So now I wanna tell you about the trip I have done in Balkans and in Italy this year. After statying in Thessaloniki for around 4 months I felt its time to move. Also in the summer this great city gets completely deserted as everyone leaves to the islands or anywhere where theres no 45 degree heat. I decided to make the trip with the bike again, because it has been a long time since I did any long distance with it. The original plan was to hitchike to Denmark and try to recycle a bike there. From the stories I heard people throw away everything there, so you can easily put a lets say 300 euros bike together and also get clothes for cycling, tools and such for free. But in the end my friends abandoned tallbike caught my attention and I thought to myself that it would be really awesome to do the trip on that. So after serious repairs, buying new wheel, repainting the whole thing and doing other small stuff the bike was ready to hit the road. Now the name of the trip is Say my name because recently I became a big fan of Breaking Bad series. If youre a fan you will know what I mean 🙂 So I named the bike Heisenberg and hit the road in the beggining of July.
My first objective was to get to Dubrovnik in Croatia, as this place was supposed to be very touristy and therefore good for busking. So I set off in this direction. Now the tallbike has an amazing ability to draw attention so the hinking of the cars was following me everywhere I would go. But also has a positive side, even before leaving the city on the first day I was stopped by some guys sitting in a cantine and was offered sandwich and a coffee — sweet 🙂
So first stop was still in Greece in Edessa, I managed to get there in the night, did some busking hang out with some young greek guys but then having no place to stay I had to leave the city and after like half an hour of going in the dark decided to sleep behind the barrier next to the motorway – not the best solution but worked for me. Next day I arrived in Macedonia, now there are some serious uphills you have to go trough (like anywhere in Balkans when I think about it). At some point I arrived to what seemed like the biggest uphill in the universe and there was no way to ride anymore so I spent around 1,5 hour pushing the bike up. At some point I ran out of water, then I was saved by some cyclist who gave me one bottle. But then it happened again and the hill seemed like it would never end! So I started to try to stop some cars passing me by to ask them if they have any. After few minutes I started to think again and took my empty water bottle and waved it at the cars- it finally worked. Then an old man told me that just 100 meters up theres a place where I can get water. Being energized by that news I almost ran there and found myself on the top of the hill- finally! It was a rest area with a spring and an abandoned restaurant! Perfect place to stop for the night! Inside there was a bed so I made myself at home. Later the owner arrived to take some furniture from it but he was perfectly fine with me staying there. In the night I had a surprise – there was a bag haniging from the ceiling, being curious I decided to check whats in it. So I touched it and it started to move and a squirrel ran out of it – it made its house inside this bag 🙂
Then after some cycling I managed to get to Ochrid lake – now this is a nice place to be. Im not usually a big fan of touristic places but Ochrid manages to keep the balance between touristy and normal. The only annoying thing was people asking me all the time if I want to rent their room. One guy couldnt understand no as an answer and kept following me all day. By the end of the day when I was getting ready to leave the town to camp somwhere I was approached by a young guy who asked me if I needed accomodation. I was ready to tell him to get lost but it turned out he got messaged by my friend who told him I was coming to Ochrid and he just found me on the street! So he took me to his hostel, now this is gonna be an advertisment, but if you are in Ochrid you totally want to go to this place. Its called Sunny Lake Hostel and its absolutely amazing, great atmosphere and full of travelers from everywhere. I chilled out there for two days before deciding to continue.
After this I continued on my way to Albania which greeted me with amazingly long owesome downhill – it was really a nice change. Getting there you can see that the country is really different than the rest of Balkans. To me it looked a lot like turkey, with all the bazars, markets and tons of people hangin out together. The pity for me is that I had to stick to the main roads – the small ones were all going up the mountain and I just woudlnt be able to ride on them. So apart from the little piece of mountains in the south where I entered the landscape was pretty boring – fields, shops and lots of cars passing me by. Now Albanians are generally disliked by all of their neigbours, especially people in Greece people seem to even hate/fear them. But when you meet them they are one of the nicest people ever! I was passing some building being under constraction and stopped to ask some guys if I could sleep in it. Their grandfather heard the story and didnt even want to hear about me sleeping in there and took me to his house where we spend the night having conversations in broken english/italian/bulgarian/greek, my head was exploding in the end with all the languages. Also they gave me crazy amount of homemade raki and delicious albanian food – that was awesome to experience that kind of hospitality.
Soon after that I entered Montenegro. The first day of the trip was beautiful, I ended up on the mountain, passing all the little houses, cows and such, riding on a small path watching the sunset. Then the next day I got to the main road and man I do not reccomend to do it on a bike. First of all its pretty tough cause it goes up and down all the time. Its just fuuuuuul of cars all the time, and then on the sides you have cliffs, shops and rooms to rent, nothing more because theres little space and people use all of it. So I had to ride 1,5 hour in the dark before I found an empty and pretty disgusting building to sleep in, I was so tired though I didnt care anymore and just crashed there. The next day I managed to get to Dubrovnik. Now that city gave me some mixed feelings – I think out of the touristic season it mus be really nice, and the old town is just beautiful. But in the season its just too full! There were crowds everywhere, it was really hard to pass trough with the bike. Everyone working there seemed to be really tired and bored with people – which I can totally understand. And its just ridiculously expensive. Anyway after doing all this way I decided to stay a bit and try how the busking goes. I managed to find a spot under a bridge , just in the center which was perfect for sleeping! Noone would ever go there cause of the bushes around so I could have all the peace I wanted there. Busking worked out pretty good so I decided to stay for 5 days there before continuing. Now the good thing about busking is that you can meet all kinds of cool people, so I made firends with a french guy, a dutch couple and two spanish girls – was awesome to have some people to hang out with and talk to after all day of answering the questions ” Where are you from and how do you get on that bike”.
Dubrovniks old town from above and inside.
Having my objective of saving up some cash completed I set off towards Serbia to meet Ecotopia Bike tour in Nis. – here you can read more about it. I wanted to join also because it was organized in Thessaloniki this year and I made friends with the people running it when I was still living there.
I was really relieved when I could finally leave the bigass road and go on smaller one inside Bosnia. Now the mountains and generally the landscape there was beautiful!
When after all day of cycling I finally got to the highest point on my road it was all so green and open, with beautiful meadows and sheep on them, toatally worth all this cycling! Crossing Bosnia took me around two days in the end, then I entered Serbia. Now heres where the spoke-nightmare started. Basically the spokes in my rear wheel reached their limit and every day from now on I had at least one spoke broken. The first one was the worst, because I didnt have the tool to fix it proporly at this point (I acquired it soon after that) and there was no bike workshop anywhere near. So I spent over 1 hour bending the spoke over and over again to push it trough the hole near the gears. To my suprise it held and never broke again (well other spokes did though 🙂 ). Now about Bosnian and Serbian people – they are just lovely and really helpful. Everywhere I would ask if I could sleep in some empty spaces the answer was always yes and normally included at least a coffee 🙂 The best experience was in a really small village in Serbia – I was passing a bar and I saw another biker hanging out there. So I decided to stop for a coffee also. But the people running it wouldnt let me go with just that 🙂 In the end I spent there like 3 hours chatting about my trip, the other bikers trip, their village and all other topics you can imagine. All that drinking nice Serbian beers of course. I was seriously considering staying there for the night (because they offered to host me) but because it was still early I decided to continue on.
Few days and million of broken spokes later I found myself in Nis, Serbia. I tried to go and do some busking but the weather decided not to cooporate with me and it started raining so after few songs I decided its not worth it. Also I met two ecotopians there who decided to hang out in the city that day. So after grabbing a dinner I set of to the lake where the rest of the group was camping. I must say getting there was like getting to some kind of finish, like I was thinking “woo I made it”. When I think about it I had the same feeling when I got to Dubrovnik. Well just before the lake I met Barry, an Irish guy who was also joining the group. So few beers and one wrong road later we found the spot where the biketour was camping. It was quite a shock to find myself with almost 20 people (plus one puppy, now they also have a kitten I heard) after all this time of solo cycling, but luckily the next they had planned to just rest by the lake so there was time to adapt 🙂 The whole situation, I mean being with so many people who cycle, all those tents and communal cooking hobo style on rocket-stoves they carried with them reminded me a lot of the times when I was with the 2wheels4change circus. Oh also if you are intersted in hobo style cooking you might want to take a closer look at rocket stoves on the net. I dont think I have any picture of it, but bassicaly its a barrel with a bent pipe going trough it, directing all the fire and heat up. Ok, its not really handy when you are on the road but if you are stationary its a pretty sweet thing, allows you to cook without the need of having a lot of firewood.
