Fri Aug 04 2006 02:00 PST VALJEVO FINAL PART:
Today I am off on my grand adventure to montenegro and other parts. The theory of class this morning imploded (everyone is too tired from the last night celebration I think) so I am on the internet, but I didn't go to class anyway, or get to sleep in, because I was dragged out of bed by my host family who demanded I pack at once so they could clean the room. It wasn't a huge deal because I had mostly packed yesterday anyway but I am sosososo tired and I wanted to sleep. They really don't sleep here in Serbia. Even the mother, who is probably in her 60s, goes to bed at 2, and they wake up at 5! yow. Anyway I guess they are rather sick of us and I am glad we are leaving today, not tomorrow as was the original plan, because otherwise I would probably be sleeping in Jean Louis' van.
I don't really think I have learned very much Serbian here. Of course I have exponentially increased my knowledge of the Serbian language since I've been here, but that is really not saying much. I don't think the classes were that well organised, and also my brain became quite fried by the end of the second week, as I haven't had a proper thinking vacation in a while, so I haven't been able to take as full advantage of the intensitivity as maybe otherwise... but still I think I will be able to pick up a good book in Belgrade and continue my studies on my own much more sucessfully than had I not come, and anyway that was never my only reason.
I have certainly learned a lot about the culture, etc. Thing sare so so different here and it seems like the surface, most obvious, is only the smallest beginning.
I have met so many cool people from different parts and that is a real asset for aspiring vagabonds such as myself. I am actually really looking forward to picking up French again when school starts, because I would like to be fluent in *some* foreign language and anyway I am closer in French than in Serbia. Vera, my roommate, said that the first foreign language you learn is the most difficult, and after that it gets easier because you know how to do it. I hope that she's right. But I really have to say that at times these past three weeks I was tempted to say, maybe I won't get a Phd in History, so I don't have to learn Serbian. But I am sure some prospective and things won't seem so bad. And everyonce in a while I get stuck by pangs. For instance I was at the host family of one of my friends, and I told the mother I am studying the first world war, and she went off about how her grandfather had fought in the army, retreating across Albania, to Corfu, than Macedonian, and back to Austrian again. How I wished I was fluent in Serbian so I could have asked here in greater detail about her grandfather's experiences! The best I can do is promise myself I will come back.
In the meantime I would like to paraphrase some letter of Dr Inglis, and say that, "someday we'll have loads to tell you", and I am off.
Tue Aug 08 2006 07:08 PST Rachel Says:
They don't call it montenegro for nothing: ciao, i am safe in budva, but someone is waiting for the internet so i must go. much love to all
Wed Aug 09 2006 08:45 PST Budva:
I'm so glad that you are all considerate enough to not want to flood my inbox with comments while I have limited internet access, but really, you needn't worry. I have gmail.
I am in Budva at the moment as Susie reports. I left Valjevo last Friday with an international crew, and we were all quite relieved to see the back of it, although Valjevo's one redeeming factor is that you can make anything into which your car fits into a parking space. We stayed the night in Zlatibor, a Serbian ski resort which is quite happening out of season as well, and our Norweigen friend's boyfriend was there on a medical conference so she left us there. We continued on to the newest inedpendent republic, though some amazing scenery and mountains (hence the title of the below email). We kept passing places where I would ask, "Did this used to be called something else?" because I have read about so many of these places. We drove over a very small part of Lake Scutari, now called Skadar or something, amd through Podgorica, and it feels really weird to be making a holiday where so many tragic things happened, people dropping dead on the side of the road, but everyone else seems to have forgotten. I am re-reading Two Vagabonds in Serbia and Monetengro, which was orginally published as The Luck of Thirteen, to remind myself. It certainly keeps things interesting. I am having a really great time in Budva, bascially doing a whole lot of nothing--beach sitting etc. Yesterday we rented a pedaline and boated around the former fishing now resort island of sveti stephan. The weather has been hit and miss but generally pretty nice. I think I will probably be heading to Albania later this week, but I'm not sure about after that. I am trying to keep things flexible because right now I am with some cool people and I want to keep that going as much as I can.
Ciao, ciao. I wish it were easier to call the states because I miss you guys (some of you =p)
(1) Thu Aug 10 2006 09:43 PST Travel plans:
I'm leaving Budva for Albania tomorrow. I will stay in Tirane for a day or possibley two, then head south to the nice beaches on the Ionian (?) coast. From there is a short skip & jump to Corfu, and I'll probably spent a week or so in Greece before heading to Salonika and from there north back to Belgrade. My original plan was to get to Salonika via Macedonia, but hey, things happen.
Today we took a day trip to Centinje but unfortunatley for Centinje it was pouring the whole time. It might have been a nice time. It's kind of depressing to be on a beach resort when it's raining, especially in this internet cafe which, like the one in Novi Sad, doubles as a gaming salon, only with louder games. So I'll be a little glad to see the back of Budva and Monetenegro and hopefully heading somewhere that isn't as touristy--Albania, which might almost be like pioneer tourism, and then when I am sick of that, head straight back into "package tour heaven," as lonely planet calls Corfu. The historian in me comes out all the time. Cetinje was the royal capital, and I pictured Jan and COra Gordon travelling there nearly a hundred years ago. It's not to difficult as I don't think much has changed. I've been faithfully documenting things that strick me as particularly poignant. They don't have many billboards, here, for instance, instead simply spray-painting their advertisments on rocks or buildings or the back of street signs. Everywhere you see "Da," or "HE" (Cyrillic for "ne") in reference to the recent reforendum. What does slabodan--freedom--bring Montengro? Certainly not a respite from Serbian tourists, at least not here in Budva.
Sat Aug 12 2006 07:35 PST Wet paint in Tirana:
Now I am here in Albania. I have to admit to being plesantly surprised at how nice Tirana is, although maybe that has something to do with low expectations to begin with. Actually I am not sure if nice is the right word, but anyway I am enjoying myself. There's a strange feeling about this city, as though it is being built, and all in a hurry. Last night we ran into some friends (not my personal friends, obviously) and chatted with them on the street for a while when we realised the blue line we were standing one had been freshly painted. Everything is under construction. Driving into Tirana was like driving onto a huge construction site. We think it has something to do with the mafia. There is a sarcastic tourist slogan that goes, "Come to Albania, your car is here already." Something like 70% of the cars we see on the street are Mercedes. There seems to be no rules for the road. You just go where there is a potential opening and hope no one hits you; walking is much the same.
As soon as we got to Tirana we met up with one on Jean-Louis' friend from the assosciation for handicapped Albanian children (for which the van was brought). Okay, so not quite as soon as--in Albanian time a hour means three and a minute means ten. We are staying with him for the time being which is very nice, he is showing us around the town. At the second I am out doing touristy stuff but all of the museums are closed for seista until 5, so we're having an internet break.
It is a great relief to have my banking problem sorted. It took Wells Fargo about a week of withdrawls in Germany and Serbia to figure out I was doing unauthorized foriegn activity (I forgot to tell them I was leaving, I guess) by which time I had paid for my course and taken enough dinars to last the three weeks, so I didn't realise my card didn't work until I got to Monetenegro. I send them a desperate message online and they were nice enough to remove the hold without talking to me in person, since the way the phones work here there is no real way for me to call them. All the cards last about 1 minute.
Tomorrow I think I am going to the south of Albania, which doesn't seem like very promising land for internet use. As always, don't worry if I seem to disappear from the face of the planet.
(2) Sat Aug 12 2006 07:47 PST I miss:
kitty, flammin hot cheetos, real cheese, inn-n-out, lettuce, air conditioning, my bed.
Mon Aug 14 2006 06:31 PST Vlora:
My international travel group has slowly splintered, so now it is just me and my friend Daniel, from New Zealand. We had thought we didnàt learn anything in the two weeks in Valjevo, but discovered upon reaching Albania how difficult it is to get by without even being able to say the words for §hello§ and §thanks.§ Sorry this keyboard is weird. I canàt be bothered to figure it out. We spent a relaxing day here on the beach and then walking around with our backpacks in search of pizza. Now weùre going to try and work our way down the coast to Corfu. Itàs very nice here and feels undiscovered, except by local tourists.
I do find it a bit funny that I am using the internet more now that Iàve left the place that promised °internet access.°
Thu Aug 17 2006 04:55 PST Quick update from Saranda:
Safe, happy, and on my way to Corfu.
Fri Aug 18 2006 05:32 PST "Package tour heaven":
I am totally not sold on this Corfu place. Tomorrow we are leaving for Salonika if all goes as planned.
Sun Aug 20 2006 07:22 PST The Greeks call it Macedonia, too:
I am finally in the city of my dreams, Thessaloniki, as they say now. It's actually very nice, except for the heat, and that fact that nothing is open, since unfortunatley it's Sunday. We even had to try several internet cafes before finding one that wasn't shut.
We arrived 3:30 this morning and spent an hour wandering around looking for Salonika's cheapest hotel, but finally settled on a more expensive but findable one. So far there hasn't been much to do but wander around and look at the shut shops, but those seem very nice, and I have caught glimpses of the port, which I imagine to be full of transport and hospital ships, and the White Tower, where I imagine the likes of Olive King and Elsie Corbett dining in their SWH uniforms.
