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:

 

The Yorkshire Dales, Wales and Snowdonia National Park. June 19-July 5.

I’ve gotten a little behind on updating the blog for a variety of reasons I won’t bore you with.

We stayed for a week in Ingleton, England which is on the border of Yorkshire Dales National Park.  The weather for the week was quite wet with occasional breaks in the clouds.  The Dales are rolling hills used almost entirely for sheep and cattle grazing and hiking.  We drove many small,  one and two lane roads through the dales that took us along small streams and rivers and lovely,  small English villages.

Some of the highlights of our week in Ingleton were:

A short Falls Hike took us through a series of 6 waterfalls.  The Ribblehead Viaduct- built in the early 1870’s,  it was is a train bridge that runs through the Yorkshire Dales and has a graveyard and chapel built for the men who died building it.

A free music and beer festival (the best kind) held in Dent, England.  A small, cute and difficult  to get to village in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales.  Our chance to cut loose a little with some Brits.  Great fun singing along with ‘Let’s do the time warp again’ and Tom Jones songs.

We also visited a car museum and White Scar Cave on a couple  of the many rainy days we encountered.

Our next 9 nights were spent in North Wales in the town of Tregarth.  We were hosted by Maude at her AirBnB , a delightful woman who have us great advice.  The weather, again, was cloudy and rainy and kept us from seeing some of the sights we wanted.  Both Kaye and I agree that Wales would be a place to revisit.  We took a train ride to the peak of Snowdonia only to be engulfed in a cloud.  We couldn’t see 5 feet in front of us, it could have been Nebraska.

We spent most of our times in Snowdonia National Park.  The park is a favorite for hikers and climbers.  Sir Edmund Hillary used Mount Snowdon as his training ground for his 1953 climb of Everest.  The area is also known for Castles – 17 of them  built by Edward I, slate mining, the Isle of Anglesey and Zip World.  Snowdonia is a beautiful park with much to see and do.

Kaye and I did the Zip line- 3 of them.  An 800,600 and 400 yard zip line.  We, of course, bought the video to prove we did it and to show at our funerals.

The trip to Anglesey Island and Holy Island Light House which  is a bird watchers paradise.

We also managed to find the local pool and gym and got in an occasional workout.

After Wales we spent 5 more days in London before heading to Prague.  I’ll add some of the London pictures and notes later.

To get the best of the image, click on the image to expand.

Photos from Yorkshire Dales National Park and Ingleton, UK.

Images from North Wales and Snowdonia National Park.

Scotland, you don’t go there for the weather. Puffins, castles, sailboats and Scotch. June 12-19, 2017

Our week long stay in Scotland was, for the most part,  wet.  We still managed to see some sights and drove the Scottish  backroads near Kilmartin , Scotland, where we stayed.  What made the visit special, though, was our host at Mheall Cottage, our ABnB.   James genuinely cares about his guests.  He gave excellent advice on places to visit and was interested in what you were interested in learning as well as teaching you about the immediate area.  He took time to get to know you and he allowed you to get to know him.

The highlights of our stay in Scotland was an excursion to the Isle of Lunga in the Inner Hebrides off the coast of Scotland.  It required an hour drive to the ferry launch in Oban, a 40 minute ferry ride to the Isle of Mull, an 1 hour 20 minute bus drive to the other end of the island and 50 minute ferry to the Isle of Lunga.  Lunga is a  bird sanctuary and nesting area for Puffins and other birds.  Limited visitors are allowed at one time.  Puffins don’t fear humans and actually come out in the open because human presence keeps their primary predators , sea eagles and gulls, away.  I’m glad we don’t have to process film anymore.

We made it to the Oban Scotch distillery for a tour and drove many backroads in the rain.  Managed to catch some bike acrobatics at the Killin balls and visited a couple of castles and small but interesting churches.

Scotland is a country we would definitely like to return to.  The weather forced us to look a little deeper into the history and beauty of Scotland and see some things we other wise might not have seen.

Images from the backroads of Scotland near Kilmartin.

 

The visit to Isle of Lunga and Puffins.

 

Images of St. Conan’s Kirk – an architecturally interesting church with an equally interesting history.  Check it out at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Conan’s_Kirk . Also a couple of images from the Carlisle horse races we stopped at.  Bet on one race- our horses took first and second.

A week in York and along the east coast of the UK. June 4-11, 2017

We spent a week in York in one of the nicest AirBnB’s we’ve been in.  A self contained little apartment with a fully outfitted kitchen, nice sized bedroom and bathroom and a nice little ‘living room’ with two comfortable chairs a TV and a view to a small garden in the back.  Had the weather been nicer, we would have sat outside at the end of the day. It was a short walk to the bus that took us to town center of York.  The owners lived in the attached house and we only saw them at check in/out and occasionally walking the dog.

From there we spent 3 days exploring York and two days driving to the east coast of the UK.  It was a 20 minute bus ride from the apartment to the city center.  York is a lovely small city with parts of a  remaining medieval wall surrounding old town and a significant Church, the Minster.  Lots of historical things to see and do and a wonderful Rail Museum that has refurbished trains dating back to the beginning of rail service in England.

We took two days and traveled to the east coast.  One day in Staithes and Whitby which are small fishing villages and tourist centers.  Staithes is less touristy and has a more laid back feel compared to Whitby’s tourists.  The drive there took us through the North York Moors National Park.  Beautiful rolling hills mostly devoid of trees and inhabited by free ranging sheep.

The second drive was to the town of Hull which is also on the coast.  A slightly larger town that is making a transition from being a whaling/fishing/shipping town to tourism.  We took a little train/tour ride that essentially took us through the industrial/shipping area and a smallish town center that is getting cleaned up.  Hull is also the location of the Humber Bridge which is an impressive suspension bridge that spans the Humber River that flows into the ocean.  We also visited the Maritime Museum in Hull that had lots of model ships of every kind.  My dad would have loved the place as he built many ship models similar in quality to the ones displayed.

Just a reminder,  the best way to view the images is by blowing them up to their full size.

 

York, UK, and the Minster

Whitby, Staithes and the North York Moors National Park.