Trip Report: The Balkans, April 6 - 16, 2004
Chapter 1: Visa Problems
Scott arrived really late the night of April 5. So late, in fact, Nina was in a bit of a panic, wondering how he'd managed to loose himself somewhere in the back streets of Budapest. When he finally arrived, 2 hours late, he was $100 poorer after having handed over the money for a Hungarian visa. Who knew that Aussies needed visas for Hungary? Much worse, it was only a single entry visa, and we were leaving the country in less than twelve hours! There didn't seem like much to do, so we left at 6:30am on April 6th, as planned, with plans to get another visa for Scott somewhere along the way. First stop, Zagreb.
We arrived in Zagreb at noon, and headed straight to Tourist info to get some bus time tables and find the MADÃR AMBASSADA (Hungarian Ambassador). It was a good thing we checked on the location, because the Lonely Planet had misprinted the actual location of the ambassador no less than TWO times, listing two completely different, but equally wrong, addresses in the Hungarian section and the Croatian section of the guidebook. We couldn't figure out how to pay for the bus up the hill, and the bus driver didn't seem to care, so we hopped on. As luck wouldn't have it, the office was closed all day Tuesday, so we'd have to go back the next day. Since we hadn't really slept the night before, we headed back down the hill, found a hostel, and slept until dinner, at which time we went out for an hour, ate a pizza, then went back to bed. zzzzzz..... Getting the visa took most of the next morning, and several trips up and down the hill to have various pieces of paper signed, money converted, etc. Things were going so slowly that Scott even ran down the hill, in the rain, because the bus only came every half hour. We met plenty of other Aussies in the office, since they all needed visas as well. In the end, we were short another $100 cash, after all the conversions and same-day fees, etc.
We spent the rest of the day wandering. We took lots of trams we didn't know how to pay for, since it was pouring down rain. Zabreb was a really nice city. People seem prosperous and happy. They have a bustling cafe scene, and a very nice downtown. In the evening we spent a full 2.5 hours eating dinner to stay out of the rain until time to catch our bus down the coast to Dubrovnik.
Chapter 2: The Walled City
We arrived in Dubrovnik early in the morning. We had heard that private rooms were easy to come by, so we were not surprised, upon exiting the bus, to be swarmed by people trying to rent us rooms. After some bargaining, we got a room with a woman for less thatn $10 each/ night, not too far away from the old town. She ended up to be a really funny woman, who preached, bemoaned, and instructed in a funny mixture of Croatian, English, and German. She made us coffee in the morning, and we had full use of the kitchen to save some money and cook our own meals.
The day was looking gorgeous, and we were really excited to walk around the old town. D
Chapter 3: The Long Day
Chapter 4: Young Idealistic Albanians and a Stroke of Good Luck
Chapter 5: Albania and Aid Workers
Chapter 6: Leaving Albania with the Mafiosi
Chapter 7: Slav and Macedonia
Our mafiosi friends dropped us off at the central bus station in Ohrid, where we were met by a tall, bespectacled, somewhat academic looking man, who asked if we were looking for a room. We'd decided to spend the day in Ohrid, so we agreed, and followed him all of about 50m to his place.