I am afraid I judged Corfu a little too harshly in my last entry. It is actually a very nice place, if overly touristy. I think the most unfortunate choice was to stay as this hostel-resort place instead of in town. Sunrock is rather in the middle of nowhere and there is not much to do other than go to the beach, and I am at this point pretty much beached out. They don't even rent bikes (with the mountains this is rather understandable) or peddle-boats. I really wish I knew how to drive a scooter so I could have seen more of the island, which looked quite nice according to what I saw of it. The real fault of the place was the owner family, who were unhelpful and bordering on rude. We managed to escape and go to Corfu town for a day, and I liked what I saw very much there. At a restaurant I ordered grilled prawns as a treat for myself and was horrified when they brought out the prawns, unshelled, head & all... I had to decapiate them myself. At some points I really feel like a spoiled, uncultured American, and a very girly one at that--espcially when it comes to using "Turkish" toilets. Anyway, I think it definitley would have been better to stay in town and rent a car to see the rest of the island. It's unfortunate that you need a car to see most of these Greek islands, but oh well. I'm more of a town girl anyway, and now I am in a real town. We made the best of the beach anyway and went with some others to a "nudist" beach--it wasn't very lively, there was only one naked guy there and some others clad in bathing suits--to do mud baths. Underneath the sand was this mud stuff perfect for masks. Quite fun. Our bus left Corfu at 7 pm and as I mentioned, arrived in Corfu at 3:30. Actually it was either an hour late or the time changed again. Or I never changed my watch in the first place. I think it was 4:30 when we got in. But you have to think there is a more convienvent time to make an 8 hour journey. The other bus leaves Corfu at 6 and arrives at 4. They are always full-up (we had to sit in the very back and we bought our tickets a day in advance) so you would think they would offer more, but apparently the buses in Greece are state-controlled prices so maybe there is no motivation for competetive things like convienent times. I was afraid I would get sick but I took drammamine and sleep fitfully most of the time & survived. I hope next journey I take will be by train, though, I am kinda fed up with these buses. At least nothing could be worse than Albania.
I am really quite happy just to be here, and I don't know how long I'll sat or where I'll go next, but probably Macedonia. I'm not ready to go home yet but hopefully I'll feel differently in 10 days. We'll see.
Sun Aug 20 2006 07:41 PST PS (Addiction):
They have CHEETOS in Greece. But they aren't flammin hot.
Sun Aug 20 2006 09:07 PST Illusions, Michael:
"The final countdown" just came on in the internet cafe. Cheers.
(4) Wed Aug 23 2006 13:42 PST From FYROM:
In Skopje at the moment, which is much nicer than I expected it to be. I had some decent Indian food today. Back to Belgrade on Saturday and my flight leaves on Wednesday. I am actually starting to have moments where I think I might get on it, so that is a good sign.
Sat Aug 26 2006 08:18 PST Brushing my teeth from the window of a train:
Came to Belgrade via an overnight which arrived at 11 am, tho I think it was supposed to arrive 6 or 8. Now I am staying at a hostel called "Monster" which convinently has free internet. I'm pretty tired tho.
Uh-oh. Apparantly there is a sickness going round the hostel. Well I suppose if there is a time to get sick on my trip, now is it (actually about 3 days from now would be best).
(3) Mon Aug 28 2006 05:49 PST What kind of a person steals another's juice?:
It's rainy and gloomy and my food in the hostel keeps disappearing. Belgrade seemed to have lost its charm, but things are looking up, as they are wont to do after a cup of tea. I have found the perfect bag! Sadly it is only perfect except for the color--brown. I have until tomorrow to decide if I can abide by a brown-colored bag.
(1) Tue Aug 29 2006 15:19 PST "Thinking I had everything we'd need":
Tomorrow I am leaving Europe. All that remains is a shower and a sleep, packing, and changing enough money to get me to the airport (it's funny how fast that stuff goes away, even here, in the land of the cheap), and dragging allll my stuff, which is significantly heavier after today than before. I had quite a lot of luck with presents and with book shopping: bought several books for studying Serbian, a dictionary, and some great books on history, about which I am very excited.
I am having so much fun travelling that I don't want to leave, but it helps to think about a cozy bed and cozy pjs and a cozy kitten, with freshly washed clothes that have been DRIED in a DRYER (this invention seems not to have made it to Eastern Europe yet) and a tummy full of Inn-N-Out and Flammin' Hot Cheetos. I just try not to think about how much, when I've had my fix, I'll want to be back right back where I am now.
(4) Wed Aug 30 2006 20:42 PST "These dreams took me so far":
I am back safe at Leonard and Jeff's, sharing my Turkish delight from the bazaar in Skopje with Jeff. It's sooo nice to be back in American, the land of freeways and cheetos, or, as Georgia Nicholson calls it, "Hamburger-a-go-go land." Tonks remembers who I am, I think, and it's nice to be back on Dave again, downloading my 200 emails and uploading my 800 pictures.
© 2002-2010 Rachel Richardson.