We are moving!!

For all those who enjoyed reading the blog, and for everybody who likes traveling, we wanted to let them know that we are building a new travel website in www.210countries.com, something between a blog, a travel guide and a meeting point. It’s still on the firsts steps, testing and trying new things, but we are already pùblishing there. And the next post is about Sierra Leone’s beaches:

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It was really a nice time here! Thanks to all!

Categories: Places to go, The Sun in my Forehead, travel | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Parties to live I: Festa Major de Vilafranca

Vilafranca Location Map

Vilafranca Location, 35 km from Barcelona

Today I want to present one of the most complete festivities of Catalonia, and one of the best places to see the human towers. Many people come every year to Barcelona to pass some tourist days, but not that many know what they can find around it. The possibilities are numerous, and one of the best if you are there on the right time, is the Vilafranca’s Main Festivity.

It takes place in the village of Vilafranca del Penedès (famous for its wine) from 29th August until 2nd September. Its origins date back to the 17th century, and it was declared patrimonial festivity of national interest on 1991, consolidating itself as one of the biggest parties’ in Catalonia.

Castellers de Vilafranca

Vilafranca's Castellers. You can see the best Human Towers on 30th of August

With some popular dances and folkloric acts dating from 1600, the popular participation is key to the development of the party, and during 5 days the streets get filled with people who want to accompany the traditional dances, to live the best Castells performance or see the entrance of the Saint in the Church of the town.

Although the town festivity begins on 22nd with low intensity acts, the main days of the festivity are from 29th to 31st, finishing with fire performances and other acts on 1st and 2nd of September.

August 29th starts with the Bell Ringing and Firecrackers, emotional moments which indicate that the party has started one more time. The folkloric groups walk in a procession dressed up with their traditional clothes while showing their abilities. Giants, devils, dwarfs, dragons, human towers and the eagle, among others, can be seen in the procession, that ends in the Council Square (Plaça de la Vila) where the human towers are built.

On the evening takes place the Saint Felix Procession, where the image of the Saint is taken from the Administrator’s house to the St. Maria’ basilica, accompanied by all the folkloric dances seen in the morning, followed by a fireworks display. In the night of Empalmada (literally meaning “connected”), music bands plays around the village until morning, helping those who, following the tradition, don’t go to sleep.

Drac de Vilafranca

Vilafranca's Dragon is the oldest in Catalonia dating from year 1600, and a symbol for the city.

30th August is Saint Felix Day, the main day of the festivity. St. Felix Relics are on display in order to venerate them. Early morning the grallers start playing the Matinades walking around the town in order to wake up everybody.

After some more dances, begins one of the central performances of the festivity: the DISPLAY OF HUMAN TOWERS, known in the local language as Castells (Castles), showing the best formations and performances in the world in this field. Well, in not many places people play this kind of sport, and as Vilafranca has maybe the best Castells group, we can say it’s the best place to see it. I can recommend you to see it, it’s spectacular!

Entrada de Sant Felix

Burning Santa Maria's Church for the Entrance of Saint Felix

In the evening, the procession is formed again to take the Saint for the last time to the Church, moment known as Entrance of Saint Felix, deep and intense moment accompanied with fireworks, dances and the sound of the gralles all over the square. And after dinner the bands and concerts come again until the next morning.

Resuming, if you come from abroad, it’s clear that 30th is the best day to visit the festivity.

The Matinades come again next morning for those who still have some energy left, and the day continues similar to those before. During the day, you’ll see the folkloric dances, human towers (littler), and the Saint is finally taken from the Church to the Administrator’s house. And the music follows the whole night…

On 1st September takes place one of the most outstanding and participative shows: the Correfoc (fire-run), where groups of devils from all over Catalonia are happy to burn with fireworks all the brave people who defies them, while people on the balconies help a little by throwing water to the young courageous ones.

Finally, the 2nd is mostly devoted to the children, who do more or less the same as has been done two days ago.

Resuming

Right in the month of August, when Barcelona and Catalan shores get crowded by tourists, you have one of the most amazing festivities in Europe right some kilometers away. Three days of non stop party in the city of wine.

It’s important to take a look at these things when we go somewhere: most festivities are in summer and we are mostly traveling in summer. It’s not difficult to make things match. But if we plan only to go to capitals, we are missing many things. So I would recommend leaving the tourist guide for a while, and make some little research about the places we are going in order to find some local event. And, of course, Vilafranca’s Main Festivity can be the next.

