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Paul & Luiza´s World Tour

Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro & Croatia – A speedy tour of the Balkans

CROATIA | Thursday, 10 May 2012 | Views [3604]

Destination - Bulgaria (Sofia), Serbia (Nis), Montenegro (Kotor & Herceg Novi) & Croatia (Dubrovinik & Split) – A speedy tour of the Balkans

We leave Greece kicking and screaming just because we really need to buy time outside the Euro Zone in order to come back to the Islands for the summer.  We are off to see some of the Balkans.  After a 5 hour bus from Thessaloniki we arrive in Sofia, Bulgaria.  We booked a hotel for 2 nights near the bus station as we will be arriving at night. The room at the “Kom Guest Rooms” is seriously atrocious, shared bathroom and surprise, surprise, “it really doesn’t look like the pictures on the internet”.  We are tired and it is getting really dark, so we stay anyway.  People in Sofia are nice and helpful and even if they don’t speak English, they will find someone else who does just to help you out, H’VALA (thanks).  

The next morning we take the very nice “Free Walking Tour of Sofia”. The tour really gives a fresh perspective on what turns out to be a nice city.  We meet an nice american guy on the tour and we invite him for a few beers and to try some local food.  He ends up shouting us for lunch, nice touch! The food is crap but I don’t think Bulgaria is known for its haute cuisine. On the other hand, the beer and wine are really good and very affordable, 1 out of 2 ain’t bad.

After Sofia we take a 3 hour bus to Nis in Serbia. We arrive in the morning and find out the night train to Montenegro is not running yet. We’ll have to spend the day in Nis and catch the overnight 13 hour bus. The information ladies at the bus station, as soon as we approach, look at us, shake their heads and shut down their information window on our tired and confused faces.  Ok, more about Serbia? In our experience, the people were not very nice, some being plain rude.  It was the first time in two years where we had serious difficulties communicating with people. Between the two of us we speak English, Portuguese, Spanish and get by on Greek, Italian and understand some French. We always make an effort to learn some basic words before we get to a new country (mostly Paul, I admit) and also we are fluent in all kinds of sign language and we managed to eat local food in Tibet.  Anyway, it took us 3 hours trying to find one of the two restaurants recommended by the tourism information girl.  People either “don’t know” or couldn’t be bothered or just plain ignored us and turned away.  A guy driving by hits Paul’s daypack with his car’s side-mirror and of course he stops, but just to straighten his mirror then keeps going without even looking back.  In the end, hot, tired and defeated, we head off to McDonalds and had a Big Mac meal just coz we could point it out on the menu.  Ok, Nis was not a nice experience and besides the fortress, there’s nothing to see there, the people were not helpful or gentle at all and the most typical dish we could try was a Big Mac.  Well, I suppose decades of hedonistic dictators, bloody regimes, violent wars and a culture of spying on your neighbours can do this to a country. It’s the slowest day ever as we can’t wait to get out.

We take a 13 hour overnight bus to Montenegro and a 30 minute bus to the Bay of Kotor.  As soon as the bus crosses the Montenegro border, the landscape become more beautiful and the atmosphere becomes more relaxed on the bus.  Just our impression? I think NOT.  The lady at the tourism information office helps us find a private studio, big, bright and with amazing views of the bay, old city rooftops and the fortress.  We think we might like it here.  It is beautiful and peaceful, people are polite and helpful and the wine from Skopia, former Macedonia, is really good and sold by the 1.5 litre. The same lady also recommended a fabulous restaurant, “Dobrotski Dvori” where we go for an extreme protein shock, the “mixed grill” platter for two, amazing.  Of course we go back for more of the same the next day and every day after that for meatballs, beef goulash, pasta, more meat and sausages. We climb up to the St John’s Fortress, 1200 metres up, 1350 steps and the most breathtaking views, up and down, in less than 2 hours. We are very proud of ourselves as on the way up we see most people falling like flies before even reaching half of the way up.  We end up staying in Kotor for 5 days and after a quick stop in beautiful Herceg Novi, it is time for Croatia.

After a 1.5 hour bus ride we arrive in beautiful Dubrovinik. As expected, at the bus station, lots of ladies approach us offering private accommodation (apartments). One of the ladies is particularly nice and we stop and listen to her “I have a very nice apartment, 10 minute walk to the old city, Wi-Fi, … and I have a car, you can come and see, I’ll take you, blah blah blah”.  We surrender and follow the nice lady, as it ‘s worked out quite well before for us in other places. The apartment is really nice, big, bright, great kitchen and we manage to bargain the price down (the bliss of off season travels).  The next morning, as we walk to the old city we find out the 10 minutes are really more like 25 minutes, but we’ve read about it before and like our walking so not a problem.  We walk around the amazing old city of Dubrovinik together with hordes of tourists and our first thought is how crowded this place must get in the summer.   On top of all the regular tourists, there are two enormous cruise ships every day pouring out thousands more and it Is just the beginning of spring.  Apart from that, the place is really amazing and we climb up the walls and enjoy their breathtaking views for three days. Now it is time to Split.

We take a five hour bus to Split, the scenery is absolutely amazing, great hills, lakes and the Adriatic Sea. Again we try following the nice lady from the bus station to the private apartment. This time it doesn’t work out as the apartment is not very nice and has no self-catering facilities.   We thank the lady, walk around and find a lovely newly restored apartment. Split looks absolutely stunning, the ocean, the patios, squares, roman ruins, and gothic cathedrals, all in the same spot make for really fantastic sightseeing. The food is not bad either and the wine is sold by the litre, what’s not to love? At this stage, we have a confession to make.  We had still planned to see Ljubljana in Slovenia and Prague in the Czech Republic but we cannot think of anything else but the Greek islands.

So, we have another meeting and make yet another executive decision.  Guess what we decide???


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