Thursday, 30 August 2012

Dubrovnik and Herzegovina

In the morning after our "fun" at the border, we visited Dubrovnik. The fortified medieval town with its narrow streets is simply gorgeous. Quite touristic and overpriced... but still enjoyable. You can spend all day slandering through the small ways. And a good breakfast before we continued towards Bosnia and Herzogovina.
We entered Herzegovina and enjoyed views on the great landscape from the empty roads. We made our way to the waterfalls for Kravice, which seem to be a great place for wealthy families to escape the summer heat. Some climbing and an ice cream later we drove towards Mostar. There we wandered through town to see the Unesco heritage site of the famous Mostar bridge. The flair was made perfect by the setting sun. We didnt even mind all the souvenir shops around and visited a photo gallery before having dinner at the river. The river front is amazing as the riverbed is left nearly unspoiled. At night we drove to Sarajevo and found a hotel after some tries^^ Ben and I went to see the bar scene in Sarajevo... but somehow most was close... we still were able to get some cold beers in one Erasmus/student place :) The following day we explored Sarajevo.

view over Dubrovnik

slandering through Dubrovniks old city

view over Dubrovnik's roofs

the road through Herzegovina
Kravice waterfall

famous Mostar bridge

don't forget about history

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Montenegro: Sveti Stefan, Skadar lake, Kotor, Herzig Novi

The border crossing from Kosovo to Montenegro was another super easy one. We drove several hours through the amazing country side of Montenegro... although hours of serpentines are quite exhausting^^ Still the view rewarded us. We enjoyed breakfast/lunch at a riverbed (we made quite diligent choices during the trip to have our meals in gorgeous surroundings :D ). Later we visited Cetinje. Our Kosovo-Albanian acquaintances already told us that Montenegrins are rather lazy. However, I have never met such boring and dull people. It's been like the whole place was on slow motion :S After slandering through the small city we went to Budva, Montenegro's major tourist hub. It was even more touristic than we imagined. The old fortified city is stunning, but streets packed with tourists ruined the flair. Rather expensive place which is not worth it. We skipped the idea of nightlife and after dinner we emptied some beer on the balcony of our apartment. The next morning we drove out to visit Sveti Stefan. Which appeared really gorgeous... but somehow someone managed to buy all of the former world heritage site and make it a hotel - access denied. Overall Montenegro mainly consists of mountainous settings... and the very few beaches are sold out to companies or private owners. Instead we continued our way to Skadar Lake. At this lush setting we enjoyed another of our typical breakfast/lunch combinations :P The lake offered great views. Next, we drove to Kotor, another fortified town. Unlike Budva or Sveti Stefan it appeared not overrun by tourists. And things seemed to be public property. We enjoyed slandering through the streets and then took the challenge to climb the castle 270m, >1500 steps at early afternoon. The arduous way was rewarded with the best view during our trip. Aftwards, we drove around the bay which offers more great views and ended in Herzig Novi, where we had dinner and strolled through the city. It was late, sunset was over since some hours and we were to drive to Dubrovnik this night. Unluckily we were kept at Montenegrin border for 3 hours. When the chief of customs saw our passports with entries "Cambodia", "Indonesia" and "Malaysia" and we mentioned Kosovo amongst the other countries of our trip he decided to have us thoroughly checked for drugs - marijuana in particular. The officers seemed quite depressed when they had to dig through all our equipment, including the dirty clothes of nearly 3 weeks :P And when they saw us having fun about that, they were even more pissed. However, 3 hours later they let us leave for Croatia, where the border check went without trouble. We then went to a camping spot near Dubrovnik.

serpentines through Montenegro's gorgeous Balkan mountains

up and down... fun for some time, exhausting later^^
lunch at a riverbed

Sveti Stefan - sold
Skadar lake - simply great views :)

the lake is on wide parts covered with plants
view on Kotor from the way up the castle

view from Kotor's castle down the bay - amazing!

Sunday, 26 August 2012


All the images we had in our head about Kosovo were rather bad. Well we grew up when the Balkan-war was on. And Kosovo was the latest cruelty around Balkan - even tho it is already 12 years ago...
Therefore, we were surprised when crossing the border was easy and we saw plenty German car plates... most of them Kosovo-Albanians earning their money in Germany, as we learned later. We planned to drive through Kosovo in one day and spending the night in Montenegro. We drove into Pristina... the roads are fine and there are shops all along the big streets. Everything is paid in Euro, Kosovo's official currency, brought into the country by all the EU organizations. Our sightseeing tour brought us first to the extraordinary university library of Pristina. Then along ruins to the main street in the center which is broadly under construction. Some cafe's were calling us and we saw them being filled with internationals. Prices are comparable to western Europe. UN cars were on the street. Some huge Albanian and Macedonian car arrived... each supported by two security cars. Drivers remained in the cars while another guy of each car joined the neighboring cafè to secure the area. Interesting and funny to watch :) It appeared to be obvious that we are tourists... while most others were on business/mission^^ Just sitting there and watching the people was probably the most interesting part. Later we continued through the city... down the shopping street. All the great buildings are inhabited by international organizations and properly secured... obviously one needs a great view and a lot of security when helping!
We left Pristina towards Peja. On the highway suddenly cows!!!! appeared. Calmly walking there while the cars approached with 100+ km/h. Hitting one of those probably is like driving against a wall :o Unluckily our GPS systems went off. Danny's not having a Kosovo map. My phone lost GPS signal and my tablet's battery was down. So we went by good old map. The big street towards west from Peja should lead us through a national park towards Montenegro - according to ADAC at least. After some trouble we indeed found the correct way - or what was thought to be correct^^
The sun led us into the valleys of the national park, the street was busy and we even spotted some Montenegrian plates - had to be the right way :D Time was running against us... when it was dark we would see nothing on this road - lights were missing. The road seemed never ending, but getting smaller the further we were getting. Bad feeling... suddenly asphalt ended and a dirt road continued. Even worse: small streams resulted in huge holes in the road... on some places bridges were build out of tree trunks, covered and connected by dirt... the latter obviously was partly washed away by former rainfalls... somehow we managed to cross 4 of them. Then we asked the next car if we were on the right way. Unluckily noone spoke English, but they were able to tell us that there was a village in front of us in 1km. Another hilarious bridge later the entrance of the village appeared and the first place seemed like a holiday destination. A group of teenagers had some lesson and in the edge an elder was sitting next to a fire writing in a book - that had to be the one in charge of the facility - correct! :)
"We are looking for the ways towards Montenegro and somehow totally lost our way" I started. A smile returned. "Every question you ask will cost you 50cent". "ok, we need to know". "Just a joke. You can sit down. There is no more border crossing around here. I go and get some beer".
Later he told us that we were only 2km away from Montenegro. However, the border crossing in our map did not exist anymore since end of the war. A heavy rainfall resulted in its closing. As he was out of beds, we were allowed to place our tent in his garden. But later - due to the cold night - he invited us to sleep on the floor on an older building of his. The teenagers group was under lessons of some local counter part of transparency international and supported by Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung. They invited us for dinner and breakfast and we joined their party - as it was their last evening. We talked through all night to the owner and the organizer of the group and learned a lot about Kosovo and its people. Generously hospitality... the next morning we anyways crossed the border (according to GPS, which was working again) and then took the correct and official crossing further north to continue to Montenegro.

Pristina's library

Kosova Republike! in front of "wanted" posters

Thats the way this place feels like: newborn

entry into national park from Peja... we didn't see the yellow "do not take pictures"-sign at the military base earlier^^

our shelter

brushing teeth after illegally crossing the border to Montenegro (later took the legal crossing)

Drive through the national park - simply gorgeous

Saturday, 25 August 2012


The border crossing into Macedonia was very easy. And the landscape that welcomed us was simply gorgeous :D It took us a while to find our hotel in Sofia. After we finally arrived we went out straight again towards Tetovo. We were planing to see the monastery there... however, we didn't make it to find it. But our search led us up the steepest way I ever drove with my car on one of the narrowest roads... I felt flushed by adrenaline... every time a car came towards us my heart got a little shock and I saw the steep way hundreds of meters downwards on the badly stabilized road. Anyways a church and a great sunset view towards Albanian mountains awaited us up there. The pictures hardly cover how steep it was or the roads condition :o I hardly could enjoy the view... my nerves been stressed :P Hungry we came back into Skopje... at the central square each of us ordered a pizza - it was only 2,70eur. However, Ben was starving too much and added some meatballs. After the meatballs, pizza arrived and it was kinda 40cm in diameter... after eating up we literally felt like exploding. A taxi took us to the club district at central park. The party atmosphere is amazing here. Overall Macedonia is super cheap... taxi rides, food, entrances, drinks, cigarettes... which makes it more fun to spend money. Music was good and the party crowd as well :) So we decided to stay another day. Unluckily Ben got stomach-sick (maybe meatball+pizza was indeed too much on an empty stomach)... so Danny and I explored the city alone. Skopje is a great city... they try to live up the old times of Alexander the great. The new parliament and surrounding buildings are supposed to resemble the ancient architecture. Still... Greece and Macedonia still hassle about where Alexander came from and who is allowed to advertise with him. Therefore Macedonia is called FYROM - Former Yugoslawian Republic of Macedionia - as there is another Macedonia as state of Greece. Macedonia's new statue of Alexander right in center of town therefor resembles a middle finger of 22meters in height towards Greece :D Skopje also resembles a great place for people of different ethnics (Macedonian, Bulgarian, Albanian) and religion (Muslims and Christians - orthodox and catholic) to live together in harmony. Later, with Ben on his feet again, we tried to drive to the millenium cross... but both ways to it were blocked. The entrance to the city castle was also closed due to renovations... which left us to dinner in the muslim quarter before joining the party folks again :) The next morning we drove into Kosovo...

great landscape welcomed us in Macedonia
Dead end... not the place for my car - yet^^

The horror way from Tetovo at least brought us to a nice setting: small church in front of Albanian mountains

the picture hardly covers how steep that is... and the road is rather a one way only road, but used in both ways :O

Skopje's center is amazing. The famous stone bridge connecting muslim and christian part of the city

right the parliament behind the stone bridge

22 meter Alexander the great statue resembles an enormous middle finger towards Greece^^

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Central Bulgaria and Sofia

From Sozopol we drove to Veliko Tarnovo. On the way we stopped in the hills to enjoy a great view while having breakfast/lunch :) The tour took us longer than expected and we stopped at a camping spot in Dragijevo... the best camping place I have ever seen. The owners - two British - are super friendly. We had a huge pool overlooking the surrounding highlands. Food was delicious... overall so amazing setting that we stay for two nights :D
After hanging around the pool and enjoying the sun we made an evening trip to Tyravna and later Veliko Tarnovo. Tyravna was not as expected... overall, there was kinda nothing to see... at least the route offered some good views. In Veliko Tarnovo we walked through the city towards the castle. Bulgaria's cultural capital is indeed a nice place. On a hill between two valleys the city offers great views. The streets have flair and the setting sun made it even better. But staying at the pool during midday's heat also had its downside... the castle was closed already.
The next day we visited the Troyan Monastery on our way towards Sofia. It has lush gardens and the paintings are awesome.
In Sofia we parked our car and went sightseeing through the city before we checked for a hotel. Sofia's cathedral is absolutely amazing! Overall the city appears rather small. Nice to see was an active alternative youth spending their time in the city center (we didn't see such in other eastern capital's centers). Later we checked for a hotel and found a nice 4 star hotel for 100eur... which is not bad for 3 people. However, when we went there the room suddenly was 240eur... hence we booked online for 100 and then came back^^ Internet is just the best :P The hotelier right offered us to book grils for our room - not the last of such offer to come this evening... we said we'd rather have a shower first and will see later :) We then went into the shopping district for some well tasting dinner. Then we got on a taxi towards the party district (with quite a strange taxi driver non-stop talking about how he likes to f*** girls)... the locations and music was nice, but unluckily the semester was pausing and subsequently all the students - most of the party folk - were out of Sofia. After declining another plenty offers we went to sleep and then enjoyed the breakfast buffet before we drove towards Macedonia.

making breakfast/lunch overlooking the hills of central Bulgaria

the best camping place I've ever seen... overlooking the highlands from then pool
castle sitting right above the valley of Veliko Trarnovo

Veliko Tarnovo's cathedral
unluckily the entrance to the castle was closed...

