kosovo: prizren // goodbye toe

I really wanted to go to Ohrid in Macedonia, since it’s supposed to be astonishing, but with my back fucked up six ways from Sunday, I decided to just head to Prizren. I had to stay in Tirana an extra day because I literally couldn’t fucking move, at least until a hostel volunteer gave me some painkillers which dulled the spasms enough that I could get out of bed, but fortunately the hostel in Tirana (Trip n’ House, which is a dumbfuck name but a decent hostel) could accommodate me another day, and City Hostel in Prizren let me change my reservation without a fee, which was also very nice.

Unfortunately, like immediately upon arrival in Prizren (or at least that night), I stubbed my toe on the bathroom doorjamb (admittedly, rooftop beer and rakia probably didn’t help). Which wouldn’t have been a big deal, except because my back’s so fucked, I couldn’t reflexively jerk my foot back, and instead just pitched forward, landing on my knees on the tile floor, and ripping a solid layer of skin off my toe.

Which made things like “shoes” a bit of a problem, which made things like “leaving the hostel” also a bit of a problem. So I spent the next day wallowing in justifiable but also really pathetic self-pity. I might have cried in the lobby. A little. I vented my feelings by appropriating the spare pair of flip-flops in the hallway so I could shuffle around a little before I left.

Though I admit there’s something perversely satisfying about being unable to go do travel-y things and explore because you’re physically unable, and so you can sit in bed all day without feeling bad — except for, you know, feeling really bad.

Prizren really is lovely, though, aside from the creepy mannequins. I ended up skipping Pristina, so I can’t confirm or deny the general opinion that it’s kind of worth skipping, but Prizren is beautiful, even if you’re like me and only limp down the streets a few times.

I actually have some slightly more substantial updates from Skopje, Macedonia, which I really loved — I didn’t really know what to expect (which is generally a good thing), but it was a surprisingly awesome place. Despite/because of all the ridiculously ornate statues. So hopefully that will be more interesting than these recent photodumps.

 

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albania: shkoder & tirana // i forgot to photograph tirana

Wait, no, I did not forget to photograph Tirana. I left my camera in Tirana, and with it, all my photographs. Sigh.

I’m in Bulgaria now, traveling from Sofia to Plovdiv tomorrow and then heading to Istanbul, and I might try to see if I can find an inexpensive point-and-shoot, because like, Istanbul, I don’t want my only photos to be from this godawful replacement phone. We’ll see.

Anyway, Albania was interesting, and fairly different than most places I’ve been. I mean, not really, but I think it only opened its borders in the mid-’90s, and it’s still got a bit of an insular feel. But a lot of travel/tourism websites and blogs talk about how Albania is going to be the next big destination, and I definitely got that impression. Especially in Shkoder, moreso than Tirana.

To be fair to Tirana, I managed to throw my back out really badly when I was there, because I’m apparently like 90 years old. It’s been nearly two weeks, and I still can barely touch my toes, or crack my lower spine, which normally I have to do like every ten minutes, so that’s great fun.

Also, the street dogs of Albania are a lot sadder than the street kitties of Croatia and Montenegro. They don’t appear to be starving or abused or even particularly dirty, but just — lonely. I want to pet them all.

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montenegro: ulcinj // photodump, photodumb // still catching up

Honestly I don’t have much to say about Ulcinj. I had a shitty time there. Which sucks, because I loved my hostel (Hostel Pirate), and the city is beautiful, I just finally landed on ill luck. So I’m pretty much just photodumping here, mostly from my hostel host Dijana offering me to come along with her dog to a lighthouse on the coast, which was a really damn cool thing. So I’m just going to document this shit and attempt to catch up to a place where I can blog before I forget everything.

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montenegro: kotor // mostly photodump

My dudes, if you do nothing else in Eastern Europe, take this bus ride down the Adriatic coast.

I mean that’s probably not true, but it is kind of amazing, and also I love the word Adriatic.

Yeah, I have a bit of a lexical obsession; blame my linguistics training.

But it’s a really lovely trip, and I made a new friend on the bus (hi Yvonne!) and another acquaintance I ran into in Albania, because of course.

In Kotor, the Thing To Do is to climb up the old old pathways up to the fortress. I wish I could say I did this, which I did not, but I got about halfway up before I’d almost sprained an ankle like three times, and decided the views I’d got were worth not ending up in the hospital.

Also, the cats of Kotor are apparently a thing. Like with gift shops, and a museum, which sadly was still closed, but lots of adorableness. I apparently did not get many pictures of them, but let me assure you: excellent cats.

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Dubrrrrovvvnik

Isn’t that the sexiest placename? Dubrovnik? Maybe that’s just me.

I wasn’t actually going to go to Dubrovnik, since I’ve been to Zagreb a few times, and have yet to get into Game of Thrones (the TV show at least, I have read the books [she says annoyingly]), but as I’d have to transfer there anyway on the way from Mostar to Kotor, Montenegro, it seemed silly not to.

And it is breathtakingly beautiful, but it also seems like the kind of place that’s more fun to actually plan a vacation to, instead of just happen to wander into. I feel more at home in slightly less tourist hotspots, which I am fully aware makes me sound like a douchebag, but you get used to things, and it’s jarring to suddenly hearing more American voices than you’ve heard since NYC. Also, expensive, when you’ve gotten spoiled by the rest of central/eastern Europe.

That said, holy shit, it is gorgeous.

