Italy and the Balkans Part 2

 

Part 2

The second part was a quick trip to the balkans, and I tired to see how much I could see in 5 days.

On the Monday, I flew into Belgrade, and the thing that struck me, especially as the trip went on, was the contrat between new and old, whether that be roads, buildings, transport, its almost as if they co existed together, when really, the old should’ve given away to the new a long time ago.

Belgrade itself, I didnt mind it, some interesting things to see, some nice views, especially where the Danube and the Sava rivers merge. I was in some military park nearby, where they had old tianks, and some “Victory” monument.

It seemed that the place was getting partially westernised, in that you could go to a KFC for something to eat, and although some buildings looked good, a lot of it seemed very run down, especially the buildings that had been hit by NATO back in 99, 2000, they were still sitting there, falling apart, I thought this was insane.

Another thing was cost. Everything here, a bit like other parts of the Balkans, was dirt cheap, you could buy 20 Marlboro for £1.70, but then again, when you consider that their avergage monthly wage is the equivalent of 500 Euro a month, is it any wonder why its so cheap.

I stayed in a hostel, it was a bit grubby, but it had a nice location, and the fellow travellers were really sound, I owe the Aussies a pint, they woke me up the following morning to get a bus, we all had drinks together in the hostel run bar, got plenty of beers in (Jelen, I think), got friendly with an Irish guy who lived in London, or maybe Guildford, pity I wasn’t able to get his contact details. People here smoke their brains out as well.

I travelled down to Sarajevo, Bosnia on Tuesday, and with feeling hungover, it was a long 7 hour bus journey. The scenery was beautiful, I would highly recommend the balkans for the scenery, pity then, that its still hazardous to go out in certain parts of the countryside, especially in Bosnia, a legacy of the war/breakup of Yugoslavia.

When I got to Sarajevo, it was such a pretty place, like someone had dropped a city into the valleys, the architecture was really nice, the people seemed civil, and as with Serbia, everything was dirt cheap. Unemployment here is horrendous, some official figures are quoted at over 40 %, but as with certyain parts of this world, black market is king, some say its a legacy of the Ottomans, I’ve no idea how factual it is.

One thing I observed, was the amount of Mk2 VW Golf’s, it was like every second car was one, I’ve since found out, prior to the Yugoslav war, VW had a factory in Sarajevo, which explains why theres so many Golf’s.

Some of the public toilets here, remind you that we in the west, have many things to be thankful for, as some public toilets here, were still a hole in the ground.

On day 3, I went down to Croatia, to Dubrovnik, and the scenery just got better and better, I could use cliches like picturesque, but it was so nice travelling through Bosnia, but you were reminded of the legacy of War, what with the amount of graveyard with the same style of headstones, and the memorials along the side of roads.

The bus driver was a lunatic, a bit like quite a few other drivers in this region, but we got to Dubrovnik in one piece. I didnt really go into the new part, passed through it briefly, but I stayed mainly in the old town, which so pretty. The views out from here, into the Adriatic, were breathtaking, and the hostel I stayed in, was nice too. The woman who rani it was really helpful and welcoming.

I got talking to a Brazilian guy from Sao Paolo, a really cool guy, then I headed out to an Irish bar down the street, and met up with others for a few pints. I really enjoeyed staying here, and I would wholly recommend Dubrovnik as a place to go on holiday.

Day 4, which merged into day 5, was spent mainly on the road, travelling to Bar in Montenegro, and then getting the train from Bar back into Belgrade. The road trip had a lot of beautiful scenery, but a bit mountainous in places, one other thing about travelling through these countries is border controls, if you’re not used to it, it can be frustrating at times, but I suppose thats the way it is. I got talking to some young American dude about heavy metal, and travelling in general while on the bus.

As far as punctuality for public transport is concerned, nothing is really on time here, anyone expecting Germanic efficiency might need to adjust their expectations. Wheni got to the train staion, I got my ticket, seen some wreck of a train roll in, I waited a while, as people started to get on this thing, then I reralised, and asked staff here, yes, this was the overnight train to Belgrade!

As I got on, I felt very vulnerable, as my Serbian/Bosnian/Croatian was non existent, I was starving too. The train then stopped somewhere 15 minutes into the journey, and a guy and girl got on, and in a way they were my guardian angels, two Serbs who were returning from holiday in “beautiful Montenegro”, as one other guy put it, who got on later.

Public toilets on the train: probably the worst toilets in the world! The floor was covered in various waste, toilet was fully loaded, nowhere to really was your hands either, absolutely ghastly.

Iva and Serbie seemed really nice, they knew a bit of English, and we all kept each other company, the jounrey took 19 hours, a very long time, whith many stops along the way. Something else I noticed, was the fact that people around here might recognise laws, but not pay too much attention to them.

I noticed one person, on the train, when asked to produce their ticket, they din;t have one, the conductor gives them a slip with some fine on it, and the person just happened to open their wallet, couldn’t help but glance, was full of the same slips/fines.

When I got back to Belgrade, you could see, what I presume, was Novi Grad, or the new parts of Belgade, and they looked modern, yet we were travelling in on this rickety heap of dung!

I then said my farewells, and eventually got a taxi to the airport, to fly back into Milan.

I would definitely suggest the balkans as an alternative holiday, something a bit different, just dod a bit of research beforehand, and you should be fine. I definitely want ot go back again, and check out more of this wonderful region! If it wasn’t for this trip, I might still be unenlightened as regards the genius of Nikola Tesla.

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