Chapter 18 – Meteora, Athens, Milan

I won’t bore you with the details of my next day. To summarise: early start, Santorini airport is chaotic, flight delayed, long train rides.

I was very tired when I arrived at my hostel in Kalabaka. It was about 7:40pm and I had been going since 7am. I bought my usual greek treat of a gyros then headed to bed to relax. My hostel room was very nice, with each bunk having its on curtain, plug, light, shelf, and mirror. The bathrooms were also very clean!

The next morning I was doing an organised tour of the monastries of Meteora which are built upon rocks high up in the sky. It picked me up at 9 in a fancy shuttle van and off we went. There were 9 of us on the tour in total plus our driver and our tour guide.

We stopped first at the Great Meteora monastry which is the largest of them all. It is closed on Tuesdays so we couldn’t go in but we were able to look at the outside of it and also the view of the area. Our driver even offered to take photos for us!

Then we went to our first monastry visit. There were heaps of tour groups here so it was crowded and hard to dodge in between all the herds. We were given an hour to explore there on our own. This monastry let you see the old pully system that was used when building the monastries to get supplies up the rocks. The monks must have been very brave to clamber up the cliffs to built these structures!

We did some more tiki-touring around, with our guide telling us more about the history of the monastries. One was even used for the final action scene in the James Bond film ‘For Your Eyes Only’! Game of Thrones were turned down to film with them though. There were various view points we stopped at along the way showing us different angles of the area and the true greatness of it all.

The next place we visited was a monastry that was now in fact a nunnery. It was the smallest of all the operating monastries in the area but housed 50 nuns. It was very pleasant and peaceful compared to the monastries that had been turned more into tourist attractions. Due to its size we didn’t need very long here and were then off to our next and final destination.

Our final monastries visit involved a 10 minute walk first straight uphill to get to it. This was the only monastry that let you see a monk’s actual bedroom. It was a very boring room, no One Direction posters on the walls. Like all the others, this monastry included a chapel and the visit also let us see the room in which the monks worship. The man at the ticket office was a little crazy though, accusing everyone of not buying tickets even though he had just sold them the tickets.

This monastry marked the end of our tour and we were dropped back in the centre of Kalabaka just after 1pm. I went out for lunch with two Canadian girls who were on my tour and ate a lot of traditional greek food. It was delicious!

I had a very early start the next day so decided to take it easy back at my hostel after stocking up on snack supplies at the supermarket. The next morning my train back to Athens departed at 5:40am so I needed to be up at 4:30.

Again, I won’t bore you with the details of my long train trips, but I arrived in Athens just before 11am. I was able to drop my bag at my hostel for the day as I had arrived so early. I only had one night in Athens due to the fact I had already been there on my last trip and there weren’t any attractions I felt the urge to do again.

I just wandered around the city centre for a few hours, admiring the ancient ruins from outside the fence and walking through the flea markets. Then I climbed up a hill I had done the previous trip that gives a great view over the city. It was a lot more crowded this time around due to the different season but it was sytill blowing a gale at the top. After snapping a picture up there to prove I had made it I actually ended up just sitting a little down the path where there wasn’t the intense winds.

I stopped by my favourite cafe in Athens for an iced mocha before heading to my hostel to check in. This was a very slow process and service wasn’t the best, it took an hour just to print my boarding pass! Eventually I got everything sorted and I was able to relax in my room.

The previous night I had discovered my Air BnB for Las Vegas had cancelled so I now needed to find new accommodation. I ended up cutting my stay there back and adding another destination to my US trip but it took a bit of work figuring it out. In my dorm room there was an Aussie who lived in New Zealand and was about to start a Topdeck so I had a very familar accent!

Then little me headed to sleep, ready for another early start. The next day I flew to Milan as it was the meeting spot for the Tubbs family. I had some great fun with the office assistant that managed my accommodation on behalf of the owner…she really needed some training.

For once I was actually staying the night in Milan so I figured I best do some sightseeing. I found the famous cathedral along with the shopping complex and also walked around a park where the castle with. I was still tired from all my early starts so didn’t push myself too much and that evening I continued planning my US trip.

Guess what happens the next day though!!

Chapter 17 – Santorini

Despite the extremely early start I managed to make it to the airport in time for my flight to Santorini. It was a cheap easyjet flight so I wouldn’t say I travelled in luxury but it did get me from A to B. Because of the early time it left I arrived in Santorini just before 11am and had to drop my bag at my hostel as check in wasn’t until 3pm.

I made the most of this time and explored Fira which is Santorini’s main town. The town was full of tourists from the cruise ships and I had to try and explain to them that I wasn’t trying to queue jump for the cable car, I was just trying to walk past. The narrow streets made it seem more crowded than it was too so I was often ducking into stores just to avoid the tourist clumps.

The town was very overpriced though, targeted to the rich cruise ship visitors, so I decided not to do any shopping there for food. Instead, I stocked up on water and snacks at the supermarket near my hostel. and got a gyros too at a nearby grill house. It was very delicious and cheap, only 2.30€!

Because of my early start I took it easy and didn’t stay up too late as I had a full on few days ahead of me still.

The next morning I had decided I would do the 10km walk from Fira to Oia. With my hostel being 30 minutes from the starting point of the walk I did an extra 3km of walking before it had even began! But I didn’t really mind. I had left my hostel just after 8:30 and had stopped at a bakery for a big chocolate croissant and supplies for later so I was a happy chappy when starting the hike.

Due to the time of day, Fira was a lot emptier and it was much easier to walk around. The walk was very picturisque with the first few kilometres taking me through little vilkages on the cliff side filled with white houses. I took a detour at one to climb onto Skaros Rock. This was a little tricky at one point as the path stopped and you had to do actual rock climbing for the final couple of metres. Luckily two ladies were coming down when I went up so they helped me. The view was defi itely worth it, you could look back to the island and all the villages. On the way back down I asked a couple who had just arrived at the bottom of the tricky bit to help guide me down which they did. Then I returned to the main route (after getting lost trying to find it a couple of times).

The rest of the walk didn’t pass through villages but there were a number of flash resorts backing onto the path. The path went along the caldera edge and gave views overlooking the ocean and other islands. It was very hot while walking as there was no shade so it was important I stayed hydrated.

I ended up making it to Oia by 12:30. The streets here were wider so it wasn’t as crammed as Fira but still busy as the cruise ship passengers were bused in. I did a lot of exploring just around the streets and found a bookstore I had read about online. It was tucked down some stairs and filled from floor to ceiling with books.

I then went to an old fortress that gave a view back to Oia. It was very hot by this time so I had to buy some more water along the way. I sat at the fortress for a while, relaxing and eating some lunch, as well as people watching.

I decided to walk down to Amoudi Bay, a popular spot to watch the sunset. It was a long walk down and I dreaded the walk back up. I refused to get a donkey ride up as the poor things were looking very hot and tired in the heat. I wanted to give them some water or food. Instead I suffered up the steps slowly back to Oia. I continued with some exploring but by this point it was mid afternoon and way too hot to deal with the difficult tourists. I caught the bus back to Fira instead and walked to my hostel to relax by the pool for a moment.

As you are supposed to see it at least once while staying in Santprini, I decided to walk back to Fira in the early evening to watch the sunset. I bought a gyros and found a spot that looked out over the ocean. There was a group of chinese girls who came along and started having a very intense photoshoot where I was standing. I got quite sick of all the pushing and shoving coming from them despite the fact they had about 20m of the street to take their photos in so I eventually walked a little further down and perched myself right in their way of the photos. Oops.

The sunset was very nice, not spectacular, but still good. Once it was done I walked back to my hostel as Fira gets very busy after dark. I then went to bed, tired from what ended up being 25km of walking that day.

The next day the sun was still shining and my plan for the day was to go to the beach – Red Beach to be exact. To get to Red Beach I had to catch a bus which took about 40 minutes as it is on the other side of the island. The carpark to the beach was full of tour buses and I had to push my way through the groups to get to the beach path.

At the start of the path there is the remains of a danger sign saying the path is closed. This sign has been pulled away however leaving a well walked path winding through the rocks. The beach is said to be dangerous to visit due to rockfalls which in the past have killed people on the beach. Of course everyone ignores this fact and continues to visit the beach. The red cliffs tower over you as you lie in the sun and it was the first sand beach I had seen this trip.

I set myself up down the far end of the beach where there were fewer people and enjoyed the sun for a couple of hours. After that I was planning on seeing the archaelogical ruins nearby but the price had nearly tripled from what I thought it was so I passed on that visit. Instead I caught the bus back to my hostel where I spent a little bit more time in the sun by the pool.

In the evening I returned to Fira for dinner but couldn’t be bothered waiting for the sunset as it was still quite a while away. Instead I chilled out at my hostel in peace, away from the cruise ship tourists.

The next day was the halfway point of my trip and I was changing hostels to stay in the beach side town of Perissa. I left my bag at my first hostel as I couldn’t check into my new one until mid afternoon. I then spent 40 minutes walking to a beach near the airport. This beach is seen as the locals secret as many tourists never bother to venture to it. When I arrived I was just one of 15 people on the long stretch of sand. It was a very hot day so it was nice to relax in the sun for a few hours. I could have fallen asleep it was so pleasant!

I didn’t put sunblock on my back and stomach so by the end of my time at the beach they were a little pink. I had to walk back to my hostel to collect my suitcase before bussing to Perissa. I found Perissa to be a lot quieter than the likes of Fira and relaxing with wide open streets. The cruise ship visitors never bother to venture this far across the island.

While relaxing at my hostel that night one of my roomies invited me to go up the hill to the highest point on the island to watch the sunset. It wasn’t that great as it was a tad cloudy that night. But the view was still fab.

The next day was my boat trip day. This was a 6 hour cruise I had booked prior to leaving NZ but it didn’t start until the afternoon as it was a sunset one. So I spent the morning meandering around, even getting in a couple of hours at the beach. Then I got picked up just before 3 and off we went.

There were about 13 of us on the boat so it was very nice and the staff were friendly. We made three stops for swimming and snorkeling at the red beach, black beach and hot springs. We couldn’t stop at the white beach as it was limestone and you can’t anchor on that. We also had a traditional greek bbq cooked for us which was delicious. On the way back to port we watched the sunset which was the best yet in my opinion.

Then I went to bed. Fun.

In the morning I slept in as it was the last chance I had to do so. I treated myself to a muffin and an iced coffee from the nearby bakery and sat at the beach enjoying them. I decided at around midday to climb a hill. It was hot. And steep. I got sweaty. But I made it.

At the top of the hill I met all the lazy people that had just driven up. I continued further to visit Ancient Thira – basically just a whole lot of rubble. But the view over Perissa was good!

I stumbled back down the hill, stopping at a cliffside church on the way. It was still hot. I was still sweaty. To cool off I went to the beach and made the most of my final afternoon there. I had to be up early the next morning so this is the end. Goodnight.

Chapter 16 – Verona

My trip to Verona was a long one. I first caught a FlixBus from Ljubljana to Venice which took 4 hours. I sat in the bottom level of the bus and managed not to get carsick for once. I then waited for a train to Verona which left an hour later. This ride was just over one and a half hours long and I made it to Verona at 4pm. Deciding I needed fresh air after a day of travelling I walked to my hostel which was 35 minutes away. The hostel was really really nice, possibly the cleanest and most modern I have stayed in. Plus heaps of room!

I still had some food left from Slovenia so cooked a simple pasta dinner that night. Then back in my dorm room I had 5 other nice solo travellers. We all spoke English as our first language bar one who was Italian. It was the most social dorm room I had stayed in so far!

As I only had one full day in Verona I tried not to sleep in too late the next day. My first stop was struggling through the throngs of tour bus people to see ‘Juliet’s balcony’. It wasn’t her actual balcony given the fact Juliet never actually existed but it was the one used in the Romeo and Juliet film. Some people were convinced it was the real deal though… I paid the 6€ entry fee to the house’s museum but was extremely underwhelmed as all it was was photos from the movie along with a few quotes from the play and cutlery from the same era. 10/10 would not recommend.

When I was in Verona there was some sort of festival going on for the town’s children all through the centre so it was quite difficult to make my through the streets and squares. But I breathed in tight, thought skinny thoughts and made my way around.

I had lunch back at my hostel to refresh myself and then headed up to a castle on the hill. The castle wasn’t open to explore but the hill gives you a view over Verona.

I was very hot and sweaty after this, the heat was intense, so being a true tubb of course I got ice cream. The shop I chose had a massive queue but it was worth it once I tasted the delicious treat. I ate this by the river before again retiring to my hostel to cook dinner and relax.

The next morning I would travel to Busto Arsizio, a city near Milan Malpensa Airport which was where I was flying to Santorini from. The city didn’t have much to do in it so I’ll save you the boring details. But I was thankful to have a quiet night there in a B&B before my 4am start to catch my flight. I wonder if I woke up in time…

Chapter 15 – Ljubljana

I arrived in Ljubljana in the middle of the day, sometime around 11:30am. This was a lot earlier than I had planned and meant I really had almost three full days in the city, not two. I made the most of it by walking around the city centre and getting orientated. Oh and of course I had to trial some ice cream before the other tubbs arrived.

It was very hot on the day I arrived so when I joined a free walking tour at 3pm I was already sweating before it started. Only one company offer free walking tours in Ljubljana so there were about 50 people that had shown up for it. We got split into two groups and I was lucky to get a very energetic and enthusiastic guide who made everyone last. He taught us about the history of the city and the stories behind popular landmarks and symbols. At the end a lady asked me to pass her tip onto the guide as she had to rush off so she made me look good by adding 5€ to my dismal coin collection I was donating!

My hostel had a kitchenette in the room but it was very poorly stocked so cooking my dinner was a little bit challenging. I got there in the end but had to eat it off a plate as another guest stole the only bowl I had gotten out.

I had an average sleep that night so took my time getting out of bed in the morning. I was saving the castle visit for when the tubbs were here so had decided to take it easy that day. In the morning I went to a MASSIVE park in the city and sat in it relaxing and reading. When I finally got hungry I headed back to the city centre for some food before then going to the old abandoned military barracks near the train station. These had been lived in my squatters before eventually claiming to be an autonomous area much like Christiania in Copenhagen. It had a very bohemian vibe to it and apparently in the evenings it come alive with people.

I provided a fantastic welcoming party for the tubbs when they arrived on their bikes, even meeting them at the correct location! I had already lugged their very heavy bags up to our room and sacrificed a cookie for Mrs tubbs. I then guided them around my city and Mr tubbs decided on a restaurant to satisfy his hunger.

The next morning we headed up the hill to the Ljubljana castle. As we are fantastic cheapskates we didn’t pay for the entry fee into the castle, instead making the most of the free areas within its grounds. Some photo obsessed asians asked me to take a photo of them, positioning the phone perfectly for me. Then they told me off for not counting them down. How dare they tell Caitlin how to take photos! We found them later on still taking photos. I wonder how big their phone memory is to be able to handle all their narcissistic ways.

I gave a small guided tour of the city centre to the tubbs as I knew aalllll the facts from the tour I did. We then had a cheap morning tea because if you remember correctly we chose not to pay the castle entry so were allowed a treat. Mrs tubbs didn’t pack smartly so we visited H&M for her to replenish her suitcase. We also picked up a box for me to mail some things in to Frankfurt.

At the hostel Mr tubbs got very restless and agitated so made us walk an hour to go to a Decathlon store. Then he got lost! It was a very hot walk, especially on the way back as there wasn’t much shade so an iced coffee was in order once back in the city centre. Then it was dinner time before another early tubbs night.

In the morning we were going our seperate ways with the tubbs on their bike and me on a bus to Venice to catch a train to Verona. We bid farewell and I begun my next adventure!

Chapter 14 – Lake Bled

My trip to Lake Bled was very complex: a train then a bus then a train then a bus. Then when I got there the tubbs I was meeting weren’t there! Turns out they ignored my instructions on what bus stop I would come in at and after half an hour of waiting realised they weren’t at the main Bled bus station. Travelling alone has its perks!

As the parental tubbs had already been in Bled for a couple of hours they showed me around including the lovely lake. The water of Lake Bled is very clear and looks like you could just take a big gulp of it. There are so many little fishies in it but no swimming allowed in the main areas.

We had a lovely ice coffee at a cafe near the water which was very refreshing and helped me recover from all my travelling. As tubbs have small legs we took it easy for the evening and after dinner the oldies turned the light off very early!!

In the morning, after the traditional chocolate croissant were packed in our backpacks for later, we hiked up the hill next to us to see the Bled castle. However some silly person decided you should be charged to enter the castle grounds so we didn’t get to see the view we hoped for. But we fought on and found a track that went behind the castle before popping out next to it with just as stunning of a view. We spent ages taking our postcard pictures and ate our delicious croissants. Then we headed down the other side of the hill to begin the walk around the lake. It was a nice temperature first thing in the morning so we didn’t get hot and sweaty and were able to enjoy it.

Mrs tubbs then had the great idea to get a row boat and row out to the island so we did just that. She rowed us out while I was given the responsibility of getting us back to shore. The island was very little and the annoying tourists kept ringing the church bells every second of the day. However it was also very nice on the island and peaceful despite other tourists. Smart decision making by Mrs tubbs on the row boat!

It was early afternoon after our rowing excursion and completing the lake walk. We refreshed at the hostel again before going to do some laundry at a nearby laundromat.

However, disaster struck. On the walk there my iPhone decided to fall to the ground face down and smash. I was devastated. I still am. In fact I blame the iPhone incident for my slack uploading.

I didn’t enjoy the feeling of clean clothes from the laundry like I would have had my phone not smashed. Mr tubbs had been smart in bringing a spare but it’s just not the same! I have damaged my greatest asset.

The pizza for dinner did little to cheer me up and neither did a good nights sleep – mainly because I didn’t have a good sleep. Even on my bus to Ljubljana the next day I was still sad…

Chapter 13 – Maribor

The country I ended up in was Slovenia!! My first stop in this country was Maribor, the second largest city. However despite having that title it was actually quite small. It was a Saturday when I arrived and the old town was very quiet. As it isn’t a big tourist destination there wasn’t the usual hustle and bustle of tour buses which meant it had a peacefulness to it. I had treated myself to a private room for my two nights here and when I got there the room was massive. It had three beds just for me!!!

I started my visit with a walk around the old town. It didn’t take very long due to its small size but I managed to take quite a number of photos due to the Austrian architecture that filled it. Lots of Yvonne photos! I also went and bought my train ticket for two days time for when I was heading to Lake Bled.

I was quite tired today after not sleeping well for a couple of nights so I had a relaxing evening and went to sleep early.

In the morning I took my time getting out of bed, making the most of my quiet room. Once I had finally emerged into the outside world I made my way towards Pyramid Hill to climb. It definitely wasn’t the highest hill I had climbed on this trip but it provided a semi decent view and backed onto some more bushy areas which I was able to keep exploring.

The view…

…and the ‘pyramid’

It was early afternoon when I finally got back into the city centre so I did some more walking around the old town before making my way down to the river edge to sit and relax. There were heaps of geese there and I was slightly I would be attacked. I somehow managed to escape though!

Again, I had an early night so I could wake up early for my train the next day. Maribor was a little pitstop and definitely not a place I would need more time in but still pleasant! My next stop was Lake Bled where I saw some fellow tubs, can you guess who??

Chapter 12 – Zagreb

So my flight to Zagreb ended up taking off an hour late…and I can tell you, Dubrovnik airport isn’t that exciting, especially in the Domestic area. Wifi is limited to 15 minutes and there’s no charging points!!

By the time I got into the city of Zagreb and to my hostel it was just after 7pm. And then after the extremely slow check in process I wasn’t able to get dinner until just after 8pm so a burger from across the road had to do.

I didn’t sleep the best that night but in the morning I was determined to make the most of the only day in Zagreb. I started by visiting a bakery to buy my morning croissant before visiting the Dolac market. This market is massive with soooo many stalls all selling the same fantastic products. I snatched up a delicious punnet of strawberries from the market as a treat because they just looked so irresistible.