Here you have some photos:

Castellers de Vilafranca

Vilafranca's Castellers

Categories: Catalonia, Europe, Parties to live, travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Entering Moldova

Laza - Hincesti

Laza - Hincesti. Click to enlarge

Getting up in Laza was an easy thing. Pack up the tent, a couple of vagabond dogs and thumb on the road. A father with his child appeared and took me to the next town (Vaslui), where I could ride a van that left me in a crossroad to the village of Crasna.

There I met Constantinu, a man who was working and living in Spain and was temporally in Romania because his mother was ill in the hospital. He was with his two children, picking some plums from a nearby tree. He had the double nationality, and showed me a crumpled paper that truly proved it.  He was working in Oviedo’s El Corte Ingles as furniture fitter, but had lived in Valencia, Tarragona and, as many other Romanians, in Alcalá de Henares. He was a man worn out by work, with tired honey eyes, with plenty of stories about the ages he had been working.

I stayed with him and his children one hour or so, until their bus came and we said goodbye. I kept hitching in the same place without much luck, until it came a lightly dressed beautiful girl, asked me if the bus was gone and, as I answered affirmatively, began to hitchhike by my side. I knew that was going to be fast, and I was right. The first car that passed in front of us stopped.

The girl sat in the front seat. Nobody was saying anything. Until the girl got down.

“Can I stay in the car?”, I asked.

“Oh! I thought you were together with the girl”, answered the driver, “of course, you can”

And then it turned to be some familiar thing. His wife was living in Barcelona and knew Spanish, and he had been many times there. He had made money in the timber business with wood from those Carpathian forests, selling it to the growing Chinese market. He knew some words in Spanish and said:

Ven a mi casa, this must be celebrated”

Cart crossing the Romanian lands

Carts crossing the Romanian lands

His house made me remember a typical Mediterranean house, a big pitcher, a giant decorative mortar and a grapevine covering with shadow the front of the façade. Further, apple and lemon trees, and a couple of dogs wandering or sleeping around. And three women talking bla bla bla under the shadow.

One of them was the wife of Laurian. She knew Spanish very good; she was a designer living in Barcelona, now on Romania for vacations. Their newborn baby was there, so I congratulated the family. At her side, her sister was a little bit shy, beautiful 25 years and dark brilliant hair falling down the neck. She demonstrated her good English as we were making a small talk, but the sister insisted to put me inside the car and drove right to the border of Moldova, with Laurian speeding up a big motorcycle at our side.

Romania - Moldova border

Romania - Moldova border

I stayed a long time on the border. Picking up a foreigner can be a funny thing when you are driving alone and you are a little bit bored, but nobody sees it so clear when it’s the time to cross the border. There, it wasn’t an exception. Golden dry grass was covering a flat zone without any shadow in the deep hours of the midday and my head was starting to burn. My hat was lost in a lonely Bosnian road, so I had nothing to cover, but suddenly a van stopped.

It had many seats and some exhausted people. They were Moldovans living in London, and came all the way by bus for the summer holidays. The bus was half empty, so half of the people were Romanians who already went down. A couple of them talked a little with me, but they were so tired, so the conversation was not fluid. A woman who only spoke Russian was repeating “Samaliot, samaliot” and the customs guards let us go without many hassle. Then happened something strange. There was some misunderstanding when they were talking about me. There was a discussion about how I got there. Some said I came by plane, another said by train… I told them I came hitchhiking, but nobody wanted to listen. They were very happy with the discussion, and I was having a funny time. But it didn’t last quite long. They were tired.

The green and yellow beautiful Moldovan rolling hills passed upon my eyes as the car was making kilometres until half the way between the border and the capital, where I decided to get down in the harmed town of Hincesti.

I thought that in that decrepit place I would be able to find something cheap to sleep. But cheap or expensive, I couldn’t find anything, so I followed the road without any hurry, sitting in a bank, and eating some smashed berries I had in my bag. Those berries really looked bad, but they seemed to calm the need of asking for something of two gipsy woman. But they were two nice fat old gypsy woman and I sat with them and laughed and made some tricks and I kept following the road, stop at a couple of bars and at the end of the town there was a beautiful road pub near a forest in the foot of a hill, and I decided to take a couple of beers and plant my tent near the pub because I was still afraid of bears and wolves and all the fucking beasts in the world.

And that was all. And goodnight.

Flower

Categories: Europe, hitchhiking, Moldova, Romania, The Sun in my Forehead, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Places to go IV. Sundarban

Sundarban map

Sundarban map. Click to enlarge

Right between the tourist hub of South East Asia and the crowded India, Bangladesh hides a joy of natural wonders and wild life. It’s the biggest mangrove forest in the world and one of the largest reserves for the Royal Bengal Tiger. Of course tigers are the main attraction of the place, but there’s plenty of other wildlife, botanic beauties and stunning landscapes of warm color waters under sunset lights.

Lying in the vast delta of the Bay of Bengal, in the confluence of the rivers Padma, Brahmaputra and Meghna, it consists in a flat wide net of meandering streams, creeks and estuaries. There are two ecoregions: the “Sundarbans freshwater swamp forests”, seasonally flooded, and the “Sundarbans mangroves”, flooded everyday at high tide. The mangrove system serves also as a natural barrier against the floods inland in the cyclone season…

This post have been moved to the following page:

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Keep reading there! More photos awaiting for you!

Tiger

Royal Bengal Tiger in Sundarbans

 

 

Categories: Asia, Bangla Desh, Places to go, Sundarban, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gay vampires in Transylvania

mapo 6

Campulung - Laza. Click to enlarge

With the daylight it came the calm. But when I got outside and thought the last night’s tight spot, I discarded that it was a bear. For the trajectory of the beast, when it touched my little tent had surely passed under the guy rope, so it couldn’t be that big. And as Romania is the country of the vagabond dogs, I supposed it was one of them.

Adrian was my first lift of the day. He was a quads mechanic and 4×4 mountain races driver on his free time. He was pretending to be angry because I wasn’t making so many photos of the landscape, which he considered very stunning – and it actually was. Finally he stopped his car in the top of a mountain pass where I was obliged to make some shots. Here you have one of them:

Fundata

Around Fundata, between Campulung and Brasov

Concrete lorry full of decorating souvenirs

Cabin of the concrete lorry, full of decorative souvenirs

Then we went to his business, a house full of quads, paintball stuff and 4×4 cars, all made to attract tourists on summertime, he explained me something about all the show and gave me a jar of delicious marmalade. From there I jumped into a funny concrete lorry with souvenirs from all over Europe decorating the cabin. The driver had been to the Vatican and was very proud of it, but it was the only thing we could exchange: he didn’t speak any language but Romanian and was incredibly bad in understanding the body language. He even couldn’t understand what my name was. But for some strange reason – maybe instinct – he dropped me in the exact place I wanted to go: the Bran Castle.

The Bran Castle is part of the Dracula industry in Romania. Even thought there’s no historical evidence that Vlad Tepes had been in the castle, its walls are covered with Dracula’s illustrations, genealogical trees of his family and other stuff about him. But why not? It’s a beautiful castle in the middle of Transylvania, so even it’s too modern for a middle ages castle, let’s believe Dracula lived there, make many photos and say “hey, I set the foot on the same floor Dracula did!”

Bran Castle

Bran Castle dominating the village

From there, a surgeon brought me right to the center of Brasov. I decided to look for a hostel, it wasn’t hard to find.

I spent two days in the city . With a center full of colors like many other Central European cities, Brasov has a small center that is rapidly seen. Then some tour on the nearby mountains and it’s done. And comes the time to join the every night party in the hostel, drink many beers and meet new friends. That night it was the World Cup 2010, playing England against Australia. There were many Australians and English in the hostel, so it was not difficult to find a subject to talk about. The Koreans were more quiet, and a French girl told me stories of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, where she had been to and I was heading for. But I stopped the conversation afraid of getting ti know too many things, because it’s always better to discover them by yourself.

After two nights, on a rainy morning, I was next to Otniel as he was driving me some towns away from Brasov, where Daniel picked me up. He was a dentist going to Hasi to make an exam to reaffirm himself as a good doctor, and he decided to take me until Bacau (that is quite a long ride). He was complaining about his country. He was not agree about the measures to be implemented by the Romanian Government against the upcoming crisis, that was going to cut the public employees salaries by 20%.

