So, as Chris mentioned in our last post, it is now my turn to contribute. Myself being Taylor.
It has been a busy couple of weeks for us. Activities ranged from a concert in London, to travelling all the way to Montenegro and Serbia with no money. In addition, we have planned out our travels for winter break.
We’ll start with Chris and I’s trip to Montenegro. This unique trip came about because of a charity hitch-hike call “Jailbreak”. The idea was to raise money for the Raise and Give Foundation (RAG). The donations were given to four different charities: Make a Wish Foundation UK, Student Minds, The Red Lipstick Foundation, and Enactus Southampton.
The goal behind the event was for participants to travel as far from the University of Southampton as possible, while spending no money of their own. For Chris and me, the idea was very intriguing and presented a challenge unlike anything we had done before.
The adventure began early on the morning of the 21st of September. Chris and I ate breakfast and made our way to the Student Union, where Jailbreak was set to begin. After registering, and receiving safety packets, the “race” began at 0900.
0900 Day 1: Chris and I had a slow start. We went with the well thought out plan of having no plan. We wondered around Southampton for quite a while asking for travel money. Eventually, with the help of Chris’ best southern charm, we were able to raise enough money for a bus to London. After a two and a half hour bus ride, we arrived at the Victoria bus terminal in London. Once at Victoria, our first move was to ask the bus companies for reduced or even free tickets. At first we were told that is was possible, but in the end, nothing was able to work out. By this point it was past 1900 and we were beginning to feel that our prospects were grim. That’s when the idea came to reach out to the Webb community of students. The Webb response was incredible and we owe the ability to travel past London to the Webb community. Initially the idea was to buy the cheapest bus ticket available, but seeing the strong response, we set our new goal for the cheapest flight we could find. After a quick search, Chris found a flight to Podgorica, Montenegro. It was due to fly out early Sunday morning. Next, Chris searched for flights back to Podgorica. He found that if we flew through a different airline, the flights back were expensive, but not detrimental. With a way back home at least discussed I booked our flight to Podgorica. Next I looked at the flight back home. This is when both Chris and I realized for the first time that we were going to have a 13hr layover in Belgrade, Serbia. After further research, we figured this arrangement would work, plus offered us an unexpected trip to another country in the region. Again, flights were booked.
2400 Day 1: After discussions by Chris to walk the 37 miles to the airport, we quickly searched for a cheap bus to take us instead. Fortunately we found one, and were on our way to the airport just before midnight. We arrived at Stansted Airport close to 0100. We slept in two shifts, allowing each of us to attempt to sleep for two and a half hours. I say “attempt” because the only space available with an outlet to charge our phones was next to a door with a massive gap letting air in from the outside. Unfortunately for Chris and I, it was -3C (27F). The hard stone floor didn’t help our cause either. Fortunately for me, once my time came to sleep, I had found a nearby radiator. I was able to sleep the radiator for a short time, until I was kicked off by a small shop employee working nearby. By this point however the airport was beginning to open, and so we checked into our flight and made our way to the gate.
0800 Day 2: The flight to Montenegro was uneventful (I slept the whole flight…). One thing that stood out in Chris’s mind was the beauty of the Croatian islands we flew over. Luckily I did wake up for the approach to Podgorica. I admired the impressive mountains surrounding, for which Montenegro is named after (“Black Mountain”). Once on the ground Chris and I had no idea what to expect. Our first task was to check in for our flight to Serbia. This is when we found, to our surprise, that our booking for the flight to Serbia had been cancelled. Again, we were very surprised. Luckily with a very nice Air Serbia employee (who spoke rough English), we were able to rebook. Next, the same gentleman arranged for a taxi for us into the city center. Chris and I were fixed to the windows as we drove into the capital city. Podgorica is not massive, and has only a population of around 180,000. Once in the city center, we were able to arrange for the same taxi to pick us up four hours later. At the time, because of the language barrier, I was not entirely sure we understood the taxi driver, but through various methods of writing numbers down on paper and a bit of pointing, an understanding was reached.
1400 Day 2: Chris and I had about four hours to explore Podgorica. To start we headed towards the river Moraca.
Once on the river, we found the Millennium Bridge and began walking towards it. Looking along the river, towards the various bridges was very beautiful, especially with large mountains as a backdrop.
We walked across the Millennium Bridge and began exploring what appeared to be the ruins of a large number of buildings. Unfortunately, even after some quick research, we still have not found what these ruins are.
