Yes, this was 50 hours of crazy transit.
While I wanted to spend a bit of time in this area, especially Dubrovnik, Kotor and Pristine, I decided just to push on.
After reviewing my email re: my Iranian visa application number, it sounds as though Thursday and Friday comprise the weekend in Turkey, and my number is only good until approximately the 10th and I want to give myself some “oh shit” days just in case. So while I was tempted to stop over in Dubrovnik and Pristine, the best I did was spend 30 minutes enjoying the fortress views in Kotor Stari Grad, 5 hours in Podgorica enjoying dinner and an impromptu tour of the city with three young local girls, and 5 hours brushing up on my Greek in Thessaloniki thanks to my days taking physics.
I got up for a 5:30am bus across the island from Vela Luka (why did I even try hitching?) all the way through to Dubrovnik. Had a little freakout as the bus schedule said buses further into Montenegro only went on odd numbered days, of which this was not one. But I asked, and one was leaving in 30 minutes. The bus ride through to Kotor was fantastic along the ocean – winding roads with steep drop-offs (complete with rusted smashed cars down below) and beautiful views of the coastline and Adriatic architecture (= terra cotta roof and cream walls). The bus to Podgorica surprised me – outstanding views of mountains and a huge lake I completely did not expect. I associate walls of mountains with ranges like the Himalayas, Rockies, Alps, Southern Alps, or Andes. These weren’t quite as high, but they were nonetheless snowcapped. Also met a man working for the American Embassy in Podgorica who is responsible for distributing military and state aid related to defense for Montenegro. Learning some political and cultural contexts of the area was nice.
The brief stopover in Podgorica was uneventful, but interesting. At one point I offered to take a picture for a group of girls on a bridge, who then offered to show me around. The cousins all had matching shirts, which were in support of one of their brothers, who was running/working for a party that was campaigning on a platform of “clean government” (ie no corruption). As we toured it became obvious that they were disappointed they couldn’t show me very interested things. I explained that just walking around and speaking with people that live in Montenegro was very interesting for me. We’ll catch up further on Facebook.
Interesting fact: Montenegro is home to the ‘.me’ domain, popular with URL shorteners like fb.me and wp.me.
Then onto the overnight bus to Pristina. Had a bit more success sleeping than the last time, but arrived in Pristina at 4:45am. My original intent was to explore the city and take an afternoon overnight bus through to Istanbul, but a Skopje bus was there when I arrived, and I didn’t feel like starting my day walking around at 5am. Kind of wish this part of the trip had been during the day – I could tell we were winding up and around through mountains on narrow roads with snow still on the banks. In Skopje found a soon leaving train to Thessaloniki, which is where I sit now. The views through the rest of Macedonia were stunning – more mountains and staggering canyons. I’ll be landing in Greece soon, hoping to find my next departure to Istanbul. I’m afraid I’m going to be arriving at night, but I’ll just have to make do.
So altogether otherwise it’s been 4 hour bus, 2.5 hour bus, 3 hour bus, 8 hour bus, 2 hour bus, 5 hour train, and a yet unknown hour train to Istanbul, all with minor breaks in between (or sometimes not at all).
While I brushed my teeth out the window at the Macedonia/Greece border, I’m sure what I really need is a shower.
(Update: The train was a night train, so I’ll be arriving in the morning, yay! And it is an 11.5 hour train, with lovely bunk sleeping berths. I have room to myself.)
(Update #2: I hadn’t even considered the current economic situation in Greece – apparently general strikes are about to occur. I guess I lucked out.)
(Update #3: Lovely night train was not so lovely. Creepy man kept trying to get into my room – turning the handle, or knocking and then stepping away to the side (though I could still see him through the fisheye peep hole). After this happening 3 times over 1.5 hours, I yelled at him to stay away from my door. Never heard from him or saw him again, but nonetheless spent 45 minutes standing at my door with my eye to the peep hole, followed by 2 hours half-sleeping sitting up, followed by 4 hours sleeping with the light on. Had to use the toilet, but opted to pee in the small corner sink in my room. I hope they clean those things in between trips.)