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balkans itinerary - july 2013

.05 Fly (Ryanair) Marseille, France to Zadar, Croatia
.07 Night bus Zadar to Dubrovnik
.08 Day in Dubrovnik, bus Dubrovnik to Kotor, Montenegro
.10 Bus Kotor (via Niksic) to Zabljak
.11 Bus Zabljak (via Podgorica) to Ulcinje
.12 Bus Ulcinje to Tirana, Albania
.13 Bus Tirana to Himare
.15 Bus Himare to Berat, then bus Berat to Ohrid, Macedonia
.18 Bus Ohrid to Skojpe, night bus Skojpe to Belgrade, Serbia
.21 Night train Belgrade to Budapest, Hungary
.22 Train Budapest to Warsaw, Poland

where to stay in zabljak

     To get to Žabljak from Kotor, there is a bus that goes through Nikšić. Žabljak is still fairly underdeveloped in terms of tourism, especially with regard to snow sports in the winter, but there's lots of great hikes to do in the area, including walking around Black Lake (Crno jezero) or climbing glaciers, or going rafting (which really isn't as epic as you might expect...). If you're into the great outdoors, it's good to spend more than a night or two in Žabljak to get a chance to see a little more. While accommodation is sparse, there is one, new hostel that's worth it to stay at, called Hiker's Den. It's not massive, but it's clean, got a kitchen, heaters (for the chill), and wifi access. It's located close to the town "centre," where there's a supermarket to buy food. It's also a close walk to Crno jezero.

zdravo, zadar

After my week-long rest stop on France's Côte d'Azur, where I met my parents to recount my travels (ie. to get fed, rest up, and stock up on provisions at their expense), I decided to buy the cheapest Ryanair ticket out of there that I could find -- and it happened to be to Zadar. I've never even heard of this place, I stupidely thought as I booked my ticket and inched closer to the McDonalds' to refresh the WiFi connection.
A few days later I arrived in Zadar at 8:00AM, an hour and a half after takeoff from Marseille. I took the bus from the airport to the bus station, where I transferred to another bus to take me into Stari Grad (the Old Town). I wandered around for a while, searching for a hostel, but found that not only were they charging between 20-40 euros for a dorm, but that they were all completely booked up. In my post-beach daze, I'd forgotten that it was Friday and that Croatia is a total tourist hotspot (especially for Europeans, who often head out here even if just for the weekend). After one of the central hostels (Old Town Hostel) recommended that I try my luck with finding accommodation in one of the boutique hostels, I panicked. I had thought the Balkans would be easier on my wallet, but if I was going to have to spend 40 euros on a place to stay every night, I didn't think I was going to make it out alive! In the end, after countless hours meandering the shiny cobblestone streets, I was kindly directed to House Hostel by a local I had run into.