Tuesday, 29 November 2011

97 Split...the place not my trousers..

Monday 28th November
Today we set off for Split, another medeaval town on the Dalmatian coast.  
The scenery was absolutely beautiful and I have been waiting a while for this part of the trip.  I love every minute of it.

Another one of these little townships with the wall around it.

The different types of scenery was amazing.

We noticed that Gromit was a bit sick and was vibrating quite badly. I started to go into a bit of a panic as I though it was due to the CV joints on the front wheels. These are the drive shafts that allow the front wheels to turn whilst still being driven. 
We started out along the coast road but at about halfway we switched to the motorway. A bit boring but we needed to nurture Gromit.
On arrival we parked up at a place they lovingly call the Riviera, we had a short walk about and a conflab over coffee on what to do about Gromit.

The riviera

by day

We decided to get into a hotel, search the internet and see if we could find a land rover dealer. We found a hotel,the Best Western and once settled we  found a person right by the marina and riviera that did deal with land rovers, so we decided to chill out this evening and Ray would take Gromit down in the morning.
We took a walk into town, unfortunately it was dark. A big problem at this time of year, still, in 3 weeks or so,the days will start getting longer - not by much, but they will.
The place was a like a poor version of Dubrovnik. All the attributes were there but they had not been maintained to the same degree.

by night

tired looking but still impressive

It was very tired looking, and there was lots of graffiti about.  We eventually found somewhere to eat and had a good walk round. It has all the atmosphere and it is still a really lovely place to visit. I have been very impressed with Croatia.
Tuesday 29th November.
Ray took Gromit to the fixer man after breakfast.  Apparently it is no where near as bad as he thought, so normality has resumed.  We have decided not to go to Sarajevo, we are still going into Bosnia but are heading for a place called Banda Luka.  Crossing the border was no problem and we had picked out a nice spot for a bit of wild camping.  We have had lovely weather and it has been very warm and we both miss it, as does Leon.  However as we crossed the mountains we watched the temperature gauge  dropped by about 11 degrees so we have made a decision to hotel it again tonight.
Bosnia is still very pretty, but a lot drier

Ice on the ground made for a re think.

This was part of a large gorge we passed through and made for interesting driving.

After quite an arduous journey we called it quits 7kms outside of Banja Luka and are holed up in the Motel Dragana.  Very nice little place.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

96 Dubrovnik

Sunday 27th Nov.
We are staying at the hotel Lero. It is another hotel that looks 4/5 star but is only 3....nice.
We arose slowly and set out for the Old Town at about noon. The hotel receptionist lied about the distance but what the hell. It was a glorious day and we were down to our T shirts.
On arrival, the Old Town, the bit within the city wall,  was amazing. The whole place was a living monument (again) with people still living in it and placing the usual quota of washing from the balconies.
I like ice cream..can you tell

One of the narrow back streets

Another back street leading to a square with street restaurants etc.

It was spotlessly clean and the streets looked wet but were actually polished by foot traffic. The whole place was laid out in a lattice work of streets and every corner had a new surprise of some sort of conventional retail outlet, bar or restaurant. Just as you would in any town but built into a medeaval fort. On top of this were several differnt types of church depending upon the religeous belief if the builder. We attended two and the insides were magnificent. One was a cathederal and the other a monastery.
The Cathederal

Inside was incredible

More of the Cathederal inside.

We also popped into our other place of homage, a bar. This one was outside the wall through an iron gate overlooking the sea. It was very hot. The hottest we have had so far and it was almost December. 
Paying homage to Baccus, the God of wine

Struggling to see due to ....

The polished main street.

Inside the Monastery....WOW

We decided to catch the cable car up to the top of the mountain to the back of Dubrovnic and watch the sunset.
A high view of the coast from the top of the cable car.

Looking down on Dubrovnik

Daft old git soaking up the sun.

Looking North. The photos do not do this place justice.

4:16 pm....Going ...Going...

Once down again we sought out a restaurant and found a very quaint little place with only 4 tables. We ordered a Croation dish of veal in batter, it was a bit like posh sausage rolls.

After dinner we found another bar and decided to do as the locals do and had coffee....Oh and a brandy...Doh!
We then decided that we were too old for the night life and decided bed was our next port of call.
Waiting for dinner in a Croation restaurant.
On the way out of the city there is a real drawbridge with chains and counterballance weights.
The main street in the city at night

The drawbridge and counter weights.

95 Montenegro and Southern Croatia

Thursday 24th Nov’ continued
It was actually the 12 year old son of the hotel owner who had done all the negotiating for us, in his words, the guy, who  was left in charge but spoke no English was actually “quite stupid”, we weren’t sure if it was an affliction or just one of the English phrases the boy had learnt.   As it turned out we went down to the bar as it was the only place for the internet, and I have decided there is nothing stupid about him, he is definitely Albanian Mafia.  Our every move was watched, checked and if we so much as scratched, he was at our table with his scary looks and flexing his muscles.
We decided to hit the town after settling into the Hotel Klindi, we fancied our chances better outside.  Ray was desperate to find the  kind of  nightlife, that had stickers on the door saying “No guns”, what we found was lots of lovely little places where all the youngsters were drinking coffee and listening to hip hop, we again were the only ones having a beer.

Friday 25th November.
We had a rather fraught breakfast and decided that escape was a good idea.   
This was common beside the road. Not your average British style butchers shop but then again we are not in Britain.

