Tuesday, September 30

thoughts on mostar

Back at abrasevic, and sitting here surrounded by the very concrete reminders of war, and listening to periodic explosions in the distance. It's only kids setting off fireworks for today's bajram holiday, but it's an eerie feeling nonetheless!
It's nicely counteracted by the hillside behind the ruins though. Like Sarajevo, Mostar is surrounded by hills, but unlike the greenery of Sarajevo, these ones are a rocky, dusty grey-green. They are impressive, though. The climate is also much warmer, with today being t.shirt weather! And the sun was so nice to see. Although it made waking up rather warm, as i was all rugged up for the cold night in my bivvy!

pristina to mostar- catchup post

So i've been busy, and with people, so haven't blogged much. Now i'm more or less on my own again, so i have time to sit in a cafe and write.
Quick summary: the day i left prishtina i went to Prizren by bus with some polish people i met in the professor's guesthouse, and spent the morning wandering around in the rain. In prizren i also bought a recorder, so i finally have a portable instrument, even if it is one people don't want to hear too much of... At least it's a wooden one and isn't too shrill. In the afternoon i said goodbye and went off to find the highway back to Skopje, as i needed to enter serbia through a border point that wasn't in kosova. A million short rides later and i was back in Skopje. After One night at the creatively named hostel-hostel), i went to find the highway to Nis. Half an hour wait at a petrol station and i had a reasonably easy series of rides to nis, with the last one being right to the door of my hostel, which was rather nice! I spent the evening with other couchsurfers and locals, which was fun, but meant i didn't get such an early start the next morning...
Leaving Nis i walked through the fortress and then past the local concentration camp. I got to the highway, and went most of the way to belgrade with Yet Another turkish truck driver. I'm very glad i can communicate in turkish. That and german are the most common languages of the people who pick me up!
Belgrade was interesting, but i didn't do much outside the queer festival, which i will write about separately. I stayed with a wonderful couchsurfer host who lived in a delightful rundown old house, where the window was my most common means of leaving or entering. Even if i had had a key, the door was somewhat temperamental!
In Belgrade heard about the Sarajevo queer festival, and decided to in there next, rather than Zagreb as planned. I also met Solene, who had the same idea, and together we hitched to Sarajevo on Tuesday. After a latish start, we ended up just past the wonderfully mountainous border in the town of Visegrad as night was falling, and were concerned that we would spend the night there, when a lovely guy who lives in Austria but was visiting family picked us up, drove us all the way to Sarajevo, and let us sleep in his house for the night. He and i communicated in german, and with Solene he spoke Bosnian while she spoke czech, turning to me for translation through english and german when necessary. And then together Solene and i would speak english, except if we wanted to be sure our friend didn't understand, when we spoke french. See, this is why i travel. I average 3 or 4 languages a day!
The next morning he drove us into town and, miraculously, we ran into the very people we were looking for a net cafe to contact (friends from the Belgrade fest) in the main square of the old town.
Sarajevo is a lovely place. Despite the festival problems (more later), i really like it, and i met lots of lovely local people who made of feel very welcome- something i didn't really get in Belgrade. So even though the festival ended up cancelled, i stayed nearly a week, mostly staying in the office-apartment of an organisation that helps people get out of military service. Or something. And yesterday, before i left, i contacted an english school that is looking for teachers. I think i could quite happily spend the winter here...
Yesterday, after my first lovely sunny day in weeks, i set off in the late afternoon to come to Mostar. The plan was to meet Anthea, who i last say in Montreal, but it didn't quite work out, so i'm here alone. I had the address of a good place here though- a youth centre sort of community place called Abrasevic. I had no idea what i would find there, or if i would find it at all, as i only had a street name, but i did, and found a bunch of nice people, including, by chance, the one guy from here i had met in Sarajevo, still sporting an impressively bandaged broken nose from the queer festival violence. And it's right on the 1995 front line. I'm told that the building on one side of the courtyard was occupied by Croats, and the other by the muslims. Certainly both are pretty thoroughly destroyed. The building that houses most of the youth centre was also destroyed, but has been partially restored.
In Sarajevo there were signs of the war all over the place, if you opened your eyes and looked. i think more money has been put into restoring the capital. Here, the signs are really impossible to miss, with bombed shells of buildings everywhere, as are the tell-tale skeletal rose indentations in the pavements from shell explosions. Every building, except the few that have been re-plastered or are new, is pocked with bullet wounds.
Last night the abrasevic people let me put my tent on the roof, and i'm told that tonight i can sleep on a sofa or something. The roof was ok, but a sofa will be luxury! In the mean time, i'm out exploring Mostar, and tomorrow i.ll head either to Banja Luka or Zagreb, depending on couchsurfing and hitchhiking luck!

