Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 14-27, 2017

We rode the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow,  checked into our AirBnB, which was quite close to the middle of town, and started to explore.  We usually walk around the immediate neighborhood looking for grocery stores, ATM machines and a close pub.  As we walked along a retail block we heard yelling from a store in front of us.  The shop owner was yelling ‘stop,  stop,  he’s stealing’ .  We saw a rather big, young guy come running out of the store with an armful of cashmere scarves and the shop owner not far behind.  As he ran by Kaye, she swiped her arm across the scarves and he dropped several and turned him around.  I , like and idiot, got in a position to try and block him.  He was easily 40 pounds heavier and 40 years younger than me.  He ran over me like I wasn’t there.  I managed to grab a few scarves as I fell.  I slowed him down enough so someone else was able to push him against a car and he dropped the rest of the scarves.

As I got up brushing myself off and checking for any physical damage, several people kindly asked if I was all right.  The shop owner came over and thanked me and said that I didn’t need to take such a risk-‘they’re only scarves’.  As a reward, he gave me a small bottle of scotch to help heal any bruises I might have received.  Welcome to Glasgow.

Glasgow has some wonderful free and inexpensive  museums and city buildings to visit.  They also have lots of great pubs.  Our favorite was Brew Dog, a small chain of pubs around the UK.  It was there we met, Claire, Alexis and Heather.  It was one of those nights where the intention was to stop off for a beer and it turned into 3 (or was it 4?). A few days later we had a nice afternoon walking with Claire from pub to pub.

After Glasgow we flew to Lisbon, Portugal for a 3 week stay.

Here are some images of some of the buildings in Glasgow.

The Glasgow City Chambers gives free tours.  It is a beautiful building with marble stair cases and arches and stained glass.

Various sights around Glasgow, Scotland.  In 2013,  a helicopter crashed into the Clutha Pub killing 10 people ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Glasgow_helicopter_crash ).

 

We also took a day trip to Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, the gateway to the Highlands.  Also stopped at Dune Castle (sight of several movies -Monty Python and the Holy Grail ) and Sterling Castle which is the largest and most important castle in Scotland.   Don’t have many photos of them right now-will add later.

 

Edinburgh, Scotland. After almost 3 months in Croatia it was time for a change. Oct. 31-Nov. 14, 2017

Because we were still having to avoid the Schengen area countries,  we left Croatia after 3+ months and flew to Edinburgh, Scotland.  It was our first time flying from one location to another within the EU.  We used British Airways and didn’t encounter any problems and it was affordable.  We enjoyed our time in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro but things start to close down in November.

We had bypassed Edinburgh and Glasgow on our first pass through Scotland back in June and we both felt like we wanted to see more.

We’ve also made a transition from planning our moves months ahead to just a few weeks.  We had planned everything through Prague before we left in late March as well as Christmas in Granada, Spain which included Doug and Rachel.  The places we went in-between we planned on short notice.  That’s pretty much how the rest of the trip is going.

We stayed in a great AirBnB in Edinburgh hosted by Al and Ali.  Besides being a very comfortable, well designed and nicely outfitted  carriage house,  it was across the street from a fantastic 50 meter pool and gym.  Al and Ali were great people to meet and really made our stay in Edinburgh enjoyable.  Kaye and I worked out about 10 times in our two week stay.  We even got in with a masters swim group with Al which was great fun.

Of the two cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, Edinburgh is probably the more touristy.  It has a castle, beautiful old buildings and a fascinating history.  They host the annual Fringe fest which brings in thousands of people  and lasts for 3 weeks in August.

From Edinburgh we took the train to Glasgow, Scotland.

 

Interior of St. Giles High Kirk in Edinburgh and the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle-more info at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_the_Thistle  .

 

We took a couple of day trips to smaller towns and villages while in Edinburgh.  Because we didn’t have a car, we joined a small bus tour group.  One trip went to Melrose Abbey,  burial place of many great Scots including the heart of Robert the Bruce,  and Roselyn Chapel.

Another trip took us to St. Andrews,  the fishing village of Fife and the town of Falkland.  Getting out into the countryside and small villages has been one of the highlights of this trip.

Below are other photos Kaye and I took during our 2 weeks in Edinburgh.  The Scottish National Museum was very nice.

Dubrovnik , Croatia. The most visited tourist spot in Croatia. Visits from Doug (9/17-29), Clay (Kaye’s brother) and his daughter, Emily (10/21-29).

We actually had two stays in Dubrovnik, Croatia, one with Doug as part of his 2+ week visit with us and another with Kaye’s brother , Clay, and his daughter, Emily.  It was fun to spend time with family.

We’ve had pretty good luck with AirBnB’s throughout this trip, however, we hit a bad one with Doug in Dubrovnik .  We had some reservations about the place before we even arrived.  They didn’t have many reviews but it was all we could find at the time.  It was on the side of one of the steep hills in Dubrovnik with 15% to 25% grades to get there.  When we finally found it , it was one of the many unfinished buildings that you see throughout Croatia.  Out one of the windows was  a partially built structure attached to ours.  As we looked around the apartment we found black mold throughout the bathroom, not a good sign.  We stayed about 1/2 hour, took a few pictures of the mold and left.  Doug, in the meantime, had found another AirBnB about 8 miles away.  We booked it and checked in.We showed AirBnb the photos of the mold and they gave us complete refund + a small voucher.  They were very responsive.  The place we moved into had it’s issues as well but mold wasn’t one of them.  The owner of the place we ended up in was so friendly he offered us some ‘grapa’ (home made liquor)- at 8 in the morning.

Clay and Emily showed up on October 21.  In between Doug and Clay and Emily,  Kaye and I went to Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzogovina and spent some time in Split.

The photos that follow are from both Dubrovnik stays.  We had one of the best Airbnb’s we’ve had when Clay and Emily visited.

Dubrovnik is perhaps Croatia’s most visited city.  They get large ocean cruise ships in regularly which usually fills up the old town.  Our strategy was to go the old town when there were no ships in port.  Our place overlooked the harbor so we see  the ship traffic.

Dubrovnik had also gone to war with Serbia and Montenegro in the early 90’s.  It was not  a long war but the Croatians remember it.  They have a war museum on top of the hill overlooking Dubrovnik that can be reached by gondola.They hate the Serbs. Our hosts remembered the war and shook their heads when talking about it.  Kaye and I went down to the harbor on Croatian Independence day where the Navy and Army strutted their stuff and got kids into the military mood.  For more info on the war check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croatian_War_of_Independence.

Our stay in Dubrovnik ended our 3 month+ time in Croatia and the Balkans.  From Dubrovnik we flew to Edinburgh, Scotland.  We’re still having to bop in and out of the Schengen area which neither Croatia or the UK are part of.

Below are images of Dubrovnik , the walled city.  Although it was bombed quite heavily during the Balkan wars of the early 1990’s,  it has been largely restored.  A walk around the wall takes about 1 1/2 hours.

Below are some photos from our walks and boat rides in and around Dubrovnik .

 

 

Photos of family visits and other sites seen in Dubrovnik and surrounding islands.

 

The war with Serbia and Montenegro was only 25 years ago.  The generation that lived through it remembers and the new generation wants to be ready.

 

Both Kaye and I felt like we missed too much in Scotland in our last visit so planned 2 weeks in Edinburgh and 2 weeks in Glasgow.

With our kids coming into town for Christmas,  I probably won’t get much blogging done.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Holiday.

Split and Vinisce,Croatia and Kotor, Montenegro. Time with Doug. September 13-22, 2017

We picked Doug up at the Split airport on Sept. 13.  It was good to see him after nearly 6 months on the road.  Kaye and I had moved into our AirBnB in Venisce, Croatia a few days before he arrived.  Venisce is a small fishing village a few miles north of Split with small modest beaches and limited things to do.  We spent some time on the beach,  drove to Krka National Park, spent some time in Split and went to a Split vs. Rijeka football (soccer) match. It really wasn’t much of game, Rijeka won handily but the crowd in Split is crazy. They start chanting at the beginning of the game and it doesn’t stop.  As the game progresses they start lighting flares and it looks like fire has broken out at the end of the stadium.  I don’t think that would work at a Viking or Gopher game.  Here is  a link to a YouTube video of the crowd.    Here a couple of links to video of the crowd:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4uGvJB7rls    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSCpQjAhWG0

We also went on day trips to Krka, a Croatian National waterfall park.  Not as pristine as Plivitce National Park but very similar.  One of the differences is that you can swim in Krka and not in Plitvice. We also took a boat tour to a few of the islands off the coast of Croatia.

After a few days in Vinisce, we drove to the town of Kotor in Montenegro. Montenegro had been part of Yugoslavia before it split into 7 countries in the early 1990’s .  At one point, in the early 1990’s , they joined with the Serbs and waged a war with Croatia.  Many Croatians are still bitter over the war.  Our Dubrovnik AirBnB hosts simply shook their heads and said ‘terrible, terrible’ when discussing the war.  Montenegro has applied to become part of the EU.  More info on Montenegro can be found here  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montenegro

Kaye and Doug spent 6+ hours hiking one of the Kotor Bay mountain fjords.

It was good to see Doug after more than 6 months of traveling and we’re happy that he took the time visit.  He also spent a week with us in Dubrovnik, Croatia which will be our next blog post.

Vinisce, Croatia is a small fishing village north of Split.

 

Krka National Park, Croatia

 

The Bay of Kotor, Montenegro.  Lots of incredible landscapes.

After Doug left,  Kaye and I spent about 10 days exploring Split and some of the islands off the coast.

A trip to visit the Fortress of Klis just outside of Split. The site has been occupied off and on since 9AD and used as main defense of Dalmatia from the Ottoman invasion.  Also used in filming of Game of Thrones.

Here’s a photo of the mayhem that goes on at a Split Football game.  Also a photo of a couple enjoying their time in Croatia.  Here are links to videos of a Split football match.

Sarajevo and Mostar, Bosnia-Herzogovina. Where East meets West. Both show the scars of war and warmth of humanity October 10-29, 2017.

On Tuesday, October 10th,  Kaye and I boarded a bus from Split, Croatia that took us to Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzogovina.   We had been to Mostar, B-H earlier with Doug on a day trip from Dubrovnik and gotten a feel of the effect the 1992-96 Balkan war had on some of the cities and people of the former Yugoslavia.

Sarajevo, prior to 1992, was best know as the location where the spark that ignited World War I occurred with the assassination of  Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie, in 1914.  It’s also known for hosting  the 1984 Winter Olympics.

In April of 1992 the siege of Sarajevo began and became the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare- check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Sarajevo  for the history of the war.

The city of Sarajevo is where East meets West.  It has been controlled by the Ottoman Empire who introduced Islam, the Austro-Hungarian Empire that favored Catholicism and Slavic influences that promoted Orthodox Christianity.  There is also a  Jewish influence but it was greatly diminished by Nazi occupation in World War II.  All 3 religions are represented throughout Sarajevo .  Also, the Yugoslavian socialist regime of Tito is very evident throughout the Balkan countries.

You can still see many of the  physical scars left by the 1992-96 siege. You have to talk with the inhabitants to get a feel of the personal tragedies.  We took several tours during our stay in the Balkans.  The tour guides were usually male and in an age range of mid-20’s to early 30’s which puts them anywhere from 2-9 years old when the war broke out.  They were all affected and you could hear it in their stories.  Everything from ‘my father was missing for 2 years after the war’,  to ‘my father’s body was found in a mass grave’ to    ’70 % of my family was killed during the war’.  They all want to help rebuild their countries, whether it is Croatia or Bosnia-Herzogovina.  Tourism provides jobs and a way for them to tell their stories.

The photos here are mostly of Sarajevo, the surrounding countryside and of Mostar.  I’ll put together photos of Dubrovnik , Split and Kotor,  Montenegro in a later blog post.

We stayed in an AirBnB close to the Miljacka River and just a  few blocks from the old town.  We visited many of the sites that were affected by the war and got a better understanding of how complicated it was.

The people were warm, friendly and the young people were willing to talk about the war and how it affected them and their families.  The generation that fought the war were reluctant to talk except to shake their heads.  Depending upon who you talk to, it is referred to as a ‘war for independence’ or a ‘war of aggression’.  Either way,  you can still feel the animosity and mistrust between Bosnians, Croats and Serbs.

Things we did while in and around Sarajevo:

  •  Day tour with Dino explaining the 1992-96 war and the ’84 Olympic site
  • Tour of Lokrum- a small village (under 20 people) in the mountains near Sarajevo.  A mostly Muslim village that is difficult to get to in good weather and when there is snow it’s almost impossible to reach.
  •  A walking tour of Sarajevo where we met Cindy and Gary from Davenport, Iowa .
  • Visited the War Childhood Museum- a moving museum of remembrances by children during the 4 year Sarajevo siege.
  • Had a wonderful lunch with Yakup from Turkey at a local Turkish restaurant.
  • Several trips to the local pool for a swim.
  • Visited the Sarajevo Brewery- a source of water during the siege and a fine tap room.

Mostar, Bosnia-Herzogovina-On September 25,  Kaye, Doug and I took a day trip from Dubrovnik, Croatia to Mostar.  In order to do that,  you have to cross international borders 6 times, each time producing your passport. During the busy summer tourist season it can take as long as 6 hours to cross borders.  Fortunately for us,  it wasn’t tourist season. We saw a jump from the bridge which is a fund raiser for orphaned kids.

 

The day trip to Mostar also included a stop at Kravice Falls a Bosnia-Herzogovina National Park.

 

 

Sarajevo,  where East meets West.

 

One of the most moving scenes of the Srebrenica genocide against the innocent Bosniak population is the scene when father Ramo calls his son, Nermin, to surrender and that Serbian soldiers allegedly won’t do ‘nothing’. Ramo and his son Nermin are found by exhumation team in a mass grave near Srebrenica in 2008.

 

We took a drive with Dino, our tour guide for a couple of days, to the small rural village of Lukomir.  It was about an hour drive over rough, rocky roads to a village that has about 20 full time inhabitants.  Mostly sheep herders and farmers with a little bit of tourism, Lukomir boasts the highest elevation of a village in Bosnia-Herzogovina.  Also seemed to be a popular mountain bike destination.

Istria, beautiful coastline and hill towns. August 27 – September 10, 2017

After Zagreb, we drove to Opatija  on the Istrian Peninsula of Croatia.  Istria is known for it’s shoreline and  beaches and ancient towns along the coast as well as its hill towns. It is also known for wine and truffles.  I have to admit ignorance of what a truffle even was before this trip.  Essentially, it’s  a fungus that grows on oak tree roots and is a delicacy amongst the wealthy.  They have trained pigs and dogs to sniff out this fungus and it has it’s own special season (fall) accompanied by grand weekend festivals that fill small villages with truffle hunters and those that revel in the fungus.  All in all, a very peculiar culinary cult.

We  stayed in an AirBnB in Pobri which is about a kilometer above the Adriatic and the town of Opatija.  The history of Istria dates back to pre- Roman times and Romans who settled on it’s western shores, Italians and  the Austrian Hungarians who used Opatija as as health spa.  More can be found about Opatija at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opatija

We found a great outdoor/indoor 50 meter pool in Rijeka which was just 20 minutes  from Pobri where we swam about 3 days a week. What was great about the facility is that it had and indoor and outdoor 50 meter pool and below the pool was a beach that you could relax on and savor a post workout beer. Our modern day health spa.

We took day trips to Rovinj and Pula which are UNESCO sites because of their fairly intact Roman remains and visited some small hill towns along the way. Unfortunately, some of those images were on the damaged hard drive.  I’ll add them later if possible.   We took a boat tour to a couple of the nearby islands and we spent our 34th Anniversary on the Island of Cres at Mali Losinj.

Here are some images of Opatija and nearby village of Volosko.  There is a promenade that stretches for miles along this part of the coast.

 

These are photos from some of the hill towns in Istria.  Many are small with less than 200 inhabitants.

We spent our 34th anniversary on an overnight to the Island of Cres and the town of Mali Losinj. A beautiful small town and an island known for small hidden beaches and quiet harbors

Two of the towns we visited while in Istria were Rovinj and Pula.  Unfortunately, those were some of the images ‘lost’.  Here are a few we salvaged.   Our son, Doug, visited us for a couple of weeks in Croatia and has taken the damaged hard drive back to MN to see if we can recover the photos.  I’ll post them later if possible.

After a couple of weeks in Istria, we did a quick trip down the coast to Split, Croatia where we picked up Doug.   The next part of the trip we visit Split,  Kotor, Montenegro and Dubrovnik.

Oops, technical difficulties . Sept. 17, 2017

Sorry for the delay of blog posts.  I had a hard drive problem that will take some time to repair.

I’ll work on posting some images from Istria in Croatia in the near future.

Right now we’re in Split, Croatia and heading for Kotor , Montenegro tomorrow (9/18).  Our son, Doug, is visiting for a couple of weeks.  Nice to have see him after 5 1/2 months.

 

Prague,Czech Republic, part II.

Below are images Kaye and I took while in Prague.  It is a city that has been through the Habsburgs, Nazi and Soviet control and has come out relatively unscathed.  We both enjoyed our 2+ weeks here and would definitely return.

We’ve all encountered street musicians.  On rare occasions you run into one who is just fun to watch.  Vladimir Pinta is one of the best.  A real entertainer.   You can check him out at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXqfmAsUMBA

 

Added on 8/24/17: What Kaye and I try to do, if we can, is get out of the cities and into the smaller towns and country side.  While in the Czech Republic , we took a day trip to Liberec , a small town north of Prague and  close to the Polish border.  It’s known for it’s beautiful town center buildings and in the ‘mountains’ of the Czech Republic.  We did ride a gondola to the top of the highest point but it was hazy and not conducive to photography.  The city office building was quite impressive and there was a few kids activities in front.

Best of all was the bus stop.

Our next stop is Vienna, Austria.  We spent 9, hot days touring this grandiose city built by the Habsburg Dynasty.

Prague, Czech Republic, part I. July 12-29

 

After leaving the UK on July 11,  we drove to Dover and caught the ferry to Calais, France. We  spent a night in Belgium and Germany before arriving in Prague, Czech Republic.  If you’re asking yourself,  ‘Why drive across Europe and not stop and enjoy some of the beautiful cities along the way?’  Well,  it’s mainly because we’re having to bop in and out of the Schengen Countries in order to not over extend our stay in the EU.  For an understanding of the Schengen area,  take a look at and article in USA Today that gives a pretty good description of what you can and can’t do (   http://traveltips.usatoday.com/us-passport-limitations-europe-104322.html ).  We wanted to go to Prague and Vienna and then drop the car off in Munich before leaving the Schengen area.

We spent 17 days in Prague.  We stayed in an nice AirBnB an easy 15 minute tram ride out of the city center and 30 minutes from the Prague Castle.  The only reason we needed a car was to get to the swimming pool- a very nice, 50 meter, outdoor pool about 20 minute drive from our apartment,  to see a doctor about a cortisone shot and to take a short day drive to the small town of Liberec.

We did a lot of sightseeing in Prague as well as took a boat ride down the Vltava River, attended one of the many classical music concerts that are offered all over the place, hung out with some locals at a local wine tasting in a nearby park and at the local beer store and took a hop-on-hop-off bus tour around the city.

You can’t capture in a  photograph many of the most emotional  places you visit when you travel.  That was true when we visited Orthodox Cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius  where there is memorial/ museum honoring the Czech resistance fighters for the part in operation Anthropoid during WWII , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropoid_(film) .  We haven’t seen the film but it is now on our list.

Prague was not bombed during WWII and so has maintained many of it’s beautiful old buildings throughout the city.  If you get out into the suburbs, you see the Soviet influence in buildings that all look the same- block after block.   They used to be grey brick and now have been painted different colors brighten up the sky line.  You also see shiny new office building with names like, Dell, Samsung, Sony and Intel on them.  The Czech Republic’s ‘Velvet Revolution’ was a success.

This is part I of two parts for Prague.

Here is an example of some of the beautiful buildings that can be seen throughout Prague.

The best way to view the images is to click on them to view individually.

 

The Municipal House of Prague.  We had a tour of it as well as heard a classical concert performed here.

 

The Jewish Quarter in Prague has several Synagogues , a museum and a cemetery that explains the impact Jews have had in Prague over the centuries.  These are images from the Spanish Synagogue and Jewish Cemetery which was limited in size and forced graves to be dug vertically in order to fit in all the graves.  It was the largest Jewish community in Europe until the Nazi take over of Czechoslovakia during WWII.

There are, of course, many churches and cathedrals to visit in a city like Prague. St. Vitus Cathedral is a massive building that dominates the skyline near the Prague Castle.  St. Stepan is another worth visiting.

 

I’ll post some other images from Prague in the next week.

 

London, a second visit. Street art, Kew Gardens and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Oh yes, and a little theatre. July 5-11, 2017.

 

After Wales we landed in London for another 6 days.  We stayed at Mary’s AirBnB, a pleasant room and a charming host who gave us great advice.  Some of which we followed and some not (to our dismay).  Mary suggested the the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park for a thoroughly English theatre experience.  We saw a pre-production of  ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ on a beautiful summer evening outdoors.  It was a memorable  and very relevant production.

Mary also suggested we visit Windsor Castle- ‘go early, before 11’ she said.  We got there around noon and stood in line for over 3 hours only to be told by a very calm, distinguished gentleman that it would only be another hour and a half.  We ended up watching Lawn Bowling and met some charming advocates of the game.  If you notice, our photos of Windsor Castle is from quite a distance ,  lawn bowling is up close.

We spent some time visiting  different  neighborhoods in London as well.  Camden and Shoreditch were ‘hip’ and fun neighborhoods.  Camden’s Market is lively with good food and interesting shops.  Shoreditch is known for it’s street art.

Other stops included the Sky Gardens which gave us a birds eye view of London and a trip to Kew Royal Gardens.  Finally, a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

This ends our  6 1/2 week visit to the UK.  We never intended to visit the UK except for having to bob in and out of the Schengen area.  The weather kept us from enjoying Scotland and Wales and are definitely on our ‘redo’ list.  Beautiful part of the UK and wonderful people.

From the UK we headed to Prague in the Czech Republic for 2 1/2 weeks (July 19-29).

For best viewing of images, it’s best to click on them.

Windsor Castle and Lawn Bowling:

London Street Art:

Sky Tower:

Kew Royal Gardens and the Victoria and Albert Museum: