A Travellerspoint blog

Charades...a game of life

sunny 26 °C

Entering Serbia was always going to be a little nerve wracking to say the least. Its reputation and moments of infamy in the 90’s allow it to be labelled ‘dodgy’ perhaps. So anyway we headed to the border crossing not really sure what to expect. So many questions we wanted answers for, will they let us in? Will they be mean to us? Will they be ugly? Fortunately (or unfortunately for readers who want action) it was a non-event although we did get another stamp (excited?).

Our first stop was a town called Novi Sad (sard). It read well in Lonely Planet and that being our bible we heeded its message and headed that way. It is situated in the north of Serbia because there are warnings to stay clear of the southern border, esp. where it meets Kosovo – tension central. ‘Mum’ doesn’t have detailed knowledge of Serbia (or Bosnia/Kosovo) we think because of the war, she only knows town centres so we had to use the old fashioned way of getting around a foreign place….using maps. I know what you’re thinking……..only a truly stable relationship can pass the test of map reading in a foreign place esp where they use that random language that is Serbian where the letter z is represented by a 3 and B actually means p. Confused??? Yeah we know what you mean. Anyway you will be relieved to know we actually made it quite easily thanks to the 5 P’s (prior preparation prevents poor performance) and had checked it out the night before.

Novi Sad was pretty, its main drag being one long mall where cafes and bars are lined up on both sides and then everybody walks down the middle. Talk about a catwalk, the staring we have endured up until now just amplified about 1000%. It is getting just a tad annoying. You can feel yourself reaching for your fly zipper every couple of minutes to make sure nothing is hanging out. It is also glamazon central, the girls have make up caked on about an inch thick and all look great, but where the hell are they going? It was the first place we had been where it was full of beautiful people, or maybe they are really ugly and have to wear the make up to hide it? (food for thought).

Onto Belgrade, where map reading and stable relationships entered a whole new realm, because the 5 P’s only work if there are no road works interfering in your plan. So we followed the traffic and ended up in the medical district (???). Never admitting defeat, we pulled over so Ang could jump out and ask an ice-cream lady if she could tell us where we were because we knew where we had to be. Suddenly there was a swarm of well-wishing women almost yelling in Serbian saying I don’t know what and me repeating over and over “Yes but where are we now?” Finally just to get away we pretended to know what they were saying and thanked them for their time. Hvala!! For future reference, taxi drivers are the people to ask.

From our hotel we had to use public transport, which we kind of like, it makes us feel more authentic. Our bus route into the city took us directly past remains of some buildings that had obviously been bombed and there were a group of about three of them. The evidence of the war was so obvious it amazes us how desensitised or perhaps in denial they all are of this evidence in their face. The city of Belgrade was fantastic. We expected something like Zagreb but perhaps dirtier and we were happily surprised. Belgrade was busy, bustling, friendly and big. There were plenty of things to look at and the energy it had could fire a rocket. We have noticed a scary trend of ‘man bags’. Yes men using handbags! They are like camera case size (some bigger) and they sling them over their shoulders like the girls and every second guy had them. Mmmmm not real sure how that trend will catch on in Australia. Anyway we LOVED Belgrade.

Zlatibor was our final stopover in Serbia, one night, close to the western border on the way to Sarajevo. We booked a wood/log cabin about three kilometres from town. It seemed like something different to do considering it was really only a stopover and not so much about the location. The blurb read beautifully…..set amongst lush meadows on the hills overlooking the township. See the rolling mist in the mornings from your log cabin at Villa Natural Wood. For $70 a night, beauty we thought. NOTE TO OWNER: It only works well if you put the correct address on the website and make sure the signage is in a visible place YOU TWIT. Moving on…….

Sarajevo, once again, is another city completely under rated. However Bosnia for us was all about the food. Wait I know what you’re thinking….all these two do is eat…heifers. Bosnian food is outstanding. Meat based but undeniably some of the best food we have ever eaten. The flavours in such simple dishes are enough to send your mouth into a frenzy. One of their traditional dishes is Cevapi (che vapi). It consists of little meat sausages, bread and raw onion. Sounds a bit ho hum doesn’t it. Let us tell you, if your taste buds could sing this meal would be opera.

The drive into Bosnia is worth a mention itself. Every road seems to run along a crystal clear river and rising up on both sides are sheer mountains that look like pumice stones with patches of draping greenery. We found ourselves driving in complete silence simply in awe of the landscape. It never ceases to amaze us how a border crossing seems to also give way to a landscape change. It’s almost like the land knows it’s a new country and wants to differentiate itself.

Our schedule allowed for three nights in Sarajevo with one of our days planned for white water rafting. We never ended up going ww rafting because of some moron in a van but we won’t go into that. This allowed us more time to amble up and down the lanes of old town (Stari Grad). We had our first rainy day in Sarajevo and so café hopped and postcard wrote the hours away. Sarajevo has lots of evidence also of the war with many buildings showing bullet holes and mortar damage. Some people live in these buildings now and some would have then. These things really do make you appreciate how lucky we are back home. This war damage was evident the whole way through Bosnia.

Next we moved onto Mostar in the south. Mostar is known for its old bridge. This bridge was built in 1557 and took nine years to build. It was ordered by the Sultan as he wanted an updated bridge to get rid of the rickety wooden one. He enlisted a Turkish guy to build him a stone bridge. Legend has it though that the Turkish guy (can’t remember name…sorry) never got to see the bridge because the Sultan was known for inflicting capital punishment on dodgy workers. So if the bridge fell so did his head. He fled into the mountains and never returned. Love that story!! The bridge was destroyed in the war in 1993 and had to be rebuilt and god love them, they built it the old traditional way so it looks exactly the same. In Summer, local kids jump from the bridge at a height of 21m. They show boat around on the bridge encouraging tourists to pay for this spectacle and then they jump. We were lucky enough to see one and let us say it did seem to be a loooonnnnngggg way down. Adams birthday was spent here and so we felt it only fair to indulge in birthday drinks and cuisine. Mostar was beautiful and two nights there went quickly but lingered all at the same time.

Final stop….Jajce (Yar see) a small town in the north. We arranged private accommodation but upon arrival found our private accommodation had no idea we were coming and poor English skills. Adam put on his best charades hat and we managed to score a small one bedder under their house for $84 for two nights. On departure 9.30am, the husband, Ewor proceeded to twist our arms to have the obligatory morning drink of Grappa. It would have been rude and unfriendly to not partake so with heavy hearts (ha ha) we stepped up to the glass. For those of you who know what Grappa is you are probably cringing right now at the mere mention of it. For those who don’t, imagine pouring petrol down your throat and then lighting it….sounds inviting doesn’t it?

We were on our way to Croatia for ten days of R and R in Split, we really feel like we need it. It has been a hard 5 weeks. Crossing the border out of Bosnia was a little sad, it was a great country with friendly people, beautiful landscape and have we mentioned the food.

Posted by Ange and Adam 09:24 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Tagged mountains bridge serbia belgrade mostar sad novi zlatibor Comments (1)

Croatian Cocktails

sunny 22 °C

Ahead is the border, yay our first 'real' border crossing. Is it nerdy to be excited about getting a little stamp in a book? (Ang: Now I know why the kids at school love stamps.) We were stamped leaving Slovenia and then the Croatian guy didn't even check our photos matched our passports. Thank God Angela says as she is sure looks nothing like her photo, much prettier :-)) We drive to the small (pop 14 200) town of Rovinj (silent j). Similar to Piran but larger with more swimmer friendly rocks. Checking into our accommodation was again an adventure in itself. When you base your accommodation decision on location, parking, and a couple of photos it can be a bit of Russian roulette however we (finally) managed to find our little patch of Croatian paradise in a ten minute walk from town in a fully self-contained apartment above someones house. Savana, sylvia, salvana, saliva, we are still not sure of her name, welcomed us warmly and I'm sure would have jumped off a bridge if we had asked her.

