Showing posts with label Bosnia and Herzegovina. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bosnia and Herzegovina. Show all posts

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Sofia, Bulgaria

After our Bosnian destinations, we had quite a day ahead of us. We took a bus to Sarajevo, a bus to Belgrade and then a night train to Sofia. We woke up early, 5:45 AM, and got ready for a long 24 hours of transport. We bought our ticket in Mostar and waited for the bus to be ready. We were very comfortable waiting for the bus outside at 6 AM as it was 'cool' for once! The bus was pretty good too, recent and comfortable with AC. The road was again pretty scenic, going through mountain passes and beside rivers. 

We arrived in Sarajevo, asked for the next bus to Belgrade, only to be told that there was only one per day, at 6 AM next morning. Good thing we arrived at the other station when we first visited so we could ask the lady, and than the guy at the other counter for the schedule from that station, which had a few other options. We walked to the city bus station and an older man tried real hard to help us and tell us how much is was going to cost. When we arrived at the West Sarajevo station, the lady selling the bus tickets was on 30 mins break, so we had to wait for her to come back. We tough we were getting short on time, but the schedule we were told initially, less than an hour prior to getting there, turned out to be wrong. The 11 AM bus did not exist, but there was the 12:30 PM one, not on the first schedule...

Really confusing information from different sources seems to be the norm since we arrived in Romania a month ago. Same goes for Moldova and the Balkans. We had coffee in the little 'waiting area' of the bus station, walked a bit and got on our second bus of the day. It was a pretty long bus ride again, about 7.5 hours to get to Belgrade. We arrived almost on time in Belgrade, rushed to the train ticket office, where we were told that the sleeper cabins were all full for the 2 following nights. We walked to the bus station ticket office, to see if there was some availability, but nope, there was only one seat available for the 00:30 bus. So back to the train station we went to buy a ticket, no sleeper, just a seat.

 We had a little bit over an hour left so we decided to have supper, a pizza and beers in the train station. A few minutes before the departure, we got in the train and met our roommates for the night. We were lucky enough to get one of those 6 seats compartments instead of the hard seats usually used for commuter train. Our roommates were 2 Swiss and one Bulgarian guy, around our age. The compartment is really cozy when there are 5 people seating, but when comes time to sleep, it becomes extra-cozy! The facing seats can also slide in, almost to make a bed. A 1 person bed that is. So we made a big bed by sliding down all the seats, and laid down alternating faces and feet. It was really cozy and we could't not touch the person next to us. We managed to get some sleep anyway, in between the numerous ticket controls, customs etc. It was quite the experience! 

We arrived in Sofia and walked to the hostel. The Hello Sofia Guesthouse is all renovated inside and consist of just a few rooms. We put our bags down and went for a free guided walking tour by FreeSofiaTour. Our guide was really good and we learnt a lot. The city has an interesting story, especially the Square of Tolerance, where there is an Orthodox Church, a Mosque, a Synagogue and a Catholic Church. We saw many other churches during the tour. We also stopped at the hot mineral water source where we tasted the water. It was pretty hot water! And it is also funny to see all the locals coming with their empty bottles to fill them up. The tour also went by Alexander Nevski orthodox church. After the tour we came back to the hostel to do some research for our next, secret destination. It's going to be really different than Europe.

Cosy train journey
Lion, symbol of Bulgaria, in front of Palace of Justice, Sofia
Sveta Nedelya Church
Central Public Bathhouse
Mineral Water Springs 
Presidency Guards
St. George Rotunda
Ivan Vazov National Theatre
Russian Church
St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral
St. Sofia Statue
National Assembly
Banya Bashi Mosque
Roman ruins in subway station
Never ending pedestrian and shopping street 
Walk by shopping through a basement window
Couple of old men on a bench 
St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral
Sofia University

Monday, 12 August 2013

Sarajevo and Mostar, Bosnia

After visiting Montenegro, we decided that we were going to visit Bosnia for a few days. The trip from Zabljak to Mostar was impossible to plan as nobody could tell us if and when there was a bus. They mostly only know the direct destinations from their town and can't help much with the transfer after that. We then decided to start with Sarajevo as it was easier to get there and move to Mostar afterwards. We were up really early to get on the 7:15 am bus to Sarajevo. We were actually really fast at getting ready and waited for a little bit at the station. Nobody was around for a while but then all of a sudden, everybody seemed to arrived at once. We were hoping for a big bus, but instead it was a little mini-bus that pulled in. Fortunately, half the people were going to Podgorica. The 18 passengers mini-bus was full, but the road was nice.. well the view anyway! We spent a good portion of the trip chatting with a guy from California that has been on the road for 15 months. It was inspiring to hear about all the places he visited so far. We arrived in Niksic for the transfer and there was already a bus leaving for Sarajevo. We got in only to find the bus fully packed. We spend the first 1.5 hour standing in the back of the bus. The bus was really slow because of the mountain road. It almost felt as if it was not going to make it all the way to Sarajevo. Eventually some people got of the bus and we could sit. When we arrived in Sarajevo, we were in the east station and needed to find a way to the center. We were going to walk but it seemed way too far. Suddenly a guy with a backpack was running after us. He also didn't know how to get to the center so he tagged along. We finally found the city bus station that was 5 min away, hidden from the bus station. For once our french was useful as a man beside the bus helped us understand the bus driver and he exchanged us 5 Euros to Convertible Mark. It was enough for all of us to take the bus. We got of the bus in the old town and decided to look for a place with WiFi in order to book a room somewhere. We usually prefer to have a place booked when we arrive in a new place, but we didn't this time. We had a beer in the Pirate Pub that accepted Euros with our new German friend where we booked a private room in a 'hostel' (really a 4 bedroom apartment which 3 rooms are rented out). We set our bags down and went for a walk in the old town. The city looks really different than all the other European cities so far. We liked the mixture of religions; there is a Catholic church facing a Mosque. We had a good time in Sarajevo, enjoying the nice vibe of the city.

When we left Sarajevo, the temperature outside was 28 C. Shortly after we left, we could see the temperature rising... when we got to Mostar, it was 43 C outside. It felt like leaving a fridge to step into an oven. Or as one friend said; it's just like you are standing in front of a hair dryer... all day! We weren't too sure how to find the pension as the map was rather confusing, but really it was not even 2 minutes from the station. Our room had AC, which we enjoyed for a little while, before being ready to go back in the oven, and go for a walk in town. There are a lot of buildings with bullet holes or half destroyed in both Mostar and Sarajevo, a constant reminder of the war that happened not too long ago. There wasn't as many tourists as we first expected so that was a plus. We walked all the way to the old bridge and around the little streets of the old part of town. Mostar was worth the detour.

City Hall Sarajevo
Bridge over the canal
Small pedestrian street
Beside the Mosque, Old Town Sarajevo

Eternal flame, Sarajevo
Building cribbled with bullet holes on main street, Sarajevo
View from the bus, Sarajevo - Mostar
View from the bus, Sarajevo - Mostar
Mala Neretva (River), Mostar
Old destroyed building, the nature is taking over.

Mostar Old Town restaurants
View from the old bridge, Mostar
Old Town Mostar 
Mostar old bridge
Mostar old bridge