Mountainess Macedonia

Leaving Thessaloniki. Mario left by train and I started biking up north. Once I left the way too busy city of Thessaloniki, me and Duke Ellington found ourselves in stunning sceneries, endless views of almost empty country.
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Exactly what I needed! Just a few villages, just enough to replenish my watersupplies. Some (off)roads on the map ceased to exist at some point, making me push the bike through fields and two small rivers.
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I stumbled upon magnificent wild fig trees, grape branches and peach trees though, me happy J ‘Fruit, fruit, fruit is allllllllll I need’ 😀
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Somehow I was very strong this day and with my bags filled with fruit, I made it well into Macedonia.
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At and around the border i noticed nothing of the immigrant problems I’ve been hearing about lately. The people seem scared though, scared of what’s to come with all these invaders. But great projects are started too to help the newcomers.

I decided to find camp at this beautiful lake Dojran, which was unfortunately a bit touristy.
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I was looking for a nice view over the lake and I entered someones garden to ask. Mother and son were a bit reluctant at first and asked me for my passport, because of possible problems with the police concerning the immigrants. Soon they loosened up though and I had a beautiful camping spot under the walnut tree (I never tried them fresh before!).
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They refused my offer to share some fruits and brought me juice and fig jelly.
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Later we shared dinner together and the son, Viktorio – a convinced Christian through heart and mind(!), spend all night explaining why Christianity is the only true religion. It was very interesting, he refuted all my critical questions with relative ease and he gave me some book suggestions for further reading and discussion. I am by nature very critical and have many questions and doubts about religion, trying to understand more about all religions, so I am very curious 🙂 If anybody is interested, he suggested me this book with a nice catchy title:

I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist – Norman Geisler

The next morning I had a huge climb ahead of me. I chose to ride through east Macedonia into Bulgaria to avoid the heavy traffic roads and bike through the mountains, where I feel so at home 🙂 But the climbing was very hard in heat well above 30 degrees, no shade, and hardly enough places to fill my waterbottles. I stopped at a small little house (the only one in the surroundings) to ask for some water. They offered me coffee, which i happilly accepted. It turned out to be a forestry police station. More men showed up and talking tot hem they convinced me the road ahead was very very tough (>10% climbing) and they insisted to give me a ride in their jeep for ten kilometers up the hill. They even gave me a big bag of grapes for the road! It was a lot of fun watching six men arguing how to put my bike in their jeep. I was not allowed to intervene, so I just stood there and enjoyed the show J It was fun. Thanks a lot, guys!
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I started biking along and this road was just too beautiful to be true! Beautiful mountains, great views, it’s hard to describe.
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Very peaceful, just a car now and then and very very small villages, with surprisingly well maintained houses and gardens full of flowers. Later I understood the nice houses were mostly owned by people who work elsewhere in Europe, because the average income in Macedonia is just around 300 euros a month.. Even though it is equally poor like Montenegro, it seemed a lot more civilized, a lot! The towns i passed were not at all focused on tourism, just on industry, no reason to stop at any of them.

On one of the mountain roads there was fresh water coming from the mountains, soooooo tasty!
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An other passenger tried to talk to me with hand and feet and came bringing me bag of ten figs, six peaches and some grapes. I tried to tell him that was too kind and too much but he insisted I’d take it. WOW. Can you imagine? It seems so normal to do these kinds of things in the Balkans, I sure want the west to learn from this. I try to share all my food with the people I meet on the way already, whenever I meet someone I offer them, and I will continue this. Both receiving and giving feels so good, let’s all try to do it more!

I pitched my tent in an open field behind some blackberry bushes and enjoyed my ‘me-time’ :). I heared the shepherds and their herds passing on the other side of the bushes all evening and morning. The next day I stopped for some water at a house where the owner again offered me coffee and climbing up the hill some farmers offered me a ride.
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It’s just amazing how I hardly ever ask for anything, but people have their eyes wide open, aware of what’s going on besides them and offer their help to strangers. At the border the police took me out of line and made me skip ahead of everyone.
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So I reached the farm (238 km, lots of climbing) within 2,5 days, much faster than expected. I was happy to be on the bike again and meet all these wonderfull people. I could hardly speak to them, didn’t ask for anything but water, and experienced all these great adventures again.. Unbeleivable. The experience of a lifetime.

Up next: my farming adventures in Bulgary!

The Gods of Greece

It was an exciting morning. Reunited after our first meeting in Venice last may, we were about to start our first travelling experience together. Mario had insisted on joining me on a bicycle, although it would be his first time. We were about to go south from Tessaloniki to meet with the Gods up on Mount Olympus. Mario had wanted to meet Zeus ever since he was a little boy and I would be looking for my dear friend and muse in life Aphrodite <3. Oh how pretty she is..
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Our incredible host and new father Georgios helped us on our way
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and joined us for one last drink at the beach (gotta try Mythos beer once you’re down here!). The night before Mario had arrived and we all spent a nice dinner together, before walking around the city by night, having some drinks at this fancy outside bar and falling asleep (Mario) and enjoying the view (me and Georgios) at the seaside. We felt like a family and were sad to part, but at the same time happy to start our new adventure! Ok, the first day was a little bit too adventurous, when we refused the busy touristic roads, chose the nice quiet onces and ended up pushing the bikes through fields (with thorns), resulting in a flat tire on Mario’s bike. We decided to pitch camp right there and then and figure out the route in the morning, manana manana. Dont worry be happy! The extra tire we brought didnt fit and my attempts to patch the tire failed. Nonetheless we had a perfectly quiet camping spot in the fields and we enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

The next morning we walked to the nearest town (6 km through extreme heat :p), fixed everything at the bike shop and we were on our way again! On our way to Panteleimonas, where a warmshower host I had contacted before –Stelios- was camping and playing music (basking) all summer and invited us to come up there. It is a small pitoresque village up on the mountain, which we reached after a nice swim in the sea and one more night of wildcamping (this time under a tree with fantastic ripe figs!) and next to a house, from which the owner came bringing us tomatoes from his own garden, tasty! The road up to the village was so steep it was impossible to bike and we pushed the bikes together through the simmering heat before finally reaching the top. But it was worth it 😀

We spent some time on lunch at this nice quiet taverna where we felt completely at ease and enjoyed the great view;
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we took a nap on their grass. Walking up in the town we were surprised by the many tourists, we didnt see at all at the south part of the village. Somehow I recognized Stelios between all these people and he showed us his camping spot: not too far out of the village there was this field with beautiful ancient chestnut trees and a magnificent view over the mountains on the one side and the sea on the other.
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The combination with the lights of the villages on the coast and the lights from the stars above us was mesmorizing, like the flames of a campfire or the water from a mountain stream. The perfect environment to slow down for a day or two. So we did. We did some morning yoga, played some music and enjoyed the surroudings and each others company. Except for more and more tourists coming, life was relaxed and peaceful around the village. Stelios spent all his summer camping here and making money by basking in the streets.
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It sounded very ideal to me and I imagined myself being good enough at playing the harmonica, singing, guitar to make my money on the way by playing in the streets. Seeing him sitting there with al the tourists passing by I changed my mind though.. it looked so sad. Nobody is really paying attention to his music, sometimes they even throw money when he is just tuning his instrument. Almost nobody stops to really listen and enjoy his music. He was treated more like a beggar than like a musician. So no, this is not my goal..

