kami

Can't live without travels! Wherever she goes she always looks for alternative spots or street art. A huge fan of Central Europe and off the beaten path places and a living proof that you can balance full time job and extensive travel!

The most absurd travel day that lasted 50 hours

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I’ve been hoping to go to Southern Balkans for a long time, it was the last area of Europe I was yet to explore and I was itching to finally get there. When I figured I can travel in November for 9 days with only 3 days off from work I knew that’s the time to go to Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo. I just had to find the fastest and easiest way to get there. After some researching it turned out my best option would by EasyJet flight from Berlin to Thessaloniki, Greece and then getting the bus to Albania. It sounded a little bit crazy but I liked the plan and booked the cheap ticket right away! Few days later my friend Agata decided to join me for the trip and it was pretty nice to have a company for a change.
Thessaloniki
We were supposed to leave to Berlin on Friday afternoon. I was trying to buy the ticket on Wednesday but since it was going to be a long weekend in Poland (11th of November is our Independence Day) there were no tickets left and one of us was supposed to spend the whole journey standing on the corridor. 5 hours isn’t that long so we thought we will be fine!

Absurd travel day part 1: Warsaw-Berlin

Everything started on Friday morning. I woke up at 6:07am, like every day and headed to work. After the busy day I almost managed to miss the train (did I mention my office is located at the train station?) but made it in the very last moment. Agata joined me shortly after, at the next stop and to our great surprise the train was really empty! We didn’t need to implement our master plan to switch seats, there was place for both of us. From Poznań we even had the whole compartment to ourselves! The reason behind it was the strike on German railways and people simply were scared of taking the train these days. We figured that since we had tickets to Berlin we will get there somehow. And our flight wasn’t departing till 7am the next morning. The train arrived to Rzepin, the border town between Poland and Germany and there were two buses waiting for passengers! Two! There were probably three times more people than seats but since Agata and me traveled only with the carry on we managed to score the place right away. It took us some half an hour to depart as people entered the buses but there were no seats left and the driver refused to go with people standing in the aisle (and then they had to find their luggage in the complete darkness). So much fun! I don’t want to know how long those unlucky ones had to wait for next buses…

Berlin Warszawa Express

Absurd travel day part 2: Berlin, Germany

Eventually we got to Berlin, only one hour after the train was supposed to arrive! I’ve never seen Hauptbahnhof so empty and quiet, it was magical! As it happened it was the weekend when Berlin celebrated 25 years after the Wall came down so together with many Berliners we could walk along the former line between East and West. Some 8.000 balloons with the light guided us through streets, squares and park that used to be the heart of the conflicted zone. Being in Berlin then was also a perfect opportunity to finally meet up with Franca and Dale of AngloItalian, one of my favourite bloggers out there! They joined us for a walk and we were so deep in the conversation we didn’t really notice how fast we got to Kreuzberg! Suddenly it was after midnight and me and Agata have decided that after getting some delicious cheese fries under the bridge it’s time to head to the airport…

Berlin Wall lights
Since there was the strike our only option was public transport. Internet said that there’s a nightbus going from Hermannplatz and there is one indeed but it only goes from Sunday till Thursday and it was Friday night. All the explanations were in German, of course, and neither of us know that language. It was already almost 2am, it started to rain, no one around seem to know English (or was in no state to help us) and we had no idea how to get to the airport. Finally one girl tried to communicate with us using her hands and she pointed to the metro station. There we figured we need to go to the last stop and change for the night bus there as that’s how it works on Fridays and Saturdays (do I need to mention the ticket machine didn’t accept our bills and we had to ask people to exchange money?) Finally we arrived at the airport after 3am and went to the Terminal D to get some „sleep” (hint for everyone spending the night at Schoenfeld: this terminal is always empty and there’re sofas to nap at).

Berlin Schoenfeld Airport

Absurd travel day part 3: Thessaloniki, Greece

The check in and the flight went by really smoothly (and we were trying to sleep for most of the time anyway) and at 10am we landed in Thessaloniki. The weather was grey and gloomy and we didn’t have big hopes for the city but still had the whole day to see a little bit of it. The tourist info at the airport was closed due to the cuts in personnel but there was an online info point where we found out there indeed is the direct bus from Thessaloniki to Berat, Albania. We had some problems with finding that info online and our initial plan was to go first to Tirana and then to Berat and waste much time that way so seeing the schedule and the company name was a huge relief!