“And nobody protests in the streets! We don’t know how to fight for our rights!”

Then he complained about the Romanian drivers, telling that people drive too dangerously in his country, criticizing all the cars that were overtaking us… until he made a mistake and we nearly had a small crash. He said shyly “sorry”.

But despite this, it was a very nice ride, maybe the best I had until the moment. We talked a lot about the revolution against Ceaucescu – killed by Romanian people -, the Franco dictatorship in Spain, and other political facts. In one moment, he revealed himself as gay, so I gave him the advice to come to Sitges, a famous gay destination near my town, and he got happy when I told him gays could get married in Spain.

“You are an advanced country!”, he said. But I didn’t know what to answer.

Once in Bacau, I got a lift with Radu, who had become father some days ago and was very happy. He was still a student, and now was going to spend some days in his family cottage in the town of Ivanesti. There he had a vegetable garden, some livestock and bees that made exquisite honey. He said he liked more to work in the field than the engineering he was studying, but there was no future there.

There I took the last ride of the day. As I was planning to reach Moldova the next morning, I didn’t exchange more money. And the driver of the next car wanted a bit, the first of the whole trip who asked me for this. I told him I had not enough, to stop the car so I would wait another, but he was not stopping. Finally he agreed to take my little money and threw me out of the car after the next curve.

But sometimes fortune smiles to someone, and as I looked around, I discovered I was in a wonderful place near a lake, not far from the town of  Laza.

Romania Laza

Near the lake in Laza

Categories: carpathian mountains, Europe, hitchhiking, Romania, The Sun in my Forehead, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Romanian Beauty II

Jiet - Campulung

Jiet - Campulung. Click to enlarge

I woke up in that lonely road of Jiet, but it wasn’t difficult to have a lift. After a few minutes a big truck appeared and I got in. It was driven by Ivi, a happy driver who used to drive all over Europe and now was cheerfully driving his own truck through those unasphaulted roads. And it was hard for his double wagon trailer to make itself a path between those wooden bridges and narrow trees. But he was a master of it. As he was showing me photos of that place in winter time, he told me I was crazy to sleep there: bears and wolves inhabited those forests. Then, he realized our ways were different, and when a van appeared right behind us, he used his radio to call them. After a while, he was turning up to another mountain as I got out and jumped into the van.

Little friends in Lacu Vidra

Little friends in Lacu Vidra

It was some kind of minibus, or a van with lots of seats, with two adults and six children, karts drivers that were going on a competition in some circuit between those mountains. The older one was Alexandru, and he was the one who talked the most, as he was the only who knew some words in English. We had a nice ride until the Vidra Lake, were they turned to a road leading to some resort. And I got out and waited for a car. There I could admire the beauty of those mountains and the lake, as there alone I was insecurelly thinking in wolves and bears living around there. After a while (and always incredibly fast thinking in the loneliness of those roads) a sort of gentleman appeared. Clean, perfectly combed and elegantly dressed, with a new 4×4 car with the wheel in the wrong side as it was bought in England. His name was Gheorghe and he was a farmer. He was driving so fast, making myself scared for my luck, but maybe because of this he stopped in a bus stop in the next town.

Furtherv I was driven by Florin. He had to stop at a bank to make some formalities. He gave me the keys of the car and told me, “Hey, wait here for me, and watch over the car”. There, with the keys in my hands, unethical things passed through my head, but, I’m not that bad. He told me goodbye in Brezoi, where I bought some food and I walked to a park and ate with tho old ladies looking at me. “Where are you from?”, one asked to me in Romanian. “Barcelona, in Spain”. “Oh, you come walking from there?” “Yes!” And they were congratulating me a few time as I was laughing inside…

Caciulata

Caciulata monastery

Some drivers told me I should stop in Caciulata, and I did so. A woman with her daughter brought me to the beautiful old monastery, built in the 14th century, the walls full of orthodox icons paintings and a pleasant calmed atmosphere all around. A nun came to me, told me something I didn’t understand and showed me her teeth made of gold. And yeah, I was happy and hitched again to Ramnicu Valcea inside a car with a trailer. The guy was angry at the beginning, and when I asked what he had in the trailer, he answered “nothing!”. But then we talked more and more and he got happy and finally said “Peanuts, I have many peanuts there! Do you want some?”

I’ve made it to Valcea and there I was picked up by a big old man. He was a mechanic with big and dirty hands. He told me he needed to carry something and we went somewhere by secondary roads. Then he stopped at a big house and said: “Come with me”

Inside the fence it was full of chickens here and there. An old woman with a shawl gave me some grain and made the gesture to  feed the hens, so it was what I did. Then it was the turn for the pump. I helped Adrianu to carry that heavy pump inside his car, and we left right to Curtea de Arges.

After a couple of car rides, I was with Madalin, a sim card and Orbit chewing gum seller who also wanted some help. We were driving through tracks to small villages bars, trying to sell the goods. He didn’t know English and every time we couldn’t understand each other, he was calling his cousin, who tried to say the same in English or Italian. And it was getting late, but that was more exciting, paths full of cows and hens, bars full of dirty drunk men and everything was fast and interesting and nice.

Mateias Mausoleum

Mateias Mausoleum near Campulung

Finally we arrived to Campulung. He showed me a pension, I gave thanks to him, and when he was away, I walked following the road looking for a place to plant my tent. After 10 minutes walking, Madalin appeared again.

“What are you doing?” He said.

I improvised something about the pension prices, and he decided to bring me to another pension, right in the path to Brasov. We stopped near Mateias Mausoleum, and he showed me a resort not far from there. I asked him about planting the tent around there.

“Noooo! Bears!”

But I didn’t pay attention to him.

Late at night, I was reading torch on head when I heard something  big went down the mountain slope, came to my tent and started shaking it. I was terrified. But as I was trying to find my knife, an empty water bottle was treaded on frightening the animal, and I could hear how it went to my food garbage that I smartly had placed some meters further my tent.

That was a long and hard day, but it was impossible to sleep.

Categories: carpathian mountains, Europe, hitchhiking, Romania, The Sun in my Forehead, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Places to go III. The Kolyma Highway

Kolyma Highway - The Road of Bones

Kolyma Highway - The Road of Bones. Distance in miles

If the world would have an end, the Kolyma region would be surely a firm candidate. The end of the Russian almost uninhabited Far East offers a mix of adventure, unknown, picturesque people, incredible nature and cold. A lot of cold.

Made by forced labour in Stalin’s times, the road M-56 is also known as the Kolyma Highway or the “Road of Bones”, because of many people who died building it were directly buried under or along the road. It begins in the big city of Yakutsk, in the region of Sakha, and finishes in the Pacific coast, in the city of Magadan. The original route via Tomtor was 1900 km long, and distance increased with the new road. On the road you can find  the coldest inhabited place on Earth, ghost towns, several old gulags  and a stunning nature all over the landscape.

Traveling the Kolyma highway is a challenge itself and should not be done by people not ready for extreme conditions of isolation, cold, inexistence of public services (such as health, transport, security, etc), wild nature (wolves, bears and those dangerous ticks), and bad road maintenance that can lead to an accident. Alcoholism and nature of locals can be tricky, as well as their lack of foreign languages knowledge, but I suppose this should be considered as part of the fun.

Oymyakon is considered the Pole of Cold

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210 Countries – The Kolyma Highway

You have more “Places to go” pages there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Thanks for reading!

Oymyakon

 

Categories: Asia, Places to go, Russia, Siberia, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Romanian beauty

Beograd Petrosani

Click to enlarge

If we would make a list with the best countries for hitchhike, Romania would be clearly rounding the top. The waiting times decrease to an average around five minutes and the fun is assured. I could happen through many different situations with the people who gave me a lift: going to sell telephone cards to lost villages through mountain unasphaulted paths, help a man to repair his bathroom, bring a (heavy) pump from one house to the other, and more earthly activities like giving food to the chicken or keeping a car (with the keys in my hands) while the driver went inside the bank to attend some business.

To get out of Beograd, I took a train to Vrsac, and there, near the Romanian border, I began to hitchhike. An old car took me to the customs control. When hitchhiking, it’s very rare that a woman let you inside her car. They are afraid of an aggression or a pervert. But when I saw the first lonely woman of the trip stopped for me, I understood why. She was extremely ugly. Over her lips, there was a mole flooded by hair, and the face was rounded with fallen greasy skin. Her body was huge, exceptionally fat. She was from Kosovo, but escaped to Serbia after the political events that everybody know.

