Kosovo

today was another driving day, so all you get are ‘through the windshield’ and ‘out the window’ point and miss camera photos. not my best work, but they are good enough to give you a feel of our day. we left early this morning from Ohrid and traveled north through Macedonia and entered in to Kosovo. i really didn’t know what to expect, but was pleased to find it rather nice. sure, it’s not up to modern standards and the countryside is pretty dull, but there is a lot of construction going on, and there are signs everywhere it’s recovering well from it’s recent struggles. the people here have been fairly polite as well, so that’s nice. we made it to the town of Peja, which is in the far western part of the country. while it didn’t turn out to be as historic as the pictures and websites made it out to be, it’s still interesting. and the mountains surrounding the city are, yes, you guessed it, beautiful. common theme with this blog, i know. it’s true, though. and a cool fact about this town – it has streets named Bill Clinton and General Wesley Clark in it’s downtown area! how’s that for bizarre?

tomorrow we’ll head back into Montenegro which is only about 20 km to the west, and we’ll be passing through a really large national park with waterfalls, canyons, and other cool things to see along the way. i can’t promise you photos of the stuff only because finding things here is really hit and miss. fingers crossed we do, though, and if so, i’ll show you what we saw tomorrow. until then, here are a few highlights from today. again, nothing spectacular, but nonetheless Kosovo.

Ohrid, Macedonia

we spent the better part of today wandering through the hilly, old part of Ohrid. and boy did it not disappoint. set on Lake Ohrid, this town has really retained an old town feel without selling out to high rise condos or hotels like other towns we have been through have. while there were some main cobblestone streets to follow, we often found ourselves trekking through narrow alleys and paths between the houses receiving pleasant nods from the locals along the way. throughout the neighborhood, people were selling trinkets, kids were on a class trip through an old amphitheater, the architecture was stunning, and people had the coolest old cars.

we were told there were about 20 churches scattered throughout the area, but we were only able to find four. (well three and the really small one shown above) but the three large ones we did find were great, so again, no disappointment. the best of the lot, Holy Mary Peribleptos, came at the top of the hill near Samuel’s Fortress, a pretty cool castle that sits atop the largest hill in the city. while the church itself was beautiful inside with walls filled with 13th century paintings, what i found most interesting was an archeological dig going on around the grounds of the church. we couldn’t get much info on the project as nobody spoke much English, but it was neat to see.

after a quick snack from a small market stand, we hiked up to the castle, had a quick look around, and walked down towards the water where we found another church. there, we chatted with a local gentleman who offers people boat rides and spends the rest of his time fishing. he spoke little English, but you could tell he was a really neat man that probably had the best stories to tell.

we returned back to our place, stashed our cameras, and headed back to the main downtown area to grab a bite to eat. i ordered a four cheese pasta dish that was wonderful. bob’s seafood pizza turned out to be a bust, which is really no surprise seeing it had all that flesh on it. it’s not rocket science people!!! we’re now back in the irish pub we were in last night were i ordered the worst meal EVER! those of you that know me well know that grilled cheese sandwiches are in my top three favorite foods. Jen, you know this well. so you can imagine my excitement when looking through the menu i find grilled cheese with fries. YES!!! i felt like i hit the jackpot. i was starving, had a headache from not eating much all day, and the drive had me a bit stressed. when the meal arrived, through, my excitement came crashing down as i witnessed the horror on my plate. my “grilled cheese” turned out to be two 3″ x 5″ x 0.5″ thick hunks of who knows what kind of cheese, grilled, laying on my plate in a greasy mess. I#(#&@&FJ##)$(##!!! but i’m over it now – i swear.

i’ll leave you with a picture i made from the base of the hill of the old town area where all of the pictures in the post were taken. while it doesn’t replace being here, it should at least give you an idea of the wonderful old time feel. we’re off to either northern Macedonia or possibly Kosovo tomorrow, so check back then and see where we end up.

the abridged version thus far

thought i’d put up a short point and miss camera picture journal of the hightlights (and lowlights) of the trip so far:

