Heading South for warmer weather I say? Clearly my understanding of climate and its relationship to the latitude is flawed, or maybe the equator really isn’t where I think it is. It’s been cold around here lately.

(Sarajevo + Snow + Mosque)

We took a pretty lengthy train ride south from Budapest to Novi Sad in Serbia for my long awaited first encounter with the Cyrillic script. Even the name of the city looks cool: Нови Сад. I like.


Once we reached the first station on the Serbian side of the border, the train went from 80% empty to 130% full – the extra 30% accounted for by the exceptionally tall Serbian men (and similarly statuesque women). The carriage was all long arms and legs, frenetic SMSing, and, well, not all that comfortable given that we had to disembark at an unknown, unlit (and evidently unmarked) station rather than the end of the line.

Which is a handy example of one of the innumerable stresses of nomadic travelling. Every single transport connection you’re wondering if you will get on / off at the right time in the right place. Our success rate is rather good so far so I probably ought to stop worrying about it.


One thing that struck me about Serbians was their ruthless efficiency in retail & service environments. We’d speak English at them, they’d reply in Serbian, there’d be a flurry of activity and every time the outcome would be ideal, and very fast. Fantastic.

Serbia was cold, but comparatively bearable. Nonetheless, we intended to strike westward to the Adriatic coast with its more temperate climate. So we picked Sarajevo as a halfway point.


We were quite affected by the obvious reminders of recent history in Sarajevo, as indeed we were in all parts of the former Yugoslav Republic that we visited.

We couch-surfed with a lovely Turkish fellow, Nagy, who is teaching at a local university, having recently returned from a several year stint in Korea. What a contrast! I have to admire his fluent Korean skills – now there’s a tough language. Interestingly he said the word order is the same as in Turkish.


In some ways the bitter cold in Sarajevo added to our experience, particularly as we slowly froze inside the history museum eyeing artefacts of the Bosnian’s daily struggle with snipers, mortar shells and indiscriminate shooting which today still perforates the outer walls of most buildings.

(Very strong Turkish influence no doubt from Sarajevo’s days under the Ottoman empire)

The snow cover is beautiful and is very effective in softening such bleak and war-torn cityscapes. But absolutely far, far too cold for the clothes we’re carrying in our sub-10kg backpacks. I can honestly say (and say I did many times) that I have never been that cold in my life.

The one full day we lasted in Sarajevo saw a maximum of 3 degrees. And lots of snowfall. Lovely, but we walked into the Eurolines office and bought bus tickets to Dubrovnik. “This is Sarajevo, welcome to the mountains” said the girl behind the desk.

We arrived in Dubrovnik (and our third country in 5 days) to clear blue skies and a balmy 16 degrees, and of course the throng of pushy old ladies at the bus station trying to flog their “just 15 minute walk to old town” spare rooms.


You could say Dubrovnik is like Prague but with handy sea port access allowing 4 mega cruise-liners a visit per day. Amazing, stunning, beautiful and totally out of control.


Nup, no sign of Ms Lapthorne here..


There’s plenty of good coffee to be had in Dubrovnik, and it seems most of the Balkans. They like it strong, which is the perfect antidote to the weak & milky option that most of Western Europe seems to prefer.


We had a nice old touristy time in and around Dubrovnik until the weather turned. The sunshine and expanses of lightly coloured stone is fantastic this time of year, and although swimming and diving options abound in spectacularly clear waters, I’m not sure I’d like to visit in the height of summer / peak season.


But now the rain and wind has set in, and we’ve ducked down to Montenegro. Now here’s a country I never imagined we’d visit on this trip. Not sure if I even knew it was a country ;-)

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