Location: Tirana, Albania
Albania's capital is full of life and full of intrigue. I am about to hop on a bus for Pogradec, and then on to Macedonia's Lake Ohrid. I'm hoping to give you all a complete update on things at that point. much has happened the last couple weeks.
Location: Budva, Yugoslavia
Montenegro: Girls, Clubs and Streaking
First I want to mention that this site is somewhat worthless. I can't even get a decent map of my location up in the corner and the country of Yugoslavia does not exist any more. Its Serbia and Montenegro, which, as of a couple months ago, are now two seperate countries themselves.
Back to Montenegro. This is hands down the best country we've been to on this trip. So, I ask you now, please don't come here. Don't ruin it by coming here with your friends and telling other friends who come here with their friends. I shouldn't have even brought it up. Damn. Okay, yes Montenegro is a bit touristy already, but the prices aren't. I bought 2 litres of beer for 1,50. That's wicked good. And if you come here, it won't be 1,50 anymore. That's wicked bad. Stay out.
In other developments, my neck is gonna be sore for a while. All I've done is twist and turn my head. Left and right, right and left, back, front, upsidedown. I've never seen so many gorgeous women. Not even in Prague. Most of them are Serbian so Belgrade has just jumped 25 spots to #1 on my list of places to go. But be careful, they aren't in the mood to chat with you in English. In fact, from what we can gather, unless you are ugly, fat and Serbian, you don't stand a chance, my friend. I've also had a hard time understanding what the deal is with the clubs here. Kotor and Budva are pretty small places. Yet the clubs are ridiculous. The club we went to in Kotor was crazy and had probably the sweetest lights I've ever seen in a place. And this club called Trocadero here in Budva, it was massive. Three stories, out of control:
We also met a cool band the other night. Uniting Nations. I don't think we met the whole crew but we had a good laugh with them. The bar closed at 2, I think, but we stayed there with them partying until 4:30. One of the singers was this gorgeous blonde girl named Charlie. I am in love. I don't know what it is with me and blonde chicks who can sing. Also, thanks to DJ Colin for his tips on Corfu and for having our backs.
Another interesting time was Pepky getting a haircut. Don't ask me how, but afterwards we ended up sitting in the place with some locals. Actually it was mostly just this one Montenegran girl. Next thing you know, 3 hours have passed, THREE HOURS! Its so interesting to live day to day this way. You have no plan, you just do what you feel like doing. And we felt like sitting there and people-watching and learning some Serbian words. But seriously, it didn't matter. What else were we going to do, go to the beach? HA! No she ended up being slightly crazy and wouldn't let us leave. We eventually had to make a run for it. And speaking of running, we had to throw a bit of streaking into the trip. This was one evening after some drinks of course. We were walking in the center of town and Rich decides to streak, so we had to join in. It was that simple. We headed through the park and onto the main street, getting honks and waves from bus loads of tourists...pacing traffic...scaring countless people who turned at just the right moment to see us flopping up behind them...who then promptly shielded their eyes from our shiny white asses as we flew past...screams, laughs, applause...it was everything a good streak should be.
The Portugese Lance Armstrong
Met a pretty crazy fella here. He had a bicycle packed with everything you could imagine. Pots, pans, radio, tv, etc. He travels all over Europe on this bike. Said he'd ridden over 25,000 km on it in the last 2.5 years and gone through 27 sets of tires. He didn't mention the number of showers he'd taken but I'm guessing it was in the neighborhood of 2. He bought me a beer, though, cause he thought I was Portugese. What can I say? I got a good tan going here. Anyway, his next feat will be to cycle from Vancouver to Miami, FL, so look for him in a town near you.
Location: Kotor, Yugoslavia
So Joe has finally arrived here to meet us and he had an interesting journey. Well, I'll just let him tell you-
We spend the day checking out the sights and I had an amazing lunch at one of the local restaurants. I had peppers stuffed with minced meat and rice. It was very good, but I would pay for the meal later...
Bo and the Kiwi's we became friends with woke up and caught the bus. Bo said he tried to wake me because I had those nasty bed bugs crawling all over me. Luckily, they didn't bite or affect me in any way.
I woke up many hours later and immediately had to run the bathroom. This became a common occurance throughout the day. That's right, that great meal I had the day before gave me a serious case of the shits. I essentially spent all day inside the hostel waiting to catch the next bus which was a night bus at 10:30pm. Now the fun begins. I successfully boarded my bus back to Dubrovnik and immediately passed out. I woke up two hours later to a throbbing stomach. I had to go again and the bus didn't have a bathroom. What do I do? I tried to hold it. I begin sweating and I'm tapping my foot, singing to myself, doing anything to get my mind off of the sudden emergency. Nothing's working, it has to come out. I can't take it any longer so I waddle to the front of the bus and attempt to convince my Bosnian bus driver that I really have to go. He refuses, "impossible.". I put on my most desperate face and he finally says "moment." Luckily, the Croatian border was in our sights. Since you are not allowed to exit the bus during passport checks, I had to get an escort to the bathroom where I finally punished the toilet.
