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

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