The Next Trip

Now I regained the desire to blog I needed to plan the next trip. This will be the first trip in two years. I had plenty of ideas floating around in my head. After much deliberation I have decided that I will be visiting Bulgaria.

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The visit is going to take place towards the end of September. I have set the following itinerary for myself:

1. Sofia (3 nights) 27 – 29/09
2. Plovdiv (3 nights) 30/09 – 02/10
3. Varna (3 nights) 03 – 05/10
4. Veiliko Tarnovo (3 nights) 06 – 08/10
5. Sofia (2 nights) 09 & 10/10

There were other places I wanted to visit but on researching I found that accommodation was limited. It should allow me to see a fair chunk of Bulgaria allowing for day trips outside the cities.

For me the fun will now start with the planning and as I check the Easyjet app on my phone there are 191 days until I leave. Maybe there will be a chance that I can sneak in another quick trip.

What do you think of my trip? I would love to hear from you.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

 

Balkans Day 8, 15 September – What a Pleasant Surprise

After one week on the road I was moving on to another country, Bosnia Herzegovina and the city of Mostar. It was an early start to the day and I tried my best not to wake anybody as I left the hostel. I think I succeeded in that regard.

The coach journey started by crossing into Bosnia and then back into Croatia before crossing again into Bosnia. I noticed that the signs were both in Latin and the Cyrillic alphabet. However, reminders of the war were evident as the Cyrillic signs were spray painted out. Eventually I arrived into Bosnia and the first thing that I noticed was the beautiful scenery. It was spectacular. Normally on a coach journey I would either read a book or catch up on some sleep. On this journey there was no chance of that as I was struck in awe.

View at first rest stop in Bosnia

Eventually I arrived into Mostar Bus Station. I needed the loo before I left for the hostel. The toilet had seen better days. Both urinals were broken and the main toilets were squat ones. I think I'll hold on until I get to the hostel.

The Hostel Madjas was something else. It felt more like somebody's home than being in a hostel. So much so I was told off for not taking off my shoes before entering the building.

After checking in I went off to explore the city. I was with Audrey an American who was also staying at the hostel. Audrey wanted to climb the minuet at the Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque. It did seem a good idea at the time. However, this view changed as I realised how unfit I had become. That was a hard climb. That said, the views were worth the effort. We could see the old bridge and we were lucky that somebody had decided to jump off.

A smile of relief

Making our way across the bridge Audrey had agreed to meet up with a couple of Australians, Jonno and Claire. They were on an adventure of their own tomorrow by flying to Amman, Jordan via Istambul. Jonno pointed out a empty sheel of a building. Apparently this was used by Croatian snipers during the war. If this was the UK the building would have been closed off due to health and safety fears. Here, we were free to explore. The building is now used by the homeless, drunks and drug addicts but you could climb all the way to the top. You could see the used cartridges that were left. It was chilling to be able to pick them up. It all seemed surreal. Again at the top of the building you get great views of Mostar.

Used Cartridge
View from the sniper tower

Moving on we crossed through a park. Here we came across a sight that only Eastern Europe could bring. A statue of Bruce Lee. Why is it there? Nobody could answer.

We were told about the abandoned Partisan war cemetery, so we made our way there. As we entered we were given some funny looks by the local population. There were no signs and it had all become overgrown. I felt sad as I came across the broken gravestones. It was clear that this cemetery has been allowed to fall in disrepair. These stones were Muslim and I was in the Croatian part of Mostar. A Croatian state was established by Hitler during WWII.

The Partizan War Cemetary

Back at the hostel I enjoyed my first Bosnian coffee. The ritual behind it was interesting. However, being left handed pouring became awkward. I met up with more travellers. They were from all over the world. Australians, Germans, Belgians and French. We all decided to go for a meal. In the evening Mostar becomes quiet. It felt that we were to only people there.

Stari Most at night

We ate at a restaurant called Hindin Han that served traditional Bosnian food. The food was delicious and proved to be of excellent value. The atmosphere was great as we were people who loved travelling. Swapping tales of the road was a great way to end the day.

Fellow travellers

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

 

Balkans Day 5, 12 September – Maybe I Should Say No More

Today I felt like a real traveller as I was leaving for Dubrovnik. I had enjoyed my time in Split and the hostel. I felt sad not being able to say goodbye to Josko. Having arrived at the coach station I was greeted by a scene of organised chaos. So many people looking to leave by coach. Got on my coach though was shocked to having to pay to put my luggage in the hold.

The journey itself started with no problems. However, by the afternoon the weather had turned. I could see the lightning hovering above the coach and soon after the heavens opened. I had not seen rain like this in a long while. It was that bad the local police closed the main road and the coach was diverted through a single track village. This delayed the coach. I arrived into Dubrovnik nearly two hours late. The journey though did have some highlights, namely the stunning views when the weather was good.

View from the coach

When I arrived into the hostel I think Neno the owner was a little annoyed with me arriving so late. However, he did not show it. The hostel itself was underground which meant it felt cool and it was only about 200 metres from the old town.

I went into the old town for a bite to eat. Back at the hostel I was enjoying the company of the the other travellers. We were listening to music and playing games. It was like the United Nations with America, Belgium, UK, Germany and Uruguay being represented. I was enjoying myself. This is why against my better judgement I was persuaded to go clubbing. It was an experience that ultimately left me cold. The night had started out alright. We were drinking in the Irish bars. I noticed that the menu in one bar was offering Chicken Nuggets. In a town full of restaurants they appeared not to be trying.