I was yet to have my morning coffee however so that was my next stop. I found a cafe near the main square that looked popular and ordered an ice coffee. There I enjoyed a few of my strawberries while waking up.

I then made the decision to join a free walking tour at 11. It was a little hard to find the meeting point at first as there was a vegan festival being held in the main square however when I did find the group we set off for 2 hours. The tour guide focused a lot on the history of Zagreb and the two small town that joined to originally create the city. There were a number of steps to climb at the start and by far I was one of the fittest out of the group which is really saying something about healthy tourists.

Every day at noon a canon is fired from a tower in Zagreb. Historically it was fired at 9am and 9pm (before that a bell was rung) signally 15 minutes until the city gates would respectively be opening and closing. Once city gates were no longer a thing the canon fire was moved to noon to help churches know when to ring their bells and ensure their clocks were all synchronised. With modern technology this isn’t really needed now but the tradition is kept going.

Our tour took us to the tower just before noon and we were given a short break to watch the canon be fired. Despite knowing it was coming it still gave us all a big fright as the sound of it firing was loud enough to be heard across the whole city.

Towards the end of the tour we visited the Zagreb cathedral. Outside the cathedral on an old fortification wall was the original clock from the cathedral’s tower. In 1880 Zagreb had a major earthquake, causing the cathedral to be destroyed and the clock to stop at the exact time the earthquake struck (7:03am). It is kept with this time shown in its new home on the wall.

When the cathedral was rebuilt they made the mistake of using limestone for the bricks and as a result they are currently having to individually replace each brick with a more long term material. This = scaffolding, lots of it (like pretty much every other European building).

The tour ended back in the main square and after it I headed back to the cathedral to see the Las Vegas casino chandeliers it had. Then I went to a museum we had gone past on the tour followed by an exploration of the many parks the city has. It was in one of these parks that I found a food festival being held by Coca Cola for the summer! As the weather forecast said there was going to be a thunderstorm at any moment I got myself a gourmet burger from one of the stalls and took it back to my hostel as I had no intention of getting soaked while looking for a nice restaurant.

Back at my hostel I enjoyed my burger while watching a movie. The next morning I had a bus at 9:15 which brought an end to my time in Croatia and moved me onto a brand new country! Can you guess which one???

Chapter 11 – Kotor (and a little bit of Dubrovnik)

The bus ride from Dubrovnik to Kotor ended up taking 4 hours, 2 hours 20 minutes longer than scheduled. But as I said, I already knew this would happen. My hostel here was right on the waterfront and only 400m from the bus station so very easy to find.

After settling in there I decided to go to the old town. Kotor has quite a small old town in comparison to other European places so it didn’t take very long to walk around. However I did keep myself occupied for a while at a cat souvenir shop where they took in abandoned cats.

Dinner that first night was at a BBQ/Grill place recommended by the hostel. It was literally just around the corner so an easy stumble home when I got too full from the food. It was very well priced, I got a MASSIVE burger and fries for 4.50€ and I could barely finish it. The owner also chucked in a free drink as an apology for having to wait so long. I felt like I didn’t need to eat for a month after that meal.

My sleep wasn’t the best that night as two old American ladies arrived at 10:30pm. Now traditionally this is fine as you can’t help it if your flight or bus comes in late. But these two turned the light on, unpacking their bags and chattering away for amount 30 minutes. I was fuming!!

Then the next morning I came back to the room to find one of them using my phone charger which was on my bed. I’m not normally a rude person to other hostel guests but they broke hostel etiquette and I made sure all my answers to their questions were short and blunt. The problem was because they were Americans they just wouldn’t stop talking! And judging! They had to critique any travel decisions I was making.

I left them and took my phone charger with me up the free path the hostel had shown me to the fortress. This bypassed the 8€ entry gate and the 1000s of steps up. It was by far the easier route as it zig zagged gradually up the hill and it was nice and quiet. I found a donkey along the way in an abandoned building and to join back onto the main path I had to climb through a hole in the wall! From there it was only another 5 minutes walking with the ripped off cruise ship tourists.

