Ok, this is turning more into a travel journal than a blog, hope you enjoy reading anyway! Here`s Albert`s part........ en español.

26 Oktober 2011

Croatia and Bosnia

(Text in English below)

Huhu, Ihr Lieben.  Ich habe beschlossen, den Blog auf Englisch weiterzufuehren.  Weil ich meine nicht-deutsch sprechende Freunde und Verwandte gerne den Blog mitverfolgen lassen moechte, und dann auch die netten Leute, die wir unterwegs kennen lernen und neugierig sind.  Und da die meisten von Euch sowieso gut Englisch koennen oder zumindest gut verstehen, ist das hoffentlich ok.. (Anne!!  Ich weiss doch, dass Du's im tiefsten Inneren auch kannst!! Hihi..)

Croatia.  Crystal-blue water, white pebble stone beaches, a warm breeze with the scent of pine and fig trees, sage and rosemary.  Oh, and also: sunshine, sunshine, every day sunshiiine...!  : )  Traveling in Croatia felt like taking holidays from traveling, spoiling ourselves with massive amounts of figs that we picked from trees, swimming in the ocean, hunting for fish markets..  Making a fire at night was so easy that cooking a meal was faster than ever.  On top of everything, there are plenty of rock climbing possibilities in Croatia!

We arrived from Crna Kal  (Slovenia), riding through beautiful nowhere-land.

..to Rijeka, the third largest city in Croatia.

(..wondering where to camp in such a city??  Most of the suburban area seemed to be industrial.  But especially in the darkness, I rely on Alby's nose.. that brought us to

         this one...)

Never mind.  All compensated by the view of the Mediterranean Sea the next day!  What a feeling to have come so far~~~! 

This was the kind of view (and better) we had most of the time riding down the coast.  Very amazing.  Unfortunately, there are hardly any secondary roads around there but the traffic was not too bad.  Most people seemed to be going back home in a northward direction anyway.  It was in Croatia that I developed this weird habit of checking out every single number plate of the cars going by.. my statistics say that about 70% or more of the car drivers must have been Germans!!!  Followed by Austrians, Slovenians and people from Zagreb..

It was crazy (and a pity) to see that many coastal towns seemed to be built solely for tourists.  Being off-season, a lot of them actually seemed like ghost towns.  But this also meant: empty, quiet beaches, all for ourselves : )  This is where we spend the second night then.. much better than the first:

It was also where Albert caught is very first fish.  Check this out. 

...and the proud man here:

Whenever we find secondary roads, we take it.  This one was one of the hightlights, I think.  When it got too hot, we simply took a dip in the sea.

...and when we got hungry, he ate figs.  I won't tell you what too many figs do with your digestion.  It didn't keep us from having more anyway.       

This is one of the not so touristy, rather authentic towns.  I forgot the name but I still remember the nice little local seafood place, where you could chose (we could have chosen!!!) the fish that you like to eat and they would serve it right there for you. 

At some point we took a ferry to Pag-Island, pronounced like "Pug" as in "pug dog" (Anne: Mops).  I couldn't help but associate the name with pugs and felt weird when I had heard of the specialty of the island.. Pug cheese!

The reason why we decided to go to Pag Island was because we had heard that not too many people go there and we might find more authenticity.   As soon as we got off the ferry, we knew why not too many people go there. 

It was like being in another country.  What a harsh scenery!  And people still try to hold sheep there.  They were skinny and suffering from the heat, often hiding in the only small spot of shade behind a rock. 

Going south, the scenery began to change and to be more friendly...

  Fish attack

                  ....more fish attacks

  And tiny-shrimp-attacks!

The biggest owl I have ever seen.  Maybe half a meter??  I was so impressed when it spread its huge wings and flew away, calmly and very low, just above the ground of a small canyon.

..and the smallest scorpion I have ever seen??  Not as impressive as the owl, but it's got something (threatening and sweet at the same time), don't you think.

I post the picture of this splendid salad just to show off...  hehe..  it has pine seeds on top - we are traveling with a bag full of pine seeds !!500g!! that our crazy friend in Slovenia gave us as a present......


From Pag Island we crossed the brigde back to the mainland and continued to Split.  Who would imagine a huge park and beautifully situated lime stone rocks in the second largest city of Croatia?!  

  This here is a game similar to boule.  Elderly men get together in the park to chat and discuss, and to play this game (we see it all over the Balkans).  I was sitting on a bench and writing in my journal when I saw two men walking up to small trees and each of them taking out a piece of card board from in between some branches.  They use them to sit on or as a surface to play cards on. It seems like the trees are a kind of storage place for them..  oh, and the balls for this game were hidden next to an underground water tap.  

