2nd – 10th October 2013
The wild wedding afterparty remained with us for a few days as you can imagine.
We laid in bed the next morning eating sliced ham straight from the packet and waiting to die.
Against all odds we did survive and made it through the worlds longest day. We met up with the gang on the evening and laughed constantly about memories of the night before. We ate Cevapi which is another resemblance to home. The hangover cure.
Our version is a kebab blathered in garlic and spicy chilli sauce, the Bosnian version is very similar but like a sausage wrapped in great bread and served with raw onion, ketchup and the local fizzy pop (similar to ‘dandelion and burdock’ for those that are interested). We happily consumed the grease and watched Goran eat more raw onion than I have ever seen anyone eat!
We caught up with Ogi and Gaga at the bar and sat at barrels made into tables (just like in Hull) and drank mulled wine to warm us through and get us through our clinging hangover. The weather had turned and it was freezing. Gaga had thoughtfully bought us a scarf each so we wrapped up warm the next day as we left to hit the road.
We took the entire day saying sad farewells. We didn’t want to go and nobody wanted to let us. The tears stained my face as we left and my heart felt heavy. It was like leaving home all over again.
We had only a few days to drive to our next wedding destination and 4 countries to cross. We snaked through Bosnia in a stunning canyon along a bright green river all the way to Mostar. We stopped to see the Stari Grad bridge and wandered the streets with an ice-cream before continuing into Croatia. There we stayed on the beach for the last time and grabbed a shower before our slog to Greece.
The following day we ate each of our three meals in a different country. We ate breakfast on the beach in Croatia, our lunch on a grubby bit of sand we found in Montenegro and our dinner in litter strewn Albania.
I had imagined Montenegro to be similar to Croatia, unspoilt beaches, scattered beautiful old buildings and calm, lapping water, but instead we found a very built up tourist driven coastline. Every inch of ground covered with hotels and restaurants, small patches of grubby beach for sitting on and even the water didn’t seem the slightest bit magical, all just on the other side of a line in the sand. The romance had all gone and we sailed along Montenegro’s main road and out of the other side as quickly as we could. We saw ‘The World’ docked in Kotor and decided to skip the walled city and hit the back roads to the Albanian border.
Another shocking change after another line in the sand. Suddenly flat and rural Albania took us by surprise. We rolled through tiny ramshackle villages and marvelled at the the Albanians tumultuous history. From the Ottoman period to independence to Communism to becoming the Worlds first Atheist state and religion being outlawed…its people have been through a LOT!
We were tired and still sad to have left Bosnia Herzegovina and our friends and were struggling to find a place to stay for the night when, a sign appeared for a campsite.
One thing we have learned on this trip is that a road sign is generally a waste of time. We rarely follow them as there is often just the one and then you are left with luck and good management to find what you are looking for…or you do as we do, and give up on it and carry on the way we were going. Anyway, today was different and we had a gut feeling so we followed it and lo and behold (after the obligatory ONE sign) we found a campsite with showers toilets and even another camper!
The neighbours were Dutch and we exchanged a few tales of the road with them and they let us have a peep at their maps before we hit the road again. Albania was such a state. Terrible roads and litter like we haven’t seen since Central America. Stray dogs were everywhere and the back streets were mere rubble, causing accidents at every turn. We struggled along due to lack of road signs and no map and got completely lost. We kept asking for directions with our well trained charades and everyone nodded, mouths wide, shocked to see foreigners and pointing. We thanked them and carried on our way but were getting absolutely nowhere. We seemed to be going around in circles. Somehow we had gotten off the main road and were in the depths of a small town.
I dug out the rough guide to Europe and turned to its 5 pages on Albania hoping to find some insight as to where we might be. The small map on the A5 page of the entire country showed one road going all the way through so we knew we could get through. I read on a little bit to find an interesting fact which explained a lot about how we had become so lost.
Most Albanians shake their head to mean yes, and nod to mean no.
We had been relying on the yes or no response to pointing in the direction we were going and asking “is this the way to…?”
We stopped asking after that and eventually found our way again. The scenery, barring the litter, was stunning. The road would along the dramatic coastline, sometimes a 100 meters above it flanked by forest and sometimes along the sand. The water was that mesmerising turquoise blue where it met the sand and looked full of promise. If someone were to make a huge investment, the country could turn itself around through tourism, creating jobs, education and very importantly, some kind of litter system.
Seeing plastic strewn over every surface makes my heart bleed in anguish. Carrier bags clung to trees, bottles were piled by the sides of the roads, paper and general debris floated on the breeze. It is so sad that some countries continue to pollute their land so heavily, through lack of education and facilities to deal with their growing population and dwindling economy.
The road was exhausting but we made it eventually to the other side. We crossed into Greece the same day and excitedly boarded a ferry to our next wedding destination…Corfu!