Trekking Back Home

Trip Start Oct 24, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, September 16, 2011

With heavy hearts, we woke at 4:40am to a still and dark Rab. We quickly got our things together and began the walk through the deserted streets to the bus station. We had checked twice earlier that week and learned that there was a 5:15am bus direct to Zagreb -- the only one, which is why we kept missing it. A long, barely moving line greeted us at the bus station. I stood in line and waited to buy the tickets, inching forward at a snail's pace until it was nearly 5:15am and I started fretting that we were going to miss the bus while standing in line. As it turned out, there was no longer a direct bus to Zagreb, and everyone was massively upset, causing quite a stir at the ticket window and making the rest of the people in line wait even longer.

We'd been told the ride to Zagreb would last about 5 hours, but with the last minute itinerary change it added a good hour to the drive, pushing us ever closer to missing our flight home. Fortunately, we pulled into the bus station just in time to sneak onto the 11:30am airport bus, settling into our seats with a sigh of relief and sitting back to check out what Zagreb had to offer.

Half an hour later when we disembarked at the airport, we learned that the price they'd quoted us on the phone had been wrong: we now needed to pay 70 euros more per ticket to get on the flight back to Istanbul. We were desperate to get home and begin the search for Diegs, so quickly agreed to the higher price, checked in, and bided our time until our plane left at 2:45pm. We were back in Istanbul at 6:00pm, and back in Taksim (our neighborhood) at 7:45pm.  We began our search for Diegs within seconds of getting off the bus. You can read his story in the next blog entry.

Without a doubt, our initial impression of our Balkans trip was very, very tainted because of Diego's disappearance -- I'm sure the last few entries haven't been very well written and have been lacking as a result. The distance of time and the arrival of Kali has changed my outlook on the trip and made me feel more positive about the Balkans in general. I wrote a trip recap quite a long time ago, but here are a few additional thoughts I wrote in my journal:
  • SMOKE!!  It sure feels like most people in Istanbul smoke, but in the Balkans it felt like everyone smoked. It was absolutely inescapable.  Smoking was not banned in hotels, restaurants, or bars. Just about the only place that it was illegal was on the bus. By the time we left the Balkans, I felt like it had seeped into my pores and I was exuding the smell constantly.
  • Fee for luggage on buses: In most of the Balkans, you buy your (often exorbitant) bus ticket, but it doesn't include a baggage fee. You had to pay extra if you were "checking" a bag under the bus -- and were often expected to tip the driver for stowing it for you as well!
  • Generally extortionate bus prices: As mentioned above, the bus fares were very, very, very expensive. We paid about $50 to go the 2.5 hours from Split to Mostar, and nearly $100 to go the 5-6 hours from Rab to Zagreb. If I'd had any idea of how expensive it would be to travel around the region, I would have looked into car rentals and done a comparison. I imagine it would have been cheaper -- especially given how much and how often we traveled.
  • Lack of diverse cuisine: The repetitive pizza/pasta menu really turned us off. I love both dishes, but eating both for lunch and dinner every day was way, way, way too much. We were occasionally able to find alternatives, and once we booked ourselves into apartments instead of hotels, we were able to cook our own food and avoid the monotony of the Balkan vegetarian options.
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