After enjoying two peacefull days in and around this small village, Zeus and Aphrodite still didn’t show up, so we got back on our horses! First we galloped down the hill, passing our castle,
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(see the horse and the castle?),
riding along the sea before climbing back up to Litochoro, from where the hiking trails on the magnificent mountains start. It was already 6pm when we entered town and we were on a mission: we needed a place to leave the bicycles and luggage while we would climb the mountain! I stopped at the first information centre (yes, there are more, and they all give crappy information; somehow it is very hard to find a good map and solid information on what it’s like to climb to the top and what kind of preparation you might need, so if you feel like starting a business in tourism, there is a demand and many opportunities here!). We were very lucky that this information office was run by Mister Paris. He had seen us biking up to Litochoro and was very interested in my story. He offered to leave the luggage at the office and stall the bicycles at his hotel. Perfect! Now a place to sleep. Stelios had told us about his former campingspot and the cafe where they could show us the way. We found it, pitched the tent and went for a drink at this beautifully located cafe along the river and in the woods, great atmosphere. There was live music and also Mario joined the stage for a short performance on his lute.
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The next morning we went back to Mister Paris’ hotel, he had invited us to join the breakfast there, and wow, it was good! Fresh fruits, dried fruits, greek salad, pastries, fresh bread, eggs, yoghurt, milk, juice, coffee, everything you might wish for! And very welcoming personnel, so kind and with big smiles.

It was the perfect start to a fantastic climbing day. First we hitchhiked to the St Dyonisus monastery (beautiful!)
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and then to Gortsia from where we hiked all the way up to 2600 meter. The route was stunning, the views breathtaking and the paths very quiet; we felt almost alone in this beautiful environment.
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The scenery kept changing with every step, the clouds were passing fast and the mountain felt very alive. We started to feel smaller and smaller and submissive to the greater powers of the mountain. Zeus is definitely not to be joked with.

We spent the first night in a small refuge which could host up to 22 people in the attic filled with bunk beds. The refuge was situated well above the tree line on a flat area of grass, grazed by mountain goats, called ‘the plateau des muses’, how marvelous :D.
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So, we celebrated our arrival, got drunk with wine and tsipouri, and played the guitar and harmonica. The music continued in the attic with an elaborate snorring orchestra all night :/ Well, it got me to go outside at 4.30 am and wow, the stars… no words.. my vocabulary lacks to describe the feeling of awe i still get everytime i look up to the sky at night. Especially on remote places like this. The stars, the planets, the milkyway, time is nonexistent and so closely connected to the shimmering lights above me at the same time. The sky produces various sensations in different people: some are not interested at all, some feel scared, unsafe, lonely, but not me; i feel good, so good.. i feel tiny and insignificant (in a good way!) and overwhelmed with love and peace. I feel solitude, not loneliness. I feel not strong, not weak, but at ease and all my worries dissipated. I wish to be dissolved and become part of this, to shine my light. Next, i realize I am part of this! Beautiful, magical, Aphrodite :).

Happy to be in such a magical place, we rose early when the sun was still hiding behind one of the mountain tops, ‘where the morning wind forever blows, the poem of creation uninterrupted; but few are the ears that hear it. Olympus is but the outside of the earth everywhere.’

Talking to the other people in the chalet – who were all very prepared with professional mountaineering outfits and equipment (we were not)- we wondered why nobody had the desire to climb to the top, Mytikas. Since we climbed to 2600 meter the previous day and had only 300 more to go, we felt confident and ready to kick Zeus’ ass, so we strated walking in a firm pass towards the start of the climb up.
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Oopsie, it turned out not be that easy! The climb was pretty tough, you needed both hands and feet and we wouldnt be the first to die on this mountain, so the plaquettes indicated :/.
Look at this crazy way to get up 😀
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Rocks were slipping and you had to be very carefull where to place your feet and pray no rocks from the top would fall on your head. Unprepared as we were, we didnt carry any helmets. I expected there to be many people around, but there was almost no-one. We realized that if we would both fall, actually noone would know.. wow. I wrote down Mario’s mothers telephone numbre and he wrote down my father’s. Like mountain cats *mieuw* we started our ascent, paw by paw. Mario fell behind and seeing the terror in his eyes we finally decided he would go back down and I would continue alone. My smile grew bigger and bigger and I was almost running up this stairway to heaven, eager to make it to the top! I would have loved to share this experience with Mario, but climbing up there solo gave the magic an extra dimension. I reached the next supermario level! (ironically, withouth Mario though :p). There was no endboss to conquer at the top though, the mountain welcomed me with open arms. Fresh wind blowing, distant horizons calling me, oh i wish i was an eagle, able to spread my wings and jump off!!! (or that I brought a parachute..) “Tamar on the top and Mario on the mountain, thank you mother nature”, I wrote in the book..
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I joined a group to go back down, seemed to be the smart thing to do, but the group was very slow and I kept worrying about the slipping feet of the others that I decided to leave them and continue alone, much better for my nerves and enjoyment 🙂 We took a different route back down, actually there was no route but hey, adventure!
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The descent was even more difficult and demanding, with rocks slipping away all the time and like an upside down inside out mountain cat (get the picture?), I used both hands, feet and also my bumb to slide down back to Mario. He was happy he didnt climb up and i was happy he insisted i would continue alone. We took a little break to digest what just happened.. wow. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. to the mountain.

The next two days we descented back under the tree line, where we could hear the birds singing again (I missed them, the most beautiful sound mother nature ever produced..), back down to these beautiful waterfalls with freezing mountainwater (it was very refreshing to jump in!)
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and to another monastery where we collapsed.
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We had wrung out the last bits of energy from our bodies and our legs were hurting tremendously with every step. My legs are very strong from all the biking, but hiking is a different exercise and especially the descent was very demanding on them. But we did it! And there is something about giving all you have, that is very satisfying 🙂

It took us two days to get back to normal and able to bike again. These two days we spent…. *Tumtumtumtum*.. at Mister Paris’ hotel! No way! Up on the mountain he sent me an SMS, inviting us to stay in the hotel when we come back from the tiring mountain, we couldnt believe it! What did we do to deserve this?!

It was a fancy hotel with a nice pool outside, a fantastic breakfast (we already knew) and the best beds i slept on in a loooooooong time! Apparently, mister Paris had read my blog and was so inspired he told us for him it was a small gesture and he understood for us it would mean the world. Oh and it did, how we enjoyed 😀 Talking to him we tried to figure out his reasons and we found out mister Paris is so incredibly busy doing business, taking phonecalls, sending e-mails that he didn’t even gave his six-month-old baby a name yet.. That’s so sad.. I’m glad we lit a candle for him up in the monastery.

But yes, this hotel, wow! On previous travels, i would never stay in the hotel all day, but now i did. For the first time in months i had a place for my own, to relax, to recover, no need to go anywhere, talk to anyone or do anything. We played some music, I skyped with my dad, wrote my blog, we swam in the pool, practiced yoga, wing therapy (shoulder massage), took afternoon naps, only to go out for a drink at night or do some grocery shopping. My short time walking the streets i was suddenly distracted from my daydream when i heared ‘hey Tamar!’. It was Johann, the birdloving, cycling frenchman i met on top of Mount Dormitur, can you believe it?!

Life these days was perfect 🙂 I realized i needed this. Although I like the bike trip very much, Im starting to feel like slowing down even more for now. Id like to stay in one place for a prolonged time, to let everything sink in, to straighten my thoughts and shut up my mind, and also so I get to do all these things i dont have time to do when im always on the move: read books, play music, learn spanish, learn about the stars, about nature: growing, eating, cooking, etc. etc. I started planning the next half year, yes the word ‘planning’ returned to my vocabulary :p, and found some farms in Bulgaria (through WOOFF) where i could volunteer and learn about permaculture and i would take that time to focus on my music: reading about theory and history, practicing my harmonica, buying a guitar..! The first months I enjoyed letting everything go and not having a goal at all, now my heart feels very satisfied with this new goal, Im looking forward to it!

Another thing I realized. In Srebrenica, on the mountain, talking to people, i have been realizing more and more how important family is and Im starting to miss mine more and more. I guess I took them too much for granted. From the moment I left my dad was the biggest bumb on the road I had to get over to leave (many tears I shed thinking of him) and I wondered many times whether it would be better to come home and just be with him instead of leaving him behind; he means so much to me. Looking for smiles, his warms me up the most and his is the most important to me. So, I decided Im going to try to go back home for december (my borthers birthday, my birthday, christmas, new years..) to tighten the bonds again (also with my friends, will be great) before i continue my travels in january (im not staying!!). By then it will be too cold to cycle through Turkey, so im thinking of spending winter in the south of Spain, what better place to learn/practice Spanish and learn/practice guitar! Sounds perfect to me 🙂 One project I’ll be working on is this: I’d like to study the rythm of the flapping of the wings of various bird species and compose music and write lyrics around this theme. Maybe a bar too high for now, but some nice goal to think about for the future.

Anyways, back to reality. Our legs recovered and we found our way back to Thessaloniki, where we would return the bike to Georgios and Mario and I would split up, both following our own paths again. Very different paths. Literally: Mario going south an me going north, and figuratively: Mario has a main and solo focus on finishing conservatory, which will hold him for the next years, and me, im searching, i let go of everything that was sure, to explore the world, people and all these different interests i have, not sure yet where i want to go or end up. Mario sure helped me to shine some light on my path though and our different personalities inspired me to reconsider mine. As you have read before many times, I like to see people smile! And I try to make that happen with (almost) everyone i meet. It means, though, that I give a lot of myself. Many times, I am not me, I dont show the real me, I am just there to listen to the other, ask questions and make him/her feel better. I am usually the one who makes the first move for contact, with a big smile, making people feel noticed and appreciated. It’s what we all want, no? And in the words of mister Paris: just a small effort for me. We discussed whether this is a mask. And I would say it is not. Ok, maybe a little. I am on open book and whoever is interested may know everything about me. Take this blog for example! All my thoughts and emotions online. But yes, i dont feel the need to open up to people, unless they ask me. And many people dont. Also back home, I spent much time with people I had an unequal relationship with: the relationship just cost me energy instead of reviving me. And Im sure there are people doing the same thing for me. There is only a very small numbre of people who know who I really am. Well maybe, that numbre is growing now 😉

This is how I go about: I see good in almost everyone and everyone has something I like. And there is this strange thing about me, that i think people i really dont like, maybe need it even more to feel loved and appreciated and i try to give this to them. I dont feel the need to show people I dont like them or disagree with their thoughts or acts, unless they specifically ask for my opinion. I might try to challenge their thinking a little and do it with a smile, not to insult them. And in many situations i actually succeeded to turn angry, stressed or bored people into smiling people. Isnt that part of making the world a better place? Shouldnt we all be a little bit nicer to others, even if we feel like they dont deserve it? Just to get this chain reaction in motion: smiling people are more relaxed, more healthy, more patient and forgiving, and smiles are contatious! Mario watched me communicate to all these different people and he told me I hold the key to the world by acting like this. But I’m not so sure.

One disadvantage is that it drifts me away from me -even though it’s part of me- it takes a lot of time and energy I could put in other things. Things for me. I dont know what is better.. or where the balance is. Leaving to go on this trip was a good way to cut off everything. I stay in touch with the closest people and some people I know will be my friend how ever long I dont speak to them; contact is not always needed to carry people in your heart. This trip helps me realize who and what is really important and why. And its just the brutal truth that some people I dont miss at all and im sure vice versa, life goes on. I wish the best for everyone, I do, I wish for everyone to find their happiness and follow their dreams.

I had this conversation with my dad too, who is infected with the ‘Jesus-syndrome’, we joke. Always ready to help everybody out, but giving too much of himself and suffering from it. After visiting me in Croatia he felt inspired to change his life a little bit, cutting of things and people he really doesnt like and spend more time on things for him: walking, swimming, reading books, focussing on good food etc. Good for you, daddy! Ill try to do the same J

One thing I like about Mario is that he doesnt feel the need to approach the world and people like I do. He can, i saw, he is very good with people. But a lot of the time he prefers to be alone and focus on his own goals. He prefers to stay away from people he doesnt like, and does not spend energy on them. To me, it feels much more real. There is no mask, no game. He is not trying to follow any stream, nor trying to swim against the stream, to be different; he knows how to listen to his heart (possibly doesnt know any other way). With this he is well ahead of me. I have always been very rational and trying to understand the world and others (I am a psychologist for profession and by heart), but I lost track of my own heartbeat, I have been off beat. Mario is directed by his heart, by his emotions though, and just by looking at me he unintendently opened up my heart and shook loose so many emotions, sometimes overwhelming me. He is the first person on my trip that could do that to me, on such a level. Many people inspired me and I met some really beautiful people, but this was different. I still dont really understand how he does it, and he probably doesnt know himself, but I am very grateful for this. Talking to him helped me order my own thoughts a lot, giving me a big push forward. First like a tornado shaking me all directions, slowing down to a strong wind blowing under my wings.

His focus inspired me, because I truly understand this feeling where I long for some ‘me-time’ and I’m lacking it right now. I need to balance this out. I feel very lucky to meet a real person like Mario, who happens to be beautiful both from the outside and the inside. He is very clear about what he wants, where he is going, who he wants to be and how he wants to live his life. I am happily surprised by the mature thinking he already developed at a young age, he understands the world and himself pretty good in my opinion. He knows in a heartbeat whether he likes someone or some place and is never afraid to have and show his own opinion. But not in an arrogant or offensive way at all, he is just who he is and chooses how to spend his time wisely. And besides his clear direction, he enjoys life and enjoys getting off track once in a while as well, he too enjoys a rock n roll lifestyle now and then :p He cries and laughs, his range of emotions is wide and more pronounced than many others. Happy, but not stupid. Emotional, and clever. Decided, but not strict. Careless, but not ignorant. Very attractive and inspiring. I am glad we spent these 12 days together, where life was easy and beautiful! Realizing beauty should be my main focus in life.. beautiful places, beautiful people, beautiful thoughts and acts, beautiful music. I will ask Aphrodite to lead me on my way.

The last days we walked around town, had lunch at our favourite bakery on the market (spinach triangles!), visited some musicshops to look at guitars and at night we celebrated by having this fantastic dinner at a beautiful local restaurant in the middle of the market halls, with great Greek (sea)food!
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It was heaven 🙂 We walked the city by night, singing horrible Hank Williams III songs :p and collapsed on the bed of the cheapest hotel we could find, where we watched the movie Big Fish (beautiful!).