We quickly found a bus that took us to the bus station and our first mission was to buy tickets to Berat. Easier said than done! There was the international counter, it had the schedule displayed and it clearly said there’s a direct bus to Berat (and around 20 other towns in Albania) but the lady there told us that the bus is not going to Berat after all. Instead she offered us a trip to some other random place in Albania that we haven’t heard of before, that wasn’t marked in the Lonely Planet map and that wasn’t even close to Berat! Because why not?

Thessaloniki
Not quite sure what to do we figured the company we found out about at the airport is not the same one that we just asked at. At least we took a picture of the airport info screen so we quickly found online the phone number and called. And here comes another surprise: the big and modern bus station we were at isn’t the one where that company operates. We learnt we need to walk some 200meters further and there we will be in the right place. And we can buy tickets there. OK, that seemed easy. We still had some 6-7 hours to kill so decided to go to the center and see Thessaloniki, even in the rain. At that moment, when we were ready to leave, Agata notticed she doesn’t have her purse with her! And she had everything in there: wallet, bank cards, passport, mobile phone… After taking everything out from both our backpacks and checking the toilet we were slowly freaking out and I was already putting the plan in my head what we need to do (calling the embassy, figuring out how to get out from Greece, counting the money…). Agata went to ask in the left luggage point (as she has been there before to ask for prices – they were way too expensive) and as it turned out the purse was there! And everything was inside! Apparently she has left it in the toilet, someone has found it and brought it to the left luggage. They were even calling her name over the loudspeakers but at that time we didn’t bother with listening the announcments. After a really stressful few minutes and a huge jump of adrenaline we could finally go and see what Thessaloniki has to offer!

Thessaloniki
Very quickly we found out there’s not much in here and in the rainy weather there’s nothing at all. There was a decent market but it was about to close. We tried to walk the promenade along the Aegean Sea but with the rain slapping us right in the face it wasn’t such a big pleasure. At least there were numerous cafes along the way (and that’s a huge plus for Thessaloniki and probably the only good thing in the city) and these were our saviors! Unfortunately at some point we had to move and we really tried to give Thessaloniki a chance but with this disastrous weather there was no way we would like it even a tiny little bit.

Thessaloniki
When I started feeling that my clothes and socks are floating I’ve decided it’s time to head back to the bus station. That was the wisest option in these circumstances, even if we still had some 3 hours left till the bus departure. Fortunately there was a decent cafe with wifi and good cakes so that was actually the highlight of our time in Thessaloniki. We googled our way from one bus station to the other and it really seemed to be nearby. It was getting dark and the rain was so much stronger than before so we’ve decided it’s time to find the place with the bus to Albania. And here we came across another problem: even if it was so close there was no easy way to walk between these two bus stations, no pavement but the busy road with three lanes each way. I’ve heard my heart beating really fast when I was running between the cars to get to the other side but we made it! In the complete darkness (at least we had headlamps), with mud up to our ankles and huge puddles of water we somehow made it to the bus station… We bought tickets to Berat and thought it will be a smooth journey from here. Well, it was still full of adventures!

absurd travel day

Absurd travel day part 4: Thessaloniki to Berat

The bus wasn’t a fancy one but still pretty comfortable one and I slept like a baby (well, this might by due to the motion sickness pills). When we left Thessaloniki there were only few fellow passengers but we picked more and more people along the way, not even from the bus stations but mostly from some random places along the road. With our two backpacks we must have looked weird there, every person had some really unusual luggage with them. There was just about everything: all sizes of packages, two boxes with pears, two old fashioned TVs, some pipes…I think some chickens or a goat wouldn’t have been so much out of place there… The whole back of the bus as well as the aisle were full of all sorts of things and we all had to do some kind of acrobatics when we wanted to get out of the bus! Of course no one spoke English and the majority of passengers were men but there was not a single issue and we felt really taken care of for the whole journey. Every time when there was something going on – a longer stop, a border control etc – people tried to communicate with us so we would know what’s happening and how much time we had. No matter how crazy this bus ride was it was also one of the easier ones I’ve ever taken.

