Tag Archive: Ferries


It’s as if, as we left Kosovo behind, we cut loose the black cloud that had been metaphorically and literally following us. So we had gone from Bosnia to Serbia to Kosovo in four days, and on the fifth we headed to Albania. Being in Albania was probably the closest thing to being back in India since we left, in terms of how we were treated as travellers there. When we stopped to ask whether the road we were on was the right one towards our destination, we were suddenly surrounded by an entire circle of curious men and boys – people were attempting to be helpful of course, but in a way where it’s really not providing much help… Hitch-hiking doesn’t seem to be understood, either, and so everyone who stopped for us would ask for some money – one man suggested 100 dollars to go about 100km. We said we would catch the bus! The roads were the next and completely contradictory bizzarerie – absolutely pristine. After the shoddy state of Kosovo’s roads, which were in desperate need of some additional tarmac, these were even more surprising. Holes have been blown in mountains and perfect asphalt has been laid, yet there are almost no cars to traverse it…

We headed to Lake Skodra, half of which belongs to Montenegro – we aren’t sure if there is a borderline down the middle…We spent some time enjoying the lack of stress while gazing out over the city and lake from one of Albania’s many famous castles.

The following morning, we headed off to Montenegro – our 5th country in 6 days. Hitching provided some of the most scenic spots we’ve held a cardboard sign at so far.

Unfortunately we lost patience with hitching after 3 lifts in lots of hours not really taking us very far at all, and we caught a bus for the final leg of the way to Kotor.

Kotor has a magnificent Old Town right next to a beautiful Bay. The crap side of this is that abominably enormous cruise liners land their humungous selves in the Bay in the mid-morning, spewing hundreds of organised tourists into Kotor’s tiny alleyways, as well as trashing the view in the Bay. If you can bring yourself to ignore the latter, you can take yourself off to a ‘concrete swimming platform’ for a few hours. This sounds grim, but is in actual fact quite pleasurable, and the only way to lie next to the bay and swim.

During the day the fortifications cost however much, but once night falls they are free to climb, so after dark we went up the 1350 stairs, shielding our eyes from the flood-lights. The view over the town and bay was worth every step.

We basically spent these fews days relaxing and enjoying the sunshine which finally decided to show its face.

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Utrecht and Hannover

The journey started with a good dose of British racism. Security at the check-in desk at Harwich questioned 3 black passengers travelling together and asked to see in their bags. When one of the 3 asked whether they were being searched because they were black, the security responded by saying they do not profile like that and went on to make a loud point about searching the white man behind them. This effort was subsequently undermined when the 3 were stopped again at the passport check.

Now that we have got rid of the racist section lets move onto the Netherlands which has never been accused of being racist…but certainly does have a lot of water. Over half on the Netherlands is at or below sea level, a lot of this is in “polders” which have been reclaimed from the sea. Instead of hedges, they seem to have strips of water between the fields.

Utrecht

We arrived at the Hook of Holland port which, other than the windfarms, is nothing to really remember and made our way by train to Utrecht, where we were met by family friends. Utrecht is not somewhere I would go out of my way to see, but is a useful stop over point between Britain and the rest of Europe. There is about a day’s worth of stuff to do and if you’re lucky you might even get the chance to pay 25 cents for the McDonalds toilet. Surely it costs them more to employ someone to enforce than they make in revenue? You could instead use the toilet in the 5 star hotel across the canal for free.

The lonely planet Europe on a shoe string guide list 3 sights in Utrecht, all of which cost 7 euros or more. Even though we didnt look around much or go to the tourist office we managed to find quite a few free things to see, including the Cloister Gardens (next to the Cathedral). We were also told that there is a great view from the top of a department store, which unlike the Dom, does not cost 8 euros.

The canals in Utrecht are lovely and definitely worth a visit if you end up there, while the food is not as bad as expected. The same can not however be said for the service. This isnt some snobby British standards and ettiquette view point: the waiter simply tried to steal our change through the powers of awkwardness. Our meal cost 17 euros and we gave him a 20 euro note and he never returned for with our change. As Lucie was standing up to go and talk to him, he came over to us innocently asking “did my colleague never bring your change?”. Cheeky bastard!

Oh, and there are cats everywhere. It seems to be a symbol of status or something, maybe homeliness, to have cats (real ones that is and alive) sleeping in shop windows.

Hannover

Hitching to Hannover was relatively easy. For the first time ever I stood at an official hitching spot, with a big blue sign with a thumbing hand. This spot is located here –
http://maps.google.de/maps/ms?oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Utrecht,+Niederlande&gl=de&ei=tyieTPacKYeRswb0xoDnDg&ved=0CB8Q8gEwAA&hl=de&msa=0&ll=52.081906,5.144284&spn=0.006039,0.013797&z=16&msid=117990639020912851794.00049118596f93d16fc43

Another first for me was that there were other people already there trying to hitch. They complained that this must be a slow morning, something to do with the bad weather they thought, as in the 30mins they had been standing there only 3 people had stopped for them! They ended up giving up and catching the train to their destination and we caught a lift within 30mins of them leaving.

Again another rarity was that quite a few women stopped for us and the person who eventually picked us up was also a woman. We managed to convince her to give us a lift after we told her we were going overland to India and she told us that her friends from Bradford had recently done exactly this trip.

Later in the day we caught a lift with a guy who worked for a shipping company and told us that if we ever got into trouble, we should call him and he would get “his people” to help us out. He later added that if he didnt pick up it was our loss not his.

We arrived to a drizzling Hannover and made our to our Couch Surfing host. However, upon arrival at her front door it became apparent that no one was there. After failed attempts to get in contact with her, we headed off for food, leaving a note for her. We returned after dinner and still no host, so we headed off in search of an internet cafe. Along the way we asked a man in a leather waistcoat if he knew where we might find such a thing. When we explained why we needed it, he tried to call her, swore repeatedly about her and asked us if we would like to stay at his place instead.

“Im going drinking for the next few hours though.”

So we found ourselves in a smoky bar, being bought numerous drinks by a man who turned out to be from a splinter group of Hells Angels (but would have to kick us out of his house at 10am as he needed to pick up his children). Many beers and bars later we arrived back at his house which was a mix of Burgundy leather sofas and childrens football toilet seats.

In the morning he took us to the best pastry shop and when we tried to give him this blog address¬† he refused – his generosity was about him repaying the amazing treatment given to him when hitch hiking through France as a teenager. “Nothing personal,” he said.

Last blog made from England!

We’ve done our last minute packing, our sandwiches are ready for tomorrow, our iPods are bulging with music hurriedly added: I think we’re about ready to go!
Train at 6.25 tomorrow morning, we’ll be in Utrecht by eventide.
See y’all in about a year’s time!

xx

Final preparations

It’s now one week until we leave on the first leg of our journey. Josh has started dreaming about forgetting to pack things already, so I thought it was time to start the blog! We’ve found good travel insurance, collected visas, been jabbed and variously vaccinated, photocopied every single piece of documentation we have at least twice, accumulated many different currencies, investigated routes, bought SO much stuff from antihistemine cream to new walking boots, signed up to CouchSurfing, and done one dry run of packing already (following the advice that if you stuff four toilet rolls in your rucksack then not only will you have loo roll when you really need it, but once it’s used you’ll have more space when it turns out you really need that as well!).

Once we’ve said goodbye to friends and relations, it will be nearly time for us to go. First stop: Utrecht (a RailSail ticket from London to any Dutch station is only ¬£35) via Harwich, a ferry, and the Hook of Holland.