Yes, we’re back in Halifax, BUT I have one more blog to make. I’m not sure if it’s still a travel blog since we’re not technically still travelling, but I won’t get too hung up on semantics.
On November 15th, Lindy caught a plane from Ljubljana to Paris, and I took the bus to Zagreb, Croatia. It was about a 2-3 hour, or 5-6 podcasts length bus ride from one Balkan capital to the next.
Once I had arrived at the hostel, it was basically supper time. I didn’t feel like grocery shopping and making my own meal, so I elected to dine out.
Uh oh. I’ve never gone to a restaurant by myself. Will it be awkward and weird?
Yes, yes it was awkward and weird. I won’t be going to a restaurant by myself again. Some people might be able to pull it off, but not this guy.
The band that we were going to see was doing a consecutive 11 day tour at different venues in Zagreb to commemorate their 11 years together. Each of the 11 nights had music of a different style, funk, acoustic, etc… The night I was in attendance was heavy metal!
The people at the hostel knew the band, and there was a photographer going around so I happened to be in some of the pictures.
I didn’t see as much of Zagreb as other cities, basically because I was just hanging around with the people I met, which is good, because as an extroverted person I tend to get bored pretty quickly doing things by myself.
I spent a quick three nights in Zagreb, having some great conversation with Ellen from Michigan at the huge Zagreb city park, taking a day trip to the spectacular Plitvice National Park, and seeing a movie at the Zagreb film festival (The New Kid, great movie).
It was tough to leave Zagreb, but I only had 8 nights left before flying from Podgorica, Montenegro to London to meet Lindy, then to fly back to Canada.
I caught the bus from Zagreb to Split (highlighted below), another 5 hours or so in transit heading south on the east side of the bow tie shaped Croatia. I had only scheduled two nights in Split, unsure of whether I was going to head to Sarajevo or Dubrovnik afterwards.
For basically a month I had been trying to find some sort of adventure activity I could do. Be it rock climbing, canyoning, rafting, hang gliding… but everywhere I got the same answer, “closed for the season”.
BUT FINALLY, one group emailed me back and said I could rock climbing right outside of Split, in the very pretty, former pirate base of Omis. Why was climbing the one activity still open? Iris, the woman who drove me there and gave instructions, says “I climb everyday anyway, so I may as well bring people along and get paid for it!”. That's an optimism I can get behind.
If you find yourself in Split and looking for action packed activity, look for Iris Adventure. They are fantastic. This woman was one of those people who you can’t guess the age for, somewhere between 32 and 48 is my best guess. Brimming with energy and passion for climbing, she’s basically climbed every mountain range in the world. Including an Everest summit, while spending several months in the Himilayas.
Anywho, as a long time boulderer, this was my first time climbing top rope outside. And it was amazing, we had 20 degree temperature and clear blue skies.
That night, I had decided to go straight to Sarajevo the next morning and save the now famous Dubrovnik for another trip.
Another bus ride, this time a not-so-easy one (the bus broke down like 4 times), brought me into Bosnia, specifically the capital city of Sarajevo.
Sarajevo had a lot of very small bits of reputation with me, but was largely unknown, for example:
In 1914, the prince and heir to Austrohungarian throne (the Austrohungarian Empire, prior to WW1 was one of the European powers along with Britain, France, Germany, among others, but no longer exists) was on a visit to Sarajevo, the heart of the Austrohungarian controlled Balkan countries to promote and strengthen the relationship. Unfortunately for this well meaning prince named Franz Ferdinand, a group of freedom fighters, or terrorists depending on your allegiances, hatched a plan to assassinate him.
This gave the shooter a point blank opportunity, which went successfully. This triggered World War One, the fall of the Austrohungarian empire, Adolf Hitler, German nationalism.... yadda, yadda, yadda, here we are today. Essentially a very different world.
Google "Blueprint for Armageddon" to learn more.
Bosnia was the first country I spent any real time in that sometimes I had trouble finding English speaking people, so having arrived at night time at a bus station outside of town with no one else around, was a little uncomfortable, but like most things, it turned out just fine. I was only over charged 10 Bosnian marks for the cab I took, which is about $3. Really not the end of the world.
This cab ride gave me my first taste of what it's like to be in a relatively recently war torn country. What this cab driver, along with every Bosnian over the age of 25, volunteered to discuss with me is how they were impacted by the war from 1991-1995.
I'd spend my five nights in Sarajevo at a great hostel on the edge of the bowl that the city sits in, leading to some pretty nice views of a recently snow covered city. I could divide my Sarajevo experience into four main categories
Some the "etc" that occurred after the Franz Ferdinand assassination, included the formation, and crumbling of Yugoslavia. The break up of Yugoslavia did not go smoothly.
You may recall that I mentioned Slovenia was involved in conflict for 10 days, Bosnia and Herzegovina were at the other end of the spectrum where fighting lasted for almost four years.
All of these horrors being said, the Sarojevan people were among the friendliest, funniest, and most interesting people I met on the trip. They had a terrific, dark sense of humour and an eagerness to share stories. I love hearing stories, so I was in a good spot.
The only downside to Sarajevo was the smoke, as in the second hand kind. We had a fantastic night at Kino Bosna, a Monday night party at an old movie theatre converted into a bar. The only problem was that it felt like the bar was inside the smoke stack of a coal power plant.After 45 minutes I kind of got used to the smoke and was able to enjoy the evening with the great group of people we had.
The next morning I woke up with a pair of lungs that had apparently been filled with sand during the night. I don't know if that's what heavy smokers feel all the time, but it's certainly something I'm going to try to avoid in the future.
We should have planned more.
There were more than a couple times we almost got hung out to dry by making assumptions, rather than doing the extra planning and research. Whether it was having to pull an unplanned 10 hour driving day, almost breaking an ankle looking for the Munich Bus Station, or learning that trains don't travel from Italy to Slovenia after you've landed in Italy. At times, more planning would have helped.
People also feel compelled to travel an entire duration with whoever the have departed with (group of friends, father, cousin, wife, etc...). So we innately planned to travel the three months together, but that isn't the best option for many people as we learned from others and our own experiences.
What a fantastic trip from every aspect. Here's to resuming the adventure in the Spring.