The next morning we said goodbye, but this time I was not sad. I was happy for the time we spent and the light he shined on me, i feel a little bit enlightend and ready to conquer the world again and search for my own path. We are both birds who are not be caged and the time was ripe to fly out again. We flew together for some time and the time had come to fly our own directions again. We’ll just have to see when our wings will be flapping in each others direction again. No hope, no expectations, just freedom and happiness.

Guca – Skopje – Thessaloniki

This week was incredible. I dont think i ever experienced so many different adventures and emotions in such a short time period. I said goodbye to my dear friend Anne after ten days of fantastic adventure, i spent time with this unbelievable inspiring group of people in sarajevo, then I went to srebrenica, before getting crazy at the Guca festival in Serbia. Big big contrasts! While in the meantime i was trying to figure out a way to meet with Mario, my Italian musician friend from Venice, who was on Crete at that moment.

After spending all morning with Hasan, a Srebrenica survivor, i just couldnt stop crying. Tears were still flowing once i passed the Serbian border, the men in the cube clearly being confused with the amount of Bosnian entry and exit stamps in my passport.

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No questions asked though and I found myself on the roads of a country I by now learned was supposed to be full of arrogant agressors (remaining stereotypes from the war). Again, I experienced nothing of the negativity i was warned about though.
The mosques had turned into orthodox churches

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After biking through beautiful landscapes along the river Drina, picking apples from the numerous trees along the road and picking the biggest most juicy blackberries i have ever seen for lunch,

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at about four o’clock i still hadn’t seen any bank or money exchange office. I stopped at a restaurant and when the waitress saw me all sweat and exhausted she took care of me 🙂 she fed me turkish sweets and cold water, before giving me a big discount on a delicious beansoup and salad from tomatoes and cucumbre from their own garden. They even exchanged my Bosnian marks to Serbian dinars. And for a fair rate 😉 welcome to Serbia!

It was already pretty late when i started biking again and i realized i wasnt gonna make it to Guca that night. I decided to try to hitchhike some part of the route and soon a car stopped. Calling some friends, arranging to help me, I ended up spending the evening at his weekendhouse high high up the mountain, together with his pig and goats, only to be taken back down again after his friend arrived and decided i would be better of at his place with a real shower and a ride to uzice in the morning 🙂 These guys didn’t speak any english, but Google translate came to the rescue. It was the perfect way to quickly learn some more of the language :p. At some point another friend joined as well, who could speak a little German. I almost speak as much German as English in the balkans! I still find it interesting i had no problems with men at all in the balkans, everybody treated me with great respect. Only in Italy the men were very rude and oppresive. Id like to share with the world my beautiful experiences in the Balkans. In reaction to its bad reputation and to encourage people to go see for themselves. I would highly recommend travellers to get out of the big cities and into the countryside. People have nothing and give everything. At least they try. Please feel inspired to do the same in your own daily life. Even small gestures can make a big difference.

Ok, enough softy speeches, it is time to rock n roll!! I made it to Guca 😀

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a famous trumpet and brassband festival in a small town, where nothing happens the rest of the year. I had found out through couchsurfing that Drago and his family opened up a free camping for all who want to have fun, make music and drink rakija. Looooooots of Rakija. And rakjoffee (coffee with rakija) and carrakija (rakija and carrots).. Basically, rakija goes well with everything (i found out)! I love that stuff 🙂 The camp was full of such nice people and music instruments kept coming from everywhere, turning the camp into one big jamming family.

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Drinks, food, honeymelon with white wine, instruments, everything was shared with everybody. Lav was in the air!! (explanation : Lav is a local beer brand..). Uruguay, Rock n roll Carlos, doctor Mario, Sco**ish gipsy Sian and Michael Cobain, cute Chile, the spanish red hats, the German girls, Polish catman and even Norway who bought us two liter of Rakija just before passing out; for two days we were a beautiful family, dancing to the Balkan trumpets untill the early mornings.

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I was so so down coming from Srebrenica and so so high at the festival. So much happiness 🙂

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I was recognized as ‘the chess girl’ from Sarajevo by a group of crazy spanish and a Brazilian :p compare the picture of the chess game in Bosnia and from Guca. You’ll find them 😉

Destroyed from the booze and the lack of sleep (somehow there was always someone in my tent when i wanted to sleep there 🙂 Haha mi casa es su casa!), i was in need of some time to recover and digest all that happened.. Even somebody sabotaging a flat tire (i know it was of you!) couldnt stop me from biking over the mountain (sweating pure rakija) to Cacak to try to find a bus south that would take my bike. I didn’t try to take a bus before at all on this trip so i had no clue if i would succeed. Arriving at the busstation i found myself in a bus to Skopje within ten minutes though 🙂 apparently, whether the bus takes the bike is dependent on the bus driver. This one tried to resist but i just shuffed my bike and bags in, smiled and entered the bus which was full. He asked for my ticket, which i didn’t have and i didn’t even have enough dinars to pay him on the spot either haha (hard to calculate with huge amounts like that: 120 dinars for 1 euro). The driver was clearly a little annoyed, but I payed him with euros and i was on my way! Lucky me 🙂 sorry mister busdriver,  ill pray for better passengers for you.

In the bus i talked to Enrico from Bologna and his great friend Travis, who giggled out loud when i was peeing in the street and suddenly asked me my birthday and calculated on which day i was born , it’s a saturday, he was right!
Enrico unknowingly inspired me about what I want to do with my life. He told me about projects for the homeless and refugees involving music, art, cooking, organic food etc. All these things sound fantastic to me. In stead of fighting evil from within the police, i would love to promote good, warmth, progress, tolerance and happiness by bringing people together through food and music; it fits me. Both food and music have been an important part of my life always and if i can find a way to make people smile using this..it would be heaven! Id love to incorporate some outdoor activities as well and there you have it 🙂 Ill start looking for projects like this i could join, or start up my own maybe one day, once i decide where id like to live (might very well be balkans!). Ill let the idea sink in for now…

The busdrive was in Serbian time 5,5 hours, in reality 8,5.. So it was already 11 pm when we arrived in Skopje, Macedonia. Again, a country I knew little about. Neither did Enrico. We decided to find a park, a bridge,  ask someone to just get some sleep and take the 6 o’clock bus to thessaloniki. Along the river we saw some people drinking and we asked them. They said nooooo come on, you can stay at our place! They had some sort of culture centre close-by where we could sleep inside or in the garden (i chose the hammock!). Enrico and me joined them for one drink.. Ok this drink latest all night and we didn’t sleep at all! But it was so nice with these hippies. Great conversations and fun and we saw some of this very strange city. The young government build huge very kitsch buildings that are supposed to look old, and they put some neonlightning on it.

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And these ugly structures stand right next to beautiful historical buildings from the ottoman times and horrible concrete flats, everything mixed. A huge lighted cross decorates the mountain and there is a lot of trash in the streets. Very interesting city.. One of the group told me about rainbow gatherings, which apparently everybody i speak to now knows about.. I guess ill try to join of the gatherings on my trip, people got me curious..

The next morning at 6 we were in the bus to Thessaloniki, trying to digest what just happened. It was a strange feeling, because i hadn’t told anybody i was there. If a tree falls in forest and there is noone to hear or see it fall, then did it really happen? I felt like this. This night was only in my mind. Was it a dream? I only existed in the moment. Even more, the people asked me questions like what do i do, where am i going, what is my plan etc. And I dont have answers to these simple questions. Many times your personality is dependent on what you do, like your job, so I feel like im losing a little bit of my personality. I am a ghost, just passing by. I have so many crazy experiences and thoughts that i dont know where to start telling who i am or where im going anymore, my story is very fragmented, the ends of the line to form a circle or no way near getting connected. And I dont even know how i feel about it. For sure it’s not a bad thing. It’s interesting at least 🙂
But im starting to feel more and more the need for something substantial, some goal or direction. There is many things i still like to learn and spend time on, so ill start looking for this for real now. Languages, music, gardening, cooking, birds, the universe, anything..

Already half-way the day in Thessaloniki i send out a warmshower request and thankfully Georgios was willing to host me the same night. Georgios is very involved in the eurovelo network and many other european and local projects to promote cycling. Fantastic! We had very interesting conversations and i learned a lot from him. Like he lives in his office because he is not willing to work hours to have another place to live. He understands very well that everything has a price. If you want a car, youll have to sacrifice some of your free time to do a job. Is it worth it? Thanks to the crisis in Greece more and more people are thinking about ‘degrowth’, a beautiful concept. Another way of living. Work less, go by bike, do some urban gardening, share. Sustainable living. Less stress, more happiness and more efficiency on the hours you do work. Ill have to think about this to make the ideas more solid.. Besides that, Georgios is just an amazing nice and warm person, happy to help anyone he can. I feel so lucky to meet people like him 🙂

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Another thing that grabbed me was something his friend said. He runs a youth hostel, but has many projects on the side. One of them is trying to find basic needs for the immigrants walking in the hot sun to the borders up north. Asking companies to donate expired sun protection etc. Beautiful. My friend from Como lake is now in Lampedusa and feels inspired by how much the locals do for all those immigrants coming to the island. Im glad to hear people care, especially since there are several european countries actually building walls!!
This man said it was stupid for women to strive for equality. Women are so much stronger and worth so much more. Striving for equality with men is a way too low goal, embarassing. It’s the women who give life, the women who raise the men. Ha, i like this thinking! Women are not men. Im not so sure they are better, to me they are just different, we have very different qualities and we should focus on that, not want to be like men! Haha hear who’s talking, the girl who is always one of the guys 😉 but, always the girl 😀 and the fact that i am a girl (and blond, young and alone) is my biggest advantage on this trip! Im really trying to make sure im not taking advantage of anyone, trying to find ways to give back. There is so much hospitality im not even asking for, im really trying to make sure my hosts feel good about my presence and will remember the time spent as a beautiful time. I try.

At georgios’ house i spent some time online to find a rainbow gathering and register on WOOFF. Id like to look at the European volunteering service and try to look for some environmental projects i could join on the way. So if anybody has advice, please let me know! After four/five months ‘just’ biking i am ready to do something good, to stay at one place some longer time, to help and learn!

But first, im climbing Mount olympus to meet with my beautiful friend Aphrodite 🙂 And ill do it together with Mario! Georgios is lending us his bike (wow, fantastic!) and we go in nature..

Im very much looking forward to this!! Ciao bellos 😀

SREBRENICA

On my trip I am looking for smiling people and trying to discover their secrets 😉 I’m starting to realize people all around the world are the same and just look for love and happiness. So am I. I needed inspiration and with meeting so many people, hearing about their lives, asking about their dreams, slowly the pieces of the puzzle are starting to  fall in place.

But.

Yesterday I came to a place where happiness does not exist. Where people don’t smile. They can not and probably will never do. A black cloud hangs over the little town of Srebrenica. Only twenty years ago the biggest massacre in Europe since the second World War – officialy declared a genocide – took place here. Over 8000 muslim Bosniaks were slaughtered by the Bosnian Serbian army. Even more tragic since the area was at the time the first ever declared ‘UN safe zone’. It was under demand of Dutch soldiers: ‘Dutchbat’. I am so sorry.

And still more than 1000 men are not found. Nobody opens up on where the mass graves are.

I read stories from survivors and family members and saw some documentaries. From all the mass shootings there were only 10 survivors. They tell their stories. There were a couple more but when the mass executions ended they would stand up and ask the soldiers to please kill them too… I can’t write this or think of this without bursting out in tears again.

Everytime I think about Srebrenica I start crying again and I cannot stop. Also writing this takes me a long time and it feels like every word is not good enough to describe something like this. But I really want to tell the world, it is important. Even though we assholes never learn and keep fighting each other. The story has to be told and it is ok to cry. I said sorry to every single person on the graveyard and I’d like to say sorry to every survivor and family member who wears the scars of these horrible events.

When I left the compound it had started raining and the sky was dark. It felt just. I started biking towards the town of Srebrenica where remainders of the war are tob e seen everywhere.

I was picked from the street and spent the night with a dutch couple on their fifth visit to town, working on a documentary about Srebrenica. We had dinner in one of the only two restaurants. I could fire all the questions I had after visiting the cemetery and the compound and I learned a lot. But also they were still searching, since politics are involved and many different points of view are communicated and everbody has his or her own experiences.

People say this tragedy could have been prevented. The world knew what was going on, the US knew about Mladic’ plans and they failed to protect the people. A UN-mission to send a 44 strong air float was aborted at the last minute.  Only two F16 arrived. There was no food, no water, sporadically there were people executed; the town was in pure horror and people were seeking refugee at the Dutch compound. Only 5.000 were given access, while 20.000 were knocking on the gate doors, untill also they were kicked off when Mladic entered the town. And he entered with the exact words that it was time for revenge on the Turks. I heared him say this on camera. He assured the people nothing would happen tot hem if they would just cooperate, then started separating the men from the women, shortly before killing them all.

The international community did nothing, the Dutch received no support and also didn’t give any resistance when Mladic was moving his troops in the town. Many say they didn’t stand a chance against Mladic’ tanks and artillery but the people in town are disappointed that there is not a single story of one single soldier who tried to save one single life. Recently the Netherlands was found liable in its own supreme court and in The Hague district court for failing in its duty to prevent more than 300 of the deaths. I felt ashamed of my country and scared to tell anybody i’m Dutch. I am so sorry.

At the same time I realize the Dutch didnt stand a chance and returning soldiers are suffering traumas for their inability to do anything. . Must have been horrible.

All morning I talked to Hassan, a survivor from the war. He lost his family while they were trying to flee to Tuzla, together with 15.000other men and boys trying to break through army lines, through hills and minefields, while being shot at, bombed and murdered. Most were either killed or made to surrender (and killed later). Hassan showed me around het compound, showed me the nasty things the Dutch soldiers wrote on the walls, showed me the white house where many men were slaughtered and nowadays is inhabited by some Serbs who don’t care and live their life there, their children playing in the garden where so many men were held captive and later slaughtered like animals. That’s what the situation is like now. Once a rich and highly populated town (>40.000), now a small village (~1.000) with many abonded houses and bullet holes everywhere,

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inhabited half by Serbs who -according to some people- don’t care, try to deny the facts or deminish responsibility, the other half Bosniaks holding on to past times, still living in the war, dealing with the loss of their family everyday. They don’t speak about the war too much, but the tension is highly tangible and there is even an invisible division between the Serb and the Bosniak areas of town. For many there is no way to look in the future, everything is connected to death. They live in the past. There is lot of propaganda and politics preventing the facts to come out clearly. And I find myself surprised how little I knew about these happenings and how many respond with a big question mark when I tell them I was in Srebrenica.

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Hassan has a family now, but he can never be happy and he fights for recognition and spreading the word of the pure evil that took place here. At the compound there are still many projects unfinished to make sure there is a place for remembrance. It’s a big burden on his shoulders and I wish I could lift some of the weight.

I couldn’t hold my tears hearing all these horrible stories. And at one point I just couldn’t stop crying at all anymore, having a hard time breathing..

Hassan told me he buried his twin brother at the cemetery and when I told him about my twin brother, he asked me ‘So you probably speak to him everyday?’. I broke.

Beautiful Bosnia!

The Bosnian border. Again 🙂 This time, coming from the magnificent river Tara canyon, i found myself on a very small borderpassing and the only cars passing were packed with rafting equipment, apparently a very popular activity on the Tara.


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I passed quickly and found myself on not so well maintained roads again and the landscape turned from rocky mountains (Montenegro means Black mountain) into endless wild green forests (Bos means forest in Dutch :p, it fits!). It was spectacularly beautiful and was quite excited to bike there all day 🙂


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My only mission was to exchange some euro’s or Kuna’s into Bosnian Marks, the local currency. It turned out to be quite the challenge! Almost no villages, just some rafting centra and restaurants, no ATM or money exchange. Meanwhile i was climbing mountains in 40 degrees and started to get a little hungry 😉

Around lunchtime I stopped at a restaurant to refill my waterbottles, and while i was doing that a couple of Norwegian tourists winked me to their table. They had seen me on the bike and we started talking. Their trip was very different from mine: 10 countries in 15 days, restaurants, expensive hotels, boattrips etc. They were decadently filling themselves with beer, all kinds of meat, bread, French fries and salad. I was there talking to them with one eye on all that food 😉 when they were finished eating, i thought about what a shame it would be if the waitress would collect all those leftovers and probably throw it away.

So… you sense what’s coming? 😀

I gathered my nerves and went real hobo style asking whether they would mind if i was to finish the leftovers, whaha, I did it, I actually said it! A chair was pulled out, a drink was offered and a little bit embarrassed, but with full stomach i could continue my climb up the mountains along the river Drina.

 

Around 6.30 pm i still didn’t find a place to change money and i stopped at the only little bar i saw in many kilometers. There were no guests and nobody responded when i said ‘hello, anybody here?’. While filling my bottles again, the owner came downstairs. I asked him where i could get some money and instead of answering my question, he replied: ‘why? What do you need money for?’ I told him: I need food, and then i need to find a place to camp. After 90 km in this heath i was kinda done for the day. He never told me where to go. He insisted i would stay there, take a shower upstairs and he made me a fantastic vegetarian meal, we shared some beers and laughs and the next morning he made me salad and cooked eggs for breakfast.

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Haha isnt that amazing?!  Still no money, but a great first day in Bosnia 😀

 

The next day was beautiful
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But so crazy hot and there was no shade to be found anywhere that at some point in midday I was about to collapse and decided to hitchhike a little bit over the highest mountainpass, knowing there was a 2 km tunnel coming up as well. Soon a danish car stopped and helped me over this toughest bit and without asking stepped out to buy me a liter of icecold water! People are so nice!!

That day i made it to 30 km before Mostar, where i could pitch my tent in someone’s garden.
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The mother of the family brought me homemade spinach pita (my favourite!!) and some watermelon, wow. I really dont know why Bosnia has such a bad reputation, because i was having the time of my life!

The next morning I was waking up with a nice 30 km downhill to Mostar, in the midst of a big wide flat area; a very different view from the days before.
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I spent some hours visiting the town, which was very impressive because of the many visible signs of Mostar’s troubled recent history.
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It was formerly one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country. The city was the most heavily bombed of any Bosnian city during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina following the breakup of Yugoslavia. At the beginning of the war, air strikes destroyed many important buildings and structures, including the Old Bridge. Mostar was named after the bridge keepers (mostari) who in the medieval times guarded the Stari Most (Old Bridge) over the Neretva. The rebuilding of the bridge was completed in 2004 and nowadays there are Red Bull-championships where people jump from this bridge!

 


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I was happy i was on the bike and not with some other transport, because i would have missed the surprisingly different areas outside of the old town. Mostar has architecturally noteworthy buildings in a very wide range of styles! I passed ugly 21st century buildings, Venetian-style villas, French-like Elysees and more..
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It was very clear they kept the old town the way it was on purpose for remembrance (and for tourism?).

I biked my way up the mountain in the hottest hours of the day (Mostar lies at only 50 meters, which means lots of climbing to get out!).
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But i felt strong and was so excited my friend was coming soon, i was singing songs all day and i actually made it to the border! (and beyond), after taking a small holy nap ;).
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The scenery was again very different and i biked through wide-streched vineyards and fields where people were growing vegetables. Big pumpkins!
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Finally, at a small town i stopped and asked some people whether they would know a place to pitch my tent. They were very confused about what I wanted and after some asking around two guys took me home (they were actually going the other direction) and soon i found myself in the midst of this nice family, where the parents asked me to come sleep inside,
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insisted i would have dinner with them and the daughter started playing guitar and singing in her angelic voice, again unbelievable! The son and cousin took me out for drinks before i collapsed; I had biked too many kilometers in 40 degrees and wasnt feeling very well. The universe helped me out by popping up another son who happened to go to Split the next day by car and after me saying ‘no thank you’ a couple of times sort of insisted me to bring me to Split by car. I was glad I did because the next day in Split i just layed on my back in the shadow, while my body clearly didn’t agree with the day before. It was begin evening when i started to feel a little bit better. Luckily i found a warmshower (contact from another cyclist) close to Split where i could stay the night and recover a little. Thanks Tomislav!

 

The next morning I woke up feeling much better, gladly, because Anne would arrive that night and I still had to arrange a bike! I spent a day asking around at some bikeshops, having the help of locals (at the bikeshop, in the street, at the bakery) making phonecalls for me, so i was finally able to find and buy a secondhand bike from a guy that didn’t speak a word English, it was quite the adventure! The bike was in absolute horrific condition but i felt like I had no choice; a new bike was way to expensive for only ten days of biking. I tried to improve it a little by doing some work on it and told Anne her new favourite colour was green 😀 We named the bike ‘The Hulk’!!
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And oh dear, the adventures this bike gave us hahaha

 

I welcomed Anne at the busstop around 11 pm that night with a big bottle of wine to celebrate 🙂 It was great to see her again! We studied together and we spent two weeks in South Africa, where we found out we are the perfect travel companions! We enjoyed a walk around ‘midnight Split’ (very lively!),
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People like their icecream at night, what a line!
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before passing out and enjoying a walk around ‘daytime Split’ the next day 😀
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We secretly entered the theatre and indulged ourselves at the fantastic local market 🙂

Then it was time to start our bicycle trip.
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We had the seat adjusted and asked about the crooked pedal, but the bikeshop assured us it would hold untill Sarajevo. Within five minutes we had a flat tire! Oh-oh :/ We walked to the other bikeshop I had been before. I had been allowed to use their workplace and tools to adjust my spokes and had fun with his colleague, who helped me find this bike. This guy wasn’t there, but he had already told his other colleagues about me. Igor turned out be our hero (and lots of fun)! He fixed the bike up, while we went to the coast to have a last swim in the Adriatic sea J. And he only charged for one tire, wow! Igor even showed us a great wildcampingspot, but Tomislav had invited us to stay at his place another night, which was already on the route. We had to pass a horribly busy traffic road to get there, but the first ten kilometers were a fact! Podstrana is a little bit of heaven (quiet, peaceful, nature) just outside the big fast city. We slept bad because of the heath and i moved outside to sleep, waking up from a host passing me and taking a piss in his own garden! Interesting..

Anyways it was nice of him to invite us and the next morning we were on our way, adventure-time!

The route was fantastic, getting better and better, biking through the middle of nowhere, lots of small villages, beautiful sights, mountains we couldn’t believe we climbed and lots of fantastically nice people.
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Anne’s crank kept coming off though and we asked a guy to help us. We noticed many white doves on his rooftop and decided the universe brought us here 😉 Peace, man! He fixed the crank and we ended up drinking coffee with the whole family of his neighbor 🙂

Later we found the perfect place to enjoy our lunch and a little swim
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and Anne told me she was so happy!
I was very happy to hear that, since this is what i enjoy the most and really wanted to share it with her, but i could imagine she might not enjoy it so much with this crappy bike and would be worrying in stead of enjoying. I was so happy she could let go of her worries and trust in some sort of solution whatever happens and just enjoy everything, the whole adventure 🙂

We make good partners doing that! Luckily.. because the problems weren’t over yet :p

Later that day the crank came off again and we stopped at a mechanic in Cista Provo, who fixed it again by tightening the boult. I had been worrying about the extreme heath from the days before (Anne doenst handle that too well with her milkwhite skin), but while we were waiting it had also started raining, cooling down our route a lot.
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Again, perfect! The universe made us stop here exactly in time 🙂 Another customer arrived (who did speak English) and arranged for us to sleep in the neighbors garden that night. The owners didn’t talk to us but came bringing a bag of fruits, so nice 🙂

 

The next morning. Biking only some 200 meters, the crank was coming off again! Anne was smart enough to ask someone in the middle of the café, where all the men were looking at us already and one of them stepped up and called a bike-mechanic-friend who came with the brilliant idea to have the crank welded and showed us the way to get to the welding shop!
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Despite being a little bit worried, we were having lots of fun and we thought this time we would be fine for a while 🙂

We had a beautiful route and when we stopped for some water, we got invited for chicken, bread and drinks.
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Beer kept coming so I needed a little nap after that 😉

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Later that afternoon, at another café, again we were offered drinks, people are so nice everywhere! The Dutch government warns about getting robbed in Bosnia, but we kinda experienced the opposoite.

We made it to Busko jezero, a beautiful lake,

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where we found a fantastic camping spot in the immense garden of the first person we asked. We did some skinnydipping, washed our hair and enjoyed the private beach (except for some fishermen and some cows) and beautiful sunset!

 


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Next day we started climbing the mountain towards Tomislavgrad when the crank completely broke off. Oh dear! This was just getting hilarious :p One day without trouble on the bike, is one day less adventure!!

We decided to hitchhike to the city, where we knew there was supposed be a bikeshop. Within 5 minutes we were sitting in a van towards the city, the guy asking around where the bikeshop is, dropping us there and explaining the mechanic in Bosnian language what was wrong, only leaving after being sure he could fix it. Wow!

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We were learning pretty quickly that to every problem there is a solution and there is no reason in the world to be worried about anything. People are so nice and willing to help. The West can learn a lot from this! We agreed we should look out for others more often and more intensely back home, see if we can do something, at least offer. Have our minds less focused on ourselves and our tight schedules but more open and taking care of each other. Inviting people, sharing drinks and food, offering our time and love. Makes the world so much nicer 🙂

 

The bikeshop fixed us with a new crank for only 5 euros and we were on our way again! Stopping at the café for water brought us another round of free drinks, before we entered the emptiness of park Blidinje. Wow! That was a big highlight of the trip! A beautiful route through and over the mountain, the 1200 meter plateau, fantastic views.
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It is hard to describe this beauty and even pictures cannot capture the feelings we felt. The guy at the last café had assured us the route was ‘perfect for biking’! Which would have been the case if we didn’t have all this luggage haha. There was lots of offroading!
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Also on steep climbs. But we did some great teamwork and made it up 🙂 ‘perfect for biking’  became our new favorite saying when roads were tough :p

 

We found one motel on the plateau where we stopped to have a drink.

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On the wifi we discovered we (against expectations) already did most climbing, so obviously we ordered more drinks :p, then dinner, and we spent all evening having fun at the motel 🙂

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Sun was down for quite some time before we pitched the tent behind the motel (i was a little drunk). We enjoyed some scrambled eggs in the morning, crazy luxury! (this is not something I do on this trip usually, but Bosnia is pretty cheap and it’s Anne’s holiday so we gave ourselves this present!)..

There was almost only downhill the next morning, which was tough without paved roads but it gave us the time to enjoy the fantastic views. It was one of the most beautiful downhills i had seen so far!

 

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We were warned about mines,

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found another perfect lunch break stop

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Had some rock throwing competition with these local kids, we named kwik,kwek and kwak 🙂 (kids around the world are all the same :p)

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and made our way down to Jablanica, well, see for yourself..

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There was a small tunnel (Bosnian mainroads are full of them) so i wore my helmet; it was the first time Anne saw that, so picture time 😀

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We arrived in sablanica early so we (in fact, Anne :p) decided to do a little detour up the lake to have a look at this magnificent dam and these bridges where we couldn’t resist to jump in 😀

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I had two ‘blond’ moments that day and was happy Anne was there to make fun of me 😀 biking towards the dam felt so so heavy but from the perspective off the road against the mountains I was sure we were going downhill all the way and started to be very worried about the way back and not so sure anymore i wanted to do this detour :/ haha luckily we pulled through, it was worth it for sure, and what i thought was a downhill turned out to be a pretty tough climb, so the way back was very easy! I was so confused :D!

The next blond thing was when we rode our bikes on the bridge in Jablanica to see the old collapsed railway bridge.

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I lost one flipflop with getting of the bike and it felt deep down in inaccessible thick bushes (i tried!). Damn.. Wearing heavy hot shoes from now on.. Pfff it was funny 😀 stupid Tamar. Two things to add to my list, already consisting of completely missing the Croatian border, falling of my bike after four rakijas and taking a pee in some nettles 🙂

 

The night we would spent at a warmshower host. I had only had very good experiences with warmshowers before and wanted to share this with Anne. Also, we were both looking forward to a real shower after these days of camping J. But this warmshower was very strange and uncomfortable. Our host picked us up from the restaurant parking lot close-by and brought us to a nice little house on the lake. He parked us at a table and didn’t speak to us at all anymore! He never asked whether we were ok, where we were coming from, if we needed anything, didn’t show us the bathroom, nothing.. Finally I decided to talk to him and with the shortest answers ever to my questions we found out that all the other people around were his family members, the 12 chained (thank god) dogs were his and they were busy working on their weekendhouse. We could sleep there and we sort of understood everyone else would go home that night. We found out by ourselves that there was no shower. And later, also no electricity. Very strange. In the end it was all fine and we slept well in our private house with a great view but yeah, strange.

 

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From Jablanica we biked all the way along the beautiful lake towards Konjic, where we arrived early afternoon. We asked around for a small hostel we had seen online (Anne really wanted a shower by now :P) but ended up sleeping in the most beautiful ottoman house!

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It was owned by Naim, with whom we also ended up having coffee, drinks, dinner, breakfast, lunch; insane unexpected hospitality! Cevapi here, Cevapi there, Cevapi everywhere…

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Naim wins awards for the most beautiful garden every year and the drink made from his roses was veeerrryy nice and soft 🙂

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His friend Orhan was there all the time too, both drinking and smoking all day (everybody smokes a lot, cigarettes are only one euro), and singing to traditional music from an actual cassette tape 😀

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and Orhan thaught us how to make traditional Burek on the fire, fantastic!

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It took a lot of time, because everything goes veeerrryy slow in Bosnia :p I like it 😉 and we had to go back to the butcher twice to make sure we had the freshest meat.

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The Burek was fantastic!! Anybody wants the recepy, ask me 🙂

We went for a swim in Neretva river and Orhan arranged a friend to bring us by van over the highest mountain on the dangerously busy road towards Sarajevo, awesome!

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He even contacted a friend on the way, so we had a place to pitch our tent. No tent though, we ended up sleeping in Edo’s beautiful weekendhouse on a beautiful hill after another night of drinking and cevapcici’s and kaymak with Edo and his friend Mickie. Wow.
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The next morning we went to a close little ranch where we were waiting for the chicken to actually lay the egg (while we were drinking rakija before breakfast!),
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before cooking the egg for breakfast, along with some salad from vegetables Edo picked directly from his garden. WOW WOW WOW.
Mickie Joined us and we gave him the bike as a present; after promising us he would love it as much as we did.. Goodbye Hulk!

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With only one bike left, Mickie drove us into Sarajevo (yeay for not biking these horrible roads into town!).

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He did some detours, playing mister tourguide J and dropped us off in the middle of Old Town Sarajevo. We had made it! Every day is another adventure and great unexpected things were happening all the time:) Bosnia is fantastic 😀 The country is incredibly beautiful, and so are the people!

In Sarajevo we stayed with a German couchsurfing host (Lutz) with a fantastic house with three extra rooms and an extra bathroom for guests, say what?!

 

 

 

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So Sarajevo!
We both didn’t know anything about the city, didn’t do any research and had no clue what to expect. I am becoming extremely lazy/indifferent in my research and just let things happen to me. Also, i feel no need at all to see everything and tick my boxes ‘been here, done that’. I completely skipped the word planning from my vocabulary. My perception of time is getting close to nonexistent and i have big difficulties answering simple questions like: how long did you stay in Croatia, when were you in Venice, what did you do on friday, where are you going next, which route do you take, when will you be in Turkey? I have absolutely no clue what day it is, or what will happen the next day. I dont know where i will sleep, which road i will bike or how much elevation there is. I let go of absolutely everything and live in the moment completely. Ill just see what the day brings. By now i know it is always good 🙂 This freedom is impossible to describe, and fantastic to experience! Im finally letting go of everything, I really needed to leave everything behind back home and not be on a time schedule. A half year break from work would not have brought me to this, so I am really happy i quite everything and went. These are the conditions i needed. Never felt more free! It’s crazy how one can feel so trapped in a country where you have everything..

Anyways, Anne and I reached the mysterious Sarajevo! Without a plan we just started walking, bought some fantastic cheap and great tasting fruits at the market (10kg watermelon for 2,50 euro!)

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and ended up at this square where the local men were playing chess on this big-ass chess board, cool!

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I love playing chess, because it’s a game without chance or luck, it’s your own doing if you win or lose. And especially in foreign countries i like to play, because language barriers dont exist in this game 🙂 We sat for hours watching the pro’s play. These guys are playing here everyday! At one point Anne challenged the guy who had been winning all this time to play against me. Haha, nice Anne, thanks a lot! (I love her for that, she had also signed me up for bungeejumping at Blaukrans last year :D).

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It was an exciting game, almost last an hour, and more and more people came to watch and start giving me advice, which was more like a lot of men all shouting at me in Bosnian using grand handgestures, it was crazy!! We finally lost the game but it was great fun 😀

That evening we met with our couchsurfing host Lutz from Germany, who welcomed us in his beautiful house. Lutz is a very nice guy and we felt very lucky we could stay with him! I even stayed four days 🙂
We joined the walking tour in the morning, enjoyed the view over the city

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and with the immense portion of history the guide threw at us, finally all the pieces were falling in place for me. I can see the big picture of the Balkans now. From the great ottoman empire to WWI (Principe shot Franz Ferdinand here) to the Kingdom (!) of Bosnia to WWII to liberation by Tito and his death in 1980 to the Yugoslavia war which started right after the majority of Bosnians voted for independence at the referendum of 1992 (Serbs didn’t agree!) and the complicated mix of cultures, religions and politics in Bosnia nowadays. Within Bosnia there is an Serbian republic and the border is directly noticable by the fact that the islamic graveyards have changed into Christian ones and.. that the signs no longer point at Sarajevo but at Belgrade!
Things were getting even better when one of the group members, Timothy from Singapore, joined us for the rest of the day. Also Fabio from Italy, who we met at the chess adventure, joined us after i spotted him taking secret pictures from the prayers at the main mosque. Later Zahar joined us, a palestinian Muslim from Tel Aviv, also willing to share all his thoughts. This group was very very special and i dont think i ever had such deep conversations so short after meeting anyone. Tim is a missionary on his way to Congo, Fabio has his personal reasons for travelling (i wont reveal them here) and we were constantly giving each other goosebumbs by our stories and lots of inspiration. It was very special each one of us felt safe enough to share our deepest feelings and strongest emotions. These guys really got to me!

Anne and I had a beautiful dinner up the hill with great view over the city as ‘the last supper’

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and we joined the guys after for a looooooong night of drinking, dancing the streets, great fun and more chess 🙂

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Anne left me the next morning… So sad.. I love her so much and we experienced such great adventures together! But i know she’s living her personal dream in Holland, im very happy she’s happy 😀

That night I joined the guys again! We walked the graveyard (my strange preference) up to the yellow fortress, a fantastic place to be at night!

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Again, it was 4.30 when i finally came home. I just couldnt say goodbye to them, i really wish i could spend much more time and i’ll try to make sure we will in the future. They touched me so deeply. But hey, we are all on our own path and i think we all changed our perspective and direction a little bit after these days, it feels like we were meant to meet. Beautiful 🙂

With the whole group leaving Sarajevo in different directions, it was time for me to get on the road again as well. But jou after i stayed one more day to go hiking with Lutz, his colleague Suzanne and two other belgian guests who were on a roadtrip. It was beautiful!

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I moved towards Srebrenica and felt a strange combination of sadness, happiness, tiredness and lots more emotions 🙂

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With so little biking the last weeks my legs didn’t want to move anymore after only 65 km and i asked to pitch the tent. Not a word of english, but very welcoming, coffee, and I could even use their toilet which was this wooden shed with a hole in the ground 😀 they were so poor i turned down the food they offered and went to bed hungry. It felt good.

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My last two days in Bosnia I spent in Srebrenica, where in july 1995 over 8000 Muslim Bosniaks were murdered (officialy declared genocide!) in the Bosnian war by units of the Bosnian Serb Army of Republika Srpska (VRS). I will write a separate post on this experience, because it deserves that. On how the UN’s first ever declared ‘safe zone’, under protection of Dutch soldiers, became the biggest massacre in Europe since WWII.