I thought I’d do a quick update on where I am and why I am where I am.
So in my last post I was entering the Balkans, through Slovenia into Croatia. Croatia was everything I remembered it to be and more. First stop in Croatia was Zagreb. A beautiful little city and I had the privilege of staying with Rea, a wonderfully spiritual Airbnb host. We got on incredibly well and I felt so comfortable in her lovely home. I explored Zagreb for 2 days taking a small opportunity for some rest after crossing the Alps and Slovenia without a day off. The cobbled streets of the old city are beautiful and the incline to the north part of the city affords great views of the surrounding area. The old city area is relatively small, but there is a lot going on in the modern city of Zagreb, music and food culture seem to be exploding, I would love to pop back and enjoy this city again in the future.
After Zagreb I headed down to the Plitvice Lakes, this UNESCO world heritage site is the most incredible place I’ve ever been. It’s a series of lakes and waterfalls and it honestly is the most remarkable sight. I could have got lost in my own head for hours there, sadly I got there in the morning at the same time as thousands of other visitors so it was slightly crowded and I didn’t get time to lose myself completely. From amongst the crowd however I did meet Peter, a Danish solo traveller. We spent hours chatting whilst taking in the wonderful views and wishing all the other visitors with their iPads and constant photography would just go away. A short but sweet meeting with a lovely guy. I camped for three nights by the Plitvice Lakes giving me time to explore the Croatian countryside, and after a lovely rest I headed down to Split.
Arriving in Split I took Peter’s advice and decided to stay in a hostel, the first time I’d willingly stayed in a hostel. Immediately this proved to be a great idea as I found the lovely Bryony was staying in my room and we spent an evening chatting, drinking wine and exploring the wonders that Split’s balmy evenings had to offer. Later that evening I also met Vedran (The Viking), a beautiful human being, and we pondered the meaning of life until the small hours.
From Split I hopped over to the island of Hvar, where I met the most incredible couple from California. If I had to describe Ben and Michaella in three words I would say they were kind, generous and wise. Incredible incredible people. After 48 hours of eating, swimming and chatting, and a day on a yacht with The Viking, I decided to head to Korcula, however that plan changed when willow went into labour.
I had to rush back to Split to catch my flight home and 3 weeks later returned to the same place. When I returned to Split the temperature was markedly warmer, hitting 38 degrees in the shade some days. At this point I decided to make a few adaptations to my plan. Originally I had planned to follow the Balkan coast from Croatia, through Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Greece on to Turkey. However with the increased heat and mountainous terrain I decided that once I reached Montenegro I would head north again to connect with the Eurovelo 6 route which follows the Danube out to the Black Sea. So after visiting Korcula (as I had previously planned), riding the Peljesac peninsula, taking in Dubrovnik and Budva, I caught the train from Podgorica to Belgrade. The train ride was once again one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever experienced, the train would run to the tops of the mountains, over the highest viaducts I’ve ever seen, through tunnels and gorges and via tiny remote villages. I loved every moment of that train journey despite it lasting eleven and a half hours.
Once in Belgrade I had to apply for my Azerbaijani visa, so ended up staying in the city for 9 days. I totally fell in love with Belgrade, it’s an amazing place, it’s got a similar vibe to Berlin just without the gentrification – it’s got rustic character and charm with a very cool and arty undertone – Berlin 10 years ago perhaps. The people I met whilst in Belgrade were so fun too, people came and went as I became part of the furniture in the hostel, but each day brought new interesting people to share my time with. I had some great times with some great people.
So on my ninth day in Belgrade, my visa finally arrived and I was left with mixed feelings. I was finally free to get back on my bike and cycle the Danube out to the Black Sea, but I was also terribly sad to leave such a wonderful city that has started to feel like somewhere I could call home.
I’ve now been riding the Danube for five days and it has been wonderful. On the second day I met Julian, an equally crazy German guy who is aiming for Indonesia on his bike. We’ve been riding together since meeting, and covering some serious miles. Oh and the Danube route isnt as flat as I had hoped I made my all time record for most climbing in one day yesterday. We’ve just crossed the border into Bulgaria and we are aiming to hit the coast of the Black Sea within the next five days. From there I will be getting the ferry across the Black Sea to Georgia.
It feels like part one of my adventure is nearly concluded. It’s been a life changing experience so far, I will be sad to leave the relative comfort of Europe behind but I’m so excited to see what the Middle East and Asia have in store.