Eeek.. It’s been so long, you haven’t forgotten me, have you???
Kosovo Travel Blog› entry 11 of 45 › view all entries
So, where did i leave off??? Oh yeah... We were just leaving Olympos, such a beautiful place, and heading to Fethiye... Fethiye has these beautiful beaches, the Blue Lagoon is supposed to be amazing, postcard sorta stuff. So, we only had one full day there, and it was absolutely pelting down with rain the entire time. So there was no chance to see the Blue Lagoon. Oh well, next time i will be smart enough to travel in the summertime!!! After Fethiye, we headed on to Pamukkale, another long bus ride (I'm kinda getting used to living on a bus, but i have no intention of stopping my complaining about them!!!)
Pamukkale, like everywhere else in Turkey was fantastic!!! We went to the Hot Springs... It was freezing cold, but the water in the springs was beautiful and warm... Mmmm... We also went to some more ruins, learned about the history of the place and all, and, surprise, surprise, we went to another carpet shop. Every time you take a day tour you end up at a carpet shop or a ceramic shop. Anyway, the ruins were cool, there was a massive amphitheatre and sitting in the stands you could see all the way to the mountains in the distance. We sat up there for an hour or so, the whole bus was waiting for me and Justin by the time we were ready to leave. We stayed only one night in Pamukkale, before heading to our last destination - Selcuk.
Selcuk is home to some massive Roman ruins which were nice, still a lot to see despite the collosal amount of Roman ruins that i have seen so far on this trip! So, we had this big day trip again, where we saw the Ephesus, spent hours walking around and learning about the history and all, and playing with the stray cats. We stopped for lunch, and 5 minutes after eating my stomach was mad at me, didn't think I'd make it through the rest of the day without puking, but anyway, more on that later!
Then, we went to the most amazing place that i had been looking forward to for ages - The House of the Virgin Mary. The place where John is supposed to have taken Mary after Jesus entrusted her to him, and the place where it's thought that she died. I was absolutely bursting to see the house, and it was another one of those amazing moments for me. Yes, it was another burst into tears moment (i know, such a sook) but there was a miraculous feeling the minute i walked through the door. I don't know how long i stood staring at the walls but when i walked in there was nobody there except a nun in the corner, and when i turned around there were 30 or so people inside that i hadn't even noticed. It was a really beautiful place and i left with an incredible feeling. Drank some Holy Water from the spring by the house, and what do you know, my stomach pains were gone!!! So yeah, if you're ever in Turkey you should definitely go and see the place. We drove past the Caves of the Seven Sleepers, but unfortunately could not go in, i'm sure that they would have been fascinating. We also went to a carpet factory to learn about how the carpets are made, and lucky us, we were given the opportunity to purchase a carpet if we so desired. Um, no! Justin was starting to get really sick, he's had a flu coming on for days and it was getting worse. So, when we got home we had to put him to bed and i made him chicken noodle soup! Is there anything soup doesn't fix? I doubt it. Once he was sleeping Reuben and i continued our nightly ritual of drinking beer, and went for a walk around to check out the town and grab some dinner. Oh yeah, the guy at the hostel where we were staying had the best mullet you'll ever see, just thought that was worth throwing in!
After Selcuk, another few bus rides took us to Izmir, then to Cesme (sound familiar?) where we got a ferry across to Chios (another familiar name maybe?) Yes, i went back to Greece despite my lack of love for the place! The boys hadn't been there yet and we wanted to head up the Adriatic Coast together, so i figured it was ok to go back for a day or 2. I was disappointed that we couldn't head to a different island instead, but it did give me a chance to give Helen a hard time about not knowing which island her family was from (Chios vs Kos - Haaaaaaaaaaaaahahahaha, sorry Len, but felt the need to dob you in publicly!) We stayed overnight, didn't do much in the pouring rain but drink a lot of beer, play some pool and walk around a lot. We arranged to get the overnight ferry back to Athens again, retracing my steps from a few weeks earlier. The ferry was a nightmare. Last time it was heaps of fun sleeping on deck in the cold, but we decided that since it was pouring rain we would camp out inside this time. There were heaps of really dodgy people on the ferry, walking around and eyeing off everyone and their luggage, and it didn't feel very safe so we took it in turns to stay awake (well, the boys took it in turns to stay awake!) I woke up at about 5am and walked out onto the deck to check out the sunrise, and a few really sketchy guys followed me out and surrounded me, and one of the guys tried to grope me. I ran for my life back to the boys, who were very chivalrous and protected me, and have not left my side since then. It was awful, i hate feeling vulnerable, and i was completely freaked out for the rest of the trip. And there was not really much i could do, i mean, i could go and cry to the boat police, but after my last run in with Greek policemen i don't really have much faith in them either. So i just stuck with the boys and they didn't let anyone near me. (Dad, i know, i know, i shouldn't have gone out there alone, but i wasn't far away from the boys, and i promise i'll never do it again).
So anyway, arriving in Greece was interesting. It was a different experience than last time, i felt much more secure with guys around me, and didn't have to put up with all of the bullsh!t from the local men like last time. And it was cool knowing my way around, i took the boys to all the sights and showed them everything i'd seen last time, and practiced my Greek some more. I'm getting better, and managed to have a couple of conversations and ask for directions and stuff. I was ok, but as soon as they'd seen what they needed to see we were outta there. Reuben has officially run out of cash so booked his flight home to Canada via London, and Justin i and continued on our travels. It sucked saying goodbye to Reuben, he was cool. We went up to Thessaloniki hoping to find a way into Macedonia or Albania from there. Thessaloniki was nothing like i expected. I mean, it's the second largest city and Greece, and i guess i was expecting a little more from it. It's kinda dirty, very polluted, and not very friendly. The hotel that we stayed in was a nightmare, mould as far as you could see, the bathrooms were so horrible that i wasn't game to shower in them, and the whole building was ready to fall apart. We spent the whole time trying to find a way out of there, and eventually decided on Albania. I was hoping to go to Macedonia, but as it turns out the rules have changed and Aussies need to apply in advance for a visa. So, another overnight bus to Albania it was!