Well the next stop on the trip was Prishtina – the capital of Kosovo, we got there within two days. Also during this days I found out about one big disadvantage of a tallbike – its soooo slow compared to a normal bike! When I was alone I didnt really realize it 🙂
Well about Kosovo – as 95% or more of the population is Albanian it feels a lot like being in, well Albania. You can see and feel a lot of tension between them and Serbian people (because of the recent war they had). We had one Serbian guy with us and he really insisted we dont tell anyone his Serbian. Also you could see a lot of sings with the names of places – they have Albanian and Serbian names written on them. But on most of them the Serbian names were sprayed over. Also talking with people you could see their general dislike of Serbs. I got ask what I think about them few times and people grimaced when I told them I like them. Well its not the best place to be Serbian definitely, but for other nations the people are as hospitable and nice as in Albania. Oh also busking was amazingly good there, because its not something that happens there every day I suppose. I even got intervied for the local newspaper, unfortunatly I never saw the article but Ive been told by some kosovans that it came out. The city itself was interesting to see, first when you enter you see a lot of buildings that are just falling apart and then suddenly in the center you have this new shiny promenade full of people. It was quite a big contrast.
We set our camp in a big park 5km from the city, the guards at the entrance were totally cool with us staying there – I cant imagine this happening in the western Europe. That night was the big party night, it was Pixies birthday, so well we drunk way too much, played some music and some people decided to wrestle on the ground. Also I got punched lots by my friend From Uk, Christabel (malaka!). So the next day was the hungover day, which meant staying in the tent for like forever before going to our next destination – Prizren. We heard that the route is quite difficult (which was a big lie in the end) so me and Christabel decided to take the bus to go there (ok, also because of hangover, lets be honest here).
Prizren had a much nicer feeling (at least for me) than Prishtina, its smaller and has a lovely river running trough it with lots of bridges, stone buildings and a castle overlooking the town. There was a music festival going on there at that time so the place was full of people, many of them from another countries. When we got there it was raining cats and dogs – seriously, we hid under a cafe roof and it was still raining on us! Pitching a tent wasnt really a good idea in this weather so we decided to find a hostel for this night. We asked some people for directions and got there quite fast, but then the guy working there told me they are completely full. Being desperate I asked if we can sleep on the couches in the reception and he said that if we want we can sleep on the terrace maybe, but I should check it out if its good for us. I did, and it was the most awesome terrace ever, better than any room they could offer, with a beautiful view over the town (the mornings there were awesome ). Well then I asked how much is it to stay there and the guy just said “whatever”, in the end it was 2 euros per night – best deal ever! We decided to stay there for our whole stay in Prizren.
The music festival turned out not to be so interesting in the end (at least for me, just not my type of music being played) but we saw a cool theather play on stilts done by young kids from Prizren. It was too bad it was all in Albanian, but the costumes they had were pretty cool and some scenes gave me the nice fairy-tellish feeling.
Oh also in Prizren our friend Sebastian managed to outhobo me, he walked with us to the hostel, sneaked into the bathroom to have a shower and then he liked the terrace so much he just went into an open room, grabbed some blankents and stayed with us for the night. In the morning he just dissapeared – I have still a lot to learn in terms of getting free stuff apparently 🙂 Also before when we stopped in some town to take a rest people from the nearby market just approached him and gave him lots of fruit – he claimed it was because he was topless that day 🙂 All in all Prizren was a fun place to stay.
Sebastian being the hobo king.
The next stop (and the last with the ecotopia for me) was in Skopje in Macedonia. Now Skopje is a place to see, Ive been there 3 times I think and every time I find something new in the main square. Now if you have never been to Macedonia you have to know that theres tension between it and Greece. Its about the origin of the nation, both nations claim to be the descendets of ancient macedonians (the axis of all this is Alexander the great). Some greek people wont call Macedonia by its name, they just would call the whole country Skopje. Anyway the Macedonian gouverment decided to show everybody where they come from and turned the city center into what I call Ancient greece disneyland/las vegas. Everywhere you look is full of statues of horses, lions, people, the main one being the way to big statue of Alexander the Great on a big column with a fountain below. Well as it was really hot that day me and Christabel decided to take a swim in there, I totally reccomend it 🙂 We were just a bit worried that the police would come and cause us trouble but in the end nothing happened. Lino and Manu (other biketourers) deicded to follow in our steps and they enjoyed it a lot.