Friday, September 26

Festival Tour

So, i was in Belgrade, at the Q*ueer festival, and I heard about this festival in Sarajevo, so I came here for that. After all, I was thinking of coming anyway. And then I heard about this festival next week in Zagreb, which wasn't in my plan (I was going to head south from here) but whatever. It sounds like fun!
Of course, festivals in this part of the world mean police protection, and living with the possibility of fascist or fundamentalist violence. I am mostly pretty safe, as I am female, and once you're out of the immediate area, and look relatively 'normal' then there isn't much danger. Still, I haven't taken so many taxis in a long time!
There was a minor attack in Belgrade - three people were slightly injured, but the police response was swift (there was a busload of them outside the festival the entire time).
In Sarajevo the attacks from the fundametalists, (who were particularly mad that it was held during Ramadan) were more serious. It is the first queer festival they have had, and they expected trouble, but they weren't prepared for what happened. Here's a BBC article about it. I was mostly safely still inside the Gallery when it was all happening, and then we had a short walk behind the police lines to the place where police were getting taxis for us, and thankfully, unlike others, our taxi wasn't followed or stopped by a guy with a gun...
Anyway, the festival is now more or less cancelled. I will write more when I can. Until then, I will upload my phone photos as I take them (and when i find wifi...).

Sunday, September 21

dark danube

The very dark picture i just uploaded is of the danube. I'm on a boat. A boat that's fixed to the shore, but still a boat. The saturday night party and concert of the queer beograd festival is being held here. After an attack last night, we were escorted here from the daytime venue by the police. It was like a parade, except at night, and with only about 50 people, and on banners or noise... Very odd, really!
But it'r been a good night, nonetheless, although i'm currently by a window seeking refuge from the serious passive smoking habit the balkans have forced me to develop...
The band are now playing Roxanne, so i may have to go dance.

Wednesday, September 17

safety strategies

And back to border crossings that take forever and give of time to write...
I'm on my way from Skopje (again) to Nis, and in a truck which is what is causing the delay. I could get out and try for a car, which would in faster, but might not take me the whole way, and i would lose the time advantage waiting for another ride. This guy seems nice enough, and speaks enough german that we communicate quite well, and is going all the way to Nis and beyond. I just have to wait for this incredibly long line of trucks to move. Which they haven't since we stopped here 10mins ago...
So it turns out there is some post of problem with the serbian computer system, and all the trucks are stopped. Some have been waiting 3 hours already. So i said goodbye to my driver and walked through the border to try my luck on the other side. And find a bathroom. I found both quite easily, and got another ride in another truck that had got through the border, but this time with a young guy i seen to have no languages in common with.
Just about every driver, in any kind of vehicle, in any language, seems to have the same list of questions and conversation topics to cover. First comes the 'where are you from' part, and then the 'where are you going to / coming from' and questions about my whole trip. Then there's the surprise that i'm doing it all by hitchhiking, and alone, what's more. Which almost inevitably leads to the 'are you married / do you have a boyfriend' question, at which point the conversation either moves on to other topics (languages spoken, countries visited, how far away and beautiful australia is, and whether i think they could get a visa...) or becomes more uncomfortable as they suggest i marry a [insert country here] man. And aren't [insert country here] men handsome, and don't i like them? Occasionally this leads on to where i am staying that night, and why don't i stay with them.
I have a few strategies that deflect some of these questions. In turkey when i was travelling with Xav and Marcin, i was doing all the communicating, and the questions took pretty much the same line (but more frequently got more uncomfortable, as turkish men are just generally irritating like that), with, of course, the added question about which of the two guys was 'mine'. After the first couple of drivers, i picked Xav to be my husband. ("xav, i know we only net two days ago, but i just told our driver that we are married...), and when asked where my ring was, said he had on money to buy one.
On my own i have a different strategy. I invent a friend in the town i am going to, and usually let it be assumed that it is a male friend. If i have a couchsurfer to meet, then i use what i know about them, and embellish as i like (or as i can in whatever language we're using), but i've also just invented completely fictitious people. The other day i made up an entire family. Sort of accidentally, as he was asking me (in a combination of albanian and macedonian and german and slightly lewd hand gestures) if it was a man or woman friend i was meeting. I got confused, somehow, and ended up saying both- a couple, in fact. Americans. And then if asked if they had children, and i thought i said no, but then if asked how many children, and i thought 'oh well' and invented a 6 year old daughter.
Whoever i choose to invent, i let the driver know there is someone waiting for me, even sometimes writing or receiving a fictitious sms from them. I figure it'r all just slightly safer that way!

Tuesday, September 16

Another pristina moment: walking along the street with my pack, i realise the kids behind of are listing all the countries of the patches on my bag. I smile at them, and they ask in rather excellent english "have you been to Japan"
"yes, i have" i reply.
"and to all these other countries?"
How old are you?
I'm 28. how old are you?
15, (said the elder. The younger must have been about 12 or 13, but was slightly more comfortable with English, and did most of the talking). What do you do?
I'm an english teacher.
Ah. And do you know what country you will in to next?
Yes, i'm going to Serbia tomorrow morning.
Oh. It's bad in Serbia. Did you visit Kosova before?
No, this was my first time.
And what do you think?
I think that a lot of changes are happening now, and that if i come back later, i lot of things will be different.
Yes. They will. How long did you stay here?
three days.
And what do you think of the people...
The 20 questions continued in this very intelligent manner until we reached the bus stop that i was looking for.


So i'm sitting on a local bus in pristina that will hopefully take me to the right bit of highway to get to Nis. It'r an interesting ride. There are three guys sitting up the front of the bus, one of whom occasionally gives some of his attention to driving the bus, the second occasionally wanders back to sell a ticket or two, and the third just sits in a special seat, pen in hand, writing something every now and then. Mostly, though, they are just chatting. And each bus stop is an excuse to pause for a while. Hopefully the trip across town won't take forever, and i.ll be on the highway before it.s dark!

Monday, September 15


Having driven all the way through Skopje, and out the other side, we finally got out of the truck at an intersection, and the driver pointed up back towards the center. We found a bus, sweet talked the driver into letting up on with only one ticket between us (we hadn't yet managed to change money in Macedonia, so we only had the last of the change from the border insurance) and we managed to get into the center of town. The next challenge was to find some money and then some wifi so i could use skype to phone Erin. Eventually we found both, Erin told up where to meet her, and told up to jump in a taxi. This would have been a find idea, if we hadn't been carrying our backpacks and therefore had 'stupid tourist' written all over us. Not having a clue what sort of price taxis were, we asked first, and were told by several different drivers that it would be 5euro. Prices in euro instead of the local currency always annoy me and make me very suspicious. So we asked a waiter, and discovered it was only a 10minute stroll along the river. Which is what we did. And then, despite mispronouncing the name of the street, we found the place miraculously easily.
That evening was spent going to a jackson Pollock lecture and having dinner at a place called 'Macadonian Kitchen' with erin and a couple of her American friends, which was a great introduction to the city. I spent the next 4 nights at Erin's, even though she had other friends staying as well (Peace Corps volunteers in the capital get a lot of visitors!), and spent most of the time doing not very much, which was lovely, and felt like a bit of a holiday. And while i liked Skopje, it is not the world's prettiest city (most of the older bits were destroyed in an earthquake in the 70s or something - just at the height of the communist concrete era) and i worked out that my path is likely to bring me back through Macedonia, so i can see more later. Really!

