Bhaktapur

I would had liked to see Bhaktapur before the earthquake hit Nepal in 2015. It’s an ancient city, full of beautiful historical buildings, temples, art and colours. However, my previously mentioned earthquake had a tremendous impact on this magical place and when visited it in summer 2016 the damage could still be clearly seen.

I spent a day there wandering around, for me it was all about the atmosphere, colours ad people.  I would recommend visiting to anyone (although please don’t try to sneak in without paying, the place really needs all the support it can get). It was really hard to take some photos that would give the real sense of this place, but I’m sharing my best attempts.

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I love the photo bellow. Can’t believe this goat climbed up the steep steps to admire the view. Who’s the boss?SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Colours, crafts and people.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Completely destroyed house…

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The people are lovely and kids are keen to pose for the photos. It’s very likely they will ask for money afterwards, but I wouldn’t recommend giving anything to them. Might sound harsh, but when I was trekking my guide said that foreigners turned Nepali children into beggars… knowing that they can get money from foreigners often keep the kids on the streets. Something to think about. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Pottery making is huge in Bhaktapur and you can visit the pottery square to learn more about it.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

It’s been a while since I visited Bhaktapur, so I hope this ancient capital is recovering and rebuilding itself and the life is slowly getting back to normal there.

Pokhara, Happy Village and Sarangkot

After spending a few weeks in Kathmandu, arriving to Pokhara was almost a dream. A few people warned me that once I go there, I will never want to come back. They were right.

Getting from Kathmandu to Pokhara is one of those nightmare (ish) bus journeys in Nepal, taking several hours, the duration is what is often determined by how unlucky you are. But once you get Pokhara, it is hard to believe that this peaceful place exists in such a hectic country.

Pokhara’s life is centered around its lake. It’s a beautiful lake with loads of colourful outdoor cafes where you can relax and enjoy life. Nothing else is needed. At least for a few minutes…

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There is plenty to do in Pokhara – yoga or meditation classes, paragliding, cycling, renting a boat and spending a few hours on the lake and loads of other things.

I love cycling so  I decided to rent a bike and go for a ride around the lake. Little did I know what a challenge it would be!

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I decided to do the circle around the lake going anticlockwise. At first, the road was OK and I really enjoyed being on the bike, exploring little villages on the way. I even found a Happy Village!

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The weather was beautiful and I did regret not going paragliding as I was passing the landing place and it seemed like people had a lot of fun.

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Soon the decent road ended and there was only a sandy path left, parts of it heavily flooded. Suddenly a massive snake crossed my path (2 metres or so long) and it scared me to bits.  It was the first proper snake I have ever seen! I was mildly freaking out and started considering whether I should turn around and go back to civilization. I decided to be brave and carry on.

I found a way to get to the other side of the lake and the sandy path started climbing up. It was getting hard, I was sweating like mad and I wasn’t properly prepared for that challenge. It took me ages to get up the hills and I was exhausted. The only thing that saved me was a wee local shop where I could get some cold drinks. OMG why did I do this to myself, I was thinking…

Eventually the hard work paid off, as I got higher, the beautiful scenery appeared:

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And then the views of the World Peace Stupa and Pokhara just blew my mind.

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The road from the World Peace Stupa was extremely steep but I was going down, so the hard bit was over. I managed to go back to the bike rental shop and relaxed that evening. Note to myself: take loads to drink and more food if I ever do this again…

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After this exhausting day, I spent a few days trekking in Himalayas (there is a separate post on that).

I came back from my trek and woke up early the next day. It was my final day in Pokhara and I still wanted to do a bit more. I looked through the windeo and realised that the clouds disappeared and I could see several peaks clearly! I couldn’t believe it. I jumped into taxi and went straight to Sarangkot, a place which is known for its spectacular mountain views. I was in Pokhara during the rainy season so seeing the mountains was a really rare thing and I got lucky. The only thing was that until I arrived in Sarangkot the clouds appeared, so I couldn’t see everything so clearly anymore, but the views were breathtaking anyway.

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I did some yoga that day and then, being really relaxed and happy, I returned to the mental place called Kathmandu…

Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek in Himalayas

It’s been so long since I came back from Nepal that the whole journey now almost feels surreal, but a little scar on my wrist will always remind me that the trip really happened.

