travel hell

the last two days have been utter hell. i’ve had to do sooo much traveling, and have had so many problems!

first off, there’s only one ferry leaving Vis on saturdays… and its at 5:30am! OUCH!! so i set my alarm, but slpt through it since my earplugs were in too tight! luckily, i woke up anyways at 5:20, and running as fast as i could, i got to the ferry on time. after the 2.5 hour ferry, i got on a 3.5 hour bus to dubrovnik, a town near the south tip of croatia. dubrovnik is a really cool looking old walled city. unfortunately, due to travel plans, i only got to spend a few hours there before i had to catch the 10 hour bus back to zagreb. that makes 16 hours of travel time in just one day… but it doesnt end there.

the reason i had to go back to zagreb, was that i was trying to catch a bus from there to bulgaria. it was a 8am bus, and i got into zagreb around 6:30am. when i go to the info desk and ask the lady, she says no buses to bulgaria. WHAT!!! when i had called the bulgarian bus companies number the previous day, they assured me there would be a 8am bus today, and to call the zagreb station to confirm. i tried calling the zagreb office the day before… no answer.. so i called the mian bulgaria office again, and once again they assured me that there was indeed a bus from zagreb. so now, today, once i got told there was no bus, i tried both numbers again, and no answer. CRAP. what do i do now??

so i try another approach. i go all the way to the train station, but when i arrive there it’s pitch black. huh?? i follow people inside to find out there is a power failure and that they are running things by candlelight!! sheez. i ask at the window, and they tell me there are no trains to bulgaria either. now i’m totally screwed. i spent a jillion hours getting here, and i’m completely exhausted, and now i’m stuck!! on the off chance i can just find the actual bulgaria bus, i go back to the bus stop and end up finding this tiny office that coordinated the bulgaria buses… and its closed. when i go to the main bus info desk this time…. it turns out that this person *does* know about the bulgaria bus.. unlike the other lady who assured me it didint exist.. but, still, it doesnt run on sundays. so i’m still screwed.

so i go back to the train station, and once again, turns out that the lady who said i couldnt get to bulgaria by train was wrong. the lady i talk to this time says i can take a 6 hour train to belgrade and then take the 11pm train tonight for 11 hours to bulgaria. thatll make 33 hours of travel in two days… but what other choice do i have?? so i buy the ticket and get on the train.

at the boder to serbia, a police man comes by to check passports. he asks me something in serbian like 7 time.. and i keep saying i dont speak serbian. finally he says “passport!” in english. ohhhhhh. so i hand him my passport. he sees that i am american and he says (in serbian) “ohhhh an american!” and then laughs and turns to the other passengers and says something inulting about america. the thing is, a lot of serbian words are very similar to russian… so i could undertand what he said. i couldnt believe he was talking shit about me. then he sees that i was born in russia from my passport, and goes “oh, you russian! why does a russian not understand serbian??” and i explain that i only lived there for 3 years. so, my passport has a big crease across the whole thing from being bent ni my money belt. he looks at it, and says “see, look what you have done to your eagle” and when i shrug, he continues w/ “from my point of view, it doesnt deserve aything more”. i was so shocked. i couldnt believe it, and i had no clue how to respond. i really wanted to say, that he has no room to talk looking at the recent history of his own country… but i wasnt about to start shit w/ a cop from another country. he then continued “dont you agree?” and wheni shook my head, he says “oh well, you’re just young”.. and walks away.

i swear… i was so shooken up. i really hadnt been expecting anything like that at all. how rude is that???!

so anyways, eventually i finally made it to belgrade. it was near impossible to find an internet place,a d spent literally 2.5 hours searching. well, it’s now time for me to take my train ride outta here and go to bulgaria.

hope everyone is having a good halloween back home.



as i mentioned before, the coast of croatia is full of islands. there are tons of them, ranging from really big to absolutely tiny, and a lot of croatia’s tourism is at these islands. one of the things i definitely wanted to do while here is to check out one of these islands, and i chose one called Vis to go to. According to lonely planet, vis is one of the least touristy of all of the islands here. it’s really small, like 13 km across and is made up of pretty much just two tiny little towns, each of them only having around 1,500 people. although the tourism industry here does ramp up a bit during the summer, i think that during the end of october, there are pretty much no tourists here. the beaches were empty, as were the roads. a lot of the time that i spent walking around, i really felt like i was the only one on the island. i really rnjoyed the relaxed vibe here. there’s definitely something really cool about a place that’s so small and has so few people like here.

