Wrote this very quickly yesterday and it wouldn't post, it's the best I've got--I don't feel very inspired in internet cafes. Now sending it from the hostel, I'll try to catch up to present day at the end of the entry, we'll see if I can find the patience!
I'm writing from an internet cafe in Zagreb where the keyboards are a little bit interesting. A quick recap of my past few weeks, I have 20 min. I think I last wrote about Tirana. From there we crossed the border to Montenegro, which is a fabulous sea resort-ish country that isn't too resorty--yet. Not too much English-speaking there, but we got around ok with a combo of that and Bulgarian, which is very similar--we being my sister and I and the 2 other volunteers from my group we met up with. There were all kinds of water sports and tons of things to do, we ended up renting a kayak and kayaking to a little island just a half hour across the sea--I loved it, even if not all of the company did! I,ve always loved kayaking but it was the first time kayaking on the sea, which I made a mental note to do again. From there we continued on a night bus that got in at 4am to Sarajevo (the bus station said, in Cyrillic, "Serbian Sarajevo," and that, combined with the fact that we were the only ones to get off the bus, even if it was the time that we were supposed to get there and everyone assured us "yes, yes, sarajevo," left us a little unsettled, unsure whether we had made it to the right place. Luckily the lone cab driver standing by assured us in Bosnian that he knew where our hostel is, and he did drop us off at the right address--though there was no hostel sign and nothing but unfamiliar last names marked on the door...after some wandering the streets with the sun rising, we found a friendly young English speaker whose friends call him Shumi (after Shumacker) who has no job or interests and stays up all night in his friend?s internet cafe playing video games. Deciding that some pretty female tourists in need might be a welcome diversion, he spent the better part of an hour trying to figure out (eventually successfully) where our hostel was (it was right where the cab dropped us off, unmarked) and how we could get in (you finally find the owner's mobile number and wait for him to come in a very slow taxi). Shumi spontaneously showed up at the door again later that evening with some friends, of course, to take us out for drinks. We'd heard that nightlife is pretty big in Sarajevo, but it seemed like everyone was home watching the world cup.
Still, Sarajevo wins for most interesting city so far. It's a beautiful city riddled with bullet holes and bombed-out buildings--and despite this still full of character that it managed to hold onto or to rebuild. It is definitely the most fascinating place I think we've been to on this trip. Every few blocks you'll see some indentations on the sidewalk filled with red paint--these "Sarajevo roses" are monuments to people who died in that spot.
From Sarajevo we went to Mostar to see the famous bridge (the bridge itself is unimpressive except for its symbolism, but the river itself is the most beautiful blue that I didn't think a river could be) and we watched a speedo-ed dude collecting money in a hat until he had ˝enough˝ to jump off the bridge...and then on to Croatia, which we are leaving tomorrow but my time is almost up (it takes a little longer on this keyboard) so I'm going to try to write a little more tonight in the hostel. Or soon.) Til then!
Well, it's tomorrow, and so as not to be a liar Ićll write whatever I can summon the patience for--computers make me very impatient when Ićm on vacation (though every time I see someone with a laptop, I wish I had mine!)
We're leaving Zagreb today for Graz, a small town in Austria on the way to Vienna--meeting Anya in Vienna on the 12th!!!!! But first I must give a quick update of the coast of Croatia, which I was maybe most excited for. From Bosnia we went to Dubrovnik in Croatia, which is famous for its "walled city"--great white fortress walls stretching around the old town, beautiful in the sunlight and gorgeous under the moon. Dubrovnik's also got a few pebbly beaches and lots of water sports, so of course this is where I put in my plea for a half-day kayaking outing. 5 of us set out in kayaks (our numbers kept changing as we met up with and parted with other volunteers along the way)--the real, no-joke kayaks with the spray skirts that are a little less stable, but what a difference in how they glide through the water! We paddled around the island of Lokrum, past the nude beaches (first the over 60 nude beaches, then the under 60 ones!) and landed on the other side where we got to play with the snorkel gear that the company lent us. As we were heading out that evening we didn't have time for the full-day tour (I would have loved it, though Sam would have screamed) so we paddled back to the beach and headed out. Here's where Sam and I parted ways with the other volunteers and took an evening bus to another coastal town called Split.
But how could I forget the 4th of July! At that point there were 6 of us and we had a house rented in Dubrovnik, a perfect spot for a party with a decent kitchen setup for cooking. After much debate (we were going to make veggie burgers since half of us were vegetarians, but decided to go for an easier option...) we set the menu to be eggplant parm, pasta salad, fruit salad and whipped cream, and of course, chocolate cake and ice cream! By the time everything was done it was 10:00, but we ate and drank (and sang a little) throught the night. It was very patriotic. And the next day we had eggplant parm sandwiches and pasta salad in a plastic bag squished into our drybags in the backs of our kayaks for lunch on the island.
So, Split. Famous for Diocletian's Palace, which is cool. (Visual: Jess's patience for typing waning.) We spent a day exploring the city, a day exploring a nearby island (Sam ran into a friend of hers from school on the ferry, small world!), and then took a night bus to Zagreb, which turned out to be a much cuter city than I expected. Also there's a yummy vegetarian restaurant, a huge plus. But the highlight was the day trip we took yesterday to Plitvice National Park, which was so beautiful that it deserves to be at the beginning of my next entry, when my typing-in-public-places patience is at its still-not-so-high max.