The roads were apauling but inproving. For traffic cones they used rocks and no other direction markings to show where to go to avoid the works machines. It was actually quite refreshing to let folks think for themsevelves. It made it a lot more interesting too.
We hit the road and after a different kind of journey, road works, traffic, beggars, even more scary looking Albanians, we reached a town called Shkoder.  Again chaos rules, but determined in our quest for the obligatory souvenirs we had to stop and shop.  We were partly successful and on returning to our vehicle we met a like minded British family.  Ben and Olivia are travelling with their sons Luke and Joseph and had been drawn to Gromit.  They are in a Mercedes bus, that they have converted, and have had a few trials of their own. It was really lovely to stand and speak with them, they were very helpful about some of the places they had been and gave us some good locations to head for.  They are doing our journey in reverse almost, so hopefully we gave them some good advice on Turkey, which is where they are heading. It is a shame we were moving on as it would have been nice to spend a bit more time with them.  However guys if you are still interested in South Africa, you know how to get in touch, the more the merrier and safer.
On a personal note, neither of us has been that impressed with Albania and are looking forward to moving on. The whole time we were talking with Ben and Olivia we were being tapped on the side by a young girl begging. She had what looked originally like a baby wrapped in a papoose but when you looked closely it was a doll.  No amount of ignoring her or telling her No made her move, it wasn’t until she fell over and obviously hurt herself, that she started crying and left us. It is very sad to see this and I felt quite hard ignoring her, but there was probably another 30 waiting around the corner to see how we reacted.  I’m really quite soft and what with all the poor kids and animals, we would need more than our little Gromit to help them all.  
One thing we did notice about Albania was the amount of right hand drive British registered vehicles on the roads - all stolen from the UK. We actually knew about this already due to our previous jobs but is was wierd to see it for ourselves. There is apparently no control over vehicle registration. This will change if they get into the EU.
Albania has history too, it just does not know that to do with it.

We moved on towards Montenegro and, wow, what a beautiful place.  I am happy again to be in Eastern Europe.  The scenery, the people, everything is lovely.  I took over the driving and it has become a standing joke, that every time I give Ray a break, (which is often, don’t listen to anything he says!) I get the most difficult bits. 
Our first sight of Montenegran history
This made us laugh. Makes a change from dogs and cats.

Anyway I drove into the oncoming darkness and we found a Supermarket, my next most favourite thing after shoe shops and tried to get some cat food.  You would not believe how difficult it has been, most super markets don’t sell cat food, or maybe I should say they don’t sell food for cats or dogs, I have no idea what some of the meat is that they were selling.  Again I’m off at a tangent, we headed on up into the mountains, the road was full of U turns and adverse cambers but I loved it eventually.  On the way down, we found a lovely little hotel, our room was fantastic and we had a superb meal in the restaurant.  Ray,(also known as 2 soups) had 2 soups and spent the rest of the night telling anyone who would listen, I think that left him with Leon, how it was the best soup ever, (Mum, I did remind him of yours).  We sampled Montenegro wine, which I have to say, was very good.
Hotel looks a lot more expensive than it was.

Saturday 26th November.
Having arrived in the dark, I wasn’t entirely sure where we were. As it turned out we were at a beautiful little place called Sveti Stefan (don’t translate literally), Hotel Adrovic, I seriously recommend it if you travel this way. 
How cute is this...

Even Leon liked the view

We had lovely views from our balcony and I wasn’t sure I wanted to move on today, but we did and took Ben and Olivia’s advice and visited Budva and Kotor.   Budva was pretty, but Kotor, there are no words in my vocabulary that will explain how amazingly beautiful and historic and fabulous it is.  Our pictures do it no justice.  
The wall goes from the castle in the town, all the way to the top of the mountain and the round in a circle and back down to the castle. Serious engineering.

The town within the castle walls was a living city. Washing and all.

 It goes up into the hill, surrounded by fortress walls, utterly breath taking.   Tiny alleys, busy squares and shops that look like something from medieval times or “diagon alley” out of Harry Potter.  We went into a church and it was very humbling. 
St Tryphons Cahederal-Basillica.Started 809 restored 2009

Inside was awesome.

Lighting candles for friends and family no longer with us and our fallen soldiers.

This is the original clock mechanism
More of the centre of the castle square

The preservation was amazing.

Gromit is collecting lots of stickers now.
It was a wonderful place and I came away feeling Life is good, I need to spread the word.
We followed the coast and had another ferry journey across the waterway. 
The inlet at Tivet, near Kotor.

Further along the inlet. A church on a tiny island. "Gospa od Skrijela"

The ferry across the inlet.

Not long after that we arrived in Croatia. I have been so looking forward to being here.  I am not disappointed.  Cypress trees, beautiful scenery, this is an absolute fest.
Typical scenery

You do not see these very often..

The southern Croatian coastline.

And it was warm too..

About 30kms later, came across a place that Ben and Olivia had told us about, Kupari. It was a pretty village that once was a huge holiday resort. At the West end of town there was a very large holiday complex. It was now abandoned due to the shelling it had received during the Balkan wars. It was sad to see but at least you could go around and look at it. In the UK the health and safety Taliban would have fenced it off with a 12 foot barbed wire fence.
Part of the shelled hotel

Those marks are all bullet or rocket propelled grenade (RPG) holes. Also part of the holiday complex.

The RPG holes. The RPG is designed to burn a hole in metal. It is an explosive shell that detonates on impact. Not nice if you are at the recieving end.

More of the hotel complex.

2 kms up the road we came upon a LIDLs grocery store and finally we managed to get some cat food. (Thank God for small mercies). 6 kms further on and we arrived in Dubrovnic. We saw the old town hemmed in between the castle walls from the high coast road as we approached. It looked fantastic. 
Our first sight of Dubrovnic. Nice...

We decided to stay here for a couple of days and have a mooch around. We went hotel hunting and after looking at some overly opulent places that were unlikely to take Leon, we found a reasonable one about 15 mins walk from the Castle. We had intended to walk into town but apathy got the better of us and we called it a night.