– Everything is ruled by mafia in Kosovo! – she said.

She took me to a road bar near the border. Then I crossed the line and it began the fun.

Entering from the Serbian border in Vrsac, the Romanian lands appear as a flat thing covered by sunflower and corn fields, and it’s not until Reşita that it becomes undulated like the sea surface, and keeps like this till we arrive in Petroşani. There the real Carpaty Range starts and the roads become abrupt climbs to beautiful mountains. And the beauty is an important point in Romania. The mountains are specially photogenic. Although they are not so high as in other places like the Alps,  the wet climate give an intense green to the valleys and the grass fields mixes constantly with dense forests to give it a very characteristic landscape.

My first lift in  Romania was an empty bus that  was going to pick up people in Timişoara. I went down in the road cross with Reşita, where a truck driver saw me. His name was Ovidiu, and he had been living in Catalonia. We talked lengthily about the towns he had been to,Tarragona, Lleida, and some more, and talked again and again about a disco he went to in Lleida and he was offered cocaine.

Jiet

Road outside Jiet

After some misunderstanding with him, I was dropped down in Reşita. I walked till the end of the town, where a policeman found it funny to ask for my passport. I was retained one hour there while the police was trying to figure out who I am and why I was there.

A car with a young boy who once was working in Napoli bring me to Caravansebeş through a road that was going wavy more and more. I asked the way to Hateg to a guy that was walking, and he said:

– You go hitchhiking, right? Come with me, I’ll take you!

He left me in a nearby town right in the road to Hateg, a fantastic spot to hitch the next car, a refrigerator van. The driver was very proud of his van, because he could keep his water and dinner cold. He explained me he went everyday to different cities to bring some meat, and today it was the turn for Hateg.

Outside Jiet

Sleeping place outside Jiet

After an easy way to Petroşani, I decided to go deep in the mountains. I wanted to arrive to the Vidra Lake and sleep there, but I didn’t know the road. Just out of Jiet it became just a path that made its way between the walls of the mountain. The cars completely disappeared, and the gorge didn’t leave any empty gap to place the tend. But after a long walk I could find a place to sleep near the river. It was a long day and I was tired; I deserved a bath.

Categories: Beograd, Europe, Romania, Serbia, The Sun in my Forehead, travel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reaching Beograd

Doboj - Beograd

The rain wasn’t stopping. All over the Bosnian valleys, through the happy character of its people and their Balcanic enthusiasm, the rain satisfied the thirst of those green trees and bushes, and filled the rivers to its limit. But I didn’t give up. I kept hitching the road, thumb by thumb, from one car to the other, from a mechanic who went to buy tools to a wedding car all covered by shabby ribbons and bows of doubtful elegance. One Imam, orthodox Serbs, returned emigrants who made money in Italy or Switzerland and now where living an easy and wealthy life in their hometown… resuming, many singular people, all of them with their peculiarities, different and original, genuine as the country itself, talking about a better future or a sad past, and absolutely, all of them, funny and talkative and kind.

One of them was Stefano, a 64 years old man who lived in Switzerland for 35 years. Now he was back in Bosnia for the rest of his life. He spoke Italian very well and, encouraged by my Spanish origin, was saying all the time:

“Si, si, si! Si señor!”

It was a good time with Stefano. He talked to me about the war (which he had not lived), about his sons, one working in Italy, the other in Beograd. Happy for the meeting, he drove me 35 km further than he should, dropped me in Bijelina and I began to walk.

Bijelina, Bosnia

Bijelina, Republika Srpska, Bosnia

Bijenlina is right in the bordering region with Serbia. It seemed a richer place, full of colorful little houses with gardens all over kilometers of road, and I had nowhere to place my tent. Finally I found an abandoned house, and I slept on its backyard. Next morning the house was full of people. In the garden, inside the house… and around my tent. As I discovered, it was some sort of communal house that was burned some time ago, and the neighbours where repairing it. All of them looked at me as I was packing my things, and they didn’t say anything, as if I was a strange apparition. I said goodbye and hit the road with the feeling that something was wrong.

Although I had to wait a long time for a car, I crossed the border and arrived to Beograd in the early evening of a long day of June. That was fine enough. A new place to discover through the slope.

Beograd Caslte

Beograd Castle

Beograd caused me a good impression. Although it’s lack of some great monument (the castle is less impressing than the ones you can find in many places of Italy, France or Spain), and although the smallness of it’s center, it gave me good vibes. The Serbians are kind people, and the girls are really attractive. On the castle walls, groups of young people drank beer and stronger things inside the warm June nights. I could talk a little about basketball, Partizan and Bodiroga and so on, but I came back early to the hostel to wash my clothes. Something that was really needed.

Beograd market

Beograd market

Categories: Balcans, Beograd, Bosnia, Europe, hitchhiking, Serbia, The Sun in my Forehead, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Bosnian experience

Bosnia is one of the last really genuine countries in Europe. There’s a great mix, but the difference between every of their cultures remains strong. A massive amount of mountains allows tiny roads that follows green valleys between the diversity of its people. And there are also the memories of the war, which are not funny, but interesting enough. Traveling is something we do mostly for fun, but there’s nothing bad in put a little bit of interest in the history, the circumstances, and the possibilities of the place we are visiting. And Bosnia have plenty of circumstances which can be interesting to know. Since the romans settlements to the slavicisation of the country and the Turks invasions, the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria –the spark that set off World War I-, the other war and the communist times. And then happened what we already know. Me, I don’t like involving too much in the politics of each place. I mean I like to know, but I don’t like to discuss. I better let people talk and talk to me, and expose their visions. It’s by listening that we learn more; the more you listen, the more you’ll have an exact vision of the problems on locals eyes, that can be so different from the visions we get in our houses. And this is important. The less we discuss about politics, the more we’ll learn and more friends we’ll have. Politic talks are discussions if we give our opinion, but are interviews if we ask the people to explain their point of view to us. So my recommendation is to make more interviews than anything else. Everywhere, but specially in a country with a past like Bosnia.

I had some special rides in Bosnia. One of them was Mustafa and his friend. They gave me a lift one day, and next day I found them again on the road and took me for second time. But more amazing was to find myself inside a school bus with a teenagers’ classroom on a three-day trip, where I felt abused with questions about my girlfriends, spanish football and sex.

Banja Luka orthodox church

Banja Luka orthodox church

From Italy I had rain in all my days. Not all time, but all days some rain at all. I was hitchhiking with my waterproof when Namir and Goran stopped and took me to Banja Luka. I have a great memory of them. Namir was the driver. He was a tall ex-basketball player who went to play in Poland, but had to go back to his country for the war. At his side, Goran enjoyed to play blues on the tape. They invited me to drink a coffee on a road bar, and then I went with them to buy things for their house, to pay the electricity bill in the National Electric Company, and to the bank to pay the bill for the water. Then, we went to their house (and mysteriously some slivovica shots came to our hands), and finally we went to a bar. They made me a present, a Bosnian t-shirt which I promised to take into China – and I did. Then, their friends (Zoran, Goran and Zoran) came and the fun increased. They began to explain stories of the war, joking about it and made toasts as the beer was accidentally falling into my stomach. And I limited to listen to them, admire the male ex-soldiers party and drink and drink and drink.

I was drunk when I met Senka at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. She was my host I found on Hospitality Club. We stayed in the same house as her father, a man who passed all the time looking at the wall. I didn’t see him making anything else. Jokes apart, he seemed a tired man, a man who had lived enough to understand things. But I’m saying this judging only his eyes (dark profound eyes), ‘cause I didn’t exchange any word with him.

Krupa na Vrbasu, Banja Luka

Krupa na Vrbasu, Banja Luka, Bosnia

We went to the center, and Senka showed me an exposition made by her in the center of the city. There were many photo compositions, and some conceptual disposition of elements and furniture. It all made me feel her need to do new things, in opposition of his father. And made me think a little about the differences between two generations, one who had to carry a heavy load and now finds relief in the flippancy of the new times, and a young generation who wants to fulfill their empty bag with something not coming from their complex past.

I left Banja Luka with the feeling that I could have tried something with her. She was a beautiful girl and I was a free traveler, so there was nothing to fear. Maybe her father in the next room. But there, under the rain, I was a little bit tired for hitchhike. I went to the station and I got into a bus to Doboj.

Categories: Bosnia, Europe, hitchhiking, The Sun in my Forehead, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment