Balkans Tour Day 1
For those of you who didn’t know, I will be spending the next two weeks on a quick tour of the west coast of the Balkan peninsula. If you have no idea what that is, click here to read the wikitravel article for a bit of background.
I will be starting in Zadar croatia and working my way slowly down the coast by bus through Bosnia & Herzegovinia, Montenegro and Albania before arriving in Greece.
Once in Greece I’m going to be meeting up with 2 amazing friends from high school, Justin and Manuel and the three of us, along with another 11 of their close friends, are going to be spending a week on a yacht as a part of Yacht Week Greece 2011.
Check out the website, or for the Spark Notes version, basically, the 14 of us rented two large yachts for the week and will be joining approximately 25 other large yachts in a giant caravan island hop in the Greek isles. The pictures from past years look a lot like the 4th of July Grand Lake scene, only, imagine if you spent the night on your boat with 7 other people and slept in Dripping Springs every night. Oh and if Dripping Springs was in Greece, not in po-dunk town Oklahoma.
Anyway, My journey to the Balkans began peacefully. I’d just spent an amazing weekend playing tour guide to a friend Erin, from college and LA. She’s studying at Oxford and just came down for the weekend. After treating her to the normal repertoire of spots (Miguel’s, Luis, Los Caños for a bit of topless sunbathing) we headed out together for London. Unfortunately, because I was working, I got a total of 5 hours of sleep the entire time she was here. So I was exhausted and ready to sleep for a couple of days straight. We got an easy ride to the airport from a friend, then sped through security at Jerez airport (highly recommended for flying into/out of. It was such a breeze). We got a bit drunk on the plane and were definitely those obnoxious people who talked the whole time, but I honestly didn’t care, because I never travel with anyone and it was just good to talk to a real friend.
Immigration in London was surprisingly a BREEZE. I always have trouble getting into London for some reason, but on this trip, at about 12:30 AM, I walked up to a nice immigration lady, gave her my details, she asked me a couple of simple questions about my trip, we had a quick joke and stamp stamp I was gone. I was so amazed, but relieved, obviously. Maybe my only real problem is with Heathrow. GD Heathrow.
At this point, Erin caught a bus back to Oxford, and I began the search for a place to sleep. Stansted airport is known for being a big place for people to sleep since it’s the hub for a slew of budget airlines and a decent distance outside of London. However, I had assumed I wouldn’t have to leave security, and, alas, I did, so suddenly I was stuck in a tiny departures lounge with a couple hundred other people fighting for the dozen or so benches.
I did not find one. I set up shop underneath a bank of payphones with just a towel to cushion my body and a sleep sheet. I slept for about 4 hours (really poorly) and then the Ryanair desks opened up for the day and I was able to go ahead and get my boarding pass stamped and check in. I still had about 5 hours before my flight left, so I found a legitimate bench at one of the empty gates and set up shop. This time I slept hard for another 3.5 hours. I then boarded my plane and proceeded to sleep again for about an hour.
Once I arrived in Zadar, I caught a bus to the central bus station and bought a ticket to Split. I had originally planned to go all the way down to Dubrovnik, but had missed the last direct bus, and was going to have to connect through Split and hope that I got there in time to catch the last bus to Dubrovnik which left at 8:45 PM. Unfortunately, my Zadar to Split bus was running late as well. I found a group of backpackers from London who were doing some traveling after having visited the Soundwave Music Festival. Fortunately, we were all on the same bus and waited together as bus after bus came and went to Split, without letting us on. Finally after about an hour and a half of waiting, we made it on and began the journey down to Split fortunately arriving at about 8:30, just in time for me to catch the last 8:45 bus to Dubrovnik.
I had wished I would have been awake for this part of the journey, as I’ve heard it’s amazing, but I was still exhausted and because it was so late, couldn’t see much anyway. There were only 6 of us on the bus, so I got the entire backseat bench to myself and just conked out. I only came up for air to go through border control in Bosnia and then again to reenter Croatia.
I had arranged for a ride when I got to Dubrovnik from my hostel, which is a way out of town and homedude that came to get me was so nice and hospitable that I really started to feel a bit better about the whole thing. They put me in a 5 bed private room so as “not to wake the other sleeping guests” in my actual room and I took up residence in a giant king bed. And unlike the previous 6 or so attempts at sleeping, I finally completely passed out.