Anyway back to the statues and bridges and so on. All of this is new, its only like 3 years old and most of it is still being built. So it basically a big construction site also. The statues themselves are really not bad but its just waaaaay to many of them in one place. To add to that most of them have colorful lights under htem in the night, this makes the las vegas feeling even stronger. Then there is classical music being played from the speakers most of the time and a little train for kids going around – I hope you are getting the picture. I just cant understand this giantic waste of money in a country which is obciously not rich and cant really afford this. Also I dont even want to think about the amount of money that was stolen in all the contracts and so on for all of this. But definitely its something worth seeing.
And the old town part is quite nice with its small streets, market, teashops – it has a nice arabic feeling.
We stayed in AKSC social center (which I knew from my previous visits ). Its run by awesome and very hospitable people, if you are into alternative stuff or need any info or help when you are in Skopje you can always turn to this guys – Im sure they will help as much as they can. During my stay there I was torn – I ahd to decide if I want to continue with the ecotopia or should I turn west towards Italy and then France. In the end I decided to do the latter – because the tour was finishing in the end of September in Athens and I wanted to be in France for the grapepicking again-so that was just to late for me. So after some sad goodbyes I was on my own again. I stayed in the AKSC few days more haning out with Isabell who was going to catch up with ecotopia after finishing her work ( shes also a blogger, you can read it here: ) . I was pretty broke at that time so I decided to go back to Prishtina to busk up some cash for the ferry to Italy as well as some pocket money. Worked just good! I managed to get the ferry ticket, saved up some cash and I could afford a stay in the hostel every night. Now another advertisment: in Prishtina you go to Buffalo Backpackers Hostel, no other option! The first night I stayed in the City Hostel and it was empty and super boring, then when I was busking I met a girl who was staying in the Buffalo one. It was much more alive than the other one and much more fun to stay in so I totally reccomend it. The next five days I spent busking busking and more busking and in between I would just nap in a hammock in the hostel – good times. I also got offered to work in a call center (oh the horror!) by some guy in the street. I would have to try and sell life insurances to the Swiss people (wtf). Well form my experience the people who call you and try to sell you useless shit are the most annoying thing in the world so I turned that one down. After 5 days I had busking overdose and went to Prizren yet again. That place seems to be the festival place – this time there was a movie festival there and it was even more full. I wanted to go back to the terrace hostel but even there there wass no space, so I ended up in the camping field. During my stay there I run into almost everybody I met in Prizren – Troy from UK, Marta and Elena from Spain, the cool German dude whose name I could never remember and half of the people from the hostel 🙂 Also I got a 15 second part in a short movie (ok it was more about Heisenberg than me 🙂 ) and got intervied twice, felt quite wierd, Im not used to that.
After two days I set off to Durres in Albania to get my ferry to Bari in Italy. I got quite tired of cycling at this point and the road to there was quite tough once again because of staying on motorways, the heat, cars, uphills and all that. So I stared considering where could I live the tallbike in Italy and continue to France by hitchhiking. After this the story is quite short, I got to Bari where I stayed in Excaserna liberata – its an old military complex which was squated early this year, quite nice and big place with a lot of events going on. Then I cycled up to Termoli and there I decided its enough of cycling – now I had a timetable, I had to get to France fast to find the picking job so the cycling wasnt an adventure anymore – it turned into transportation. And a slow one to add to that. So from Tremoli I just got on a train and got to a small beautiful town of Sirolo. My friend Alessia with whom I lived four months in Thessaloniki lives here, and once again she is allowing me to experience the Italian hospitality (me I love you Ale!). And the Italian food, my god, Im gonna get fat again here.
Well this is it, the Say my name trip basically ended in Termoli, now Im just relaxing before hitting the road to France and reuniting with some old friends there to try to find work together.
Pictures are here: