On Split, Dubrovnik, Mostar and Hitchhiking a Taxi

I stayed two nights in Split, a pretty town with narrow streets and pleasant beaches. Two nights was definitely enough though. There are a lot of British tourists there, drinking, tanning and being tourists so its a bit more expensive then other cities.

While trying to hitchhike to Bosnia I got talking to two friendly Chilean guys at a petrol station. They were driving to Krka National Park and then after to Dubrovnik in a rented car. They were nice enough to let me tag along intrigued by the chance to see the National Park’s waterfalls (beautiful by the way).

Myself out for a dip at the waterfall
Myself out for a dip at the waterfall

Dubrovnik was similar to Split except the tourists were mostly older, pensioner ladies with the same short haircuts and digital cameras that they can’t quite work. A nice old town though even if the bands are playing U2 covers for the tourists in the bars rather than Croatian music.

Going from Split to Dubrovnik too you have to cross the border with Bosnia and then return into Croatia a couple miles later, Dubrovnik is separated from Croatia. Which leads to a delay since the Bosnian border police decided to search the rented car because the Chileans had South American Passports.

Mostar in Bosnia turned out to be far more interesting even if it lacked the Croatian beaches. I had stepped on some cunt of a fish in Dubrovnik that stuck thorns in my foot but I didn’t seek attention until I was in Bosnia (when the pain got sharper). The doctors had a good laugh at the tourist who brought them an injury from the sea even though I was many– miles from water.

The Bosnians were friendly if a little reserved. Except for the guy who offered me a drag of his joint then asked for money, fuck off ye dick.

The country is generally beautiful yet awkwardly named (I think Bosgovia would have been a better name, sounds like a Soviet theme park).

The highlight of the cheap, relaxed town of Mostar for me wasn´t the amazing bridge that locals jump off but rather the Snipers Building. An abandoned bank (I think), the bullet-holed walls leaked emotions. I’m’ not one for spirits and voodoo shite but there was something quite… something about that building. Go and you will feel it.

I done some binge drinking there too with an Auzzie and then a Serbian woman who owned a bar drove us around town after we just about drank her entire stock of bottled beers.

Hitchhiking in Bosnia is simple too, maybe the easiest country I have ever tried. The mix of Communist comradely and Muslim good-will makes it ideal for backpackers on a budget.

I simply walked out of Mostar in the Sarajevo direction and got picked up by the second car to pass. Bosnia has no motorways so hitchhiking is possible absolutely anywhere a car can pull in. Thumbing is faster there than the petrol station approach.

An elderly guy left me at town called Konjic I think, he didn’’t speak any English. I sat and admired this towns bridge too and ate a tuna sandwich. I wished a newly married couple taking photos on the bridge congratulations, they thanked me without smiling. A solid Eastern European effort, she looked beautiful, Bosnian girls are beautiful though probably hard to impress, if you could just make one smile though that probably would mean she loves you now.

When I starting hitchhiking again a Taxi pulled over straight away. I tried to wave him on saying I was hitchhiking.

“”Get in””

I hopped he knew more English and threw my bag on the back seat then jumped in.

“”No money, you to Sarajevo””

That’s how easy hitchhiking in Bosnia is. Even taxis will pick you up for free.

“”I am Bosnian and Muslim””

“”OK, I’m Irish””

“We have many economic and too political problems here””

“”OK””

““I do not speak Turkish””

“”OK””

““Some people talk, go back to Turkey Muslim, I am not Turkish, I do not speak Turkish, I have never been. Understand?””

“”Yes, OK””

This continued for the next hour, he slowly spoke English always constantly validating his Bosnian citizenship, I hardly spoke at all. It didn’t’ bother me though. I was on the way to Sarajevo the starting point of WW1, a city I always wanted to visit.

I think the only reason this old man became a taxi driver and learnt his English was to spit his angry words about Serbs and Turks on the windscreen to tourists. Nice guy though.

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Saved by the Dog

I reached up an knocked on the truck door,

“Excuse me, are you going to South by any chance, to Split or Dubrovnik?”

“No, back to Serbia”

A cold response, all I had got over the last two hours at this petrol station on the edge of Zagreb by the motorway.

“Thats OK, sorry to disturb you. The Orthodox Celts though, a great band, aren´t they Serbian?”

“Yes, where are you from?”

“Ireland”

“Our Celtic cousins” the truck driver replied, looking at me for the first time clearly happy with my nationality. Not smiling, Serbs don’t really smile much but still are happy. He introduced himself and the passeneger. I hadn´t noticed the second guy in the truck.

He could speak English because he had worked in Canada before marrying a Serbian woman and returning home. They were stuck here however in Croatia until his brother arrived. He told me that a Gypsy broke into his truck while he was having coffee and stole his Passport so he was waiting on documents from his brother to drive to Serbia. He offered to get some coffee while I waited, truckers love drinking coffee. It’s where I developed the habit of drinking coffee from, most Irish people just drink tea.

After an hour or so his brother arrived and I left them to their Serbian discussion. It was the early evening now and I still hadn´t found a ride South to the beaches. I had walked across two fields to get to this petrol station that I spotted on Google Maps since I couldn’t walk on the motorway (it was a big messy spaghetti here). To get down to the fields though I needed to lower myself down a bank and walk under a bridge. A bridge with three gypsy caravans underneath, when I had passed earlier in the morning they didn´t say much, only one guy tried to sell me an Iphone. He was more surprised that I was walking there then anything. To return now in the evening as it got dark didn’t appeal to me, especially since I was 99% sure that it was the same iphone seller guy who had probably robbed the truckers. It’s not racist, the Iphone was cearly stolen and the truckers described seeing a similar guy run from the truck.

The guy who worked in the petrol station was helpful, he gave me cardboard and a marker to make a sign. In truth I was completely ill-prepared. Still new to hitchhiking this was my first time potentially stranded and I had no plan-B or sleeping bag.

I learnt a lot that evening, like that bringing a tarp, tent or hammock and sleeping bag is a good idea. That tourists in Camper Vans or RVs are completely useless and never pick up hitchhikers. That hitchhiking after dark is still possible at petrol stations, while people are more cautious their sympathy to a hitchhiker is now higher since its dark and cold. That a Sharpie pen is absolutely essential and even if you move away from your bag to talk to someone you should keep a sign with your destination there just incase someone wishes to approach you.

I was sitting on the curb leaning against the wall of the petrol station when an Astra pulled in.

A German registration. I hadn´t seen a car that wasn´t local for hours.

“Excuse me, I´m trying to get South to Split. Are you driving this way by any chance”

“Split, yes”

“Great and you speak English?”

“So, So” Of course he did, them Germans are dam smart.

“Can I come?” I pleaded with the most genuine face one can pull.

“Sure, put your bag in the trunk. I am driving from Munich to my family’s holiday home in Split because my dog dosen’t like to fly”

The bulldog returned from taking a piss around the corner. The dog was the only reason this young German guy was driving and also the only reason he had stopped, so that dog could piss. I fucking rubbed the back of that dog’s ear enthusiastically, and did so the whole way to Split. A great dog!

Never give up hope of catching a ride to your destination, thats what I learnt too. Sure if hitchhiking was completely easy then no-one would take the bus. Embrace the difficulties on the road, they make reaching your destination that much sweeter.

Deep Chats in Croatia

Sometimes when your hitchhiking around people will see a chance to burn some built up steam with you. They see someone who relies on karma and instantly trust you with their stories secure in the fact that your merely a traveller passing through. Their words will never be repeated in the town by a travelling person they reason.

I have been an ametuer psychologist at times by simply not speaking just staying quiet and strangers have offloaded their life stories on me. I don´t offer any opinión or judgements and why would I? Sometimes people just want to hear themselves talk.

One particular conversation will stick with me forever, it was early in my travelling days and the first time a stranger had confided in me with an extremely private and emotional story. I don´t think anyone had ever spoken to me so nakedly before, I say naked because I can´t think of any other suitable description for her words. To the point, it intimidated me. Conversations were not meant to be so deep and blunt, especially not with strangers.

I was sitting outside at a picnic table by a bar, a band was playing some Croatian music and I was thinking over the days hitchhiking and contemplating my next move.

Find a hostel, sleep, then head on towards Bosnia I figured.

I took in the surrounding crowd, a lot of young Croatians smoking. Even the teenagers huddled in circles sharing cigarettes. A lady, probably in her forties stood over the table I sat at and said something in Croatian.

“Excuse me”

“O you speak English, do you might if I sit beside you”

“Of course, not”

I lifted my backpack off the seat and shuffled over politely.

Brunette, very thin, an aged but energetic face with yellow teeth from years of chain-smoking. She pulled out a pack of cigs, Marlboro Gold. I never refuse a Marlbaro Gold.

We got to chatting, though she talked more than I. She learnt English while working in a call center and always wanted to visit Ireland she claimed. She questioned my hitchhiking habits with an intense curiousity, everything was intense. She kept strict eye contact and never allowed a break in the conversation, always talking like silence was dangerous.

Rushed sentences quickly followed, born in Split, how the stars in Split are beautiful, a daughter about 15 who liked One Direction, have another cigerette.

Trust is important she claimed, trust is all that matters. When she lived in Split she would leave her car open and never lock the door of her apartment. She didn´t care that her boyfriend would complain and tell her to lock the door. Never, she needed to trust she told me. I was apparently trust worthy, I was a listener she said.

We got up and walked around the town a little, she continued to talk about her life and dreams lots of private stuff.

“You sure trust a lot” I said

“I know I can trust you, I want to tell you something”

“Go ahead”

“I was raped”

How do you respond to that? I didn’t, stuck for words I just returned her eye contact, completely shaken by her words, I wished she hadn´t said that. I felt awkward, like I had to say something, we had stopped walking.

She began telling me the story, 17, near her family’s apartment at night, he came from behind and had a knife to her neck. She didn’t hate him though, she hates nobody she told me. Even while it was happening she told him it’s OK, I don´t hate you´. She spoke the entire time, that’s why he never killed her she said, because she didnt hate him.

But you should, the bastard I replied, but she interrupted me. He isn’t all people, people aren’t bad she said.

How could she say this? The cunt wanted to kill her. She told me about her struggles with depression and boyfriends after it happened. Cnversation that went beyond my knowledge of conversations before. 21 years old and I had never heard anyone speak to me like so, raw. A night that had changed her life forever, that she had replayed in her mind countlessly for years but possibly only ever shared the story with one or two people, and I was one.

I didn’t need to get a Hostel, why not stay at hers she suggested we could have a few drinks, her daughter was at a friends, she could call her and tell her to stay the night there.

I knew what she was hinting at, she had just told me stuff she needed to say out loud. Private information. Some people might know you all your life and you will never have an intense conversation like we had, two strangers but not really now.

She really was a nice lady, sure old but the shadow of the beautfiul girl she used to be still remained. A good figure and piercing eyes.

“I better go to the Hostel, I have an early start”

I pussied out, to intimidated by a woman who wanted to tell me everything and spend a night together then wave me off in the morning never to speak again. I know if I was back their today as I write this story things would happen differently. I had much maturing to do on the road, and still do. I really regret not going back with her place though to this day. I know she is one of the most kind person I have ever meet and that conversation will leave her image imprinted in my mind forever.

I wanted to share that conversation because it was a big moment in my hitchhiking life, the strenght of her caracther has influenced me a lot on the road. I always am honest and never jump to conlusions about someone, who knows what they have suffered in the past?

 

 

Croatian War Veteran and Truck Driver

I was by a petrol station, where I spend most of my time hitchhiking in countries with motorways. I was in Slovenia trying to hitchhike from Ljubljana to Zagreb. There wasn’t much people around, just a few cars getting petrol and none with Croatian license plates. Behind the station there was some space for trucks to pull in and I spotted one of these trucks reversing out of its space, so I ran over waving before he pulled off. It had a Croatian plate.

I hadn’t yet hitchhiked a truck before (this was back in 2013 and before Croatia joined the EU), so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but he rolled down his window to hear me.

“Hey, speak English?”

“So, So”

“Austostop to Croatia, Please!”

“hmmm, I can take you to border”

He didn’t seem thrilled but he was happy to drop me off at the border, so I climbed into the passengers seat and threw my rug-sack onto the bed behind me.

We did the standard introductions and what-not. An elderly Croatian man (sixties I presume), his English was great and he seemed to enjoy the fact I was Irish. A bucket of tobacco sat on the floor in between us and I watched him reach down, grab some tobacco and roll himself a cigarette with one hand (filter and all) while steering the truck. I was impressed to say the least.

“I had friends from Ireland”

“Did you? Where”

“When I fight in Croatian Army”

“There was Irish men in the Croatian Army?”

“In war with Yugoslavia, Irish men come here. You are Catholics like us.”

This seemed to explain everything to him, but not to me. I thought the days of Irishmen going abroad to fight had long ceased by the nineties, though maybe there was a couple of Irish men here, possibly ex-IRA men who came to fight with other Catholics. It was surely possible. I even heard of a man from Clonmel (a town near my hometown in Ireland) who died fighting for Afghanistan against the Soviets.

“How many Irish?”

“I knew some, one still live in Croatia I think”

He didn’t seem bothered by the subject of war, and my curiosity got the best of me.

“So you didn’t like Communism?”

“No”

“You liked Communism?”

“In Yugoslavia, Yes”

“But not Tito?”

“Tito was great leader”

Now I was confused..

“But you fought to leave Yugoslavia in the war?”

“Yes and before that I was in Yugoslav army”

Really confused now…

“And you liked Yugoslavia and Communism and Tito?”

“Yes, we had many jobs and one month holidays every year, education, doctors.”

“Why did you fight against it then?”

“It is not easy say, I am Yugoslavian but also Croatian. When Tito was leader, no problem, we are all Yugoslavian. When Tito die, problem. Politicians make problems, I am Croatian, and Serbians no longer my brothers. I fight against my brothers because of politics but I am only soldier, no question. After war I drive truck.”

This shocked me really that a man could fight the army he was a part of originally. Also the praise for communism was news to me. I did history in school, I suppose a typical Western education will tell you that Communism was awful and no-one appreciated it except for the corrupt dictators. This man spoke so nostalgically in favour of Communism.

“Is Croatia better today?”

“No, but Yugoslavia is not possible without Tito, I must stop at border for hour. Why? In Yugoslavia we were all brothers, I could work and take my holiday. No holiday now, I never see my children, always driving trucks now. Croatia join EU soon. Good but not good, more tourists but hotels, restaurants all bought by Germans now. Money not staying. Understand?”

“Yes, you don’t see your children”

“They are big now, but I never see them small, always driving. In Yugoslavia you work and take break, now in Croatia if you find job, big if, then you always work. I will retire soon and become taxi driver I hope. Taxi driver is good job.”

He then proceeded to tell me about his house on the hills where he will retire and fix a Lada (old Russian car).

I guess for the man who wanted the freedom to move around Yugoslavia, earn just enough to support a family and still go fishing or fix his car at the weekend then Tito’s Communism must of been a dream come true.

In the end he took me past the border where we chatted for an hour and then onto Zagreb.

I wanted to share his story I guess to remind us all that the best way to learn about a countries history is to speak to someone who lived it.

It might just contradict the history book you had in school.

Hitchhiking from Split to Dubrovnik and also Krka National Park

Hitchhiking from Split to Dubrovnik

After spending a couple nights in Split drinking at a hostel with a group of English tourists it was time to hit the road again. The sea, beers and conversations where I didn’t need to speak slowly were refreshing, but I wanted to get to Bosnia and Herzegovina for a change of scenery.

I walked to the Ina petrol station located at the red dot on the map in order to find a lift towards Bosnia. I actually got lost on the way and the Croatian man I asked for directions was sound enough to get his car and drop me at the petrol station.Hitchhike split

I waited there for maybe an hour but every person I approached either spoke no English or indicated that they were only local traffic. I was beginning to get very impatient at this stage.

I was lucky enough however to strike up a conversation with two Chilean guys in a rented Croatian car, tourists driving around the country. They ended up offering me a lift to Krka National Park and after that to Dubrovnik. Deciding that there was still more of Croatia for me to see before Bosnia I took them up on the offer.

Overall Rating : Bad, mostly local traffic, for getting to Zagreb I would recommend finding a way out further from the city to the OMV Station. For the direction of Dubrovnik I would try walking along the coastal road instead with your thumb out.

Waiting Time : 1 Hour (Krka)

 

hitchhike krkaSwimming at Krka National Park. An example of how random hitchhiking can be.

Before : Hitchhiking from Zagreb to Split

After : Hitchhiking from Mostar to Sarajevo

Hitchhiking from Zagreb to Split

Hitchhiking from Zagreb to Split

Hitchhiking from Zagreb to Split proved quite difficult for me but I got to Split in the end. The best way to get out of town is to reach the Lucko toll station. I used tram 14 (or 7 is good) to get to Jadranska avenija. 

My plan was to walk this street until I got to the OMV petrol station on the motorway south instead of getting a bus. It
hitchhiking zagrebfailed though as by some chance of trying to cross the roads at the busy motorway intersection (very dangerous) I ended up at the wrong petrol station, the one marked in the map in red.

This petrol station/motel was more suited to traffic going west however I stuck it out all day and waited.

Two Serbian truck drivers befriended me. They were also stuck there after their truck gotten broken into and their documents stolen.

This is something else worth noting about Zagreb, the edges of the city is riddled with Gypsys so caution is necessary. Just ignore any offers to buy a cheap iphone.

I eventually got a lift to Split from a German guy who was driving to Split because his dog dosen’t like to fly. God bless that dog.

Overall Rating : Bad

Waiting Time : 4-5 Hours

The spot I would recommend using is the point marked in green on the map. The Lucko toll station or the nearby petrol station. The toll booths can be reached by using buses #111 or #132 from Savski mostJust ask the bus driver to tell you when you reach Lucko.

Locals will often hitchhike closer to the city center on Jadranska avenija. Bring a sign for Lucko if your feeling confident and hitchhike a lift to the toll booth instead of using the bus.

Use the signs ST (Split), ZD ( Zadar), DB (Dubrovnik) or try all three on one sign if your not fussy.

Before : Hitchhiking from Ljubljana to Zagreb

After : Hitchhiking from Split to Dubrovnik

Hitchhiking in Croatia Tips

Hitchhiking in Croatia Tips

Capital : Zagreb

Population : Around 4.5 Million

Languages : Croatian (Similar to rbBalkan Languages)

 English (Most Younger People, Especially Students),

 Italian (Widely Spoken)

Difficulty : Good country for hitchhiking, the coastal road has a lot of useful tourist traffic but Zagreb can be difficult to leave.

Money : Kuna, cheaper than Western Europe but nowhere near as cheap as other former Yugoslavian states like Serbia. Tourist towns like Dubrovnik are noticeably more expensive.

Hitchhiking in Croatia is a great way to get around a country which is home to a beautiful coastline, two world famous national parks, and many barely inhabited islands. In other words it offers something for the sun-bather, party animal, hiker and adventurer. 

When hitchhiking to Dubrovnik it’s important to remember that you will enter and leave Bosnia and Herzegovina in doing so. The border is a bit strange as it cuts Dubrovnik off from the rest of Croatia. Be prepared as when I crossed this border hitchhiking from Split the car I was in got searched and we were delayed an hour or two.

Zagreb is a nice city with a very unique museum, “The Museum of Broken Relationships“. Most of the tourists in Croatia head for the coastal towns like Split, Dubrovnik and Zadar. The hostels in these towns are full of drunken tourists from Western Europe visiting for the beaches and cheap alcohol.

Usually these young tourists make up the majority of the summer coastal traffic with over-packed cars, however hitchhiking a ride is definitely possible. When travelling with locals it is best not to bring up the Yugoslav Wars. Most Croatians have lived through the war and it’s a touchy subject. If you just came from Serbia then don’t talk about it.

When travelling away from the coast I highly recommend Krka Park because you can swim in the waterfall at this park. The nature is quite stunning. When camping however be wary of land mines leftover from the war, they aren’t common. If you see a warning sign however do not go any further off the beaten track.

hitchhike croatia

The route I hitchhiked in Croatia.

Hitchhiking from Ljubljana to Zagreb

Hitchhiking from Ljubljana to Zagreb

I hitchhiked this route in the summer of 2013. Although hitchhiking from Ljubljana to Zagreb is easy enough I would hitchihike ljubljana zagrebrecommend starting in the morning. Getting out of Ljubljana in the direction of Zagreb can be tricky like any city.

To hitchhike out of Ljubljana and Slovenia I took the bus 1 or 1B is good in the direction Mestni Log from the city center. Get off at the second last stop called Koprska.

Continue straight along the road (don’t follow the bus which turns) after 2 minutes you will cross a bridge over a small river. Continue straight and cross the motorway over the bridge, and on the left side the petrol station is about 500 m away.

There is a golf course between you and the service area, which you can cross by climbing its hitchhike ljubljanafences (or other means) if the personal see you then just talk your way out of the situation. Tell them you are hitchhiking from Ljublana to Zagreb and are just heading to the petrol station.

You are just walking across after all and it shouldn’t be a problem. Say “autostop” for hitchhiking if your not understood. Try and stay unseen though to avoid issues.

Overall Rating : Good, in fact the best spot for Zagreb.

Waiting Time : 30 Mins (Zagreb direction)

I got speaking to a pair of Slovenian guys in their late twenties at a picnic table by this petrol station. They agreed to take me further along the motorway and even rolled up a nice joint on the road to smoke.

They dropped me off at one of the petrol stations along the motorway to Zagreb, because I was high I can’t really remember where. I do remember however getting my next lift easily enough. Once you are on the motorway to Zagreb it’s safe to assume most traffic and especially trucks are driving there.

I caught a lift with a Croatian truck driver to Zagreb, he agreed to take me to the border but we had such a great chat about the history of Yugoslavia that I didn’t mind waiting at the border 2 hours while hitchhiking from Ljubljana to Zagreb. Once his paperwork was done he continued to Zagreb.

I remember him emotionally recalling his days as a soldier in the Yugoslav army, he spoke highly of Tito. When the war broke out however he fought on the Croatian side against his former Comrades. This really struck me as an amazing story, he fought because he loves Croatia but he never wanted Croatia to leave Communism.

Hitchhiking can introduce you to people who have lived through history that we learnt biased opinions on in school.

He dropped me off within walking distance of Zagreb center.

Before : Hitchhiking Budapest to Ljubljana

After : Hitchhiking Zagreb to Split

Hitchhiking in Slovenia Tips

Hitchhiking in Croatia Tips