The night started to turn with the introduction of vodka. One of the party had smuggled in a bottle and proceeded to empty into our glasses. Fortunately someone brought some 7up to dilute the taste. We made our way to the nightclub. There one of the party (not me) seemed to lose control of themself. The atmosphere inside the club did not feel right. I was glad to leave.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

 

Balkans Day 3, 10 September – Need to Slow Down

There was a late start to the day. The past couple of days have been hectic. The hostel served breakfast which consisted of scrambled eggs and zucchini fritters. It was tasty and well worth the wait. My plan was to explore the town and make my way towards the market.

The sun was still out so it was right to enjoy the day. Split is a small city so it was easy to explore. There were plenty of opportunities to take photos.

The edge of the market.
Outside of the palace wall
The Croatian National Theater
The Peristyle of Diocletian's Palace

 

Off course it was the perfect opportunity to enjoy the first gelato of the trip. Today I had Jaffa flavour. That's chocolate and orange to you and me.

Umm, Jaffa flavour

By the mid-afternoon I was starting to flag. Time to get back to the hostel for a quick nap. After waking up I decided I was going to stay in for the night. Josko was cooking a meal for us so it felt right to take things easy. Josko also mentioned that he was planning to take a group of us to the national park. I had heard so much about this from both Josko and Charles. Without too much thought I said yes. I knew I was going to look forward to this. Roll on tomorrow.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

 

Balkans Day 1, 8 September – I Leave Today, What Can Go Wrong Now.

After months of planning and counting down the days the day has finally arrived to leave. I think that everybody was starting to get sick of me talking about the trip. My team I suspect were glad to see the back of me for the next three weeks. The trip has been my only focus for 2013 and it may have cost me a few sleepless nights and lost nights out.

At 7:20pm I left for the bus to take me into Birmingham. My backpack weighed heavy but it felt good to have it on my back again. No problems with the bus and I was soon at Birmingham Central Coach Station. All I need now is the coach. It arrives but was told it had pulled into the wrong bay. So everybody waited for the coach to move bays. We were going to leave late.

Once loaded the coach eventually left station. At the first set of traffic lights the driver gets off the coach and starts to check the rear indicators. This is not a good sign. We carry on until the we reach the outskirts of Coventry. The driver stops the coach, the lights had gone. Now it was time to panic as I have a connecting coach to catch. If there was a problem why did the driver say something at Birmingham. Upon advice from the garage in Birmingham the driver reset the lights. Low and behold they start to work again. Off we move towards Coventry Bus Station. What else could go wrong now.

Coventry Bus Station was chaos. It looked like that too many passengers had been loaded in Birmingham. The gentleman who was travelling with his son quite rightly was angry and refused to leave the coach. I think the driver allowed somebody to travel who was booked on another service. Anyway good fortune arrived when a woman offered to leave the coach and get another service.

We left Coventry at 22:40 over an hour later than planned. At least the coach to Gatwick Airport runs every hour, so I should in with a chance of getting on a later service. We will have to wait for the next day.

 

I’m Back

I have been back from my Balkans trip for a few days. This has given me time to reflect on the effect it has had on me. My colleagues at work have all noticed that I could not wipe the smile off my face. It was down to having the greatest of times while travelling.

I was grateful to work for allowing me to take three weeks off in the first place. This allowed me for the first time to plan a multi-destination trip. I had always wanted to visit the old Yugoslavia.

The trip itself went better than I had expected. From day 1 I met some great people who took me for what I was. Indeed, there were some people who admired me for travelling solo at my age. During the whole trip I felt alive and stress free. It is definitely something I want to do more. It was the best of times. The only problem I encountered was financial. This is one of the things I can learn from for future travels.

How do I feel now the trip is over? Surprisingly better than I thought. Last year when I returned from Prague and Bratislava I found myself bursting into tears. Now, I feel different. Maybe it is because I am a more experienced travellers. Also I felt a sense of achievement with my latest trip. It is said if you can survive a three week journey then the next step will be to undertake a longer trip. My dream is to take a long time away from work and go on a trip lasting six months or longer.

I am feeling more confident. Solo travel gives you that feeling as you have to think a lot on your feet. Meeting new people is something I feel difficult at home, yet this is not problem when travelling. After all we have something in common. Travel is the glue that binds us together. I like to feel that I have gained a level of respect from my work colleagues. They cannot stop talking to me about my trip.

What have I learnt for my next trip? The main lesson will be to be more flexible with my itinerary. I will have a starting and finishing location. This will give me the freedom to plan my destinations. Also I lave learnt not to be in one place for too long. I averaged three nights in each location. In hind site it could have been two and I could have seen more. Allow time to write my journal, update the blog and catch up on my emails. I had been lazy so I am catching up with myself.

To finish I would like to thank everybody who I have met during the trip. It has made my time more special. I wish you all safe travels.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

 

Photo of the Week – The Last Day of Summer

This week's photo was taken last Thursday. I had just arrived into Zagreb for the final leg of my Balkans trip.

You can see from the temperature the weather was good. The sun was shining and everything seemed fine with the world. The next day saw the temperature turn colder and with it went summer.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve