Thursday, April 12, 2007

Right now I'm sitting at an internet cafe in Tirana, Albania. I know right, I didn't think I would be here either, but that's just how things happen. This morning I woke up Kotor, Montenegro which is probably the most beautiful place I've ever seen. Lonely Planet says it has the biggest fjord in Europe and it lived up to every expectation. I can't upload any pictures until I get back, so I've stolen some links from online. Check out for yourself what its like.

The day started at 5 am, as we packed and had a nice 45 minute walk from our hotel/hostel to the bus station in Kotor. We got a bus from there to Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro. In Podgorica we were informed that to get into Albania, we had to get a taxi to the border, walk ourselves across the Albanian, Montenegrin border and then get a minibus on the other side. From there we got a minibus from the border to Skodor (US travel advisory for this city). From here we got a regular bus (which only departs once its completely full - they have plastic chairs for people sitting in the aisle) and got to Tirana about 2 pm. We wandered around and found our hostel with some very helpful Albanians.

Off to explore the city we tried to go into a mosque. We were informed that it was time for prayer and that later would be better. The guy that explained this then went on to lecture us about what a terrible rap Islam has and how we should convert. 33,000 people in the US converted to Islam after 9/11, I guess we should be some of them.

Well anyway deterred by that we went and got some delicious pasta and pizza for barely anything. The city is insanely cheap. Then me and two other guys on the program (a group of nine started out but now we're down to six) walked to some of the worst parts of town and found a nice local bar. The nicest guy was running the place and apologized for not talking to us because he was making a new railing for the front steps (in front of us). We about made him cry when we gave him a $1 tip for 3 $1 beers.

Then we were walking back to the hostel when we spotted the sky tower which is a bar 13 stories above Tirana with a rotating sitting area. This we didn't know until our packages were sitting on the balcony and rotating away from us. I had apple pie that cost $2.50 on top of Albania.

My friend Kenrich spotted a ferris wheel from the top of the tower that we really wanted to see. So after seeking it out, we arrived just in time for it to close down.

I should add a bit about the craziness of our journey. So many methods of transportation. Crossing the border from Montenegro into Albania is bizarre. You have to travel on all these one way mountain roads with no sign of civilization. Makes you think about all those creepy movies after a little while. Then when you get to the border a ton of people are crowding around. As soon as we were on the albanian side this crazy taxi driver sprints down to try and give us a ride, but we found the minibus instead.

Well that just sums up today. Tomorrow we're doing the border procedure again as we head to Lake Ohrid in Macedonia.

Yesterday was a day of swimming and fishing in Montenegro. I'll have more later. The day before that I woke up in Mostar, Bosnia Hergovina, spent 3 hours touring around Dubrovnik, Croatia and then landed in Kotor Montenegro. I had never heard of any of these places until mere months ago. I'm extremely lucky to be able to do this and I can't believe this has to end on Sunday. Still have Macedonia and Belgrade to make it through until I get back. Probably once I get back I'll give the full updates on Sarajevo, Mostar, Dubrovnik and Kotor which were all amazing places. New nickname of trip: The Balkan's Greatest Hits.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Right now Im sitting at our hostel in Sarajevo. For the next few days, Im gonig to post whenever i get a chance so I dont forget anything about our trip, and my parents dont worry too much. Sorry there wont be any pictures, but just google bosnia if you are interested.

We left Budapest Thursdaz night at 1130. I was at the train station buying my ticket at 5 pm when I started talking to this Canadian guy. Turns out after half our he was born in Montenegro and was going to Belgrade that night. Well I invited him over for a drink and then we just hung out on our balcony for a few hours. We were supposed to meet up in Belgrade, but he ditched me. In addition to the nine of us that are going to be travelling in the Balkans for 10 days (itinerary: Belgrade, Sarajevo, Mostar, Dubrovnik, Montenegro, Albania or Kosovo, Macedonia and home). we met an English girl and kid from New Zealand as well as a couple of Californians.

Belgrade was cool, we walked around the citadel for a few hours and then got a bus to Sarajevo. The bus ride was absolutly amaying. Beyond imaginable. Just like that movie Behind Enemy Lines for 8 hrs. Yes it was 8 hrs of hills, so it was a little sickening, but ok in the end.

The bus comes into the Serbian side of Sarajevo because its probably full of Serbs from Belgrade, so we had to ride public transportation for the 20 km into town. Two guys Andrew and Kenrich didnt know how the sytem worked and didnt validate their tickets. Normally not a problem but two controllers got on the tram. Well after lots of shouting (us in Englihs, them inCroatian) we finally give in to paying a fine. These guys were real assholes adn just looking to make a buck. The other people on the bus advised us not to pay, but they called the police so we gave in. Ill elaborate on thsi story more.

Our hostel is amaying, right downtown Sarajevo. The city has a feel unlike any other. Its small, and has mosques and churches everywhere. Its short too so its like a ski resort town feel almost. Wećre only just here, and Im really excited to get out and explore. Ill keep you updated.