2017 was the year of my life. It was the year that I was able to push myself away out of the cozy nook called home. I lived in Glasgow, Scotland. I had the best time studying abroad. It was absolutely amazing! For a year, I worked really hard to get a degree with satisfactory grades. By the time I graduated, I was thinking to myself and I decided to give myself a grand reward: An exceptional travel to Eastern and Southern Europe.
It was late September 2017. I started my journey from Edinburgh flying to Venice, Italy, the first destination picked as a SurpriseMe Trip. Sadly, I arrived pretty late in the evening and checked in at the hostel around 7.30 pm that I didn’t have that much time to explore the surroundings. Then when I tried to book a room for another night, it was already fully booked, and another option didn’t make me happy about the price either. Well, it was the beauty of a SurpriseMe Trip after all, and I was happy to just go with the adventurous flow.
That night, I spent hours and hours arranging my trip for the next day and I worked all night long to check on the map of Europe that feasible for me to just traveling by bus.
The morning I woke up quite early. It was a happy feeling I had when I opened the curtain, blue skies were saying hello. After a munchy breakfast, I strolled around the neighborhood. Most of the stores were still closed, however, I enjoyed only sitting by the sea with a cup of coffee and writing a postcard.
People were getting ready for work, I saw them hopping on the vaporetto, which is basically a water-bus as no vehicle allowed in Venice, and some of those boats stopped close to where I sat down. The workers with their shopping bags jump off from a boat with their shopping bags for their shops. The morning was very sunny. It was warm and breezy. The sea looked very beautiful and calm, and I could see the buildings from afar. I enjoyed that morning in Venice, but it was 10a.m already I should go to the bus station. The next destination waited: Ljubljana, Slovenia.
I took the vaporetto to go to Venice Bus Station. It was a bit crowded as usual. The ticket price is 7 Euro which I should have bought it from the driver. But the young man whose duty was to open and close the boat-gate didn’t ask me to show my ticket. So when the water-bus arrived at the gate of the bus station, he just let me go away. I guess that was lucky?
Five hours later, I arrived happily in Ljubljana. The trip was great! The view outside the window bus was amazing! We crossed the border from Italy to Slovenia and drove pass by scenic Italian sea-side town which looked fantastic! I would love to come back someday…
The first thing I did as soon as I arrived in Ljubljana was to find the hostel where I was going to spend a night to rest myself. On the bus stop at the center of the city, two teenagers helped me out on how to get the Urbana Card, a smart-card we have to tap to pay all public transport fare in and about Ljubljana. I managed to get the card from the nearest machine and top it up, then I waited one and half hours for the next bus that took me to the North-Eastern of Ljubljana.
I fell in love with the city right away! The public transportations are amazing. Big roads, even bigger sidewalk. The city is very clean and people are nice. Many people are riding a bike, so they have proper bicycle path. That day, again, I was lucky to have such a beautiful sunny day.
Even though I spent 2 days in Slovenia, I only booked the hostel for one night. The next day early in the morning, I checked out and walked myself back to the bus station. I dropped my bag in the storage paid for 3 Euro and I bought a return ticket to Bled. I spent the whole afternoon and early evening in the beautiful small town, looking over the calming Lake Bled and Bled Castle. I went back to Ljubljana by 8 pm, had dinner at McDonald’s (don’t judge!), and waited outside the bus station until 2 am for the bus that was going to take me to… Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
I made friend with a girl and we decided to wait in the nearest bar where she had a pint of beer and I was pretty much happy with a can of Coke. She’s from India and traveling by herself around Europe. She was going to Budapest. We had a nice chat when I realise that the bus was a little bit late. We crossed the street to the bus station and other passengers and me, had to wait for another hour in the cold night.
It was 3 am when the bus finally there. I didn’t know that it departed from Dortmund, Germany, so when I get inside, all the window seats were occupied. So I had to be happy to sit in the aisle for the next 12-hour journey.
The bus took off around 3.30a.m. I was so wrecked I fell asleep so quick. After few hours, I remembered the guy say down next to me woke me up harshly. He was kinda shouting. He told me to get out and brought my passport along. We were on the borderline between Slovenia and Croatia. All the passengers must get out from the bus and stand in line for an immigration check. I had no idea why, but I was all nervous. After a few minutes of checking my details and tried to match my passport photograph with my actual face, they hit the stamp and I allowed to get back onto the bus. Another journey began for, probably, the next 5 hours.
I was wide awake when, again, the bus stopped for an immigration check. This time, we were at the border between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. I got the stamp all good. It was half-way to go before Sarajevo.
It was almost midday. I tried to talk to the guy beside me as every time the bus driver announce something, it wasn’t in English. I had to ask him what’s that, what’s this. He told me that we were going to stop for an hour breakfast. He also added that all passengers had to get off from the bus.
There we were in the middle of nowhere in Bosnia-Herzegovina with no Internet connection. It was a small local restaurant that served light meals and drinks. I didn’t have any money with Mark – Bosnia and Herzegovina currency – in my pocket. Even though I was able to pay with Euro, but it only could happen in the center of Sarajevo, not in Maglaj, the town where we were at that moment. The guy, his name is Loreno, a Bosnian who lived in Dortmund, told me that I wouldn’t be able to change my money to Bosnia Mark because it was Sunday and banks were closed. Oh, shoot! That’s not what I read when I did the research. But then I told myself, yeah well, whatever, I’d manage to get the money somehow.
Four hours and a half later, I found myself get off from the bus at Sarajevo Bus Station. The first thing I did was going to the information center to find out how to change my money and how to get the public transport. I proved Loreno was wrong. The central post office where I can get the money is just behind the bus station. As soon as all was well with the changes, I went to the nearest bus stop (at first I thought it was a bus!) to get myself to the city center.
I spoke to two girls next to me and asked them which bus to the city center. They seemed to understand what I was saying but the problem was they didn’t know how to respond. So we communicate with a few words in English, plus body language and writing notes in my notebook. It was an interesting encounter really. The girls were very sweet, they helped me to get to the tram – not bus – they even offered me a seat while we were waiting as they saw me carrying a heavy big backpack. There was also an old woman who tried to spoke to me by mentioning the name of the street that I had to get off.
It was an old-fashioned kind of tram but nice. The ticketing system is very organized. Each passenger must validate their ticket before taking a seat, just like many other public transportations system in most of the European countries. The tram trip to the city center of Sarajevo took around 15 minutes. I got off by the Miljacka River, crossing the main street, and walked uphill to the hostel. I could tell you that that day was a really tiring day. After had a casual dinner (I found Indomie in the shop nearby!), I decided to hit the bed early.
Sarajevo the next day was beautiful. I got up early and took a walk along the River heading to Baščaršija. It is an old bazaar in the historical area of the city which famous for its antique market and Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque. There are so many shops and restaurants around Baščaršija. I had lunch with a plate of Ćevapi, a national dish of Bosnia-Herzegovina and many other Balkan countries. It is skinless minced beef, served with flatbread and onions. Very tasty meal!
I walked around tirelessly hopping from one spot to another. I visited the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque, which is the most historical mosque in Bosnia-Herzegovina built in the 16th century. The architecture is very grand with its Ottoman style. It is one of the most-visited places in Sarajevo.
Wandering around the city had given me eerie goosebumps. I couldn’t believe I was in Sarajevo, a city that I only used to recognise from the television during the 90’s. The remainder of The Bosnian War was still there. They live along with the people. I could recognise the bullet holes in the walls. It tells you the dark stories from the past. I walked across the Latin Bridge where the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was killed in 1914. That would become the beginning of the World War 1. I was standing in the line between past and present memories.
At the moment, Sarajevo has been undergoing the post-war development and reconstruction. However, the city itself is very welcoming. During the night, I could see young Sarajevans enjoying their night out. Sarajevo has become one the enchanting travel destinations, mostly for young travelers. Many to enjoy in and around the city. Historic destinations to religious attractions are ready to be explored.
I spent extraordinary days in Sarajevo. It was memorable!
A night before I left the city, I packed my bag and checked out from the hostel early morning the next day as I need to catch a flight from Sarajevo International Airport. I took the tram around 7 am on a foggy and cold morning and manage to get to the airport safely after walking for nearly 2 miles from the nearest bus stop.
Next destination: Budapest, Hungary.