I didn’t do the city walls, because it was like 20 euro just for the entrance, and it’s not like there’s a dearth of other beautiful views and amazing photo ops in the city. I loved picking my way along the half-crumbled concrete outside the city walls adjacent to the sea, and climbing up and down the labyrinthine alley stairs to peek into the cafes and shops and hotels tucked inside of them.

And also, again, some particularly excellent cats.

 

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Bosnia // Sarajevo & Mostar

Oof.

So, after my phone getting stolen in Belgrade, and losing my debit card and being slightly terrified in Ulcinj, on Monday I threw my back out badly in Tirana (because I am like 90 years old here), leaving my unable to get out of bed or leave when I intended, and then because my back’s still fucked, a simple stubbed toe in Prizren resulted in me pitching forward because my back muscles don’t work right yet, ripping the skin off my toe so badly that I can’t put a shoe on and my hostel room floor is still covered with smears of blood, and bruising my other foot and both knees.

Oh, and I left my camera in Albania. Awesome.

I mean, I’m nearing six months of nonstop travel, with shockingly few hiccups; they’re just all happening at once now. As happens. Shit, I thought I lost my wallet today, and looked everywhere for it, and had just about resigned myself to a fuck-it-I’m-fucking-going-home mindset when I unearthed it. So, I’ve still got my passport, a sort-of phone, laptop, and wallet. I’ll manage. Even if I can’t fucking sit stand or walk without whimpering pathetically a little.

Anyway, I finally limped down to a pharmacy and got some painkillers and disinfectant and bandaids, so hopefully I’ll be human enough to wander Prizren a bit more tomorrow before leaving for Macedonia Saturday. And hey, this forced sedentariness means I can catch up on this blog more, right?

Right?

Right.

Just be glad I’m sparing you the gross picture of my toe I shared on Facebook because apparently I hate keeping friends.

Anyway, after I finally said my goodbyes to Belgrade, and the only semblance of stability I’ve had since October, I hopped on a bus to Sarajevo. Immediately got lost, because I had no phone service so no Google maps, and got pretty screwed on cab fare because I couldn’t find the bus, but so it goes.

I spent a lot of the time in Sarajevo just curled up in the hostel common room (Hostel Ljubicica), catching up on work, chatting with new friends, and just kind of getting used to being a wanderer again. So not really very much of  interest to relate. From there I went to Mostar for a couple days, just because a ton of people were like oh, you have to go to Mostar — I’m like, what the fuck is Mostar?? — but they were right, it’s so beautiful.

And my hostel (Backpackers Mostar) was under renovation, so they gave me a free upgrade to a private room. With like… actual beds, minus bunk. Usually I prefer dorms, being an introvert who has difficulty meeting people, but oh, it was nice. There’s not much to do there, but it’s definitely worth spending a day just wandering around the old bridges and buildings. Also, cats.

I forgot to sort my photos between Sarajevo and Mostar, but whatever, they were both cool.

All right, only have Dubrovnik, Kotor, Ulcinj, Shkoder, Tirana, and Prizen and I’ll be more or less caught up! … Yeah.

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Deutschland day two (and Belgium, and Netherlands…)

Christ, it has been a long fucking week! And as such, my heartfelt goals of getting caught up on the blog have not come to fruition. Spent a couple days in Kotor, Montenegro, and then down to Ulcinj, where first night there I was yanked into a random bar by a policeman and interrogated (I guess?) by him and some other dudes. I have no idea what any of them were saying, and eventually they just bought me a glass or two of wine and I left, but mildly traumatizing.

And my debit card got lost/stolen.  As much as it seems likely it was stolen, given the weird coincidence of it disappearing the same night that happened, I’m leaning towards lost, since my credit card, passport, and cash were all intact, and I was a tad frazzled, to put it lightly.

Anyway, I got it worked out (theoretically), and I think I have enough cash to manage ’til bank sends new card to my parents and they send it to me once I’m somewhere for like a week, probably Bulgaria or Bucharest. And my hostel was really great (Hostel Pirate — hi Dijana!) so I had a nice place to get my shit generally together for a few days before moving on. And now I’m in Albania.

So, back to Germany! And Belgium, and the Netherlands…

Thursday, after we all slept in and dragged ourselves out of bed totally not hungover or anything (actually, I think we were pretty okay, especially after another of Andy’s amazing breakfasts), we piled back into the car and headed to Aachen, which shares its border with Belgium and the Netherlands at Vaalserberg. Which what the fuck, how come the near-six foot tall girl with joint issues got to sit bitch the whole way? But man, I felt so close to y’all.

I don’t actually have that a lot of pictures — okay, well, I do, but I suspect endless photographs of the group of us being dorks isn’t as infinitely entertaining to everyone as it is to me. Also my camera battery died, so most pictures again courtesy of Andy.

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(Not pictured: Germany side)

It’s still pretty funny, though, so here, have a few.

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We are, as you see, extremely classy individuals.

It was really neat, though. It was my first time in the Netherlands — and I know this is lame, but since I can check it off my list, I might skip Amsterdam, just for money reasons. What the fuck ever, I’m poor as shit. And the scenery was beautiful!

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(Not pictured: DOGS! Especially a white German Shepherd I fell in love with from afar.)

And then here we have Chris just calmly chilling like a supermodel while the rest of us are fucking dumbass jackballs in the background.

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Jerk.

I love these, though. It’s such an utterly, bizarrely random set of circumstances that led us all to be dancing (literally — don’t just) around the corner of Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands on a Thursday afternoon in March, because we happened to end up in the same hostel in Morocco in January.

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It was a good day. 🙂

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