i read in my guidebook that the view from the top of the island is absolutely amazing. this island was considered a strategic spot by the ancient greeks and then by the british in WWII because from the top, you can see all the way to italy in one direction, and all the way to the coast of croatia on the other. according to the book, you could reach the top by either scrambling up a tiny path behind this monastary on the hill, or you could walk this long stretch of road. i decided to try the path. the monastary is up a hill, and i guess every year, the people here haul a fishing boat all the way up the hill to the monastary and light in on fire. weird eh? the monastary itself was really cool looking, and like everything else on the island, completely deserted. on the way up to the monastary, i passed all of these agricultural terraces.

i went around the back of ther monastary and started up the path… if you could call it a path. it was actually more like a tiny 8 inch wide stretch of dirt in between high grasses, flowers, and thorny bushes. the way uphill was a bit steep, but it was really cool. i think there was lots of lavender or some other flower around, so the air smelled awesome, and tiny lizards and butterflies scrambled and fluttered across the path every few minutes. i would also see a few snakes and these weird large birds w/ long tails (pheasants?) every once in a while. as i got higher and higher, the view back down towards the ocean and beach became more and more impressive. unfortunately, after a bit, i reached a gate blocking my way. now, most people would be satisfied w/ just putting a *sign* w/ skull and crossbones on their gate, but these people had an actual cow skull hanging from the gate!

so now i had a decision to make. do i just give up, or do i head all the way back down and take the road up? the problem was that i wasnt sure i had enough time. i only had about 6 hours before the last bus from komiza (the town i was near) left to go back to vis town (where i was staying). the road was about 8km uphill until it split off for about 5 more kilometers to the top. so basically, i would have to walk about 26km in 6 hours. i quickly did some math in my head, and seeing as i had no clue how fast i walk, and no clue how steep the road was, and at this point i didnt know that the extra stretch was 5km( i found this out later), i figured that i had no way of predicting whether i could make it or not. but whatever, i decided to go for it.

after scrambling back down the path i had just walked up, i strated walking up the road armed w/ just one tiny bottle of water… and walking… and walking… and walking. the walk itself (other than it being rough going uphill), was really awesome and scenic. in fact, it was hard to decide what looked better, the green lush mountains one one side, or the views down to the beaches below. as i kept walking, the beaches got farther and farther and farther… but somehow, the top just didnt seem all that much closer. hrm. eventually, i got to the split in the road. this was several hours later, and i was starting to feel pretty tired. should i keep going? i decided to press on up the mountain.

as i walked, i went past sevral tiny villages (so small they had like 10 or so houses and thats it). as i got farther and farther, i realized that there was one big problem. the weather wasnt that great, and the clouds/ fog were rolling in. the more i ascended, the closer i go to the fog, and eventually the fog was just above the treeline. at this point i realized, that at the top, not only would i not be able to see italy, but i probably woud hardly be able to see the beaches below… but there was no turning back now. i wouldnt give up.

at this point the road started getting steeper. i mean *really* steep. it was getting difficult to walk, and i was exhausted. not to mention, that i was extremely thirsty, and my clothes and hair were totally wet from walking through fog. i kept thinking to myself that i should just turn around, but i just wouldnt let myself do that. finally, i made it to the top. at the top, it was ridiculously foggy. i couldnt see anything more than like 15 yards ahead of me. there was this eerie looking chapel on top of the hill, and other than that, there was nothingness as far as the eye could see.

so i started going back down. i was starting to get sore. i looked on the tiny map i had, and only then realized that it was about 5km from the split in the road to the top. i had alreday gone a whole 13km, and now i had to do 13 more. i started plodding downwards. when i got to the split, i formed a new plan. instead of walking 8km back to komiza to catch the last bus, i may as well, just keep following the road the other direction for 10km and just walk back to Vis town. this would add another 2km to my trip, but i wouldnt have to waste time and money on the bus. so i turned and walked towards vis town.

eventually, by the time i had walked about 22km total and was completely worn out, i had a new problem. it was starting to get dark. there were no cities or lightposts, and w/ all the cloud cover, i was sure there wouldnt be any moon. i would end up walking in utter pitch black. i decided that at this point, i had no other option except to hitch. car were very few and far between, but every 10 minutes or so, one would pass by. i’ve never hitched alone before, and i was a bit nervous about what i would talk about w/ a croatian stranger, but i decided to go for it. soon enough, this guy pulled over and gave me a ride. sweet!! the guy was a sailor who lived on vis his whole life, used to work for the navy, and now is a harbormaster in komiza. i told him how much i liked the island, and he was so psyched. he talked about Vis w/ such pride! well, it ended up being a very cool ride back.

all in all, i’m really glad that i did the hike, despite not getting to see any view, and despite being very sore the next day. exporing the island was very fun, and i was pretty bummed that i had only one day here….


the town of split



the following morning, i decided to go w/ damian and ira to the town of Split. croatia is mainly comprised of two parts. there is a lrage wide part in the north (and zagreb, the capital, is in the middle of it) and then there is a thin strip going down the coast for hundreds of miles. this strip is filled w/ coastal towns and beautiful islands. Split is croatia’s second largest town, and is about 7 hours by bus down the coast from zagreb. it’s a really really old city, and the most important part of it is the old town built over the remains of ancient palace used by a roman emperor.

on the way down the coast, i read up on the history of croatia. so crazy!! unfortunately, i’m usually very unknowlegeable when it comes to history,a dn although i knew that there was a war here etc, i didnt really know why it happened, or anything about it. it was actually super interesting to learn about the history of croatia (along w/ the history of serbia and bosnia). i’ve never much been interested in history, but over the last several weeks i’ve become very fascinated by it. it’s just so interesting how things cause each other, and just how many changes happened to each country. unlike america, that has only been either part of the uk, or it’s own entity, so many of the countries here have changed hands countless numbers of times. also, reading all this really made me want to explore more around here… to see eastern europe, and also to see bosnia, serbia, albania etc now thta these countrie are finally accessible and safe.

wehn we got off the bus, we were virtually attacked by all these old yelling croatian ladies tryin to rent us a room for the night. “rooms! rooms!! close to center!! CENTER!!” they all screamed, while thrusting their fingers at maps to show that indeed, the rooms were close to the center of town. we tried to escape the old ladies, but they followed us “CENTER!!! close…. CENTERRRRR!!!!!” it as madness! finally, after getting past the old ladies, another woman came up to us, and just to be different said “room!! center!!! close, CENTER!!!”. sheesh! well, she was persistant, and even after we said no and walked off, she just followed us. to make a long story short, we ended up staying in her room, which was actually not all that far from center (although it was of the map!). we actually got a really good price, the room was clean, and they gave us turkish coffee. we ended up being very happy w/ our choice.

after walking around a bit to explore (in the dark), we went to this locals restaurant on the coast. this place didnt even have a menu, instead the waiter just rattled off hat we could choose. ordering was confusing, and in the end, we werent sure what we would get. in the end though, it was all very good: a bean stew w/ roast pork to put in it (very traditional in croatia), black squid risotto (it’s black from the squid’s ink), and a variety of fried fishes. all of it, along w/ 2 large .5 liter beers each, only cost us like 10 bux a piece. not bad!! croatia definitely isnt dirt cheap as i hoped, but it is realitvely inexpensive. i’ve paid about 13$ per room most of the time… but the internet here is wayyyy bank… 5$ per hour!

during dinner, ira and i had a pretty intense discussion about religion, the role it plays in the modern world, and along w/ it, the upcoming elections. i’ve been trying to read up on the election stuff as much as i can while traveling by buying american magazines or british newspapers. it’s all so nuts. i really really hope that i can be in a place where i can watch tv when the election happens. maybe i’ll get a room w/tv specifically for that. although, ečlection results will probably b announced at like 4am here!


unfortunately, i have a very short time here in croatia. only 5 days ince i spent 2 days out of 7 on budapest. there’s so many places i want to see though! one of the things i wanted to do the most, was go to this small island Vis, and it turned out that the ferry to go there left at 4:30pm today, so i only got several hours to see Split by daylight. from what i sa though, it’s really really cool. the town is super super old, and the maincenter looks just ancient. it’s a trippy contrast to see this ancient stonework that surrounds totally modern stores selling nikes etc. it’s pretty crazy to me that people actually live in a place like this. a lot of this town seems lie it should be roped off in an archaelogical area, and not inhabited by people! sure, there are parts of SF that are *kinda* old, but nothing like this:

in the central palace area, there is this huge tower and we climbed to the top to look out over the city. great views of all the red roofed houses from up there.

soon enough, it was time for me to go. it was kinda sad to leave the group. i’ve never traveled w/ random people that i didnk know before, and it was actually really fun. both fo the guys were cool, and we all had a good time. heh, ira had a laptop w/ him, and he downloaded all these hilarious short clips from the net for us to watch. i guess this guy on the net chopped up and modified the old giJoe public service announcements (remember “and knowing is half the battle”?). we would watch these over and over again laughing hysterically. if you’re interested, check ’em out at: . theyre kinda odd the first time you see them, but get funnier each time.


finally, a post on croatia

sheez, i feel like it’s been forever since i updated. due to me only having a short time here and there being so much to see, i havent had much of a chance to get online. here’s what i’ve beeb up to:


after a long train ride from budapest, i arrived in Zagreb at almost 11pm. unfortunately, i was never able to buy a guidebook for croatia, and arrived in Zagreb armed w/ only a phone number for a local hostel (described online as “filthy, disgusting, smells like piss, and is run by the angriest man in croatia). i had no idea where this hotel was, how to get there, and also i didnt have any of the local currency. i went to an atm, and quickly realized that i had a slight problem: i had no clue how much their currency is worth!! should i get out 200 kunas, or 500, or 1000?? i didnt want to end up taking lie 300 dollars out accidentally, but at the same time, i didnt wnt to end up not having enough kunas once i got to the hostel. i ended up checking the price tag on a bag of chips, and trying to guestimate how many bags of chips would equal a room in a hostel. heh, i ended up getting way too much in the end, but at leat it sounded like a good plan!!

