It hasn’t been my first time in the Balkans. The first time I came here, with a visit to Ljubljana included, was in the Holy Week of 2011. That was my first contact with this part of Europe, and of course, I didn’t know I would have ended up living here for some months. Before that, this land was a mystery to me. Then, I came for some days in my first visit and I loved it. It’s a region with a lot of History, many conflicts and clashes between people –too many, unfortunately, I think.
Now, that I know a bit more about the World, and about Europe and some other cultures, I just wanted to go a bit deeper in the sight I had of this region, and a bit broader; that’s it: knowing other places around the ones that I had already known, and knowing some more a bit further away.
Therefore, now that it was Summer and I had the Adriatic Sea so close, I wanted to spend some time at the seaside first. So I planned the trip going along the Croatian shoreline, stopping in some different cities that I didn’t know. In my first trip I stopped in Pula and Dubrovnik, so now I wanted to visit some other places: I decided to go the Slovenian shore first, then Zadar, and then Split to end up in Kotor. And then I would go to the interior, to finally come back to Zagorje.
Once made the rough plan, I headed to Koper, where I spent one night, while I went for a day to Piran and Izola. Given the weather we had had in Zagorje, I didn’t bring my swimsuit with me. Too bad the weather there was perfect! So I couldn’t have a bath in that first day while watching everybody swim :(. However, I liked Piran very much as a city, and I enjoyed a lot walking around or just having a coffee or an ice-cream. On the other hand, I expected much more from Izola. But well, not every city can be as beautiful as Piran, right?
Then I tried to go to Zadar hitchhiking. For me it was my first time doing it, and now I know I may have done too ambitious plans. So, for my first time doing it, I first went to Postojna and from there I tried to reach Reka, as I thought it would be easier than from Koper. I was taken by two persons, first to Pivka and then to near the Croatian border, but it took me too much. Once in Croatia, no one stopped me, even if many of them were going to Reka, so I got a little bit frustrated. All this damned German tourists… They don’t care about anyone else :'(. Till I was visited by a not very kind Croatian officer, who told me to go away from there. So at that point I thought I would reach Reka by foot. Come on, 23 kms, that’s not that much. But still, everytime a car passed by me, which wasn’t happening so much in that secondary road, I tried to hitchhike again; and finally, a very kind woman stopped by me and took me to Reka. It was nice, because she did that even if she didn’t speak a very good English. But we communicated somehow and I was finally able to reach Reka. However, it was too late to try to go to Zadar at that time. And the World Cup final was about to begin, damn!
Then, I went to the bus station to buy the first ticket to Zadar, cause I had the bed booked there, and I managed to watch a part of the match. But then I had to go onto the bus, and I didn’t know who was going to win the World Cup! Once on the bus, and trying to understand just anything at a Croatian radio station (simply not possible), I got asleep; until we reached some place in the Croatian shoreline and then we could see all the German players (on the tv) and German people (in the street) celebrating. Oh, well, I was supporting Argentina, but if Germany deserved it more, it’s fine. I still have to watch the full game.
I finally arrived to Zadar at about 3 in the night. I went to my hostel by foot, and then got a very well deserved sleep. Next day I went to the city centre to enjoy a little bit of it. And after some sightseeing and some little shopping, I decided to go to the beach to spend some time just lying there and having a bath. It was perfect there, in such a millenary city, chilling out by the Adriatic Sea… until the rain came to say ‘not anymore’. Nevertheless, I felt at that time I had seen all I had to see at Zadar, so I decided to move again. Now to Split. I booked some bed for that night at the hostel (OMG, the prices are so high at season there…) and then I left Zadar.
The landscapes along Dalmatia are so beautiful that I was amazed. Such a beautiful place and I hadn’t heard about it as much as it deserved! It was almost a sin to fell asleep and miss all these landscapes. But when I arrived to Split, I was even more shocked: tie together those landscapes and the beauty of history, and it can merely be described. No wonder all those tourists had thought the same than me. Come on, go home and let me enjoy it alone! Too many of them. But well, who can blame them. They are an important part of Croatian economy. So I guess that standing them for the Croats is much easier, at least for some few months.