We were supposed to arrive to Berat at 7 in the morning. Suddenly at 5am we were woken up by the driver and somewhere in the middle of nowhere me, Agata + one more guy had to change for another mini bus. It turned out we were the only passengers going towards Berat so they just organized an alternative transport for us and the bus continued in the direction of Tirana. It was already a bright day, the cafes we passed were filling up with local people and there were so many bunkers in the gardens. It was such a good introduction to Albania! The landscape was pretty amazing too and I already knew I’m gonna like it there!

Albania

Absurd travel day part 5: Berat, Albania

One hour and a half later we arrived to suburbs of Berat and yet again had to change the mode of transport. The mini bus wasn’t allowed to enter the historic center so we needed to switch for the local bus. It was departing from the stop when we approached so the mini bus driver stopped it, explain the controller where we need to get and left us again in good hands. We didn’t have the Albanian money yet but it was not a problem to pay in Euro, we even got a change back. When we arrived to the Old Town again we were told (well, gestured) it is our stop and the controller checked the address of our accommodation and pointed us in the good direction.

So far so good, we thought, we are almost there! It was around 7am and at that point I was pretty tired and dreamed of the bed. We climbed up towards picturesque white houses, walked the street where our booked accommodation was supposed to be and we found nothing… I could see like the vision of comfortable bed is moving further and further away from me… Fortunately down the street we’ve notticed the police station and we’ve decided to head there to ask for the directions. Two policemen were sitting outside, enjoying their morning coffee and even if they couldn’t speak English they tried to help us as much as they could. They had no idea where our accommodation is (even if it was literally few steps away), they tried to call the number we had on our booking but there was no answer. All kinds of thought were rushing through my mind but at that point it was all very amusing. The policeman stopped an older guy who was passing by and he knew our place and showed us the way. When we were on the streets that we were at before he just pointed that our accommodation is in the upper row of the buildings. We thought we will be fine from that moment – well, wrong again! We went up the stairs leading to two houses. There was no sign to be seen but we heard some voices from one of them so we knocked the door. An older men who opened tried to tell us that the owner of the accommodation (whose name was on our booking) is dead – it took us a while to figure out what pointing to the sky meant… We were confused what to do but he showed us where our place is located.

Berat, Albania
It was almost 8am on Sunday morning when we finally knocked the right door. The day was the prettiest (a nice change after Thessaloniki), the view from our room was amazing yet the only thing I could think of was to finally get some sleep! Finally, 50 hours after I woke up in my bed in Warsaw, after going through Poland, Germany, Greece and Albania, after some really absurd situations and some nervous ones I finally was where I was supposed to. For most of the time when things got pretty bad or weird I was just laughing like crazy as there was nothing else I could do. And now I keep laughing when I look back at these 50 hours, after all it was a pretty funny adventure!

Berat, Albania
What was the most absurd thing that ever happened to you during your travels? I’d love to hear your stories!


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4 Lut '15

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There are 54 Comments.

  1. OMG Kami! :))) Absurd indeed, but still funny :D You are my hero! I would probably got hysteric and head back to Warsaw after the first part of the bus adventure (‚the bus is not going to Berat after all ‚ :D )
    Aleksandra z urlopnaetacie.pl latest post…A co na to Luśka?!My Profile

    • kami
      22:39 08/02/2015

      nah, it was pretty funny ;) I only had one panic moment, in Berlin when we had no idea how to get to the airport but other than that it was really ok, just challenging ;)

  2. Balkans are Balkans – they make trips more adventure ;)
    balkanyrudej latest post…Naszych 15 najlepszych zdjęć z AlbaniiMy Profile

    • kami
      22:40 08/02/2015

      but the adventure started already in Poland, Balkans were the icing on the cake ;)

  3. Wow! Long travel and so adventurous! Hope after all you had great time in Albania! :) Good that your friend found her purse – I wasn’t so lucky with new camera I left in the bus few days ago in Indonesia :( And I love your photo with clouds, city and a bit of sun! Amazing!
    Kinga latest post…Centralna JawaMy Profile

    • kami
      22:44 08/02/2015

      Thank you! With all these adventures we were really lucky ;) too bad about your camera, especially that it was a new one! And yes, Albania was great, I hope to go back there soon to explore some more!

  4. Holy cow! What an adventure indeed! Happy to hear you had a friend along with you for all of it. :-)
    Joy @MyTravelingJoys latest post…Eating Bacon in Slovakia & Hiking in Morskie OkoMy Profile

    • kami
      22:45 08/02/2015

      to be honest I don’t know how I would have made it through all of it if I was on my own! :) but it was all pretty funny!

  5. Fajna podroz ;-) Mnie niedlugo czeka podobna RPA-UAE-Chiny-Singapur-Indonezja ;-) Mam nadzieje, ze nie bedzie absurdow ani zgubionycg bagazy!

    • kami
      22:45 08/02/2015

      trzymam kciuki, żeby było jak najłatwiej!! świetna trasa!

  6. Absurd it is!
    And I still can’t help wondering how you always manage to squeeze so much in so little time :)
    Monika latest post…Jaka jest kuchnia chilijska? – kurs gotowania w Valparaiso.My Profile

    • kami
      22:47 08/02/2015

      I have no idea either, it keeps surprising me every day!

  7. przygoda, przygoda, każdej chwili szkoda ;)

  8. 13:01 05/02/2015

    It reminds me of my 52h trip from southern India to Nepal! By train, then bus and another overnight „chicken bus”, that was hell! And once I also hitchiked from Zagreb to Poland which took two days or so. Great adventure!
    Emi latest post…Coś dla ciała, coś dla duchaMy Profile

    • kami
      22:48 08/02/2015

      These trip sound like so much fun, no matter how long they were! but that’s what travelling is about, right? adventures all the time!

  9. Bałkany przyciągają i kumulują w sobie różne ciekawe sytuacje, dzięki którym podróżowanie jest bardziej interesujące ;D

  10. I had a total fun reading that! ;) There is something really cool about spontaneous decisions like „got some days off, let’s go to Balkans!” :) I would really love to do that at some point in the future, but so far, everything I do must be planned. By the way – a really great trip!
    Marcin | Wojażer latest post…Jadę do Islamskiej Republiki, czyli wiza do IranuMy Profile

    • kami
      22:51 08/02/2015

      It was great indeed, even if stressful here and there ;) and well, it wasn’t that spontaneous, I booked flight to Thessaloniki well in advanced. Just everything else was a big mystery till the last moment :) Thanks!

  11. story of my life :P podróżnicze absurdy to standardowy element moich wyjazdów i lubię też o nich czytać u innych

  12. ja chyba o takich absurdach książkę kiedyś napiszę :P Zdarzały mi się często, najczęściej chyba na lotniskach i do tej pory mam stracha jak gdzieś lecę, bo boję się, że znów coś pójdzie nie tak i np. prześpię samolot na ławeczce tuż pod bramką (to już mi się zdarzyło)

  13. Wowee! I’m exhausted just after reading your 50-hours of travel experience! It seems as if almost everything that could’ve gone wrong did. But the important thing is that neither of you were hurt and you (and your belongings) made it safely! And… it’s good that you can laugh about it… now!
    Toccara latest post…Incredible Tidepools at Rialto BeachMy Profile

    • kami
      23:00 08/02/2015

      We’ve been laughing ever since we made it to Berat (or even before), journeys like this don’t happen very often ;) It was a hilarious experience after all ;)

  14. At least you will remember that trip for a loooong time. Absurd is a part of great adventure, isn’t it? :)

    • kami
      23:00 08/02/2015

      exactly! :D and it was definitely one of the most memorable trips of my life!

  15. zabawne jak człowiek najpierw myśli że odleci z nerwów a potem nawet najgorsze czasy wybiela i wspomina jak coś, co w gruncie rzecz „nie było takie zle”. albo jak peka ta granica, że gorzej być nie może i nie już nawet chce się płakać tylko co najwyżej wzrusza ramionami.
    własnie sobie przypomnialam, że i my raz przez 50 h zaliczyliśmy 4 kraje, ale żadnych fajnych przygód. to była trasa dom, lotnisko, spacer po miasteczku, lotnisko, lotnisko, cel.

    • kami
      23:03 08/02/2015

      ale jednak 50h robi wrażenie, nawet jak było dość normalnie :) level hard w podróżowaniu zaliczony ;) ja w którymś momencie tych naszych 50 godzin na każdy kolejny absurd i każdy kolejny dziwny tobołek wnoszony do autobusy reagowałam histerycznym śmiechem, no bo co miałam zrobić? ;)

  16. oj, nawet czytanie to tym dniu jest męczące….

  17. Wow! That beats out my longest day of travel for sure– and I thought 35 hours was bad! I’ve never been to the Balkans, but from your photos they seem totally worth the effort to get to.
    Beth latest post…Enjoying Wine in the Heart of San FranciscoMy Profile

    • kami
      23:04 08/02/2015

      It is definitely worth visiting! I really hope you will make it there soon, it’s incredible part of the world and still fairly undiscovered!

  18. Sounds like a crazy adventure indeed – but adventure is to be crazy, so I’m sure that in a year or so you can laught about it. Never had such a thing before, it would probably drive me nuts :P
    antonette – we12travel latest post…Canada travel tip: Peak 2 Peak or Sea to Sky?My Profile

    • kami
      23:06 08/02/2015

      I was already laughing about it when we made it to Berat! Or even before as there was nothing we could do and laughter really helped to get through this whole journey ;) I really like this kind of adventures! :)

  19. Experiences like these simply make for the best storytelling opportunities :) :) You’ll be laughing about it in no time!
    Alli latest post…7 Top Things I’ve Learned From TravelMy Profile

    • kami
      23:13 08/02/2015

      I already am laughing! :) it was a fun adventure indeed!

  20. Wow what an adventure – you’ve got the right attitude though, we’ve also learned the best way to deal with these situations is laughter! Fun blog post, thanks for sharing your crazy experience with us!
    Meg Jerrard latest post…Rotation180º Travel Away: A Travel Backpack for Every International AdventurerMy Profile

    • kami
      23:14 08/02/2015

      there was nothing else we could do so laughter was simply the best option! Thanks!

  21. Wow, what a crazy journey! Sounds like you made the best of it, though. I once spent ten hours in the Thessaloniki airport…that has got to be the most uncomfortable layover I’ve ever had. Only one restaurant and nowhere to really sleep. I probably should have gone to find one of those cafes you mention…next time, I guess…
    Hayley Swinson latest post…Do Travel Films Work? // Sundance ReviewMy Profile

    • kami
      23:16 08/02/2015

      The airport looked very basic so I can imagine it must have been a nightmare to spend so many hours there! Too bad you didn’t head out to the city, the cafe scene there was pretty incredible! Definitely do that next time if you’re around!

  22. Uwielbiam te spontaniczne decyzje pt „mam kilka dni, to jadę!” :) Szkoda tylko, że sam tego modelu nie mogę zaaplikować! ;)

  23. Kami, I’m such an idiot, why didn’t I realise you lived in Warsaw?! We could have met up when I was there last month!
    Your trip around Greece and Albania (and Germany) sounds insane. What a day! I can’t believe the owner of your accommodation was dead! I laughed so hard at that!
    Sammi Wanderlustin’ latest post…Riga’s Really Cool, But…My Profile

    • kami
      23:18 08/02/2015

      Ah, too bad I didn’t know you were coming, I’d have showed you around! How did you like Warsaw? You definitely need to come back, especially in the summer time!!
      It was a crazy trip but that made it so memorable!

  24. What you wouldn’t do for an exciting trip! There were some really absurd situations, but laughing instead of complaining is always a good way to have fun and not be stressed by the situation.
    Stefania – the Italian Backpacker latest post…5 Pictures of an Untouristy BarcelonaMy Profile

  25. I thought my recent 24 hour journey was rough! Glad you made it! You got hit with quite a bit of luck, especially with the purse!

    • kami
      21:50 25/02/2015

      24 hours already sound pretty challenging :) yeah, things could have been much worse for us but overall it was a fun trip!

  26. Really great post. Even though your journey was not the easiest, you made it.

  27. OMG! What a crazy situation! I read the whole post with bated breath… but afterall I think it turned out to be a memorable trip :)

    • kami
      22:11 06/03/2015

      haha, it wasn’t that bad after all (or so I think now ;)) And I have a good story to share now ;)

  28. That’s some adventure there! Some years back we planned for a weekend hiking, all set with our backpacks & camping gear. All the plans went for a toss as we landed in a wrong place (about 100 miles away form actual starting point). Reason: one of our friends booked bus tickets to the wrong place & we didn’t even bother to check it before starting. But we still had some hiking in the rain :)
    Prashanth latest post…Hillocks around SiddarabettaMy Profile

    • kami
      22:21 06/03/2015

      haha, that sounds really funny! Well, I bet you were pretty annoyed and disappointed at that time but now you have a great story to tell!

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