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The Fantastic Far Flung Eastern European Adventure

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Check out our prior trip at http://ourcapetocairo.blogspot.com

Budapast (for the record we are no longer in the Balkan)

Budapest, Hungary

So with full bellies and happy hearts, we left the comfort of the Belgrade penthouse, and walked throught the driving rain to the train station (okay truth be told the rain wasnt driving, but the floor was certainly wet). And as were queuing to buy tickets, who should we bump into but James, another one of those travellers on the same path which you just cant seem to shake (haha, jokes James) So we shared a compartment, and this time the seats slid out flat and was damn comfortable. We were met at the Budapest station by Béla, the boyfriend of Andi who we met in Lamu, and would be our host and informative guide for this leg. Oh and huge respect for coming at 5 in the morning to find us, he looked a lot livelier than we did that early.

We were soon settled in to the apartment and after a bit of a sleep hit the town for a little walk. Its a really interesting old city, and i didnt know this but theres actually two parts, Buda on the one bank of the Danube and Pest on the other, fascinating, info-tainment. We didnt actually find the river that day, but there was a nice other train station which was designed by Eiffel (of the tower fame), and plenty of other things to wow and amaze. We really needed a map, and saw a group of people walking down the street with one, so enquired as to where they got it, and it turned out that they were pretty decent company so we went for a beer with Anne, Nora and Phillipe, a German, Belgian and Chillean in that order.

That evening Béla gave us a wlking tour of the neighbourhood and old Jewish quater, puntuated with stops for beers and some local sorts of food in random little courtyards and rooftops that we never ever would have found otherwise. The night degenerated quickly once we met up with Ferco, the other guy from Lamu and the german girls and friends from earlier. And we ended up at a wicked drum and bass party where eveyone seemed from the photos to have had fun,

The repercussions from that nights revelry were felt the next day which was severely unproductive, we literally didnt leave the flat, and Béla was at work from 7 which i think deserves a medal or something seeing as we got home not that much earlier. But we did get out later for a quiet meal and we saw this shark, and the bones of a whale hangin up inside another club.

Must go - to be continued (soon!!) ....

permalink written by  BalkanAdventure on June 10, 2007 from Budapest, Hungary
from the travel blog: The Fantastic Far Flung Eastern European Adventure
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Living the high life in Beograd

Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro

After the amazing hospitality of Helena, the day of chilling in her top floor apartment, eating lobster and being looked after so well, we were pretty sure things couldnt get much better! We were in eastern Europe and life is good! After Helena finding out exactly what time the trains and busses left for Belgrade, we eventually chose to catch the night train. The train was excellent, nothing like the Nubian express of Sudan!! We had a full compartment, so could lounge on the old skool green chairs and doze off between passport checks and ticket inspections. It felt like the conductors waited for someone to switch theor compartment light off, wait 15 min and then fling the door open, turn the light back on and demand either a ticket or passport, whichever seemed more inconvenient for us to get at the time. But even though this went on all night, we did get some decent sleep, so wehn the train rolled into Belgrade at 6 in the morning we were full of energy. Changed some cash, got a map, found the address and started the hike through yet another new city.

We found the address without any problems, it was a pleasent walk, and were stunned by all the serbians!! The rumours and legends are true! wow!

Just to fill everyone in... Kierans parents moved to Serbia a little while back and currently live in an insane apartment in the city center. You may be asking yourself... what does that have to do with anything?? well.... kieran told his parents we were passing through Belgrade on our Balkan Adventure and they very kindly invited us to stay with them for a few days. So Mattie and I, without any hesitation accepted the very hospitable and generous offer! And are we glad we did! Anne, Phillip and Caroline... thank you once again! mattie and I had a stupendous time!!

Staying in Belgrade was better than we could have imagined! We havent eaten that much, and insanely good, food for about 3 months! So our stomachs didnt know what hit them, we were so hapy :) ! That was part one, we ate so much glorious food! Then secondly, Caroline did everything she could think of to show us the city.! This meant we got taken all over the place during the day, shopping, strolling and cafe hopping! Which is generally what everyone in the city seems to do. Then after dinner we would meet up with Mark, (a party beast who knows every single hotspot in Belgrad) and head out to. Life was good! The first night was pretty relaxed, we had a few beers in a quant little bar with carolines posse, which suited both Mattie and I perfectly, as we had eaten so much lamb that we could hardly walk haha.

We did the tourist thing on day two, with caroline gladly joining, Belgrade has a very cool feel about it. There is a large communist influence, but the center seems to never rest. There are people everywhere, all the time, just wandering the steets and going about their thing. A very young, trendy and happening feel! I could however understand Anne and carolines frustration about the language barrier! haha, all the signs are in cyrillic, a lot of people only speak serbian, making a lot things slightly more difficult than they need to be.

After yet another astonishing dinner, we headed out to Silicon valley, where Mafia meets and girls are pretty, where we were welcomed by a Baileys promotion, and met some enlish speaking guys... one of which is going out with a girl that mattie went to school with, and lived a few houses away from! I forget the name, but wow, what are the chances haha.

The night progressed steadily, and eventually moved over to a club called Amsterdam. A definite party! The pic will give a better idea i guess...

On the second last day mattie and I showed of our skills and spent some time in the kitchen! Sushi!

We even visited the zoo! Where we saw a someone that reminded us of the old days....

we miss you jared

Anyway, haha, I seem to be waffling a bit... so In short, Belgrade is awesome!

here are some pics...

permalink written by  BalkanAdventure on June 4, 2007 from Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro
from the travel blog: The Fantastic Far Flung Eastern European Adventure
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FYROM (The Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia - Macedonia to us non Greeks)

Ohrid, Macedonia

Arriving in Bitola felt like arriving in Eastern Europe should, forlorn stray dogs scratching through rubbish under grey skies, the scenery dominated by square communist era housing blocks. It also meant adjusting to a new currency, something that my mind is so tired of doing i cant even remember what the Macedonian currency is called, they speak Makedonski though which is pretty cool because everyone sounds like theyre straight out of an old James Bond Movie. So we caught the bus to Ohrid, a little lake side holiday village, but i cant remember the trip because i slept the whole way. It's supposed to be really scenic, but the previous nights sleep was somewhat lacking, so i used the three hours to catch up.

We stayed up on the hill with a couchsurfer called Al Yates, a peace corps volunteer, in a house kindly provided by George W (thanks man).

Al's pretty knowledgeable on the history of the area, which was kind of lost on the two of us, yet we were impressed by the various churches, amphitheatre and city wall. Apparently the city is very old and was at one point the central hub of the entire area. We wiled away the three days seeing the sights, cruising the market, just general chilling, but mostly enjoying the cheap, big, delicious 2l Macedonian beers, Skopsko and Topcko. Now i know this doesnt do Ohrid justice, but time has eroded my memory a bit so i'll just say that its a beautiful, interesting place and i would like one day to get a house there. But after two nights we were ready to head onwards, so i scrawled a sign entitled Skopje in the back of my note pad (this time i used cyrillic script to endear us to the locals) and we walked to the city outskirts.

Our first ride was with two guys about our age who for some reason were on their way to the middle of nowhere, about half an hour drive from Ohrid, where they dropped us off and we waited for ages, listening to music and learning to juggle.

After a long time and about a hundred cars passing us, we decided to be proactive and start walking. The weather was beginning to look ominous and we reasoned that if it started to rain, it would be better to be stuck in a place with some sort of shelter than out in the sticks. We had been walking for about half an hour when a blue Peugeot flew past us, coming to a stop about 50m ahead. We ran up and met Jelena, thanked her for stopping and jumped in. With a screech of the tyres we were off and Jelena turned to us a crazed look in her eyes and said (in James Bond Russian spy accent) "Last night i go out and drink many cocktail sex on the beach, this morning i wake up... i am drunk". I dont think she was joking. Some police at a roadblock tried to pull her over doing 170 but she just laughed and said they would get her at the next one... they didnt. We arrived in Skopje in record time and Jelena kindly invited us to lunch which we gladly accepted and followed her up to her 8th floor apartment. Damn were we in for a treat. Though it looked kind of shabby from the outide, the apartment where she lives with her mother and daughter was amazing inside, with a big tv and sumptuous leather couches where we lounged all day drinking beer while the housekeeper/cook whipped up some traditional Macedonian delicacies. It was like a dream, our standard of living had just gone through the roof.

At lunch time, Jelena by this stage severely hungover, her cousin and uncle arrived and we were (force) fed a menu including chicken shnitzels, deep fried cheese and vegetable crouquetes and lobster!! We could hardly resist as Jelena and her cousin Jelena took turns refilling our plates, more and more and more. Just look how happy Pd is

They then helped us find out the train and bus times, and we waited around there until evening when we walked to the train station and boarded the overnight bound for Belgrade, Serbia, from where i now write this.

permalink written by  BalkanAdventure on May 29, 2007 from Ohrid, Macedonia
from the travel blog: The Fantastic Far Flung Eastern European Adventure
tagged MacedoniaSkopjeJelena

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The rest of Greece

Florina, Greece

Greece was a definite change in scenery from what we have been used to in Africa, but no doubt a good one! Mattie and i have fully adapted and are having an awesome time exploring! The rest of our time in Athens was really good, Lena was an excellent host! If you read this... thank you Lena! We had an excellenty time!

We never really got around to visiting teh Acropolis... but we did see it all lit up while sipping a beer... the main reason for not going up to the actual site, was the grey skies and the rain, but we got a definite feel for the city! mainly through walking... lots and lots of walking! We did visit the archeological museum, which was really really good! Its about the same size as the Cairo museum, awesome stuff! When the sun did eventually come out, Mattie and I made our way to parreas, and once we saw the Med, al we wanted to do is get a yachting job! Wow! We wondered around all the yacht clubs, had no luck in finding any skippers, but the sights were incredible! We both decided that we will be back in Greece some time, no doubt about it!

The two canadians we met headed over to Santorini, we were seriously considering that, but eventually decided that we rather keep to our original plan and spend 2-3 weeks exploring the balkans, and start working... Once again... We def have to go back to Greece some time! We were there far to short! So... watch this space

Anyway, as you can see from the pics, we had an excellent time while we were there,. and since Lena's place was continually packed with people... we always had good company to get around.

The night of the couchsurfers meeting, we ended up having an excellent night out, having beers from the street vendors and exploring the town! Wii, an american from Texas, joined us here. A def good night!

We left Athens on Sunday, by train to head up to macedonia... This is where the real adventure started haha. The train ride up to theselaniki was really great, the only downside was that we didnt quite prepare for it being 8 hours, so didnt have any food besides a packet of chips! So there was some stomach growling going on... When we arrived at the end point, we had 7 minutes to catch the connecting train to Florina (so no time for food)... we ran... and we made it!

We arrived in Florina starving, so the first thing we did was mission over to the nearest food joint and had an amazing Greek meal! The sky was grey, and the search for either a ride to Bitola or a place to sleep started...

So let me tell you a funny story! As you know... we are travelling on a really tight budget... really tight so we try and spend as little money as we can on unnecesary things like... acomodation. The place is quaint, and has an awesome vibe! After asking some people we found out that the busses dont run to the border... Its a pride thing... Greeks and Macedonians (Former Yugoslavian republic of macedonia rather) dont really get along due to the claim to Alexander the great... so we were stuck there... this is roughly the time it started pooring down! So we decided to stay, and thought it would be a good idea to find a cheap hotel or something... but since it was a public hol for all Greeks on monday everything was fully booked - We soon found out tha Florina is a holiday town!!! We were homeless!! Dwelling the streets! haha So we made a call... we could either spend about EUR40 and get a taxi and a hotel in macedonia, or just man it...

We manned it!! We left our bags in a hotel, and started looking for a cool place to chill out. Basically the plan was to hold an all night party! There was a cool vibe, and we had some left over Finlandia vodaka haha, well after a few drinks, it was still getting
cold, and all the party looking people seemed to dissapear and be replaced by old folk. To this day we are baffled by it! We were starting to doubt our decision and slowly run out of steam... So we started to look for shelter... just like a true hobo would! We eventually settled for a cozy construction site!

As you can see... it looks... like a construction site! Where we slept in amongs the rubbish, on a concrete floor!! haha, definetly turing into hardy travellers!! At about 5:30 we couldnt bear the cold anymore, so we retreated to the hotel, where we snuck onto the couches and spent the next 2 hours or so! Way way better! At about 7 we were up and away!! We got some breakfast, made a sign for Bitola and started walking. As I said there are no busses, so its either a taxi to the border... or hitching. We hitched! It was
awesome, it was only about 20km, and we got a ride for about 15 of that! And the sun was shining and our sign was efficient! We were initially picked up by a great old man on his way to church, and after that by a guy cruising along in a Ford. The walk was great... Hitch hiking def has a certain charm! Real freedom! But due to the walking along the freeway, and carrying my heavy camera around, I could claim to getting walking fit!! The ride we got went all the way to Bitola-Macedonia, and from there we couch a bus over to Ohrid... But that will be the next post

Oh let me end this off with matties keeper quote to describe the situation... "The couchsurfing thing is working out really really well, we have only had to sleep in a construction site once..."

permalink written by  BalkanAdventure on May 26, 2007 from Florina, Greece
from the travel blog: The Fantastic Far Flung Eastern European Adventure
tagged Eurotrip

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Touch down in Europe

Athens, Greece

The Cape to Cairo trip is over and Mattie and I couldnt get enough of the backpacking idea... So decidd to carry on and travel overland through Eastern Europe to eventually end off in the west somewhere and get a summer job. We wanted to do the whole thing without flying, but the trans med ferry only starts in mid june... so we flew.
It was basically by pure coincidence, but we timed the flight to arrive on the same day that the UEFA champions leage final was being played. In Athens! This meant that all the accomodation was full, but thanks to some Matt's amazing pre planning on couch surfing, we had a place to sleep! Arriving in Europe was insane, there were just soccer huligans everywhere! While getting our luggage we met two canadian girls who had no-where to go, so out of the goodness of our hearts we took them under our wing. And graciously offered them a place at "our" flat haha.. so it went, we got the metro to Lena's house only to find no-one home. But once she did arrive, she gladly took us all in. She is one hospitible lady!

The day from here only got better, especially when we got out our 2 liters of duty free russian vodka, we didnt quite make it to the actual match, but were close enough on a massive square with cinema screens... Thousands of supporters and us just taking in the vibe, it was peaceful, up until the point where AC Milan scored their second goal... This sparked some aggresion from Liverpool, suddenly the sky was filled with flying beer bottles, cans, and flares!! Insane! No-one seemed to have gotten seriously hurt though, and liverpool did manage to score a goal, but hey. It did mean that Athems was now filled with 40000 depressed liverpool soccer huligans!

We did our best to find the party, but AThens is bigger than we expected, and only seemed to find the liverpool side of town (apparently the police had made sure the italians and brits were on opposite end of the city), so we made the most of it! We hadnt quite adjusted to the Euro yet, so we were happy when we met some greek girls, who showed us around... they even got us some beers! haha

And so was our first day in Europe, the plan from here is to couch surf, hitch and backpack from city to city until we reach holland, or run out of money which ever comes first.

permalink written by  BalkanAdventure on May 23, 2007 from Athens, Greece
from the travel blog: The Fantastic Far Flung Eastern European Adventure
tagged CapeToCairo

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