Troubles in Eastern Europe

So where am I and what am I doing? I left London for Prague about 10 days ago. Prague is a very picturesque city. Very tourist orientated though. It rained. Heavily. Nice bridge, nice castle, an astrological clock which everyone gathers around, expecting to do great things, but everyone's expectations die with a disappointed "ohhhh" as a few characters pop out, spin around and disappear. And I learned something from all this... I have a hole in my shoe.

Next to Bratislava, Slovakia. My host collects spiders. He has a huge, hairy South-American spider in an aquarium in his house, and frozen bugs from Thailand in his fridge (it's a special diet). I spent the night helping him clean up his apartment and went to check out the city the next day. Bratislava is a lovely little town. Like a little Prague. Just get rid of the hunch-back, wispy comb-over, toothless gypsies at the train-station and it'll be cracking.

Budapest, Hungary next. I had an awesome time. Had a great host who took me to some jazz clubs. Met a few great people through her and met a few great people on my own. Oh, the city was nice too, but I think people can be instrumental in making or breaking your experiences. The city is big too. Known for spring water and thermal activity. Had me a couple of nice sausages. Although had one that wasn't so nice. It looked big and hard but when I bit into it it was soft and oozing. I'll be honest... it made me feel a little uncomfortable.

Then to Belgrade, Serbia. The palate of Slobodan Milosevic. The man who envisaged a greater Serbia, when Yugoslavia disbanded, and hence tried to expand his empire into Bosnia and Croatia. The UN sat by and watched. Many were killed in the process and he was eventually arrested for war crimes and died in his cell. Belgrade was a pretty cool city. My first few hours were an absolute nightmare, trying to figure out where the hell I was on an streetmap written in English. Not good when the Serbian alphabet, and hence street names, are completely fucking different. By the end of it though I was actually able to read a bit of Serbian. Everybody is usually on the terraced promenades having coffee or drinks with their friends. Mind you, unemployment in Serbia is about 25%. So where they get the money for this is beyond me. Apparently 44% of Serbians smoke. Lucky cigarettes are cheap in the Balkans. Serbian men seemed so much taller than anywhere else I've been (circuses and zoos excluded). I'd say they're at least 4 cigarettes taller than the average man.

I had an awesome host in Serbia (thanks Slobodan!) and met other really great Hospitality Club members there. Occupied by Turks for about 500 years, a lot of their food had parallels to Turkish and Armenian food. Slobodan served me some of his mum's cooking. It was delicious. It was something my mum cooks which I never eat cos it looks wrong. Sorry mum. (by the way, it was dolma - Serbian equivalent)

Then went to Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina. Stayed in a hostel with too many Australians getting pissed and making asses of themselves. Like Belgrade, abundant terraced dining. Shame about the remnants of the Bosnian-Serbian war though. Sarajevo was under siege by the Serbian army for 4 years. It ended in 1994 but to this day you cannot walk down ANY street without seeing bullet holes sprayed everywhere. But it must have been redeveloped a lot, because after Sarajevo I went to Mostar, and this place was a little less touched up. Skeletons of high-rises, empty shells of houses. Every other wall decorated by gun-play. I reckon there must have been millions of bullets shot throughout this war. 11,000 people were killed over the years which leads to me to one conclusion... they all had really bad aim. Let's be honest, I'm really glad more weren't killed, but after seeing the damage in these places I'm amazed it wasn't worse. Just for the record, Serbian and Bosnian people are really nice people... EXCEPT anyone that works in customer service. Trust me, they do not like their jobs. Stay away and avoid eye contact.

Today I arrived in Dubrovnik, Croatia. It's so beautiful here and the weather is absolutely awesome. There's a fort in the old town surrounded by crystal blue water, and although I haven't been to any of the beaches yet, I'm a little aroused thinking about bathing in them. I'll let you all know how it goes.

Getting the 22:00 bus to Zagreb tomorrow night. The 10 hour journey should be FANTASTIC!!!