Trekking was not on my to do list before I left for Nepal. I didn’t have too much time and the monsoon season helped me to make up my mind. However, I was sitting in a cafe, listening to one of the volunteers talking about their trekking experience and I realised I can’t miss it while I’m in Nepal.

My boyfriend at a time, had a professor who was always going to Nepal for trekking holidays so he was able to recommend a guide. I wouldn’t worry about arranging the guide before coming to Nepal – there are always plenty who are eager to get out to the mountains and it’s cheaper to arrange something from Pokhara (if you’re doing a trek in Annapurna Himalaya range). The trek I did was called Ghorepani Poon Hill trek and it normally takes 5 days to complete. You can easily do it without a guide and it will save you a bit of money, but being alone and not having a chance to do a proper research,  I decided to go with a guide.

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I met my guide Palu in Pokhara a day before the hike for some tea. Palu was over 40 and didn’t look like a super fit guy from the first sight, but he seemed like a nice person so I thought let’s do this. It did later turn out that I was much fitter than him (something to consider if you’re impatient like me), but he had a big heart and kept repeating that he was the luckiest man in the world to be able to do the job he loves.

We started from the village called Nayapul early next day. The path was passing through beautiful forests and some tiny colourful villages. There were plenty of tea houses to stop at, rest and have some food. The whole trek that day lasted about 5 hours after which we stopped in one of the villages along the road.

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The second day was pretty much the same, but the path got steeper. It was a beautiful day and I didn’t find it too challenging. We settled in Ghorephani for the night, hoping to get to the Poon Hill in the morning. Unfortunately, the clouds were rolling low and when I woke up the next morning it was raining. There was no point in going to the Poon hill viewpoint. We continued towards Gandruk, even though the weather wasn’t great. Oh well, it was a gamble to go trekking in a rainy season.

We didn’t reach Gandruk that day (just weren’t rushing anywhere and the weather wasn’t great) and decided to stay in a place with the total of three houses. There were only two people in the village, a couple who got married when the guy was 13 and a lady who was then 20. We were chatting about life in the mountains and emigration, since the man spent a few years working abroad (very common story for loads of Nepalese families). The also showed and explained to me how they make their local alcohol Raksi, which I even got to try.

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When trekking you get used to getting up early and sometimes it really pays off. Happened to me on the 4th day of the trek when I got to see bits of the snowy peaks hanging between the clouds. I could only see small patches but got really excited since it was the first day I could actually see something. Other days were just all about walking through the beautiful forests and villages. That’s when I slipped, fell and got injured my wrist badly enough for it to scar. No regrets, life felt pretty amazing that morning.

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We got to Gandruk and spent a bit of time exploring this beautiful village. There were some really steep sections down and up that day and got caught in a strong rain, but I was quite happy to be out in the mountains and got to eat probably the nicest dhal bhat in Nepal, so the challenges didn’t matter too much. We stopped in a random village along the way for the night. There were loads of tiny clouds hanging around the mountains and I was excited to be going to bed after seeing that view.

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I woke up early again (4.30am or so) the next morning and realised that the clouds lifted! They were moving away and finally the first time in five days I could see one of the peaks! It was magical. I was extremely happy and struggled to walk away from that view. Later in the morning the clouds took away the beauty again.

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So five days later, the trek was over and I said bye to Palu. I think I got lucky, because during the rainy season it’s really hard to see anything, so I expected nothing at all, but got rewarded with some stunning views. It was amazing to be out walking for five days, walk past these beautiful villages, eat really tasty dhal bhat and try out my poor Nepalese with the locals. It was good to go with a guide, because he arranged all the accommodation and permits etc. and I didn’t have to worry about getting lost. It wasn’t a popular time of the year to go trekking so the mountains were quiet and I absolutely loved the time I could spend with my thoughts or listening to Palu’s stories. The only major downside were the leeches – they were bad, hanging on the grass, jumping on you as soon as you stopped and sucking the blood like there was no tomorrow. Not going into details on that, but having a guide who is slower than you plus the leeches who can’t wait to get on you, is a bad combo.

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I just want to finish with something positive – if you get a chance to go trekking in Himalayas, then go! No matter what time of the year it is, you will find beauty, freedom and loads of smiles along the way and it will be an experience of a lifetime 🙂

Last Days of Spring

aaa

I’m leaving in 4 days. It sounds absolutely unreal and the trip that I have been waiting for so long is finally happening.  Yes, I’m finally going to Nepal!

In November 2014, I applied to do some volunteering there. I was supposed to start in summer 2015, however a lot happened between November and June and I couldn’t go anymore. I had to move my start day to the 1st October 2015. As you can probably guess I didn’t make it then either – I was quite skint so instead of starting volunteering, I stayed in Scotland and started an internship. Even if I had doubts, it was definitely the right move. Initially my internship was supposed to be only three months, but it quickly got extended to up to a year. I love what I’m doing now and I have a great manager. She always knew that I wanted to go to Nepal, so she gave me seven weeks off to do what I wanted to do.

So what’s my plan for Nepal? Well, I’ll be doing a water research project there with a local organisation and I’m super excited about that! I’ve been interested in water issues for quite a while now and it’s a great opportunity for me to learn. I’m aware that my time there will not save the world, but I’m going there for myself, to learn about Nepalese culture, water issues there and… about myself!  It’s crazy how much you can actually learn about yourself while travelling. I love the feeling of confidence when I come back home from a challenging trip.

It’s going to be weird to leave Edinburgh and I’m enjoying the final days of spring here. I’ve had a really nice time these past couple of months – spring is definitely my favourite time of the year and Edinburgh looks extremely pretty when covered in blossoms. I also managed to go back home to Lithuania for a bit, so my parents won’t be upset about me disappearing from Europe for a bit. The feeling of adventure is already here and I can’t wait for it to start!

 

First Ever Trip Abroad

I think my first ever trip was quite an unusual experience. Especially because it was a crazy trip after which some people might not even want to travel ever again. I managed to keep only a few photos from that trip, but I guess it doesn’t matter -memories stay for life.

My first ever trip abroad was a gift for my 18th birthday – so it was in 2009 if I remember it right. I’ve done a lot of travelling in Lithuania before that, both with my parents and friends, but I’ve never been abroad. It is expensive to travel abroad when you earn so little in Lithuania (my parents don’t have very well paid jobs).

So what happened? My parents decided it would be quite nice to send me to visit an aunt who lived in Spain. She lived in a little town called Orihuela, which is relatively close to Alicante. The cheapest way to get there was to take a special mini bus, which would pick you up from your home town and drop you off in basically any place you wanted. Sounds pretty good, no? Of course it takes more time than flying, but you get to see a lot along the way – scenery of Poland, Germany, France and Spain.

So I left Lithuania with around 10 people in a mini van. My parents didn’t exactly left me on my own to travel – my aunts “boyfriend” was travelling with me, although we didn’t know each other and thus did not sit together and did not talk too much to each other during the trip. There was also a family with a baby, couple of older travelers, a girl about my age and a driver. Yes, one driver and there was no plan to stop in a hotels to sleep. Now when I think about this trip it all sounds crazy, but then it was my first trip ever and I was super excited.

I was sitting next to a girl and she seemed like a nice person, so I thought this trip would be quite cool and we’d have a good chat. I was wrong. Somewhere in the middle of Poland she remembered that she forgot her passport. Of course we weren’t planning to come back and the only thing to do was to keep going. Even though the countries I was travelling through were in Schengen zone, you were still required to carry the passport with you and you would still get occasional checks. The driver knew the areas where it was more likely to be stopped and get checked. So we were going through the smaller villages and towns. That meant that that the entire trip took longer than expected.

The girl next to me was crying a lot and she was so nervous that it was really difficult to sit next to her and listen to her complains. The baby was crying a lot and nobody was in a good mood. The driver was doing crazy hours and he was stopping to sleep only occasionally. He was constantly encouraging people to get some alcohol and drink instead of sleeping – so he wouldn’t fall asleep as well. It didn’t bother me that much but my legs hurt and I was just thinking about the bed. The views through the window were absolutely fantastic, especially because a lot of time we weren’t going through the main roads. Also, I got to see Millau Viaduct which was probably the reason why the year later I got into engineering. Yes, it was the first time I saw a structure this big and I was really impressed.

