Balkans

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Tirana, Albania

Main square Tirana

I never expected to visit Albania on this trip. It was one of those countries that just happened to come up and as it so happened, couldn’t be avoided. I knew next to nothing about Albania other than the fact that it was mainly a Muslim country and that it had been communist and largely closed off from the rest of the world for quite some time. Because of this I expected it, frankly, to be backwards and difficult to travel around. In many ways my assumptions were correct.

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Getting From Dubrovnik to Athens (via Montenegro and Albania)

Beautiful Ulcinj

For starters there is no official information anywhere. The Croatian online bus schedules do not list all of the departing buses and when you go ask at the information desk they just stare at you blindly and say they do not know and can’t help you. We took it into our hands and with some extensive internet research we figured out the best way to get to Greece from Dubrovnik is to travel south through Montenegro then cross the Montenegrin/Albanian border at Ulcinj, and make our way to Tirana, Albania. From Tirana you would have a few options. Either take a 17-20 hour bus for 25EUR or try finding a cheap 1.5hr flight to Athens.

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Dubrovnik

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Getting from Neum to Dubrovnik was tougher than expected as we could not get accurate/reliable information regarding bus times and more importantly the location of the bus stop. Neum indeed is on the coast, but that thin piece of coastal land belongs to Bosnia & Herzegovina so therefore the numerous buses that travel the coastal highway come from northern Croatia and do not stop in Neum. We were told that there could be a bus at around 9 or 930 am and another one between noon and 1pm that might or might not stop in Neum.

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Discovering Sarajevo

The Latin Bridge where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a place like Sarajevo. Of course, we all know the city to be one that has experienced more than its fair share of recent upheaval. I’m sure many of you remember seeing and reading terrible things about it in the early to mid 90′s during the war; civilians under near constant sniper fire, shells hitting crowded marketplaces, mass rape, essential supplies cut off from the population, etc. I am a little bit too young to really remember the siege of Sarajevo as it was happening but my idea of city was still very much shaped by the things I had read about the war in Bosnia prior to my visit.

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A bridge too far: Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina

The famous bridge

After our 2 day stay in Split we decided to give our wallets a break and head inland. Our first stop was beautiful yet war torn city of Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina. I say war torn as the city was 95% destroyed during the Balkan war in the early to mid 90s. We booked a room at a hostel for less than half of what we were paying in Split and Zadar. Our plan was to spend 3 nights and explore Mostar as much as we could have. And explore we did.

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