dozen parts, but i suppose thats how it goes.

Posted by Gelli 03:25 Comments (0)

A month late, and no pics, but it's a start.

Only Part 1, despite meaning to do 2 parts today. You'll just have to wait i'm afraid for the exciting (ahem) continuation of my random trail of semi uncoherent babble.

I really should hate Romania by now. All logic says that i should. And yet i don't. I still love the place. And i'm not even particularly angry. People get bitten by rabid dogs and people get pickpocketed. These things happen. Why take it out on Romania? But i digress. And i havent even started writing yet. This may take some time. Long winded waffle for no apparent reason expect i have 3 hours free internet so i'm going to use it. You have been warned. And no, i've no idea how a blog is supposed to work or what to write.

I know i promised that this would be a kind of regular update, but as most of you are well aware i'm not always hugely reliable, and my time keeping can be hit and miss, especially if it involves mornings. But after increasingly less than subtle hints by the Daams brothers, i figured i probably should do something, and it may as well be on their site. This one, in case you hadn't realised.

To the beginning. Not a great place to start, but it will do.

Whilst most of this trip is very much a make it up as i go along jaunt, the first couple of weeks i knew were on the hectic side as i had lots of people to catch up with and chores to do before i really was free.

Utterly astonishing for so many reasons, but i left without a hitch. The train was on time, and so was I. Hassleholm was passed without incident (for those not in the know, its kind of a southern sweden version of crewe - and i know that also does help most of you - which basically means its a boring sh1thole with a railway junction, and somewhere i tend to get stuck at at strange hours. Even back to the Landy days, my single biggest travelling aim was always just to get past Hassleholm. And any number of people were betting i wouldnt get any further for weeks), and even Hoor - famous winter sleeping tunnel and all - was negotiated without a hitch. I was on a winner, and as if by magic, Denmark arrived.

Got to Odense as planned and met by an extremely happy Anna-lise. Had a wonderful celebratory evening (shes just finished her theses and is now officially a doctor of coral or seaweed or whatever the heck it is. I really should know these things) with the whole family. The thing about it being the whole family was that excepting one grandmother, it really was. All 48 of them. And me. Who everybody knew about, in waaay too much detail. Meaning i was prized exhibit, and being shown off to numerous random Danish people, all bar her parents i'd never met before.
Interest was high, as apparently i was the first bf that she had actually introduced to any of the rest of the extended family. I don't think i offended anybody too badly, but i almost certainly did. It was slightly on the overwhelming side having so many people coming up and being introduced, but mostly asking me the same things (no, we are NOT planning kids soon, regardless of how nice an appartment they were going to buy for us). I slept in a hedge as it was easiest.

Left the next day as planned, although i have had days i was feeling better. After an overnighter notable only for the fact i got a free upgrade from seat to bed despite me actually wanting the seat, caught up with Aldo in Vaduz as the end of a long running bet which we dont need to go into, and then after a nice breezy start (4.17am - yay) the following day, went to Wien. Stopped off for a few hours in Hopfgarten in the Tirol where i had a couple of beers with Colin, who'd i'd not seen in probably 18 months, and met his really cool new Aussie (Ozzie?) missus, Helen.
Trawlled into Wien aound 10, and over to Luca and Jelena's. An hour later, Jelena discovers she's pregnant. Wow. And huge congrats. The idea of Luca as a dad was just funny to begin with, but they should make great parents. We sSpent a couple of days doing nothing much in Wien, except some wandering around and a bit of touristy stuff including a trip on the Risenrad (the Ferris wheel in Prater), which oddly none of us had ever been on before, but was cool.

Wien - Jel.. Luca 2.JPG
Wien - Reisenrad.JPG
Went off to Cesky Krumlov for a night to be a stupid beer drinking tourist, and catch up with a few people. It pissed it down. This is to become a reccuring theme, and i'm not even anywhere near Tromso, Bergen or Wales. Met the first in a long line of people with connections (more later) to me or places i've been based, as the first backpackers i talked to were 2 guys, one from Hassleholm, the other Hoor...

C Krumlov ..tyard 3.JPGC Krumlov ..astle 3.JPG

Returned to Wien and things started to go wrong. Details aren't important, but all was not quite as happy in paradise as i'd always believed. Suffice to say that you really dont want to be trying to keep 2 hysterical people who are intent on beating the cr*p out of each other whilst screaming/crying/yelling enthusiastically in serbo-croat and brandishing knives/saucepans and lots of other stuff for several hours.

Took my leave the next morning and got to ponder the vagairies of life. There is hope, but they both need to be really careful they don't blow it completely. Went to Bled where i met Paul, a half czech guy from Newbury (groan) and tried to kind of get out of work mode by doing nothing - yes, i know thats is still work mode, but technically, there is a difference. Wandered up to the nearby Drustvo Gorge (worth the trip) after cunningly managing to get lost on a straight road. Came back a different route and were impressed by the sight which beheld us as we round a corner near the hill top. A good couple of hundred OAPS, all horribly drunk (it was barely noon) were dancing to local folk music, whilst surrounded by lots of acid smilie faced yellow balloons. They all seemed happy, although the combination of lots of drunk old people with scores of cars to get home off the top of a very steep and windy track was not one i particularly wanted to ponder long.
Vintgar 1.JPG

Continued as planned to Ljubljana, where things almost started to unravel. Slobo and Melanie were somehow stuck in Chicago for whatever reason, and been told they had to wait 2 days for a new flight. Which meant my free accom wasnt accessible. In my naivety, i'd assumed that finding a hostel or cheap bed in May in Ljub wouldnt be a majot hassle. 450 euros, or 70 euros in Kranj, 30km away said otherwise. After a short sms convo, Miha quite happily offered me his spare room, and it was gratefully accepted. With Miha still working for a couple of hours, the amazing Katja then welcomed me to their home - a stunning, large central appartment - despite never even having heard of me 20minutes peviously. The world is full of fantastic people. Later, the 3 of us hooked up with Bara (now finally offerd the Finnish placement she's been aiming for ages) and Igor on the 3rd official TT Ljubljana pissup, and i'm happy to report that i had no subsequent problems, unlike the first pissup where i was hopsitalised the next day in Fortezza and out of it for a week.