But that's not the end of it. The bus arrived back in Dubrovnik at 4am. I had to go again, but the bus station didn't open until 4:30. Once again I had to take matters into my own hands. This time I walked into an abandoned building and took a squat. The funny thing is I had to use a Maxim Hot 100 magazine to wipe my ass. Eva Longoria and Jessica Alba got it good.
-Not bad Joe. I'm still betting that some construction guys found that mess and thought someone acted out some kind of a sick fettish. I'll never look at Jessica and Eva the same way. Thanks for that.
Location: Kotor, Yugoslavia
Always Help Your Slovenian Neighbor
"Excuse me, do you have a map? Excuse me, do you have a map of Kotor?" I had the map but it was at the bottom of my bag and my buddies were walking away. I want to say no and go catch up with them, but being the nice, caring, loving, helpful, generous, respectable gentleman that I am, I stop and offer my help to a distressed lady. It was late, ya know. She was trying to find her campsite. I unpack my bag and pull out the map. Then her boyfriend appears. Hmm. Hadn't planned on that one. So I stuffed the map back in my bag and ran. No just kidding, I really am a nice, caring, loving, helpful, generous, respectable gentleman. Okay so this story really isn't that interesting so I should just get to the point, which is helping your neighbor. They couldn't find their campsite so they decided to come along with us to the hostel. The hostel, however, is full. Completely full. Its Karnaval weekend in Kotor. Perfect timing except we don't have a place. Not to worry, our previously distressed Slovenian damsel comes to my aid. The surly hostel people were going to give us a bed...on the pavement outside, but she jumps in and speaks a little of the Slavic lingo and...BOOM...we're in. Well not really we still had to sleep in the gymnasium. Actually it wasn't quite a gymnasium, it was more of a weightroom a la Marquette High School 1998. The folks there thought it more of a joke than anything so we stayed for free. Then we shuffled off to join in the boisterous Karnaval celebrations. Miha and Niha (the Slovenian couple) ended up saving the day so the moral goes...always help your Slovenian neighbor. Luckily I never caught ringworms from the wrestling mats I slept on, a al Pat Schwartzkopf 1997. And Karnaval was a wicked good time...
Location: Kotor, Yugoslavia
King of the Road
I had to leave Pepky behind in Sarajevo because he wouldn't wake up, even though I could see bedbugs crawling on him. Two of the guys we met in the hostel decided to carry on with us for a bit so I've hit the trail with Rich and James from New Zealand. If you guys read this later, I hope you're still taking "quality photos" and rapidly becoming ugly fat Serbian men. What I wouldn't give... Anyway, We flipped a coin in Dubrovnik and decided to head straight on to Montenegro. A very wise choice but I'll get to that. We went for a swim and the hopped a bus headed south. I wasn't sure but our driver had that twinkle in his eye that said "I'm nuts". He was a tall husky man with a full beard. Intimidating is a bit of an understatement.
The first part of the trip went smoothly, the bus wasn't crowded, I slept. Then the bus started to filling up and so did the road. We got stuck in traffic for 45 minutes at a standstill. That's when busdriver guy took matters (and our lives) into his own hands. He whips into the oncoming lane and starts barrelling down the wrong way. Soon enough there is a car coming. Fortunately he stops, but he gets nose-to-nose with this guy and starts shouting and honking at him. I'll pause and let you think about the absurdity of this. Ok, so I didn't know what the hell he was saying but everyone was laughing as he's hanging out the window berating this poor chap who was just obeying the "rules of the road" as we like to call them. I guess they don't apply in Montenegro. So, I decided to laugh too. And it really was funny. After a minute or two of this more cars stack up behind the guy and then a cop shows up. Somehow burly busdriver convinces the cop that this is his road and (I've never seen anything like this) the cop forces the others to reverse back onto the shoulder of the road and like Moses parting the Red Sea we drive between the two waves of traffic and out of the jam.
We also nearly saw a busdriver fight. A bus pulled out in front of us and our guy started blaring the horn. The other guy stops and we stop too. He gets out and walks up to our bus window. Not sure what was said, but I didn't hear a word. In my mind I pictured the guy walking up to the window to our driver and looking at him and seeing his contorted face with a lazy "twinkling" eye, full beard bristling and then promptly shitting himself and running away. Either way, we were allowed to pass and drove on.
However the journey was far from over. This bus liked to drive fast and it liked to pass people at high speeds in the oncoming lane (as we've seen). On one occasion there was a van straddling the shoulder and we swerved into the oncoming lane to pass only to find a massive bus (3 times our size) heading straight for us. My life was over for a few long seconds as I was blinded by those headlights and the sound of the horn blaring still rings in my head as I type this. Everyone on the bus gave a collective "Oh shit!" in their native tongue. When I came to and started breathing again, we were still alive and the local next to me, slapped me on the back, smiled and said "Welcome to Montenegro!" I guess he'd been on this bus before.
When we finally arrived intact, I tried to ask the driver his name. He has remained nameless throughout this entry, if you haven't noticed and I wanted to have a name for you guys to read about. I also wanted to shake his hand. I really don't know why. When I approached him he just grunted and handed me a bag that wasn't mine. I just took the bag and cleared away before he had the chance to slap me around. He was the King of the Road....
Location: Sarajevo, Bosnia-Hercegovina
A Sarajevo Experience:
It's hard to know what to expect coming to a city like Sarajevo. A fusion of religioin and culture. A vioilent and unfortunate history. I was impressed. The city is blossoming, and has more character than any place else in Europe, in my opinion.
I won't bore you with too much history since I'm sure you all know it (insert sarcastic cough). However, you should know that it was here that WWI began. Serbian terrorist Gavrilo Princip shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia on the Latin Bridge on 28 June, 1914. The city also fell under seige from the Serbians from 1992-95. The city, which lies in a valley, was surrounded by snipers in the hills. More than 11,000 Sarajevans were killed. You can still see the tree line in the hills where trapped Sarajevans cut down all safely available wood for winter heat. One more quick thought: besides the bullet holes in buildings, the holes in the streets have been filled in with red cement. These are called Sarajevo Roses.
This is all sad, I know, but save some of your sympathy for me. I have been attacked by bedbugs in the hostel. Have you ever been bitten by bedbugs? Its hell. I counted over 100 bites on my arms, hands, legs, neck, face and feet. And one on my ass. I tried to complain to the hostel owner, but he had one leg. How do you approach that one? "Excuse me, you have bedbugs in your hostel, look at all these-" "Uh-em...I have no leg." "Oh...yeah, I see, well sorry to bother you."
Regardless, I am still having one hell of a time there. The City Pub (creative name) is a vibrant place and this great French band has played the last couple nights. They're called Monsieur Jaquet. I can't find their link otherwise you could check them out. Jazz and Swing type music. They're wicked good. The violenist is hot, but the lead singer is definitely better, says me. Joe, you're wrong! WRONG!
The only problem with City Pub is that you have to order from a waiter. Yes, they have a bar with several bartenders standing around. Meanwhile, the waiter (there was only one) gets killed all night. The most unproductive system I've ever seen.
Last night back at the hostel, I happened upon an really cool scene I have to share with you. I hear music so I lean out the window into the alley and across the way some locals are gathered in an apartment. One guy has a guitar, another has a flute and this girl had an accordian. The rest were singing and dancing away. I was freakin mesmerized by this. Some were drinking beer, some had coffee. There were teenagers, grandparents, and all ages in between. I just wanted to start singing and dancing with them, but I would have looked really stupid, so I didn't. It was kind of Mediterranean, kind of Turkish, but unique. Don't get to witness something like that every day...
Location: Dubrovnik, Croatia
Just a quick update to let you all know what has been going on. I am currently in Croatia. Its been an unbelievable summer so far. The Dalmation coast has been tops. I actually just came in from the nude beach. Yes i was my first time dropping drawers and it was quite a free feeling. I should have the pictures up soon. ha.
If you have ever been to Venice, Italy then maybe you will have a different opinion, but i thought it was miserable. Ok, the canals were nice and the city was pretty cool, but it was the most crowded place i have ever been too. i couldnt move at all, it takes 3 hours to actually find where you are going. Then I discovered the water taxis. take those. dont ever try to walk. it was also 150 degrees the day we were there.
We have made our way down the Dalmation coast and are preparing to make a trip north to Sarajevo. SHould be a short trip before we come back down to the coast to Montenegro and Albania.
From Venice we shuffled down the Italian coast to Ancona and the across the Adriatic to Split, Croatia. We stopped in Hvar and Korcula (both are islands) before arriving in Dubrovnik. We ran into some friends from Prague randomly in Hvar and had a big night out. Katie proceeded to "rummit" in the hallway late night. What that means, I dont know. i think its a cross between rubbish and vomit. anyway, we woke to the landlord yelling for us to pack our things and get out because we "rummitted" in the hallway. i think she was just pissed because we had a little party in our room the night before. I mean, come on, everybody rummits now and again. No harm in that, right?
Thats all for now. I will give you an update on Bosnia when we get there...
Location: Trieste, Italy
We've finally made it. We've hit the coast. I long for the open seas. I'm thinking of hopping on a boat with no particular destination. Italy is beautiful. The people are beautiful. We spent a night in Piran, Slovenia before making our way here. I can't begin to tell you how great Slovenia was. The people were some of the friendliest I've ever encountered. A brief stop to ask for directions or advice always seemed to turn into a lengthy discussion about life, people, places to see, things to do, etc. Now I am going to see what these World Champion Italians are up to. More later...