Europe

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Flight from Istanbul to Johannesburg via Saudi Arabia

Even though we had an amazing time exploring Europe this summer, we were really anxious to get onto the African continent to start the next leg of our journey.

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Moving around in Istanbul

Lamps in the Grand Bazaar

We arrived late in evening at the very hectic main Istanbul bus station after a 6 hour bus ride from Safronbolu. There were so many buses, taxis, cars and people just coming in and out of the station that it was quite surprising to not see any accidents! The bus company that we went with offered a free shuttle service to the city centre from the bus station, so naturally we wanted to take advantage of that. We got to the shuttle stop and waited, and waited, and waited… no information anywhere, no one to ask , no timetables, nothing. After about 1 and half hours a small mini bus finally pulled up and we were shoved inside and swiftly on our way to Taksim square where the first of our 3 lodgings was located.

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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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Sizzling Split

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Our next stop on the Croatian Adriatic was the city of Split. We left Zadar fairly early to catch a morning bus 160km south to Split. The bus was agonizingly slow, but the beautiful coastal scenery definitely made up for it. We passed various tiny seaside towns and villages and numerous seemingly empty beaches just begging to be explored. I came close to asking the bus driver to just let us off at the next charming town and forgo the reservation we made the night prior. As Kendall mentioned in the earlier post, high season, Adriatic coast and budget travel do not really mix, so Split was going to be our last.

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Intro to the Balkans: Zagreb and Zadar, Croatia

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After spending all of our summer up until this point in cities we were really excited to head to Croatia where we would finally be able to spend some time on the Adriatic coast soaking up the sun and cooling off in the sea.  Before we arrived on the coast we spent a few days in the capital, Zagreb.

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Vienna

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After our short stint in Bratislava we took off to nearby Vienna, Austria for another short two day visit. Once again, Luke had already visited Vienna on his 2005 Europe trip, but it was my first time in the city. My first and lasting impression of the city is that it is huge, way too big for us to even begin to tackle in two days.  Although we put the effort in to see as much as we could, I still feel like we barely made a dent in Vienna.  Each of the days we were there we put in nearly 17km of walking!

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Bratislava

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After saying goodbye to Poland we took off for Bratislava, Slovakia on an overnight bus.  We discovered surprisingly that bussing in Europe is a pretty great alternative to taking the train.  It’s much cheaper, it can be much faster in Eastern and Southern Europe, and it is generally pretty comfortable. Polskibus, the line we took to Bratislava had free wifi, electrical outlets under each seat and a very clean bathroom. It’s also a pretty cool bus line because all of their busses are double-decker. On our way to Bratislava we were lucky enough to get seats on the second floor at the very front so we had an amazing, unobscured view while the sun was up throughout our journey.

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Family and friends

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After nearly 2 weeks of travelling around Poland it was finally time to head to my hometown to see my family! Kendall, my dad and myself barely made our morning train from Poznan to Lublin as for some reason the departing platform was changed last minute. Luckily the train was delayed 20 minutes or so so we made it on with a few minutes to spare (first time ever that I was happy for a delay). The train passed through Warszawa where my dad departed as he was heading to the Greece vs Russia game the following day. Kendall and I continued onto Lublin.

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Poznan – Euro 2012 – Italy vs Croatia

Croatian fans

Just as with the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, I had to experience at least one game of the Euro 2012 Soccer championships. Tickets were hard to come by and quite expensive for the Polish games so Kendall and I had to settle for the Italy vs Croatia group stage match in Poznan. We killed two birds with one stone as not only did we get to see a Euro match, but we also got to visit Poznan for first time.

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Krakow and Zakopane

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The day after the opening game in Warsaw Adam, Mark, Ashley, Kendall and myself had the bright idea to jump on a train and head to Krakow for a few days. Suffice to say we weren’t really feeling our best that morning… Adam had had an incident involving gravity and a monument the night before, Mark and Ashley had just arrived in Poland the previous day and were a tad jet-lagged as well as a bit hungover (not a good combination), as for us, we were also a bit hungover but felt considerably better than everyone else.

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