Saturday, July 30, 2011

To the south!

I'm so happy that my recent travels can be experienced in bigger companionship than just myself. It's even better that Icelandic freezing and Danish rain are gone for good. We hit the road, with no special plan and with much luck got to sultry and dry Croatia.

One of many astounding sunsets

100 m from this place ferries departed to the Pag Island and it became our hotel for the night.

Early in the morning the traffic is almost none... especially when you miss the cars arriving by ferry.

Sleeping outdoors - check. Trying mouth-watering burek - check. Cooling yourself down in the fountain - check. Swimming in salty Adriatic Sea - check. But crowded places, high prices and temperatures reaching 40 degrees are not our cup of tea. One destination we wanted to see was Plitvička Jezera. But the price (15€!) was an effective deterrent. Exhausted with the sun, we decided to head this way anyway and enter Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The landscape changes significantly when you cross the mountains. No more rocks, just verdant green hills and fields.

Fate changed our plans. While thumbing on a tiny road, a Croatian man approached us and asked for our destination in German. My answer, to my big surprise, was followed by his invitation to stay on his farm in Lička Jesenica in a campervan for as long as we like. And again, the plan to stay there for one day backfired and we spent 4 great days in the countryside. We helped Kornelio and his family with collecting hay for the horses from a massive field. Dressed like rednecks, we started early in the morning to avoid the most intense heat. When the job was done, we pampered ourselves in a nearby river that was just like Plitvička Jezera that we never reached, not less impressive, but much less crowded and for free! Sea-through water provided us with so much craved refreshment but the biggest enjoyment we had only thanks to the special people. People who open their houses and hearts to strangers. People who share valuable stories and teach you important life lessons. People who don't want to be slaves of prestigious jobs, credits, thinking about the future. People who prefer spending money on seeing stuff and doing stuff rather than having stuff. Kornelio and his wife Lily are prefect proofs that you can make it even if everybody else doubts your success. After ears of living abroad, now they have a peaceful life in a charming corner of Croatia, without Internet, cinemas, restaurants, bars, pubs, shopping malls, discos... And that's the reason why they're there. Horses and other animals, clean, unpolluted air and surrounding forests make up for it. This experience couldn't be topped. We enjoyed it so much that on our way back, planning to stay for 2-3 days, we stayed for a week...

Minutes after our arrival

The field and hay that has to be collected

Home-made proja with home-made plum/apple jam

Before working in the field

Korana river and the lake

Before collecting the wood

It was hard to leave but we didn't want to linger in one place for too long. Bosnia was waiting, with its stunning landscapes that we admired until midnight trying to find Eco-zone Zelenkovac. Being in this wooden paradise surrounded by forest and creeks gave us new energy to continue our journey.

The way to Zelenkovac that we walked at night

Part of Zelenkovac seen from our tent on the second day

We probably would never head to our next destination - Žabljak - if not our friend Kyle who couchsurfed with us in Chamonix, traveling in the Balkans at the same time as us. We didn't manage to catch him in Macedonia, so we had to do it in Montenegro. The way there was full of jaw-dropping landscapes but the most ever-present thing was adrenaline rush given us by our crazy driver who drover almost 2 times faster than the speed limit on a poor gravel road, overtook other cars on the corners, sometimes barely making it, smashed on the edges, cursed at everybody who drove responsibly and teased me when he saw I'm anxious because of his way of driving. I gasped with relief when we reached Žabljak. To a big surprise, we met Kyle by chance just in the place where we got dropped off. He had a nice surprise for us, a place to sleep in his 3-person room. Incredible - we hadn't planned any night under a roof and we spent 9 nights in a row sleeping at people's places!

Crno Jezero in Durmitor National Park

Driving through Durmitor

Back together again!

Pivsko Jezero that seems to be never-ending

Our drunken driver who caused an accident. Fortunately he stopped once and we took the chance to get out of the car.

Montenegro was the last country on our way and we only saw a tiny bit of it, but we decided to see Bosnia more thoroughly. And so we saw, heard and experienced it - barren mountains in the south while walking from one switchback to another for around 5 km between the borders, Trebinje bursting with nightlife, two sides of Mostar, the famous bridge, mosques and wonderful Muslim music, buildings destroyed during the war, waterfall in Jajce, downpour on our way to Croatia. Overstaying at Kornelio's place was a perfect way to wrap up the Balkan trip. And what else could be better than waiting for 4 hours before Zagreb and competing with some more hichhikers to get a ride but being rewarded with a car going all the way to Poland? I was home at 12.30.

Somewhere between Montenegro and Herzegovina


Our couch in Jajce was much more comfortable!

Hordes of cars - 4 hours of waiting before Zagreb

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The shortest visit in Poland

What was just 970 km on the map turned out to be 1290 km in the reality. The day was rainy and I got an offer to stay one more day at my place in Copenhagen but I already had my mind set on hitchhiking and knew that bad weather somewhere on the way was inevitable.

I had some luck at the very beginning. The truck driver, Turkish guy living in Germany, was going all the way to Berlin, taking the ferry from Rødbyhavn. He told me we would get to Berlin by 18 but actually we reached my gas station at 20.30. He had left for Copenhagen early at night and had slept just for 2 hours, so at every gas station we passed he got some coffee and that resulted in such long breaks on our way to Berlin. By the way, it was the first ride and I already had to speak only German. i didn't even have the last chance to listen once again to wonderful Danish!

My situation after this ride was miserable. It was getting dark (at 21!), the gas station was so small, no cars that seemed to be going to Poland apart from one that was full, only three cars that stopped with an offer to give me a ride to Berlin. Fortunately I was rescued by two Polish guys coming back from Oslo.

We had a chat about working and living abroad and came to conclusion that even if you have to give 60% of your salary to the country and pay unconscionable prices for living, it's still better than living and working in Poland. They dropped me off at the tool booth just before Poznań, in pitch dark and pouring rain.

The next ride was rather an emergency rescue from a dire situation. Instead of getting into Poznań, just a stone's throw from my town, I decided to hitch any ride, just to escape the rain and cold. I got way too far east, but in a nice companionship of a Ukrainian truck driver. Listening to Ukrainian music, talking about countryside life, finding out that even Ukraine is more expensive than West Europe, I survived the rain.

One ride that really helped me adjust to the crude Polish reality was from a guy who worked in Utrecht. I swear, all my complaints about Poland found a good listener at last! Complaints about low salaries, high costs of living, unfair employers who don't respect the worker, cheating you about money, getting a job "because you're my friend," studying "to have a good job and prestige," struggling to get by with 400 euro per month were understood to a fault. We understood each other so well and the discussion was so involving that I missed the spot where I had to get off and had to get from east to west part of Torun to hitch my last ride.

I was damn exhausted after over 24 hours of continuous hitchhiking. To my big relief my last driver was going to Szczecin, so from the place where he dropped me off I had just a 20 minute walk.

My neighborhood welcomed me with paved roads (after 16 years of living there!) but the city itself annoyed with countless constructions that caused my confusion and disorientation when I tried to find my way. Fortunately, with a little help from my friends being back in Poland didn't seem to be that bad. And the very close future has some more days on the road in store for me...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Paradise lost

Two weeks of living in Copenhagen are over. I would never expect such outcome of this situation but I sadly decided to leave.

I've always dreamed of settling down in Denmark, I anticipated speaking Danish with people and getting the hang of the language. In my dreams it was a paradise and I strove to live there. But reality turned out to be different. Big city, hoards of local people and tourists, constant search for a job that indeed was futile and stopped me from having any social life, being there just on my own with nobody to turn to. In a situation like that, I feel even more how much I miss the road and constantly being on the go.

I'm pretty sure my attitude to Copenhagen would change with time. I could be satisfied with living in this place provided that I had a job and some more things I lack right now. I could stay for a week or two more, but I see no point in spending money on accommodation if I have no proof that this money will be given back to me when I start working.

I'm leaving tomorrow, ready for another adventure. And I still don't know exactly where I'll head. Hopefully next hours give an answer.

Nevertheless, it was a good time here in Copenhagen...

All four rectangular lakes in the center are now covered with some green plant. Two years ago they were all blue!

Some street art at Nørrebro. A translation that sounds better would be "Your money means shit to me."

Bikes are omnipresent

Some of them deprived of parts...

...and some with unique ornaments

One of the newest buildings at Amager

Flowers in Amager Fælled, a bird sanctuary


Sankt Jørgens Sø

Nice grave at Assistens Kirkegård