Troyan monastery - a relaxing place

Sofia's stunning cathedral

resting to check the route :)

these ads rock :)

the place to be for Sofia's youth

Monday, 20 August 2012

The Bulgarian coast

Breakfast, short recovery and subsequently we made our way towards Bulgaria. Some shopping on the way before we crossed the border. The day was short and we went to Albena - the golden beach - to sleep there. We had an excellent debut when in one hotel Danny shouted to Ben that he found the toilette and Ben was running for it (all communication with perfectly strong German accent), when we recognized that everyone was staring at us... guess what - mostly Germans :)
We parked our car, enjoyed dinner and set our sleeping place at the seaside of a Kid's jumping castle right at the beach... which provided well cover from the wind. First sleep under the cope of heaven this trip^^ We finished the day with another beer and went to sleep. The next morning a great sunrise and an approximately 60 year old beach boy woke us up. The latter appeared quite angry about us sleeping there :P It kinda looked like he was about to kick our asses, until he found out that we were Germans... all of a sudden he welcomed us as great guests :D However, we went further down the beach, enjoyed breakfast and got back on the road... not too long - right as we left Albena police was waiting for us... luckily just because one of our lights was broken. A short discussion fixed it and we felt lucky not paying a fine :)
We drove to Varna and took a walk through the town... visited Varna's nice cathedral, ate icecream down the shopping street and slandered through the park. The city is nice but not extraordinarily... people seemed to like Germans and mostly preferred to speak German, rather than English :)
After Varna we drove to Nessebar. Probably the most touristic place in Bulgaria with it's ancient ruins. However, the place was filled with tourists, the streets were filled with bars, restaurants, souvenir shops and hostels. The streets are cozy, if not filled with tourists. We were disappointed... our parents obviously experienced a different Nessebar 30 years ago. As we were running a bit short in time we skipped Burgas and went strait to Sozopol. Even tho the city is packed with tourists it retained a comfy flair and the lighted fortified coastline looks amazing at night. After dinner and a few beer we slept at the beach 15min walk outside the city. The next morning we finally had our first swim in the black sea... sadly the water quality is not the best. Lots of algae, but low concentrations of salt. After the swim we left the coast and drove towards central Bulgaria.

border crossing Rumania-Bulgaria

Sunrise at Albena

Varna's cathedral

old fashion ads - I like them :)

The statue of an ancient fisherman - entrance of Nessebar

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Bucharest and Mamaia

From Curtea de Arges we drove on a new Romanian autobahn towards Bucharest (16.08.). Bucharest still looks very socialistic/stalinistic... anyways it impressed us how many great Buildings are there, if they just were restaurated... a Lady Gaga concert in front of the parliament (second biggest building in the world) distorted us from fully sightseeing that corner of Bucharest. The city surely houses a great number of wealthy citizens - probably on costs of their fellow countrymen. When walking the city park with it's statues of famous people, we recognized that Romanians are missing - are Romanians not proud of their own history and people? Roman emperorrs, Romulus & Remus, Konrad Adenauer - non really related to Romania!?
However, when we checked into our hotel, right after paying the receptionist told me that there was no room with 3 beds available anymore... but as I had paid already she offered us the King Suite for the same price. Relaxed we started into the nightlife... bars and clubs were great and covered most clienteles... 5am the club closed and we weaved back to our hotel where we could enjoy 3h of sleep before breakfast and checkout :O
We then (17.08.) continued to Constanta at the Black Sea and stayed just north of it in the beach town Mamaia. There a 24/7 party welcomed us. Basses banged all day and night... the party crowed was floating on drugs to the beats over the beach :D
Another long night and super short sleep we made our way towards Bulgaria...

Socialistic buildings with Ads of German companies -
Romanians seem to favour German companies all over the country
around Piata Universitatii
Monument for the revolution with blood spill :o

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Dracula castles and Curtea de Arges

After spending the night listening to dog fights around our tent, we visited Rasnov castle (15.08.). Not fancy, but some nice views over the mountains... they could have made more out of it - maybe if they spent the money for the Hollywood-like letters for restaurations instead ;) Bram Stoker's set for his Dracula novel - the famous Bran castle - was next on our route. A gorgeous setting, but hordes of tourists kinda ruined the great ambience. Also the Romanians seem to dislike all the Dracula hype somehow... and they are right - the region has so much of its own to offer :) We then continued over the roads of Karpaden (Fagaras) mountains, which offer amazing views, to friendly Curtea de Arges - hub between the mountains and Bucharest. Curtea de Arges houses a fancy russian orthodox cathedral. A small city full of young folks - good place for some nice bar evening^^

Rasnov castle
Bran castle - Dracula's
nice spot to enjoy our melon snack :D
Curtea de Arges' russian orthodox church