Distance cycled in period : 355km. Overall : 2,384km
Once across the Adriatic I’d finally made my way to eastern (and aka the fun side of) Europe wits a Balkan history and landscape that I’d not discovered before. The first thing to say about this part of the world is just how stunning the coastlines are. My route was taking me on the slightly less mountainous route hugging the waterline from Split in Croatia all the way down to Bar in Montenegro. The jagged otherworldly quality of the rock faces accompanying me on my way down never ceased to amaze.
The next thing to say about this area of the world is just how fun the hostels are. This is probably the last area before I hit south east Asia with a concentrated hub of cheap, fun hostels packed full of tourists from all over the world looking to socialise, party and drink their homesickness away. This probably explains why my last blog post was a few weeks back, but just like a crack addict waiting out a drought after a big bust, I knew that absence would make the heart grow fonder. Anyway, my particular technique for finding grade A fun is to look for the nice small hostels, maybe 10-20 people at the most, and then bombard the unsuspecting guests with my chat – the claustrophobic surroundings offering them very little chance to escape and talk to someone else.
So I passed along the coastline from Split down to Dubrovnik, which lest you were unaware is where they film large sections of the series Game of Thrones. The city is stunning, the quiet steep walkways atmospheric and it even had a bar and cliff diving area built into the cliff face. There were admittedly a large number of tourists clogging up my next potential tinder profile picture but I soon found a haven away from them at the war photography museum. Hands down the best museum I’d visited all trip, giving great insight into wars in the Gaza Strip, as well as the Croatian, Bosnian and Kosovan wars of the late 1990’s which I had a passing knowledge of but had always been keen to learn more about.
Then onto Montenegro, with similarly stunning coastlines as the ones I’d experienced in Croatia until I reached the idyllic setting of Kotor which just blew all the competition out of the water. The town is based at the foot of 1000m cliffs in a faux bay that stretches all around you. The main tourist attractions were the old town, though a Thompson steam liner had rolled into town just before I arrived with Noah’s Ark proportions of pairs of elderly American tourists, rendering the quaint citadel all but impassable during the day. However the other attraction was to climb up one of the facing cliffs to a fort that overlooks the old town at sunset and the views were truly unforgettable. Plus, what with the strenuous exercise involved, devoid of any aforementioned Thompson shuttleboarders. After a few nights of boozing, bronzing and crash-and-burning with the hostel chicas, I tore myself away up the massive surrounding mountains and further down the Adriatic coastline towards Albania.
One of my last few memories of Montenegro though was cycling along when I found this cute little baby turtle on the edge of a busy road so I did what any self respecting Dr Doolittle would do and lifted the poor guy up before putting him in some hedgerows safely away from the traffia. I know they look cute and innocent, but I still couldn’t get the worry of him snapping off my finger out of my head. Thankfully the magic wands still number to 10 so the correct decision all in all. Onto Albania then – not a country I thought I’d visit in a hurry so let’s see how that goes…