OVER THE BALKANS
Whether we like it or not, we always create an expectation of what we will visit. Albania was then, in our minds, a very beautiful country, still to be discovered, super virgin, very cheap.
It was July, and forget it... Albania has already been discovered by tourists. Our first stop was Ksamil and it was one of the most flooded places we saw on this trip. If you can focus only on water, no doubt it's a beautiful place, but the amount of people, bars, music, reminds Benidorme in its golden days. We tried to find a place to stop Pingu and we couldn't, such was the amount of cars everywhere, so we had to resort to a campsite. We were sad to realise the potential that area has and nobody can do any of that. Water of a screaming turquoise blue, small but beautiful sands, but then everything very ugly and badly organized. Our campsite was terrifying, the only good thing was the location, right by the water with a fantastic view. We paid 15 eur, but according to the boy it was for us, because the others would be paying 20 eur. Then we started to understand how the Albanians work, they are born traders, who give you with one hand and take you away with another. El Dourado was the name of the campsite, it earned us the satisfaction that none of the others were better or cheaper than that. We couldn't spend more than one night there because it wasn't our style, completely crowded and a mess such that you couldn't enjoy anything.
So we decided to go our separate ways in an attempt to find something quieter. A follower sent us a message with the script she made and once again we decided to take the advice. We arrived atBosh Beach, a beach with huge sand, many people too, many bars, restaurants, but in the background there was a calmer area where the motor-caravans would be. Brutal, lots of vans parked on the sand, a super quiet environment, an almost deserted beach...we stayed there. As you know, Albania does not belong to the European Union so we did not have the Internet, but as usual, we go to a café nearby to drink a beer, get the password from the Internet and then when we need to get there! That's easy! In this spot we had a funny situation, at a certain point we were on the beach and we started to be surrounded by pigs ...where did they come from? We have no idea!
Nearby there is a small village on top of the mountain called Queparo.The road is a bit steep, the roads are not the best, but in the end it was worth a lot. A village with a wonderful view to the sea, in the background the sky with beautiful colours, narrow alleys, people sitting in the street chatting, the houses unfinished, others very old, even falling, but that's Albania.
We wanted to make a stop at the beaches of Himare, but when we got there we lost the will. There were so many people, so many people, that we went to the next stop: Gjipe beach. Nicknamed "the most beautiful beach in Albania", it appears on all the postcards, billboards, so we couldn't miss it. We left Pingu in a clearing, a boy came from the middle of the woods with his hand outstretched asking for 2 eur of park. What? Pay to park in the middle of nowhere? Do what? Okay, okay, okay, okay. We had 20 minutes of walking on a dirt road, full of rocks, where only jeeps passed. Considering the road and the time to get there, we thought the beach would be something more "quiet"...What? Another beach full of people, umbrellas, bars, etc. The way to the beach is more beautiful than the beach itself, but obviously worth the visit. On the way back we were presented by a group of dolphins who decided to show up to do their show. What a wonderful moment!
In Albania it wasn't as easy to stop and stay overnight as in Greece, first because we didn't feel so safe, then because the guys always came around to ask for money, and the next spot was no exception: Palase Beach. We arrived early, we parked right by the sand, a very quiet beach, there were some motorhomes nearby, it seemed perfect. We set up our staminet, awning, chairs, table, and at nightfall we started making dinner and heard someone calling. Who was it? Two Albanians charging money for the overnight stay. Really? On the beach? But it wasn't even signaled as a parking lot, it was just a strip of sand. The justification is that they'd made the driveways there, smoothed the land, so it was theirs. What to do that time of night with everything set up? Dismount and find another place? Out of the question. That's their move! We negotiate, instead of paying the 5 eur they asked us to, we end up paying 3 eur. The spot was really cool, and in a normal situation we would have stayed one more night, but we got so upset with it, that the next day we decided to go on.
Remember the friends we met in Milos? They came to us and we went to Shkodra Lake. We were delighted with the pictures we saw from a campsite by the lake, that we had to go there. Well, that's really beautiful, unlike anything we'd seen so far in Albania. A campsite all on grass, very clean, very organized, with a restaurant on a terrace by the lake. Incredible! We decided to stay there for two nights at Lake Shkodra Resort.There we tried Albanian food, filled a table with several dishes, wine, desserts, coffee and did not reach 7 eur per person. Everything was so cheap in that restaurant that we decided to make all the meals there.
Lake Shkodrais on theAlbanianborder with Montenegro, the road by the lake to Montenegro is absolutely stunning!
At the border we had a mishap because our insurance is not valid in countries outside the European Union, and we had to pay 15,-EUR for an insurance valid for 15 days. In Albania nobody asked us for the green card, but here we did not escape!
When we arrived in Montenegro, we understood perfectly that we are entering another country because the vegetation and the type of houses are completely different. In Albania there are kilometres and kilometres where you do not see a finished and painted house and the vegetation is very poor, in Montenegro this changes radically. The houses are very beautiful and cared for and the vegetation is very green!
We went on to know a little more about that small country that aroused our curiosity.
Sveti Stefan, is a small island that has a resort, which makes the delights of those who see it there on the Adriatic coast. On the way we stopped a few times to photograph it from above and we could not resist going down and taking a swim in Sveti Stefan beach. We continued and went to sleep by the famous Kotor Bay. We found in Park4night a spot right by the water, brutal! It was 8am and we were all in the water. The way around the bay is beautiful, and we couldn't miss visiting the old town, within walls. A city, very beautiful, with a wonderful market. Kotor, it's a mandatory stop, just like Perast. Perast is an old town in the bay of Kotor, and has a wonderful view to two islets: St. George and Our Lady of Stones. We were asked 30 eur to put Pingu in the parking lot, so we had to leave it further away and walk to the village. The village is very small, but the view to the bay and to those islands is well worth the stop. We got lost in those alleyways and sat on a terrace drinking a beer. How beautiful!
The whole route by the bay of Kotor is gorgeous, we feel like stopping constantly to take pictures.
Our time in Croatia was short, we only visited Dubrovnik, because we had counted a lot of time but above all because there were so many people that we couldn't move (end of July)! The initial plan included making more of the Croatian coast, natural parks and an island, but it was really the most chaotic country we visited and we ended up changing the plans.
Going with Pingu to the centre of Dubrovnik was out of the question, so we came up with the perfect solution: hospital parking lot (http://park4night.com/lieu/96541/Large), 5 Kunas for 3h and we took a bus to the centre for 15 kunas (2,- EUR) per person. Walking around Dubrovnik was amazing and at the same time "boring" because we felt that everything around us was brutal but there were so many people that it was saturating. Still it's mandatory to visit the old town inside walls, very beautiful!
We tried to go toSplit, but the mess continued, we took two turns to get parking for Pingu and gave up.
Head for the Plitvice Lakes National Park. We were still a good 5 km from the entrance and there was already a line for parking. We weren't meant to wait in lines, for confusion, we liked things more relaxed, so we moved on, sorry we didn't see everything we wanted in Croatia, but we'll be back another time of year.
The best part of our time in Croatia was this spot we discovered near Zagreb, a huge park with bicycle paths, hiking trails, a lake where diving was allowed, there were cafes, toilets and we paid 75 kunas - 10 euros, entrance ticket, and we could be as long as we wanted.
Link Spot – http://park4night.com/lieu/35056/
When we said we wanted to visit Bosnia, they called us crazy, because the guys think everything is going on there, that people are suffering a lot from the war... forget it! We didn't feel any of it, a beautiful country, super safe, with wonderful natural beauty, super nice and hospitable people.
We started by visiting the famous Kravica Waterfall, a bit tourist, but nothing like in Croatia. You can park quietly in the park, it's free, they only charge entrance ticket, 5 eur per person. (you can even pay in kunas, euros or marks.) We love it! There are a series of waterfalls of 25 meters, with greenish waters, it's a small but very beautiful park, we think it's well worth the visit.
From what we saw in Bosnia, it was perfectly peaceful to go wild camping, but as we wanted to visit Mostar (one of the most touristic cities), we needed a place to leave Pingu, so we decided to go camping. We then searched for one that we had seen pictures on a vanlife page, super cute, right by the river :Autocamp Blagaj(http://park4night.com/lieu/24087/Small).A super familiar camping, super nice people who made all the difference in our stay in Bosnia. They welcomed us with food, drink, completely free. Then we wanted to try the typical Bosnian food in their restaurant, all delicious, and they offered us the drinks again. Isn't this amazing? In the morning we went to the bar to buy bread and they didn't charge us for it, always with a smile on our face, super helpful... what wonderful people!
We went to visit the small town of Blagajby bike, it is about 2km from the park. This
town planted by the river, has lots of souvenir shops and restaurants. The village is known for its monastery and cave, where it is possible to enter by boat. The incredibly turquoise water colour, together with those waterfalls and that building, make a simply brutal combination.
From the campsite to Mostar, it was 12 km, so we asked for a taxi (friend of the owners of the campsite), charged us 15 eur round trip, and agreed with us the time of return. He left us right next to the main street and then picked us up there, as our restaurant was next door. It was undoubtedly the best choice, as it would have been chaotic to take Pingu to Mostar.
Mostaris a town famous for its old bridge, Stari Most, over the Neretva River, situated in the old part of the town, which was rebuilt in 2004 after its destruction in 1993 due to the Bosnia War. The old bridge and the historic centre of Mostar were classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. The city is very beautiful, with alleys full of souvenir shops, but everything alludes to the "Don't forget 93" war. Walking around the city, you get a tight heart when you see the buildings with bullet marks. To finish this visit, we had dinner at Sadrvan Restaurant, with typical Bosnian food, a real wonder, we recommend