The end of the letters?

Trip Start Jul 2003
Trip End May 2005

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Thursday, August 28, 2003

Number 6 (27th August 2003 - 21st September 2003)
Thought you may have needed a little more time to absorb the last instalment. This is the last of the Europe theses! (European answers to the confusing letters will follow).
A couple more days in Sarajevo saw us wandering around the Turkish quarter after far too much coffee looking for the Serbian embassy. After a tricky encounter we went to see the Sarajevo War Tunnel. When the city was surrounded by the Serbian forces, the only isthmus connecting it with the rest of Bosnia was over the airport. Unfortunately,this was under the control of Serbian snipers and NATO troops. A tunnel had therefore been constructed under the runways (800m) and it was now `open to the public`. We were shown round by the son of the family who had kept it open during the war, and they were understandibly bitter and greatly affected by all the violence. The 20 year old and his friend had lost many of their friends and they were very open about their feelings. From their point of view, NATO had not protected them for 4 years and then destroyed all Serbian forces in 48 hours when political pressure prompted them to do so. We sat in the bullet-ridden Jewish Cemetery above `Sniper Alley` (the main road through the city) and when Emma got her XL zoom lens out she was dubbed `Sniper!` by the Bosnians! Strange.
Entering the next country (ai) was the equivalent of entering Mordor (Lord of the Rings). Two old ladies behind the midnight bumpy bumpy ride through the mountains bullied us all the way. Nasty crowd. Their capital city (aj) was attacked by NATO troops a few years ago, destroying the military and police HQs. Tatty place, but with an amazing view from the citadel.
New country (ak) saw a crazy night in the crazy station of Timişoara, where tramps were thoroughly beaten regularly throughout the small hours. Then it was off to the pleasant town of Cluj Napoça. Very strange breakfast saw me dropping things all over the supermarket floor with everyone jumping to help. Fantastic dinner in `traditional tourist` restaurant (with us being the guest tourists) saw us reeling out in the early hours giving Emma just enough time to complete Lord of the Rings. And the wine! Vlad Tepas, Count Dracula, then invited us to dinner in his fantastic home town (al). He is not to be confused with Vlad Tapas, aka Count Snackula (Emma`s over consumption of plum cognac producing this note of Spanish comedy). Brasov meant an entertaining night of bear watching when the bears wander into town from the never ending forests to the east. The most entertaining part was when the bear sneezed and a stampede of locals and confused tourists almost destroyed a car. Risnov was wonderful, Castle Bran ok, but Peles Castle breathtaking. Slept with the locals and their pigs (and chickens).
Capital (am) of this most wonderful country not too impressive. Went to see Ceauşescu`s Palace of a 1000 Rooms. 20,000 workers toiled in shifts for 5 years to `complete` this tatty place.
Overnight train (sleeper) to the next capital south (an). This country, famous for its rose attar... not much else as far as we could see but we didn`t give it too much of a look to be fair.
Bus to the next country (ao) and the city of Skopje. Unfortunately, England were to play the locals that night! We welcomed David and the lads to their hotel and then slept badly after the biggest cheese dinner ever. Got our first rip off with a bad shoe cleaning experience, but we`d rather not talk about that.
An Orid Bus to the oldest lake in the world (that was a clue). Turned out to be absolutely wonderful, with a great apartment for tuppence and a bus the next day to the border.
Walking over the border took us to Pogradec in country (ap). Very scenic, now these mountains really should have featured in Lord of the Rings. Don`t go to the bank for local currency just look for the biggest wads of cash you`ve ever seen in the hands of the local money changers. The worst roads in the world combined with the wettest weather then drenched us through (and we were in a car) as we headed to the very scenic town of Gjirocaster. Power cuts that evening didn`t help with the lengthy drying process.
Huge queues at the border, screaming child with toothache (would have been worse if Emma had got hold of him), another bus to the nearest ferry terminal (aq) and a great cabin all the way down to Patras. Haircuts were followed by another ferry through thunderstorms and lightning into ponchos straight into a taxi to Lourdas, Lourdata etc. on the island famous for holding the foot of Saint Andrew (ar). We saw it so we know it`s true. Surprised Emma`s parents on their anniversary relaxing break and ate their holiday budget for a couple of days before ferrying off to the mainland and the home (as) of the Greek gods (Zeus in particular). Emma ran round the first ancient Olympic track, amusing all, and the great `pile of old stones` was marvelled at.
Overnight bus, funny cockroach cricket things, and finally the Greek capital (at)! Lots more piles of old stones were admired. Greeks not happy about Lord Elgin`s exploits here, but we`re sure he saved that lot from the dodgy greeks who `stole` 65 Euros off us for the youth hostel room. Scandalous. New Olympic Stadium 2004 was climbed all over, not exactly ready for Emma`s olympic challenges you might say, until shooed away by some builders. Night ferry to our last European destination, the wonderful island of Chios. Bit drafty, but spent 4 days on a large terrace sunbathing. And nothing else. Very stormy ferry to a cafe in Izmir, to calm Emma`s stomach churning all over the deck.
Big prize (Emma`s doggy bag from the ferry) to guess where we`re going after Istanbul.
Wind swept greetings,

Will and Emma
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