I explored the fortress then found myself a nice seat on the edge to enjoy my croissant breakfast. I stayed up there for well over an hour just watching everybody and admiring the view from my prime seat. I even met some fellow kiwis! A man from New Plymouth wearing some Canterbury shorts and an older couple from Palmerston North. So there we were all chatting away!

Coming down from the fortress I was able to go on the main track so saw all the sights I’d missed out on by taking my free route. It was funny seeing everyone who had paid for the walk huffing and puffing their way up while I knew there was a cheaper and easier route if they had just done their research!

This main route took me back to the old town which I walked around again for a while. Then I sat down and the waterfront and enjoyed a snack.

To fill in my afternoon I walked around the opposite side of the bay to the main town area. It was very peaceful here with hardly any tourists and it was there that I caught up on writing my blog posts I had missed!!

Then because I’m a tubb I needed an early dinner so found a restaurant on the edge of the old town that did a simple ceaser salad. This got some veges into me and was delicious! I only had one full day in Kotor so I made sure I had one final walk around before heading back to my hostel. Once there I did my best to avoid the American ladies as I was still grumpy.

In the morning I caught a bus back to Dubrovnik where I was staying one final night. This bus not only left the station late but again took a few hours longer than scheduled. At one of the border crossings we were sitting there for 30 minutes before anyone came to check our passports! Such a waste of beach time.

I was staying at the same hostel in Dubrovnik so knew my way back to it from the station. Once I was checked in again I made my way to the beach to catch the final bit of sun and go for a quick dip. As soon as I had left the beach to start finding dinner it began raining out of nowhere! And not just light rain, massive heavy drops of it! I took shelter under the awning of a kebab shop and made the decision just to have that for dinner. So I ate it while waiting for the rain to stop.

The next morning I didn’t want to wake up but sadly I had to 😦 My flight to Zagreb wasn’t until 4:20pm so I left my bag with the hostel and headed to a different area of the city that was where all the resorts were located. I saw the nice beach there then set up camp in a cafe with an iced coffee and my book. I stayed there for about 1 1/2 hours before I decided I should go back and get my bag and head for the airport.

And here I now sit, waiting to board my flight!

Below you can find some pictures of all the cats and kittens I made friends with in Kotor:

Oh and I also saw a pug that wanted to eat my bananas!!

Chapter 10 – Dubrovnik

The bus trip to Dubrovnik was supposed to take 3 1/2 hours, however when we sat for 2 hours at the border crossings I knew that we would not arrive on time. We ended up pulling into Dubrovnik bus station at around 4:15 instead of the scheduled 1:40. There went my chance of an afternoon swim!

My hostel was about 15 minutes walk away…uphill. By the time I arrived at it I was very hot! An Australian girl arrived not long after me who had just completed a Topdeck sailing trip. She thought I was also Australian…

My dinner that night consisted of a leftover chicken sandwich from my boat ride and some fruit I had found at a supermarket. I enjoyed this down at the beach where the sun had already passed and when I returned to my hostel had an early night. Sitting on a bus all day sure is exhausting!

The next day I discovered the cable car to the top of Mt Srd had gone up in price and was now approximately $35NZ. A blimin rip off! I decided to walk instead and set off on my journey. It was very slow going up the hill as it was very hot and by the time I reached the fortress on the top I had climbed 450m. Not bad for someone with little legs. At the top there were a bunch of cruise ship tourists who had taken the cable car up and they were running around with their selfie sticks trying to get the perfect shot before catching the cable car only 5 minutes later. I was lucky there was only 1 cruise ship docked during my stay as oppose to the 6 they had at once just a few days earlier.

I spent some time at the top as I needed to make the climb worth it and discovered people are actually willing to pay 7€ for 330ml of Coca Cola. Crazy.

The walk down took just as long as the climb as the path was made out of loose rocks and I passed many people huffing and puffing their way up. It felt good to do the climb before it had gotten too hot. I followed the path until I ended up in the old town where I had been on my last trip. I again skipped the overpriced tourist attraction and just walked around, exploring all the little alleyways and hidden passages.

Then it was lunch time! So I made the 30 minutes (uphill) walk back to my hostel to have a nibble before changing into my togs to have a little swim at the beach. There I managed to get 20% of the way through a new book before the sun had moved around the cliff and the shade had set in. Again I trotted back to my hostel to get changed.

Because I hadn’t bought dinner the night before I decided to treat myself this night to a restaurant meal. I figured also walking up the hill and not paying for the cable car helped me justify this! I found a nice restaurant by the old town gate which was reasonably priced (well at least in terms of Dubrovnik prices…). Five minutes after being seated the waitress offered me a different table, this one right by the wall overlooking an inlet. Of course I said yes and there I enjoyed a nice view while eating my shrimp pasta. It was very yummy but probably the most expensive meal I’ll be eating on this trip.

Having just completed my third traipse back to the hostel uphill, this time with a very full belly, I decided not to go out again and to relax. I had walked almost 20km that day! I did a little bit of hand washing before hopping into bed to watch some Netflix. A successful day in Dubrovnik I think!

The next day was another bus trip, this time to Kotor, Montenegro. The bus was at 10 but because I like to be early I got to the station at 9:30. I’m glad I did get there early because the bus driver ended up turning the final 20 people away even though they had bought ticket online in advance. I felt very sorry for them but was glad I had a seat! This trip was scheduled to only take 1 hour 40, but my prior research and experience meant I was prepared for a much longer trip.

How long did it end up taking you may ask? I guess you’ll find out in the next chapter!

Chapter 9 – Mostar

I did indeed make it to Mostar but 40 minutes late! I had treated myself to a private room for these two nights as it is so cheap here so I was able to unpack my bag and spread out. I settled in for the night in my quiet little room and enjoyed not having to use an eye mask for once.

I only had one full day in Mostar so the next morning I headed into the old town to make the most of it. The tour groups were yet to arrive so it wasn’t too crowded and I was able to walk around the market streets without claustrophobia setting in. I also got a good view of the famous bridge.

I sat down at the rocks below the bridge for about an hour, just enjoying the heat and watching all the tourists come by. At one stage a man looked like he was going to dive off it. But this was just a trick to build up a crowd. Once there were enough tourists around he announced his friend would jump but only if they got enough money. So fellow divers started walking around with hats collecting coins from the gullible tourists. Somehow I managed to escape them and watched the show for free after 20 minutes of waiting.

I then decided I would go to Blagaj and headed to the bus stop to catch the bus there. However the bus never showed up and after 15 minutes of waiting I gave up and decided I’d spend the bus fare on an ice coffee instead. Smart decision making. After my refreshing drink I headed back down to the river to put my feet in it for a while. As it was mountain water it was freezing cold and I don’t know how the Topdeck tourists could handle swimming in it. Then it was time for some more wandering before I decided to give the bus a go one more time.

This time it actually showed up! It took 30 minutes to drive the 12km and once there I walking the 500m to the building in the cliff and the cave. It wasn’t that exciting there but it was very peaceful and not so busy as Mostar. I treated myself that evening to a dinner out at a restaurant there. It was nice to have a hot meal for once!

The real adventure began when I tried leaving back to Mostar. I sat at the bus stop waiting but when the bus came it didn’t stop!! To make matters worse the next one wasn’t for another 2 hours, at 7:30pm. Then began my adventure I walking back and forth through the village to pass the time. At one point I thought I was going to be kidnaped but I managed to escape that situation and find some other tourists who were willing to share a taxi back to Mostar with me. The extra cost was worth not having to wait ages and we made it back before it was even dark unlike if we waited for the bus.

I treated myself to my first ice cream in a while at enjoyed it by the river. The tour groups had once again left so the crowds had died right down and it was easier to walk around.

I enjoyed my final night with a room to myself and in the morning headed to the bus station that was across the road from my accommodation to head to Dubrovnik. The transport here works differently to the rest of Europe and there was definitely a point where I didn’t think they were going to let me on the bus despite buying my ticket in advance. Thankfully they did and we were able to begin the journey.

To be continued… or will it?