I found myself studying maps again last night, playing about with Skyscanner. I'm not sure if I was trying to come up with an alternative to returning home on Monday, or just formulating a "plan" to ease the trauma of returning to reality.
I'm already committed to visiting Albania in July - I booked my flights before I left home, so I wouldn't be able to back out if I came home travel weary after this adventure. There were too many places in Albania I wanted to visit for me to be able to work it into this trip in the way I wanted, so it's getting 10 days to itself. I'll add it to the itinerary link on here at some point.
I also couldn't fit in Slovenia. I would have liked to have started in Ljubljana, and taken the train from there to Zagreb. With the benefit of hindsight I probably could have done this if I hadn't gone to Bitola, but at the time it seemed important to include, so I did. Maybe it was for the best though, as Zagreb gave my the "soft landing" I needed. Either way, I have no plans yet for Slovenia. Yet.
Flicking through my guidebook again, I was reminded of the shocking road fatality statistics in some of the countries I've passed through. I'm not entirely surprised given the number of times I've had taxi drivers turn fully around in their seat to talk to me, even as we continued to career through traffic.
My accommodation here in Dubrovnik arranged to pick me up from the bus station (an offer I gratefully accepted given it was free). This meant that for the first time I was sitting in the front passenger seat. Optimistically, I hoped this would mean less of a hair-raising experience, but still my driver chatted away, spending far more time looking at me for eye contact than at the road ahead. Or the roundabout he was navigating. Or the zebra crossing with people on it.
In an attempt to encourage him to focus on the road, I resorted to staring resolutely ahead - still talking to him, but no longer glancing in his direction. I hoped this might make him feel he didn't need to keep looking over at me if I wasn't looking for eye contact. It didn't work.
In the end I continued the approach, albeit with the thought in mind then being that at least one of us should have their eyes on the road. Even if that wasn't the same person who was in charge of the vehicle.
Perhaps the phrase I should in fact have learnt before I set off from home was "kindly please keep your eyes on the road".
Anyway, my trip was not yet over and I had one last city to explore. A city under siege from plagues of tourists. Arriving in Dubrovnik's old town I wanted to jump back on a bus and return to Kosovo, or Bosnia, or Belgrade, or anywhere, just to escape the heaving sea of humanity. Just get me out of here.
Instead I dove in and let the currents sweep me along Stradun, the main road through the old town. The white marble from which the town is built is certainly beautiful, there's no denying that. And I gave it a good six hours to win me over. I'm nothing if not fair.
I can understand the appeal of Dubrovnik's old town, there's no denying it can be enthralling. But for me it just lacks the "wow factor" of Split in its buildings and spaces. The sea here is beautiful, but it is elsewhere too.
As the evening began to draw in the crowds thinned out, replaced by hundreds of swallows, whirling, bat-like, through the sky near the bell tower. I preferred the birds to the crowds - despite momentary parallels with a Hitchcock film.