after buying a phone card from the nice lady at the stand, i was on my way. btw, the few people i ended up asking questions to in the train station, were all really nice and helpful. and also, for the next several days to come, i would find pretty much everyone i talked to in croatia (other than the hostel owner) very nice. it made me so glad that i wasnt in budapest anymore!! anyways, when i got to my hostel room, i found out that i would be sharing my room w/ two americans: Damian, a vegetarian from L.A. who, funnily enough, quit being a vegetarian for 2 years in college cause his roommate paid most of his rent in meat; and Ira, a theology major originally from oklahoma city, who now lived in Chicago. they were both traveling through europe for a long time (6 and 8 months respectively), and we ended up talking for a while about our random experiences while on the road.


the following day, we headed out to explore town, and on the ay out of the hostel, found out why the hostel owner got his reputation. he immediately started yelling at us for not having paid before 9am,and demanded money from us. when we kind of chuckled, he yelled at us that it wasn’t funny, and if we want to continue staying there, we have to be sure to pay in advance. not only that, but he absolutely refused to take anything except for exact change, and got all pissed that we wanted to pay w/ bill that really werent all that much larger than the cost of the hostel. sheesh!!

anyways, we headed out to get some food. it turns out, that both of these guys usually for breakfast, and sometimes lunch, just go and grab food at mini-markets or pastry shops. now, i hadnt really done any grocery shopping since france, where i had an apartment to cook in, but now i’m kicking myself for not doing this before. it’s a great way to eat really really cheap, and the food is actually really good. for instance, today, i asked the deli guy to cut me off 3 pieces of turkey, 3 pieces of cheese, and 1/5 of a loaf of bread… even after adding the cup of coffee i had at a cafe while eating my food, i only spent 2 bucks on this meal!! i’m definitely planning on doing this as much as i can in the future!

after dropping off some laundry (all the way across town, ugh!), damian and i went on a walking tour of zagreb. there was a lot to see, and it was nice that pretty much all of it was very close to this square i the center of town. the interesting part of zagreb is fairly compact, and we were able to see a lot of the sights i just a few hours. although zagreb may not have as many crazy buildings etc as budapest, i still really enjoyed the town.

when we went to pick up my laundry, the lady handed it back to me in a basket… without my compression sack that the clothes was in originally. uh-oh! i tried to make hand signals to indicate that i wanted my bag, to which the lady just went and got me a plastic bag to put the laundry in. crap. i tried to say that i needed *my* bag, that it was a special bag, and that i definitely needed it back… but she didnt know any english at all. how do you hand-mime compression sack?? luckily, i found my bag in this closet, and got a weird look from the lady who i’m sure was wondering why the hell i was so particular about what to her looked just like a random plastic bag.

that night, for a chnage of pace, and to explore croatian culture, the three of us went to the opera. the opera was called… err, well, actually i’m not exactly sure what it was called, but it was about…. err… well, i actually am not exactly sure what it was about either! after act 1, the three of us were completely baffled and had no idea just what it was that was going on. so i went up to one of the employees downstairs, and asked if she spoke english and whether she could tell me what was going on. i felt kinda dumb asking her (hat were we doing there if we couldnt even understand what we were seeing), but she was nice about it, and let me read this snippet in english about the plot. that definitely helped us decipher the next two acts, but we were definitely still ometimes baffled. the plot was basically about this ego maniac war leader from anciant rome, that went around pissing everyone off, until, in the last 10 minutes of the opera, he sees the error of his way and decides to not be evil anymore, afterwhich he is promptly killed. the building that the opera was in was simply amazing! large chandeliers, statues, paintings, and for some reason we actually ended up w/ box seats!!

after the opera, we went out to get some drinks. we first went to this pretty cool bar that was playing some good music:electric 6, peaches, etc. there was a list of all the various types of alochol they sell, and beers, and a bit lower down, there was something called a “sendvic” which was a bit more expensive than the rest. we decided to try it out seeing as it was their speciality… but when damian went up to order it, it turned out that it wasnt a speciality at all, and a “sendvic” was just croatian for sandwhich. oops!! the bar closed fairly early, at midnight, and then we couldnt seem to find anything else open. when i asked this random young person what there was to do at that hour, they replied “nothing, there’s nothing to do!!” and when i said that it was only midnight, they said “but you’re in zagreb! theres nothing here after midnight”. hrm, so much for nightlife!!