An even more impressive area to climb than Split was Omis, around 20km further South, an old, small coastal town with huge rocky mountains in the backgound.

Sorry that I write so much about food but.. hehehe, check this out.  Alby making a risotto with fresh calamares from the market (right at the place to climb, are we in heaven or what?!)


     and here is the outcome:

From there, we followed a river in a valley towards Bosnia...  we figured out rather late, but the interior of the Croatia is not touristy at all and super beautiful.  Very hilly with semi-arid vegetation, lots of olive tree plantations and tiny villages here and there.
What you see on the horizon here is already Bosnia.  The plains down there is where we spent our first night in Bosnia.  So you can imagine..  what a feeling to be (rock'n') rolling downhill with this kind of view!!  

Just after crossing the border, we already felt the difference between how Bosnian and Croatian people were perceiving us.. People probably don't see many cyclists around there, looking at us rather confused. But it was also visible in their faces that once the confusion had passed, they were curious and friendly, welcoming us in their country.


And then!   Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Well, actually we only went to Mostar and Sarajevo.  These places were not really on our way to the south, but Albert wanted to see Sarajevo.

We had heard that these two big cities are connected by a road along a river in a gorge with magnificent landscape (recommended by a cyclist).  It was true, breathtaking... in many ways.  What we did not know was that the road was actually a highway with lots and lots of trucks and cars.  Now a highway in the Balkans is a bit different than a highway in Central Europe.. we asked some police men in Tirana (capital of Albania) what was the best way to get  into town and he told us to take the highway.  Yes, there is a 6-lane highway (3 in each direction) starting (!) in the city.  They told us it would be only 2,5km on the highway so not to worry.. 

So there we were on a highway connecting two major cities and with little space on the side of the road.  It was actually the first time I used my helmet.  The most terrifying parts, though not really dangerous in reality were the tunnels.  Every time a car entered the tunnel, there was this droning echoing from all sides, sounding like it was going to eat us.  It got louder, and louder, and louder..  many times it simply turned out to be a small Fiat passing by ; )  As mentioned already, the tunnels were the "safer" part of the road, because there were sidewalks and therefore enough space for us.  Nevertheless, we had to watch out not to overlook the big holes in the ground.....  So most of the time, I got off the bike and walked through the tunnels pushing the bike on my side.

Once we arrived in Sarajevo, I asked Albert what it was that made him want to come to Sarajevo.. he looked at me kind of surprised and said that he thought it was me who wanted to see Sarajevo..!! 

-Neither of us regret to have taken the trip though.

 This is the view from the famous old Ottoman bridge in Mostar.  Sorry, we didn't take a picture of the bridge itself ; ) though it certainly would have been worth it.   The bridge was destroyed during the war in the 1993, and perfectly reconstructed in 2002.  There are still many, many traces of the war that you can see and feel in the town (and country), but we were also impressed how well renovated some areas were.  

..another weird place where we camped.  Outside of Mostar, a huge abandoned area with a few destroyed buildings around and much "construction garbage" (bricks and so on) covered by grass and some nice smelling herbs.  A stray dog kept barking at us for many hours from the distance.

It took us 3 days from Mostar to Sarajevo.  We stopped in some villages on the way, where on one night we got caught in a big storm.  Fortunately, we had taken advantage of those 20min when the rain had stopped to find a place to put up our tent.   It was a strange night.  Again, with the threatening sound of the storm, the rain was so loud that we could hardly understand each other.  Every now and then lightening was brightening up the tent, it looked like daylight for a second.  The wind was so strong that Albert had to lean himself against one side of the tent..  And suddenly, we started to hear music from the distance.. an oriental sounding melody..very soothing.  But where did it come from??  We couldn't say.  And how loud the music must have been!  Louder than the rain and thunder so we could hear it..  very, very, very mysterious!!

Only in the morning after the storm had calmed down and we were woken up by the sound of prayers of the mosks... we smiled..................ahhhh!

In Sarajevo we contacted Amin through warmshowers.com.  He works in a bike shop and offered us to stay in the storage room.  We happily took his offer.  Did I mention that it was around 5 degrees celsius (in the afternoon!) when we arrived??

Albert's paradise:

and this for me

ok, enough. 

We met some nice people in Sarajevo and finally ended up staying a few days longer than we thought.  Once again, we had the chance to rock climb in a beautiful area, just 10min on bike from the center of Sarajevo.  

But we were also looking forward to go on...

(uff, I can't spend more time on the internet.. sorry.. will write more next time about Montenegro.  We had a really, really good time in Montenegro, so keep checking up later!)

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