Sunday, September 14

Kriva Palanka

We had lined up a couch in Kriva Palanka with Jillian and Dan, two American Peace Corps volunteers who teach English at the two schools there. The instructions we had for finding them at home (it was a public holiday) were "Ask any kid to show you where the Americans live - they all know!". So we did. Except we didn't see any kids, really, so we asked adults, but, once they had ascertained that we were talking about the teachers, one of whom has a beard (not that there are any other Americans in town, but just about everyone remarked on Dan's beard!), we got pointed up a hill. It turned out to be the wrong hill, but it was an adventure anyway. And some kind man in the house we were pointed towards (which seemed to have a goat track for a street) who obviously had children knew exactly where they lived, and pointed us in the right direction, then watched us walk down the hill, obviously still looking a bit lost, and ended up running down the hill to show us more directly. Even so, as their house hides up another dirt track, it took another villager or three to get us there. But we did, and Jillian answered the door and welcomed us into their lovely woodpanelled, many-leveled, 70s-decorated home, inhabited by the two of them and a tiny kitten who seemed to have endless energy. And very sharp little teeth!
We had a lovely night staying with them. In the afternoon we explored the local sight - a monastery up in the hills, which was beautiful, peaceful, and sold t-shirts, one of which I bought from the resident nun (the only resident, apparently), and then came back to a lovely home-cooked meal (my first in a while) and our first taste of Skopsko beer and macedonian wine (both drinkable, neither anything special!).
In the morning we said goodbye, sampled the local version of the turkish Burek for breakfast, and walked to the edge of town to flag down a lift. Except there wasn't any traffic. Well, not much. After an hour, standing in the sun in the 33 degree heat, mike managed to convince a truck driver who stopped at the nearby gas station to take us. He was one of the most silent drivers I have ever had, and dropped us on the wrong side of Skopje (the far side - it would have been great if we were continuing past Skopje), but he got us there, and in air-conditioned comfort. And the ride through the hills of Macedonia was amazing, and a truck provides such a good view, so I enjoyed the ride!
And then we were in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia!