As Slobo and Melanie finally were offered London instead of Munich and so on their way, spent a couple of very pleasnat days doing trips around Slovenia with and without Miha&Katja, including up to Planica (the first time i'd seen it without snow and 20000 people - its the ski flying hill and season finale) and Skofa Loka which i'd never been, but was very pleasant. Did the first in what rapidly has become the other trend to date, and climbed the hill. I've suddenly started climbing every hill anywhere near a town, for no apparent reason. It was scorching hot, i didnt end up exactly where i was aiming (close enough) and perused some of the most amazing signposts seen - photos follow - up a mountain, all of which seemed to be taking the p1ss out of the people walking up, but which later dawned on me were actually part of a kind of fitness circuit half way up the mountain. Also, caught up with Ruzica for a few beers on Eurovision night (i just couldnt watch) and an assortment of her colleagues over for a conference, including people from Delft and town planners from Birmingham. The world is too damned small.
Skofa Loka 1.JPG
Skofa Loka 2.JPG
Skofa Loka River 1.JPG
Valley shot.JPG

Slobo - Mel update. They made it to London. Their bags didn't.

Took an early bus down to Rijeka in Croatia (2 buses and 3 trains a day, but 2 of the trains leave at exactly the same time as the buses, meaning it was useless) on which i was the only passenger for the full 3 hours, and after meeting Anna-Lise after her Edinboro trip, we went onwards to Pula via some typically psycotic bus driving. Broke my rucksack zip. Bugger. I like Pula, and the area, but i'm still not as impressed with it as the hype is made out to be. The Colloseum is in amazingly good shape, and stunning, and the central core is undoubtedly pretty, but... We had a stunningly amazing plate of squid, and finally started to properly relax and get into holiday mode.

Pula - Ampitheatre 1.JPG
Pula - Ampitheatre 5.JPG
Pula - Chu..d tower.JPG
Pula - Gateway.JPG

Slobo and Mel's bags had been found, and the cunning plan was formed of them flying into Venice where their bags would be forwarded onto the same day, and then coming down the coast instead of them going via Ljubljana. It worked a treat except that there is a slight different between Venice, Italy, and Venice, Louisiana.

Went from there up the coast to Rovinj, which i just love. I couldnt tell you why, but it just feels right to me, and the old town is wonderful and mostly unspoilt, although relatively small. Ignoring the fact that it (like all of the Istrian peninsula, even so early in the season was packed with Germans - menus in many places aren\t even in Croat or Italian, just German).

Rovinj - Town view 1.JPG
Rovinj - Harbour 1.JPG

Lucked out on accomodation and we got an appt for the price of a room as the owner prefered it to be used, meaning i could put my vast culinary skills to use, and Slobo and Mel finally arrived, with luggage and a hefty chunk of compensation, a week later than planned, and also heard that the result of Jelena's first scan was that she is carrying twins!

One of these days i will actually get to know a normal married couple, who have one baby at a time, with no complications, the parents are known, she's not a virgin, he's not sleeping with her sister or any other of the fecked up things that seem to keep happening. I'm convinced i will, but it hasnt happened yet.

Unfortunately we got the news that A-L's grandmother, the one i hadnt met, passed away, which kind of killed off the feel and effort that it had taken to get all 4 of us in the same place at the same time. A few hours later after arranging her short notice tickets to the Faroe isles - an interesting challenge in itself - we walked around town, figuring that it might help more than her sitting in the room in mourning. And as we walked around town i did something that i do far too often, and knew it would cause trouble.

I opened my big mouth. I kind of knew it would get me into trouble before i said it, but the warning from my brain didnt stop my mouth going for it. There was a stall type thing for Avon in the main square, with the slogan "Avon - the company for women", and i just came straight out with 'i thought that was Hoover'. Bad move. I'm not sure exactly what made it so bad, and am still trying to work it out now (did her grandmother make vacuum cleaners, maybe, or was an avon lady. I dunno?), but lets just say AL was not impressed and all hell broke loose.

We manged to get back to the room, but she refused all of anything, and shut the world out. She locked herself in and that was that. I couldnt talk to her at all, and the following morning she just left without saying anything. As far as i know she's still in the Faroes, but even a couple of weeks after, we've not talked (phone off or not answered), and all i've managed to get out of her is the occassional sms and a short, terse sounding (and Danish) email. It's a huge shame as something which could have been very serious looks over, and i've no idea why, but that's life i suppose.

C'est La Vie.

Your bored, aren't you? Don't blame me. I'm not forcing you to read.

I honestly will continue later, to get to the whole romania hating dog attacking pickpocketing type thing i promised earlier, via broken arms, UKHO, Strange Bosnians, VW Golfs, Ceaucescu's head chef and animal Karma, but i've run out of time, so it will have to wait.

Have fun all.

And yes, we all know that i can't type.

Posted by Gelli 01:53 Comments (8)

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