A bit of Balkans, part 2

The second part of my trip was no less exciting. Other than spending another night with a heavy thunderstorm in an abandoned building, I had some exciting encounters with pickpockets, muggers, scammers and corrupt law enforcement.

After camping on the beach near Budva I decided to hitchhike to the Dirmitor NP, a UNESCO heritage site. It took longer than I would like and I had to camp near Tsa. The next morning the family that had picked me up suddenly stopped seemingly in a middle of nowhere. They explained they were going to hike Bobotov Kuk, the highest peak in Dirmitor. It sounded so cool that I hid my big backpack and embarked to do the same.

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I’m glad I did but I was really exhausted afterwards. Especially that the trail was quite sketchy in few places.

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I managed to hitchhike to the Tara river Canyon and spent the night there.

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My legs really needed some rest but instead I went to the Biogradska Gora NP for a hike. I really wanted to camp in this supposedly pristine forest with trees centuries old.

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My only concern was that this time I would have to take precautions against bears. Near the peak I wanted to take a shortcut and lost the trail, but I found a hidden treasure instead:

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An abandoned hut that probably belonged to a herder. Anyway, I could get a much needed, good night sleep. Especially that at night there was another mighty thunderstorm. I guess the gods of Montenegro must have liked me.

When traveling I like to just follow the flow and make decisions spontaneously. A Bosnian couple that had given me a ride had spoken very highly of the Sutjetska NP in their country, so after those two intense day-hikes I decided to check it out. Unfortunately, it turned out they had some special offer just for foreigners, insanely expensive and I was too tired to camp for free somewhere in the park. So instead, I tried to hitchhike to Sarajevo, then gave up and took a bus. One amazing thing: when the driver got angry about the car in front of us going only dangerously fast (and not suicidialy fast, as is the norm in the region) he spat in anger on his windshield.

I was very lucky to end up in a hostel full of amazing and inspiring people.

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Musicians from Germany, Italy, Brazil and USA

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A dinner cooked for everyone by travelers from Italy

The city itself was very impressive with its architecture, mix of cultures and countless stray dogs who keep to their packs without bothering anyone and seem to lead a happy life.
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After few days I tried to hitchhike to Belgrade but gave up after 6 hours. Oh well. Instead I stealth-camped in Sarajevo near the touristy center
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and bought a bus ticket. And when waiting for the bus, I nearly got mugged:

I met two extreme backpackers at the station. One of them was leaving immediately and had to bribe the driver to be let on the bus (even though ha already had a valid ticket). The other one was going to wait with me entire night for our bus.

At some point the station guard asked us out, claiming the station was closed for night, even though labels on the door claimed otherwise. There was one man accompanying him, supposedly waiting for the same bus. The other backpacker and I walked around looking for some sleeping spot and eventually returned to sleep by the station. The ‘passenger’ was still there. My new friend was feeling sick, so I told him to sleep, while I kept the watch, pretending to have my eyes closed. Based on my short experience I didn’t have much trust for the locals. And I was right: soon the ‘passenger’ called someone and few men showed up out of nowhere, supposedly to wait outside the station for a bus that wasn’t due for the next six hours. I woke up my mate, was packet our stuff and seeing that we were leaving, all the other men apparently found no reason to stay either. Anyway we found a hidden spot in some bushes and my pal got some much needed sleep while I kept watch.

That wasn’t the end of unpleasant events. My pal got stopped at the border my border police, most likely to extort a bribe. And in Belgrade when I was sharing taxi with a guy from Sarajevo, he said I didn’t have to pay my share. I was quite amazed until it became clear he wanted us to pay only for one person (one third of the agreed fare) and run.

In total, I had a great trip, memories of which were ruined by some unpleasant events towards the end. Based on many incidents, some of which I mentioned, my impression is that most
people in Balkans and especially in Bosnia are obnoxious loud assholes, superstitious ignorants, perverted desperate creeps and corrupt thieves and scammers. As close to the Terry Pratchett’s Ankh-Morpork as it can get. If you are going there, better prepare for a culture shock. Knowing what to expect can save you disappointment and let you enjoy this unique experience.

Oh, and after returning home I looked up Sarajevo in WikiTravel. And I’ve learned the easy way not to trust that site. The article must have been written by a local tour operator.

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8 responses to “A bit of Balkans, part 2

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