At Spain-France border we went through the little shopping town which was crazy busy. We let that girl out and she mixed in with the crowd of shoppers and crossed the border. We got our passports checked and then picked her up a few hundred meters further. So almost three days later we were in Spain. Everyone could not wait to arrive to their destinations.

Finally, I managed to reach the place and met my aunt. Orihuela was a nice little town and I was really happy to be there. I was supposed to spend three weeks there, then go to Barcelona for a week and then come back to Orihuela. I didn’t know the exact date of return, as we just had to give a ring to the mini van company closer to the date and they would tell me when I was going back. Nice and flexible!

Not much to talk about Orihuela really. I was just chilling in the house, eating ice cream, occasionally going to the beach in Torrevieja, going to the open cinema in the city center, just enjoying life and practicing my Spanish from time to time. I got to go to Valencia for a day as well with my aunt’s friends to visit Aquarium and Marine Park, which I thought was super cool.

Barcelona was something completely different. I was living with my cousin who was sharing a flat with a transgender man who was working as a massage therapist and couple of other guys. There were a bunch of random people coming in every day and it was a complete different experience for me. Just to be clear – I have nothing against transgender people and I thought it was super cool to meet different people.

The city itself was absolutely gorgeous and I had loads of fun exploring it. I was lucky to be there in mid-August when Gràcia Festival was taking place. It is a street festival and the streets are covered with loads of crazy decorations. There is a plenty of live music and for a person who’s never seen something like that before, it was a crazy experience. I was wondering in the streets until late and meeting loads of people. Yes, I was slightly jealous that my cousin, who was only a year older than me, got to live there.

 

When the time arrived to go home I was a bit nervous. I thought it be another three long days. However, the trip was quite fun and I got to see a bit of Switzerland as we had to pick somebody up from there. On the way back the car broke twice. The first time we just had to change the tire. The second time we were in Poland and this time we had to change the tire as well, but we didn’t have another spare one and as it was Sunday everything around was closed. However it wasn’t that far from Lithuanian border and somebody brought us a spare one. The entire trip took less than two days, as there was a passenger who had a licence to drive a mini van and he was occasionally taking over. People seemed to be pretty decent as well and nobody was crying.

It was hard to come back as I basically went back straight to school after the trip. Although I got to be a cool one for a few days as nobody else did anything fun that summer.

It was a crazy trip when I’m thinking about it now. But at that point all those crazy things didn’t seem that bad and they just added some extra colour to my memories. I was happy I got to travel by car, as I got to see so much and I don’t know if that ever happens again. And of course, that trip just got me thinking how to get out and see more and maybe that’s why a year later I moved to Edinburgh.

Shanghai

This is my last post on China. I’m a bit sad, but at the same time happy to finish writing about my trip. I’m pleased that I actually managed to put this all in one place and writing about it made me go back to those days and experience everything again.

This is definitely not my last blog post though. I’ve done quite a bit of travelling in the past year around Europe that I can’t wait to tell about.

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Anyway, Shanghai was the final stop and it was an absolutely perfect place to finish my trip. Why? There is not that much to see in Shanghai. If you want to see real Chinese culture don’t go to Shanghai. It’s a brilliant mix of West and East and it’s full of foreigners. It’s the largest city on Earth and it’s completely different from the rest of China. You can get Western stuff everywhere and maybe that’s why it was such a great place to finish – I finally got a proper cheese toasty nom nom nom. And I wasn’t bothered about seeing any more of Chinese heritage, I was there to party and have a great time.

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Do you still remember my friend Rob from Taiyuan? I convinced him to join me in Shanghai as it was school holidays, so he had some time off.

I can’t remember in which hostel I was staying, but it definitely wasn’t very central or extremely popular. It was funny as I met my previous roommate from Yangshuo there. Even China is quite a small place.

A few photos from Shanghai:

Always ready to serve! 🙂

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Some tall buildings 🙂

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The Great Wall of Chocolate

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Never too old for M&Ms 🙂

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Building sites never sleep

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First night we went to the French Concession, which is not only a beautiful place but it is really famous for its clubs and pubs. We got into one of the clubs and after buying a club wristband for around 5 pounds, we could get as many drinks as we wanted. Yes, we had an awful hangover next day.

I met some really random people in Shanghai – ones who got paid for going to clubs and dancing there to attract rich Chinese clubbers  and the ones who quit their “normal” jobs after getting a chance to work as magicians in the clubs. Seems that China is full of opportunities as long as you are open to try something new.

When in Shanghai it is definitely worth going to Shanghai’s museum (I know I said I wasn’t there for that haha). It is free and has a decent collection of everything. It took us three days to get there, as there was something getting in the way all the time (mostly our hangover). People’s park and People’s square near the museum are really nice as well and if I remember it right, there is a massive shopping mall underneath it.

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We also accidentally stumbled across Yu garden and City God temple and it’s a really nice area. However, there is a massive street food market nearby with some really aggressive sellers. Also, if you are considering going trying the Bund sightseeing tunnel – don’t waste your money. It was the most awkward thing ever – flashing lights and inflatable figures. Or maybe it’s worth the experience – it’s up to you to decide.

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One of my favourite bits of Shanghai was the Captain bar. It’s a rooftop bar in Fuzhou road and you can sit there and enjoy the view of the Pearl Tower. Afterwards we got the bottle of Baiju and just sat outside chatting all night long. I’m surprised we managed to get back to the hostel.

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Time with Rob in Shanghai was great. We just came up with so many random ideas and spent time being “on a mission”. One of those was to find HP sauce, which we didn’t think was possible in the first place. We found out that there was Tesco in Shanghai and it took us a few hours to get there just to find out that it was closed. We put so much effort in it and we gave up after couple of days, but on our last day we were in western type of shop in the city center and accidentally found it.

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In general, I met a lot of people who weren’t that impressed with Shanghai – and I don’t blame them. It’s not the city itself, it’s people and experiences that made it great for me. I was suprised how clean and quiet the city was – I was expecting something completely different from the largest city on Earth. But again, I probably used five metro stops while there, so I really  didn’t see that much outside of the city center.

I said bye to Rob, being a bit jealous that he was staying and I was going home. But at the same time I felt like it was time to go back. The entire trip was such an amazing experience and it gave me a huge confidence boost. Would I go back? Of course! I love China, I love people there and the language that seems impossible to learn. I’ll be back 😉

 

 

 

Yangshuo & Guilin’s Reed Flute Caves

Yangshuo’s beautiful karst mountains are something simply magical. It all looks surreal, just like a different world. No wonder it attracts crowds every year.I think it’s better to show you some photos than to keep talking about it.

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Water sources in China are usually really polluted, so it was really refreshing to see loads of people playing in the river on a hot day.

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Yangshuo is a really popular place, so streets are often crowded. However, loads of interesting is going on and you can get some really nice food there.

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Somebody convinced me to try this and it was actually really nice treat for myself!

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I only spent two nights in Yangshuo and one of the days I decided to rent a bike and cycle to Xing Ping, which is the home of 20 Yuan scenery. I thought it was relatively close – around 28km away. I left quite early, when it wasn’t too hot, but before I even reached the village temperature exceeded 30 degrees Celsius. However, the scenery was beautiful and I wasn’t that bothered about the temperature. As soon as I got off my bike, the crowd ran to me and I spent good ten minutes posing with random kids. My face was all red and I looked a bit like a mess after all the cycling but they still thought I was “beautiful”.

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A lonely boat on the 20 yuan note is not lonely anymore. The river is buzzing!

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The trip home was a bit of the pain as it was extremely hot. And I got sun burnt, but it was worth it.

Next day I went back to Guilin. Before I left for Yangshuo I wasn’t sure how long I’d stay there (I thought it’d be only one night), so I left all my stuff in the hostel room and didn’t tell my roommates I was going away. They noticed I was gone for couple of nights and started worrying, good that I got back before they started looking for me.

The next couple of days I spent resting and wondering around the town. I also went to Reed Flute cave, which is very well accessible by a bus. Some people I met didn’t like it and said it was a waste of money (120RMB), but I thought it was pretty cool. It was my first time in a cave like this and all the lights were creating a magic atmosphere.
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I didn’t do as much as I wanted in Yangshuo and Guilin, but it was so hot and humid that some days I just wanted to rest in a shade and read. I was quite sad to leave such a beautiful scenery, but I had to catch a plane to Shanghai – my last stop.

 

Early Morning Sightseeing in Croatia

So here I was, back to Split after spending two amazing weeks in the Isle of Brac. A bit over two weeks ago I met Osib through Couchsurfing, who hosted me and ten other couchsurfers in his house in the island of Brac. It was a nice small house in Milna, but Osib also had another house in the middle of nowhere, to which we decided to go at midnight. It took us an hour to get there, but it was so totally worth it! There was no light pollution and I could see millions of starts in the sky. Next morning I woke up in this beautiful house on the beach. We spent all morning swimming and catching sea urchins, as it was the only food we could find. I had to leave that afternoon and then I spent another two weeks volunteering on this beautiful island, but it’s another story…

The adventure was over and I was standing in the bus station in Split. It was nearly midnight. After a quick stroll around the city centre I was quite tired and just wanted to buy a ticket and get into bus. But it wasn’t that easy as the person selling tickets did not speak any English and his grumpiness did not help either. He was probably tired and just wanted to be in bed and I don’t blame him – I was exactly the same. After finally getting the ticket and nearly missing the bus, I was on the way to Zadar. I was excited, I had around four hours to spend in Zadar before leaving this beautiful country and I was dying to see the Sea Organ  – the music instrument which plays music by sea waves. I wanted to go there the minute I heard about this instrument and there was no way I was leaving Croatia without seeing it.

It was around 4am when I got to Zadar. I got out of the bus and went straight where I thought the organ was. I didn’t have a map or anything so I was just wandering through the dark streets of Zadar. I think I gave a proper fright to a barmen who was asleep on one of the chairs just outside his bar.

When I finally got to the place I was really excited. The sea was pretty calm and so was the music. It was nice and peaceful and it was just what I needed that moment. And of course, somebody had to ruin the moment… suddenly some guy came out of nowhere. I realised he was absolutely wasted and he could barely stand. He offered me a place to sleep, but I politely refused. He walked away, however he did not completely disapper. I noticed him standing further away, sniffing something and he kept looking at me. After a while I saw him walking towards me. I did not stand up or try to run as I knew that it might just worsen situation and in fact, I did not have where to run. I just stayed in my place and ignored him while he was walking past me. He was really fast, was breathing loudly and he kept staring at me. I just hoped he would not stop and try to talk to me again.I was really scared.

I was sitting for like half an hour and hoping he’d walk away. But he kept wandering around and after a while I saw him walking towards me again. He was quite far away, so I slowly stood up, took my backpack and started walking. It was starting to get bright, but nobody else was around. I could hear him following me and he was walking faster and faster, so I panicked and speeded up a bit as well. That moment I thought I was in a big trouble.

Suddenly I saw a fisherman. I ran to him for help. He did not speak any English, so with my knowledge of five Croatian words I tried to explain him what was happening. Luckily, the words I knew were probably the right ones, as he understood what was going on. He showed me to sit down on the bench and he sat next to me.The creepy guy got close and then he stopped and started staring at me. The fisherman said something angrily to the man and he slowly started walking away. I don’t remember his face, but I hope to never see him again.

The fisherman then called his friend who was also fishing just around the corner. His friend knew probably ten words in English and we tried to have a conversation while they were looking after me. I showed them some photos from my work camp and tried to explain what I did. We were sitting on that bench for a while and it got completely bright. The cafe nearby was opened and they bought me a cup of coffee. It was nice to sit with two big men, drink coffee, try to have a conversation and don’t worry about anything else.

I finally managed to explain that I was waiting for the first bus to the airport and they offered to take me there. I said goodbye to the first fisherman and got into another’s car. On the way to the airport we had a small conversation and he told me that his wife used to work as an army pilot. Or at least this is what I understood. What a cool wife to have!

Finally, I was safe in the airport, thinking how lucky I was and about the good people I met. Goodbye Croatia, I will be back 😉