Have you ever said something, then wondered if you’ve ever said that exact thing before in your life? Well I’m moving to Japan tomorrow. There’s something brand new. But I have 3 weeks to tell you about before I catch that plane, so here we go.Well I am on my own once again.
After waking up at 4am to say goodbye to my mom and auntie, I grabbed a couple more hours of sleep before heading to the bus depot to catch the next bus back to Kotor, Montenegro. I fell so in love with the beautiful landscape that I wanted to explore some more of the town. Once I made it to Kotor I found myself an awesome hostel. Hostel Old Town, though in the low season, had such a great atmosphere. With only about ten people staying there at any time, we all ate dinner together and spent the evening at the hostel playing games and chatting with our new friends. The staff was so amazingly friendly and helpful. A few of us took the bus to a nearby town called Perast where we ran into a few others from the hostel who had rented a boat. They offered to drive us back. So we hopped on this tiny boat and enjoyed the scenery from a new viewpoint. Among this group was one of the coolest Japanese guys ever, who I will totally be staying in contact with when I make my way to Tokyo. That boat ride could have been the opening line of a joke: two Dutch, a polish girl, Spanish guy, Canadian girl, Australian guy, and a Japanese guy get on a boat….
On my last day In Montenegro, I went for a much needed run up to the fortress. I found a hole in one of the walls and climbed through. On the other side I was able to do some pretty cool hiking and rock climbing. It’s so peaceful when you find a place all to your own, where you can’t see anyone and no one can see you, where you can just yell and no one will hear you, but it can be risky too. Later on I was told a story about a young girl who feel and broke her neck and when they called her parents in Australia, they didn’t even know where she was…. Be smart when you travel people. Make sure someone always knows where you are, no matter how hard you’re trying to run away from everyone.
People came and went pretty quickly and so me and my new Aussie friend Joe decided we would head to Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina together. No need for public transportation, we got in a car with two Montenegrins and they drove us 4 hours right to our hostel. Get to know people who have vehicles, or who have friends with vehicles, it always pays off. I got to see snow for the first time, as well as some beautiful scenery. We hit up Hostel Miran where we met an awesome man. Miran owns and runs the hostel himself. He is one of the nicest, most knowledgable guys I’ve met. If you are ever in Mostar, stay with him and take the tour. Joe and I did exactly that. We hopped into his car and he took us on a 7 hour, all day tour of Mostar and area. He not only lived through the war as a teenager, but also served his country when he was older. He took us to beautiful waterfalls, told us hilarious stories, shared lunch with us while we ripped around the countryside cranking Bosnian music, and then took us on a history lesson. We learned about the war and even walked through an active field of land mines. No words can describe how we felt after that day. Things so recent that they were actually happening in my lifetime and I had no idea. Crazy. After the tour, Joe and I found the abandoned sniper tower, hopped over the cement wall, and climbed inside. Amon many other damaged buildings remaining from the war, we also found the old concentration camp. I don’t have much else to say about Mostar, other than it was one of the best decisions of my journey.
As I have to keep moving, I said another goodbye to Miran and Joe and headed to Split, Croatia. I walked into my hostel, said hello, pulled out my passport and next thing I hear is a voice from the kitchen saying “Canadian?!”. Finally! I met some other Canadians! Of course an Aussie was in the mix as well, but Thomas from Toronto and John from Halifax became my first Canadian companions. Split was a blast, but these guys made it even better. My time there was short and consisted mostly of walking around and laughing at the boys.
My plan was to head to Zagreb after Split to start working at a hostel there, but the guys convinced me to come with them to Ljubljana, Slovenia. As much as I wanted to kill them both on multiple occasions, and they the same for me I’m sure, we had a blast together. So, I thought why not add another country to my list. Seven hours later we arrived in Ljubljana. Ya, try and pronounce that. We set up camp at a cute hostel called Zeppelin and toured around the city. Our Aussie friend prepared a huge meal for the whole hostel and it was so nice to be able to sit down all together and have a proper meal. Castle upon castle, when will it end Europe? I’m all about views and landscapes, so I’m not even mad about having to hike up to every castle in every town I visit. My thighs and lungs are also thanking me. Yay exercise.
Finally I left the Canadians (even though I’m sure they were so sad to see my go…). I made it to the station to got my ticket to go back to Croatia. And here is where my day goes downhill. After buying my ticket, I realized I purchased a train ticket and not a bus ticket. I went back and the lady, who clearly already hated my face, and she firmly said “no returns”. A man in line, who could clearly tell I was upset and confused, asked me what was wrong and I told him (as I was tearing up). He wished me goodluck and pointed me in the direction of the bus ticket office. I needed to take the next bus to get to Zagreb before dark. I went to get a bus ticket and was told it would be an EXTRA 12€. Sorry, but I’m country my pennies everyday, I can’t afford ANOTHER ticket when I just paid 9€. The same man from the train station came running in and tapped me on the shoulder. He said he spoke with the woman at the train station and they would give me my money back. He took me by the arm back to the station where, after much convincing, they gave me my money back! It’s people like this that make me so thankful everyday. I don’t know your name sir, but I’m forever thankful for your help! So I ran back to the bus station as my bus was supposed to leave in 2 minutes ( keep in mind I have my whole life strapped to my back as I’m doing all this back and forth). Just my luck, they don’t take cards, or Kuna (Croatian currency), but only Euros, which of course I don’t have. They told me to try my luck buying it from the bus driver himself who might take Kuna instead. She wished me goodluck and pointed me in the right direction. After MUCH convincing and even a bit of begging, the driver let me buy a ticket in Kuna. And so, AMEN, I’m on my way back to Zagreb.
I have now spent two weeks working at The Swanky Mint Hostel in Zagreb, Croatia. I’ve always wanted to be behind the works in a hostel, as I’ve stayed in so many, I felt I wanted to be on the other side for once. Also, if you know me at all, you know I hate being bored and I love working. Needless to say, after a month of just wandering, I needed some purpose, and working was such a good way to get some structure back in my days before I head to Japan where I’ll probably be working like a dog. The Swanky Mint is such a cool place to stay and they recently won best hostel in Croatia, so of course we had a grand party to celebrate. The staff is like a little family and they welcomed me with open arms. I hate to say goodbye to them so soon because I feel we were just getting things started here. Although Croatia is now checked off my list, I would definitely visit again, especially my Swanky family. Zagreb has completely exceeded my expectations, probably because I had no idea what to expect, but it is big enough there is always something to do, but small enough that it is comfortable.
I have been trying to get back into running, as I haven’t been on an actual structured run since December (not proud), but with the beautiful scenery in the city here, I’ve been able to hop right back into things. Who knew Croatia could have more hills than Italy…. I’ll probably just get use to running hills and then I’ll return to flat Saskatchewan. Aside from running, ive been trying to walk around the city and explore. I went to the Museum of Broken Relationships; not your typical museum. It is a collection of items donated from people around the world along with a story specific to the item that tells a story of their broken relationship. I know what you’re thinking, how depressing, but it was actually amazing. A mix of sad, weird, crazy, hilarious, and heartwarming stories about love in all its forms, I left feeling really good, surprisingly. Warning: don’t go if you’ve just gotten out of a relationship….
I met a wonderful American girl (yes! I finallllllly met another girl, AND she was super awesome) and we decided to go to Plitvice Lakes together on my day off. We were told the lakes were closed for construction and we both cried on the inside and a little bit on the outside. This is why we came to Croatia. So, we went anyways. On our to hour drive with a random family from Hong Kong, we also met an Australian girl (seriously, girl power, finally) and the three of us girls had an unforgettable day together. Because of off season and construction, basically nobody was at the park. We spent a half hour at the giant waterfall completely alone, taking so many pictures and not having anyone else in them. Something that rarely happens. On our walk back on the path, they had (magically) opened the remaining paths for us to go into the park! We were so excited. Oh man. It was so breathtaking. I am forever happy that Elena convinced me to go in the first place. What a day.
Though my Croatian is less than something to brag about, I’m pretty proud of myself for picking up anything at all. What a weird language. I can say hello, good day, thank you, beer, chicken, milk, coffee (obviously all the necessities). I must confess that my favourite word is kikiriki… Which in Italian is the noise a rooster makes… But in Croatian, it means peanut. What a language. I am now attempting to learn Japanese, which is even more ridiculous, so this should be fun.
Finally, it is Valentine’s Day. Although I am not in Italy for the In Love festivals, or the chocolate festivals, I have found myself a chocolate and coffee festival in Zagreb (my two favourite things). My final shift of work is over and I am all packed and ready for the next 48 hours of pure hysteria. I am also totally unprepared to give up my addiction to Burek (cheese wrapped in phyllo), don’t try and take away sweets from me yet. I more or less have absolutely no idea what is to come. All I know is I’m not going to sleep tonight, and I’m going to cry in at least one airport and two train stations in the next two days out of pure frustration and being overwhelmed.
Here is my Valentines send off: to everyone at home who has followed me on my journey so far, thank you for the encouragement. For everyone only beginning to follow me, I apologize in advance for anything to come. To my friends and family at home, I miss you and love you all every single day I am away from you. And to my special Valentine, may you eat loads of chocolate and cuddle with your dog knowing I’m eating dinner alone and only have a neck pillow to cuddle with tonight. Goodbye Europe. See you all in the future, 15 time zones in the future to be exact.
Love, your sappy Armstrong Abroad