By this point, it was beginning to get dark, so we began walking back towards the city center. On our way a friendly gentleman picked us out as foreigners immediately. He spoke English well and asked us questions such as where we were from. He then continued and asked if he could help us in any way. We asked for a place to eat with wifi and he immediately directed us to a nice restaurant down the road. The restaurant was so nice that we felt bad entering considering we were still in the same clothes we had put on over 30 hours before. I can’t imagine we smelled too pleasant, or looked particularly formal. Regardless, we were encouraged to enter and were immediately served. Our meals were amazing. Keep in mind that this was our first actual meal since breakfast the morning of the day before. We practically licked our plates clean. In addition to great food, Chris and I were able to connect to wifi, letting our families know where we were, and what our plan was. After finishing our meal, we walked backed to the government building of the city center. They stood out when compared to most of the buildings nearby.
With more time to spend, Chris and I found a park nearby to explore. There was a stark difference between the soviet style block buildings and the brand new park.
After finishing walking in the park, we returned to the city center and found the taxi. The taxi now had a different driver, who was excited to practice his English. He was very proud of his country and was very interested in what we thought of our visit. He also told us about the beauty and fun of the coast of Montenegro, and encouraged us to return in the summer to experience the beach life. We arrived at the airport with plenty of time before our flight. I found that any position was comfortable and took a nice nap before the flight.
2400 Day 2: The flight to Belgrade, Serbia was very short. We arrived just before midnight. After withdrawing some Serbian dinar, we walked around the airport trying to find a way to our hostel. We ended up on a bus towards the city center. With the help of a friendly gentleman on the bus, we were able to get the ride for free. We arrived at our hostel just before 0100, and made plans for the next day and crashed. It felt fantastic to lie down on a real bed.
0645 Day 3: The next morning we woke up and left the hostel by 0645. We walked down the road to Belgrade Fortress, where the sun was just beginning to rise.
The fortress was fantastic to explore. The sheer size of the fortress was impressive.
After a short time of exploring, it was time to head to the airport. We walked around the area surrounding the fort with the intention of find a taxi. It was a nice walk because we were able to watch as everyone began their day. The taxi was also nice because it was a much quicker drive to the airport than the bus would have been.
0900 Day 3: Once on the plane, flying towards London, Chris and I were able to relax. We had travelled with no plan, and were on our way back. We fortunately had avoided experiencing any significant or worrying issues. In travelling to Montenegro and Serbia, I can say that we had an experience unlike anything we expected before entering Jailbreak. We enjoyed it very much. More importantly however, in the generous donations by family, friends, and even strangers, Chris and I raised over £800 for charity. As a whole, the event raised over £13,300 for charity.
Now, that Jailbreak has been discussed, we can move on to the concert in London. The weekend after Jailbreak, Chris, Will, and I headed to London to enjoy a Chvrches concert. After finishing classes on Friday, we grabbed a train to London and met Chris’s cousin and her husband. They introduced us to some of their friends, and we headed towards Alexanda Palace. The view from the hill on which Alexanda Palace is located is great, and we all paused for a moment to take it in before heading inside for the show. The venue itself was also very nice, and we very much enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere. Overall the concert was great. For me particularly, not knowing very much about Chvrches, it was very cool.
After the concert we headed to a nearby pub, before heading to Chris’s cousin’s flat. They were very generous in offering us a place for the night.
The next morning, we walked across London and visited once again the Imperial War Museum. As mentioned before, we had previously visited the museum, but unfortunately ran out of time before we became even close to going through the whole museum. This time we had all day. We spent around four hours in the museum. It is an incredible, and well worth visiting. It covers WWI, through to the present.
One of the most moving exhibits was the Holocaust section. It was one of the most extensive exhibits any of us have ever seen. After finishing with the museum we returned to Southampton.
Finally, it is time to explain our plans for our winter break. We have made plans to travel to Copenhagen, Zurich, Prague, Vienna, and Istanbul. We are taking full advantage of our friends from Webb. In Copenhagen, we will stay with Cody Owen (Webb, 2015). Then in Zurich we will stay with Gabriel Poritz (Webb, 2015). Naturally, in Istanbul we will stay with Gokce’s family. After we return, we will make a final update, hopefully having plenty to talk about after three weeks of travelling.
At the request of Will, I will mention that we watch the Army, Navy game last night (12/12/15). Will and Chris were particularly happy with the Navy victory over Army.
Until next time,