1. (above) – krapfest
2. powering up for the 9.5 hour flight at o’hare
3. GPS screen driving through the mountains
4. out the window snapshot driving down a mountain
5. sweet resort way out of our price range
6. ulcinj, montenegro
7. entering the city of mullet (with a rad castle up on the hill)
8. super sketchy Albanian boarder crossing
9. Albanian countryside
10. castle in Albania
11. gauge cluster while driving along
12. town at sunset driving down another mountain

Macedonia by way of Albania

budva this morning was wonderful. we slept in a bit late, but were up and out for a stroll around 9am.

after about an hour walking around our hostel in the Old Town part of the city (which was an old stoned fortified village), we headed out down the coast of Montenegro towards Ulcinj. Ulcinj didn’t have a ton to offer in terms of views, but the drive down along the coast was pretty great.

from there, we made our way across Albania and arrived a few hours later than we had hoped to in Ohrid, Macedonia.  compared to the coastline in Montenegro, Albania was quite dull.  we did cross some huge mountain ranges with unbelievable roads, but for the most part we were glad to get through and on the next country.  Albania was also quite rundown – almost to the point we didn’t want to stop in certain places to have a better look around.  still, i’m glad i saw it.  and driving those roads in the mountains really was a blast!  (in an “HOLY SH*T, WAS THERE REALLY NOT A GUARDRAIL AT THAT LAST CORNER?!  THAT DROP OFF WAS ABOUT A MILE DOWN!!!” sort of way.)  not to worry, though, as we are pretty much through all the mountains we will be passing this trip.  whew!

i really didn’t shoot that many photos driving though Albania – not much to shoot, i guess.  but like i mentioned earlier, we got in later than i had hoped, and because it’s fairly late, i going to wrap it up.  but i’ll give you an update tomorrow with more details about today, like the crazy boarder crossings in Albania, driving through the city of Mullet, and Bob eating hot dog and brat flavored chips.  GROSS!  for now, though, i’ll leave you with a photo of the mountain road we drove on about 45km from the Macedonian boarder.  the sun was setting, i was driving that car like i stole it, and it totally made the drive through Albania worth it.

we’re here. and it’s beautiful.

this me expressing my excitement about not being at work, being off those four flights, not getting a crap rental car, and being in a strange new place. getting here went pretty well, and our flights went alright except for the last – we landed in Vienna around 11:45am after our flight was late leaving the gate from Munich which left us with about 25 minutes until our final flight was scheduled to leave. normally this would be ok, but we had to go through customs, security, and then get to the gate. and of course with my crap luck we flew into gate “d” something and needed to get to c79. C79!!! i said to myself as we got into the airport that there was no way we’d need to pass 78 gates before ours. wrong-o. we made it though, and were able to get to our destination on time. but boy were we movin’.

when we got to the Pogdorica airport, we pickup up our rental (show above) which turned out to be way nicer and roomier than we had hoped. Bob working the navigation and me at the wheel, we headed off for the city of Budva where we had booked our first night’s stay. we drove the scenic route because we were in no hurry, and the views we saw here within the first hour of driving didn’t disappoint.

the photo above was taken straight out of camera with no editing – I’m just too tired to futz with them after being awake for nearly 35+ hours. still, it at least gives you an idea of what we saw on the drive. it looked like this for the entire hour we drove to Budva, and i think i filled up my whole trip’s quota for the word beautiful within that hour.

we got to Budva, found our place (after a few wrong turns), grabbed a bit to eat at an open air cafe, and are calling it a night. we’re going to get up early tomorrow morning to shoot a bunch of photos around the old town center which feels like you stepped back into the 1300’s. look for those pictures tomorrow.

after we’re done making those photos, we are going to head back down the coast of Montenegro through Bar and Ulcinj and will most likely end up somewhere in Albania tomorrow night.

bye for now.

plans update!

we rented a car. it’s the size of a shoe box, but man it’ll be sweet. add that to our previous plans and we now have two. transportation and a place to stay the first night – what else do you need?