Getting to Macedonia

On monday morning, Stanislave drove Mike (another couchsurfing hitchhiker) and I to the right highway on his way to work (only adding one or two hours to his journey...) and, after a brief stop for coffee and strange local breakfast, we started walking along the road, looking for a decent spot to stand. We paused to write a sign that said MK (for Macedonia) and while we were doing it, some lady started talking to us. At first she seemed kinda annoyed about something or other - maybe she thought we were writing directly on the wall we were leaning on with our piece of paper. When she saw what we were doing, she started telling us about the bus to Macedonia, and we said 'Nie autobus, Autostop!', and thanked her and walked ahead. Except 30 seconds later she called out to us again, and started giving us lots of advice - showing us how to hold our sign, and that sort of thing. We said thank you, and started walking ahead of her. 30 seconds later, she calls out to us again, and we wait for her to catch up, and this time, she opens her handbag and produces a packet of biscuits, which she presses into our hands. Next comes a booklet about some saint and a newsletter about some doctor - all in Cyrillic, and I try to demonstrate that I can't really read Cyrillic, but she just approves of my efforts, and won't take it back. Next comes 20lev (about AU$20) which she also won't accept back, despite about 5 minutes of trying. Next she takes us to the local fountain - Sofia is well supplied with underground natural springs, and the locals take their waterbottles to fill at the fountains. While we filled our bottles, she told and showed us how we should drink some and wash our eyes, because it was good for eyes and stomachs. In the end, we took photos of her, and, although she wanted a copy, as she didn't have an email address, and didn't know the address of her daughter who lives in New York, it seemed a little difficult. In hindsight, I should have remembered the existance of snail mail addresses, and the fact that photos can probably still be printed on actual paper in some places...
Oh, and I should also point out that all the communicating in this adventure was done in Bulgarian. No, I don't speak Bulgarian. Nor does Mike, but with collocations (such as Autobus, and something that sounded a lot like the italian 'ochii' for eyes) and Mike's Polish - and my passive Polish (I hadn't realised how much I had absorbed over the years - thanks to all the polophones I have associated with!) and lots of sign language, we understood each other reasonably well!
We finally left her at the water fountain, and walked another 5 minutes or so to a gas station, and got a ride with an air traffic controler about half an hour later. He drove us to Kjustendil, a small town on the border, and went out of his way to drop us at a good spot on the edge of town, where we waited another half hour, and bought some biscuits that tasted suspiciously of laundry powder, and then got a ride all the way to Kriva Palanka with a lovely guy who spoke very lttle english, but tried really hard!
The only minor delay was at the border, where there was a new system, only a week old. As of the 1st of September, every visitor to Macedonia has to buy travel insurance at the border. It only cost 3.5 euro for 6 days, or 4.3 for 15 days, but every foreigner had to buy it, and there was one guy in an office selling it. Each person would tell them how long they wanted to be there, and what currency they wanted to pay in, he would look up his list, tell them the amount, then take their passport and type (with one finger) all the details into his computer. The forms would print in triplicate, three signatures were required, he would take the money and make change from the random piles of random currencies he had in front of him, and hand you your insurance policy. As we arrived soon after a whole bus load of foreigners, it took nearly an hour (lined up in the sun) to do it. Hopefully they will get more efficient as they get used to the system...

three days in Sofia

And macedonia makes 55 countries... I'm in a truck on my way to Skopje and have time to write!
My three days in Sofia were great, staying with stanislav, who must have been Sofia's busiest couchsurfer this weekend. There was marcin and i (Xav had found another couch) and then 2 french guys arrived the second night, and then another CSer i had been emailing about hitching together showed up and didn't have anywhere else to go, so stayed on the floor, as Stanislav had finally run out of actual couches! I started calling it Hostel Stanislav! And the language tended to be french as everyone but Marcin understood.
The highlights of Sofia were:
*the grand architecture of the centre,
* the roman ruins and ancent churches hidden in subway underpasses and building courtyards
*the bar called 'Boats' (Lodki) in a park that had such a great and varied mix of people- and music- and where i net several lovely people, including Milen, one of the sweetest and most entertaining guys i have net.
*a local dish consisting of feta cheese fried with honey and walnuts, which i'm assured has the very original name of 'cheese with honey and walnuts'
*staying in the delightfully datedly decorated Hostel Chez Stanislav, in a communist concrete suburb, smoking narghile at 4 in the morning, speaking quebecois, and discussing the comparative merits of montreal and Sofia.
Sofia was fun!

the end of the trip to Sofia (from a few posts back)

Eventually, a truck driver agreed to take us as far as the parking place, and we crammed in (we were quite good at cramming by then) and finally left the border. Our troubles were.mt quite over, and we had another hour or three at a gas station a little later. None of us were feeling particularly fast that day anyway...
Our next and last ride was a fascinating iranian british man who had spent many years as a fighter pilot before becoming a political prisoner and escaping by walking from iran to greece. He teaches in london now, and as he can't return, he goes to istanbul to meet his friends and family, and was driving a lovely air-conditioned rental car all the way to Sofia for a bit of a holiday. His stories kept us entertained all the way into the very center of Sofia, where the three of up found a garden cafe for a adds and waited for our wonderful couchsurfing host to arrive and drive us to his home. After so many adventures, the last stretch was so easy!

Saturday, September 13

Prishtina, Kosovo

So I made it to Prishtina, but still haven't found much in the way of wifi (by which I mean I haven't found an unsecured network) and the guesthouse I'm staying in doesn't have any... So all the typing I've been doing on my phone, and all the photos I've taken, will have to wait. Hopefully tomorrow I'll find something. And then there will be several updates all at once...
Be prepared.

Wednesday, September 10

6 Years...

So today, I think, it's been 6 years since I left Brisbane for my first teaching job in China. The longest I've lived anywhere since is 7 months (Padova, Italy), and my average is closer to 3 or 4. I've been back to australia for 3 months, 4 months, and two stints of 6 months in that time.
But basically, it's been 6 years travelling.
It's a long time.
But why stop now?

I'm in Skopje, Macedonia, and head for Kosovo and Serbia soon. I have written much on my phone, but haven't had any wifi lately to upload it! I will try to find some in Kosovo...

Sunday, September 7

Still alive

Haven't found wifi lately to upload the blog I've written on my phone, but I'm still alive, in Sofia, and planning to hitch to a small town in macedonia tomorrow with someone I just met half an hour ago.
Life as usual, really.

Saturday, September 6

to sofia by autostop in three people

So on thursday morning i met marcin and xav only an hour after we planned... An hour or two later we were walking from the last metro stop to the place on the highway recommended by hitchwiki. We were attempting to cross a big busy road, standing on the corner, when a lady who happened to have her window open asked us if we needed a ride. And so began our trip!
Hitching with 3 people isn't necessarily the best idea- it means you need cars and trucks with enough space, and people are slightly less willing to pick up that many people. But we managed. It wasn't the fastest trip i've ever had- it took up two days- but it was a lot of fun. We squeezed into tiny cars, trucks of various sizes and one water delivery van. I spoke more turkish in one day than i had in a week in istanbul. We met about 6 other hitchhikers just after the border (which we arrived at around 10pm), and one of them, a nice french guy called emile, joined us for a midnight picnic and bottle of duty-free turkish raki, amongst all the little shops and petrol stations clustered around the 50metres of road just after the border. And then he added his bottle of syrian arak as well (i prefer raki i think) and somehow our night finished at 4 in the morning, sleeping on a patch of grass beside the Shell station!
In the morning it was too hot to sleep by about 9am, but our friend emile, who had attempted an early start, was still standing at the border, waving his sign at the few trucks and cars passing by. Unlike at 4 in the morning, the place was disturbingly quiet. I wonder if this had something to do with Ramadan, or if it's always like that. We figured that as long as he was there, there was no way the 3 of us were going to get a ride. So we sat on the little veranda of a store that sold coffee and a strange assortment of other things, and waited. None of up was feeling like standing in the sun for hours, anyway...
A few hours later we noticed that emile had gone, so we took up his position and started getting a little more proactive. Trucks and cars had to stop at the last part of the border check, which gave us the opportunity to ask them more directly. We were asking even for 5km, as we had been told there was a truck parking place 5 or 20km away (opinions varied) and most of the drivers who passed us were going there to sleep. (to be continued...)

Friday, September 5

the phrase of the day

Impressive pilot, bulgarian bribes and a sweet landing in Sofia (we arrived in one piece)

Thursday, September 4

princes islands

Yesterday, with Marcin and Xavier, two of the hitchhikers i had met at the CS picnic, i set off to see Büyükada, the imaginatively named big island of the princes islands, in the sea of Marmara. The ferry was 2 hours long, but a bargain at under 3lira, and stopped at three other islands on the way.
The ferry ride was lovely, and a good way to see the city, as always, and then getting off was like stepping into another world. There are no cars on the island- except police and other official-type vehicles, so all the transport is electric or animal. And one of the first things you notice is the smell of horses. And then you learn to watch out so as not to get run over by the horse-drawn carriages, of which there are many.
It was a very relaxing day, overall. We walked all over the island, from the house where Trotsky lived in exile to the monastery to europe's largest wooden structure to the various different beaches, all of which appeared to be paying ones, unfortunately. We also say some of the out of the way and less-touristy places, like the stables, and the cemetery. And we tried to hire donkeys. There was a guy hiring them out, and we thought it would be a good way to get around the rest of the island, but it turned out they were only really for rides across the square and back. It was fun attempting to negotiate in my minimal turkish, with Xav telling of what to attempt to say in french, and translating into english for Marcin!
There are a few photos from my phone on flickr, (see the ones dated sept 2) and the ones from my camera will follow one day!

Wednesday, September 3

back to Istanbul

The bus to istanbul was uneventful, apart from the pleasant surprise of little cakes, water and tea or nescafe being handed out just after 'take off', which made the fact that we had completely failed to find a supermarket for supplies before boarding. The overnight trip was nicely broken up by our 1am border crossing that took nearly two hours. Still, standing in the relatively turkish office waiting in line i was reassured that it was definitely turkey i was entering by no less than 11 different pictures of the great ataturk on the walls.
The last two days before sean's return to paris we spent seeing the last few must-see things in istanbul, like the grand bazar and the ancient cistern. Sean also went to aya Sofia, but as it now costs 20 lira- double what i remember 3 years ago- i decided i could skip it this time!
Once sean left, i continued to impose on the uncomplaining Roger, an old colleague, and proceeded to do little but sleep and watch tv for a couple of days. I think i was in serious need of a rest. I planned to continue this sleeping thing for a few more days, but in the interests of getting out of the house, i went to a couchsurfing picnic on Monday evening. It was, strangely enough, the first CS meeting i had ever been to, and it was a great reminder of just how useful the cs site is. I met bunches of interesting people, and was invited to a number of things in the following days. I also met a couple of other hitchhikers, and started making more travel plans!


Varna was another lovely black sea beach town, with roman ruins for a bit of more serious culture. I indulged in by newfound passion for sea bathing no less than three times in the 24 hours we were there, not to mention soak in the thermal spring that trickles across the beach. The springs are the reason the town exists, i imagine, and one of the star attractions is the ruins of the old roman baths- one of the the largest bath complexes in Europe. It's a great old ruin, tufted with weeds, overrun with cats and with a few rusty old signs telling you the purpose of some of the rooms. I liked it. We picked blackberries and little sour peaches.
We also managed to go to the same cafeteria style restaurant twice in the same time, but as they served local food that we could order by pointing, and our whole bill, including dessert and beers was only about AU$12 the first night, we figured it was worth it. Food was wonderfully cheap, actually- our bakery lunches cost under $2 for both of us, and breakfast was free at the hostel, so we did quite well! And the only inedible thing we had was something that resembled meatballs in a somewhat tasteless lumpy white sauce...

Tuesday, September 2

on to Varna

There is one bus a day from constanta to varna, and it leaves in the late afternoon, gets in late at night, and costs a fortune. So we followed some instructions we found online for getting there by local buses. A minibus to Mangalia and another from there to Vama Veche on the border. A short walk across the border, and a longish wait for a ride to the nearest Bulgarian town. We were offered taxis in a variety of languages, but thought we'd try hitching instead. We walked a kilometre or three to the nearest spot in the shade, and were there an hour or so before a minibus stopped on apparently its regular route. Miraculously, one of the three people on it spoke rather good english (being back in slavic land was a shock, even if it is 'slavic light' grammatically speaking. I still don't do slavic. AND it's written in cyrillic, which doesn't help) and helped up work out that the bus was going exactly where we wanted for a very reasonable price and if was willing to accept romanian money, as we had yet to find a change booth or bank in bulgaria. From Kavarna, at the end of the bus run, we managed to find money, some amazing bakery products and learn the word for thankyou in bulgarian- blagodarya- and got on another bus all the way to Varna.
The whole adventure took slightly longer than the expensive bus, but for half the price, and twice the adventure. And i got to spend an hour on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, which always makes of happy!