So I arrived at dusk, and I begin exploring Split’s old city… It was awesome. Every little street, every corner, every window or door, were telling me so much. I didn’t want to go, but I had to find my hostel and rest a little bit, so I had to leave this old city for now. I found my hostel, had a shower (that I needed), and then I went back to the city to have a quick walk and take some photographs. And then I went to bed to wait for the next day. The next day I did first the committed sightseeing, enjoying every little part of it, and once I was done, I went to find the first calm beach I found near the city centre. I found it after some indications and the I used the rest of the afternoon just relaxing there. But damn stones! I love Croatian beaches, the water is totally perfect; but the stones are a condemnation. It hurts so much going in and out of the water. Unsurprisingly, I collected some more wounds for my collection of Croatian souvenirs.
The following day I decided to go to the island of Hvar, not to Hvar city, but to Stari Grad instead. I needed just a sea day, without thinking about buses, timetables, prices, etc. And that’s what I did. I think it was the best day in all my trip. Doing some tourism and sightseeing is fine, but the main goal of tourism is just to relax; I think. And on this day I completely managed to do it. It was a pity I was alone during this part of the trip, cause it would have been so nice to go out and enjoy Split’s nightlife. But it will have to be for the next visit.
Then I got ready to begin my trip among a completely new destination: Montenegro. I headed first to Kotor, as a friend had told me very nice things about it; and when I arrived, it didn’t dissapoint me: it was absolutely beautiful. Kotor Bay, with those really high mountains, then coming to the sea, with some Venetian cities around left me astounded. When I arrived I understood those Venetian merchants, why they established there: with these mountains, cities here are like inside a natural fortress. The first thing I did after arriving was to look for a place to spend the night, and once I had it, I went to swim a little bit. It was the beginning of the evening and people had already left the beach, but as there was still light, it was perfect. No persons and almost all the beach just for me. Unfortunately the water here isn’t as clean as in some other places; but I enjoyed the bath anyway.
For the night, the persons in charge of my hostel had programmed a barbeque by the sea with the rest of the people of my hostel, and I went there to meet another two Spanish guys who were travelling in the Balkans by bike, and three Japanese people. It was a nice night. Though we went to bed early; these guys had to leave early with their bicycles and I wanted to go at first hour in the morning up in the mountain. And that’s what I did. I wanted to take some photos from the top of Kotor’s fortress, and it costed a little bit, but I finally managed to do it. I would have liked to spend more time there in Kotor, but it was already Friday and I had just 2 days to go to Belgrade.
I hitchhiked to Podgorica, where I spend some hours trying to be taken to Belgrade too. But it wasn’t possible. No one seemed to go to Belgrade, though I don’t think so. From Kotor to Podgorica, it was a Montenegrin judge who took me, and we had a really nice chat in the trip; but for the second part of my trip, no one seemed to take this poor little traveller to Belgrade. So, I had no more option than to take a night bus to there. But it took me 10 hours!! They don’t look so far one from another in the map. I thought it would be like the half of it, or something like that. But no. I guess the roads in this part of Europe aren’t as good as in mine. But finally, after a night sleeping not very well, I arrived to Belgrade.
I arrived at 6 in the morning, and as I began walking I was surprised of how empty it was. I didn’t think of the time, of course. Or I’m maybe used to my new Slovenian timetables, where everything begins so early? I don’t know. But after some hours walking, I understood at last there were many people in Belgrade, it was just they didn’t want to wake up early like me –and I understand them-. And that’s how I spent my last day in the trip: walking around Belgrade, and even to Zemun. I met some people at the hostel, but I was sooo tired that I had to go to sleep early. It was a shame that I couldn’t enjoy Belgrade’s nightlife, but that will have to be left for the next time, too.
And then, the next day, I took the 10-hours train that left me at Zidani Most, and from there I got home. Finally at home. I needed to rest a little bit; until the next trip.
Agustin, EVS volunteer