The overnight buses are cool in that, well, we save on a nights accommodation and don't waste a day on a bus, but the problem is that you never actually get any sleep on the buses. Luckily, the drive to Albania is full of spectacular views, almost the whole journey is through mountains. You see so much stuff that unfortunately you could never capture in a photo. Arriving in Tirana, Albania was cool, except that it was 5am. The town looked really beautiful at night, but we were so tired from not sleeping, we were really groggy and had absolutely no idea where we were staying or where we were when we got off the bus. Eventually we oriented ourselves enough to figure out roughly where a cheap hotel was, and headed in that direction. There's heaps of police and guards everywhere, and they're acutally really friendly. So, despite the fact that we had no way to communicate other than pointing at a map, a policeman helped us find our hotel. What a nice man. Albania is relly the first place that i have encountered a massive language barrier, everywhere else you have been able to find somebody that speaks enough English to get you through. But in Tirana nobody speaks any English at all, so it was a massive challenge. After worrying so much about getting across the border it turned out to be really simple, the guys at the border actually took a liking to me cos i'm Aussie and somebody there has an uncle who lives real close to me at home, so there was no dramas at all. I really enjoyed Albania, it's a fabulous place that i guess is too often overlooked by travellers. From what i've heard and read, everybody skips the Balkans because it's just too hard, but really, every place that i've been so far has been amazing. The people are so nice, they try so hard to help you even if you're just an ignorant English speaking tourist... It's cool, they make you feel really welcome. There's not a whole lot of touristy stuff to see there (that's kinda a good thing!) so we spent our time trying to figure out the next step (much more complicated than it may seem at this point) and walking around the city. It gets dark really early there, so by about 4pm you're back in your room drinking beer and playing cards and backgammon. We procrastinated and just hung around for a couple of days trying to figure out where to go next. I really wanted to find a way into Macedonia, and we even went as far as going to the Macedonian embassy in Tirana, but the big men with big guns kinda scared me off trying to enter into the precinct there... So then we were trying to get to Montenegro, but because of the years of closed borders, there's not a whole lot of international public transport there, and there's no direct route to Podgorica in Montenegro. The only way there was to get a severely dodgy train to Skodhra and then get a connecting bus to Podgorica, but everything i read tells me to steer clear of Northern Albania because of civil unrest and stuff. Now that alone isn't enough to stop me, but when i saw the dodgy train it really didn't feel safe so it was back to plan B. Or lack of plan B really, back to finding a new plan. In the end we found an overnight bus that would take us to Serbia, right into Prishtina/Pristina/Prishtine, the heart of Kosovo which sounded fantastic! Had we looked into it a little more we might have chosen a different route, but again, more on that later! So, we booked our tickets on the overnight bus and it was another fantastic trip just for the spectacular scenery that we saw.
We arrived in Kosovo at about 5am again, and it was so foggy that you couldn't see more than a couple of metres ahead of you. We had no map of the place, no accommodation booked, and absolutely no plan or idea of what we were going to do here, but in true Sarah style we figured that we'd wing it when we arrived. Luckily there were cabs nearby, i haven't caught a cab at all on this journey, but seeing as how we couldn't even see in front of us, we didn't know which way to start walking so spoke to a cab driver and he took us to a cheap hotel in the heart of everything for a very reasonable price. He didn't really speak English, but again we just found our way through the conversation ok, didn't even need the phrasebook!!! Soon as we arrived at the fabulous guesthouse that we are staying in, crashed for the night (morning) and when we woke up we headed out to check out what was around. The town is really cool, there's UN cars and trucks everywhere, and it seems like there's an endless amount of local and international police around. But it's a great place, the people are really genuinely lovely, and at the guesthouse there's been a heap of young travellers to drink beer with! Which brings me to now, sitting in Kosovo, never really thought i'd make it to a place like this but here i am, finally catching up on my blogs (after a massive blackout before which hit right when i finished typing, so i had to start all over again 3 hours later when the power came back on). It's snowing here, and having never seen snow before i've found it incredibly exciting. When we arrived it must've already snowed, but because of the fog we couldn't see it. So when we woke up and i realised that all of the rooves were covered in snow i was so excited that i ran downstairs to touch it (it's cold!) Checked out the town today before the snow hit again, bought some new shoes (my old ones are so worn out that the rain just leaks inside and i go home with awful soggy feet!) And have spent the rest of our time here getting to know some great people from all over the world who are game to travel this region. There has been, as usual, an abundance of beer drinking, and i threw my first snowball today! For the first time in a long time i cooked a fabulous meal (a nice change from bread and butter, or instant soup!!!!!!!) and settled in for a snug night by the heater.
So, that's about it for this chapter, hopefully the next installment will not be so delayed!!! Unfortunately, i've probaly left out some great details, but as i said, i spent 3 hours writing this stupid blog when the power cut out so i lost the whole lot and had to start again. Power cuts are a normal part of life here!!! Hopefully tomorrow i'll be heading to Podgorica in Montenegro, so until next time, you know how it goes, love you all, miss you all.