Rovinj is a fishing village that is also extremely touristy. Once again all cobblestones and pastel coloured buildings. We don't think we will ever get sick of them. It is located on a peninsula directly across the Adriatic from Venice. In these towns we have found ourselves just 'cruising' around, soaking up the ambience and the gradually warmer sunshine. We have made a joint decision of sorts that we don't want to spend all our time traipsing in and out of museums for a variety of reasons, the main one being we just want to be outside. After time spent doing the mandatory wandering of the lanes, we spied a nice warm patch of rocks at the top end of the town. So like a couple of snakes we basked in the Croatian sunshine for an hour or so on a spring afternoon. Jealous? We headed home via the market, which Adam is obsessed with as every town we visit he HAS to visit the market, and spent the evening drinking wine and eating a home cooked meal.

Day two is getting down to business day, so tourist equipment required, camera, hat, money, thongs. We had already decided we would be snakes again and Adam was determined to go for a swim. So after a leisurely morning of laundry we headed in for coffee and lunch. NOthing exciting today, we thought, just a sandwich. Believe it or not sandwiches are actually quite difficult to get in Europe. Full baked meals, especially involving pork are easy; as are ice-cream and pastries. We spot a menu advertising a Turbo Sandwich, yes thats right TURBO. It sounded good to us and the picture looked delectably tasty. Two of those bad boys please mate. After a very brief period of waiting, out come our sandwiches; they were a slice of processed meat,a pale and small slice of cheese that may have covered half of the roll, one slice of tomato and a lone lettuce leaf on a hamburger roll with zero condiments (ie no butter, mayo, mustard). The only thing turbo about the sandwich was the speed in which it came out to us. (Just realised we have a food story with every blog, could it be because essentially our day revolves somewhat around our next meal).

After a revitalising lunch we headed to bask in the sun again and Adam dived in (briefly) for a dip. Dive in, splash around for a few minutes and then climb out again. It was too icy for Ang to swim so she just cheered him on and admired his courage.

We joined the locals on Saturday night for a few beverages and remembered why Australia is so good for banning smoking in bars and clubs. The company and atmosphere was great but my god we stunk when we left. Lucky we were too happy to care until we smelt our clothes the next day. Our pre-dinner drinks consisted of cocktails at the most amazing cocktail bar. It was positioned down on the rock face of a part of the peninsula with cushions scattered over the flat rocks and mood lighting, jazz music and madamesque type hosts. The view straight out was over the Adriatic and with a price tag on the drinks to suit, so definitely not where the locals go. The experience was fantastic and if we had had more time we would have gone for a third night.

Onto Zagreb...the unpolished second cousin of Budapest. The clouds came rolling in and brought with them their friend, the wind. Together they made cold. Big jackets came back out, swimmers away. Our accomm. was a guesthouse, so our own bathroom and bedroom but a shared kitchen. The first night we (allegedly) were sharing with three Russians. However even with Ange doing her regular ear to the door and head around the corner routine, (Adam call it Mrs Kravitz busybody) we never set eyes on them. The only real visible evidence they were there was the mess in the kitchen in the morning. There were clues everywhere as to what might have happened to them but nothing was ever proven.

Zagreb was reasonably unexciting except for the cleanest trams yet. Bright blue and sleek looking. We did our compulsory exploring and found all the central sights. The city was large but didn't have anything real pizazz or emotional impact on us they way all the other places have had. One thing we have found over here is the amount of daylight hours. Even though we are still only in Spring, there is daylight before 5am and up until about 9pm. This is good for us with everything we want to do.

Our next destination is Serbia. Stay on the paths all the brochures say.....there are still landmines around. This is one piece of advice you can be assured we will follow.

Posted by Ange and Adam 09:21 Archived in Croatia Tagged zagreb rovinj Comments (0)

Adriatic Arrival

The smell of salt in the air

sunny 20 °C

Arriving in Slovenia was like arriving in a postcard, greenery and lushness abounds. We arrived in Ljubljana after the drive from Hungary. Having a TomTom in our possession (we call her Mum) she guided us the fastest way, as you do, which involved driving through the corner of Austria to get to Slovenia. This made us feel very global as it meant we were in three, count 'em three, countries in one day. We made it to Ljubljana (the capital of Slovenia) pronounced loob lya na, just after lunch and proceeded to rely on Mum to get us to Hotel Katrca 1905, sounds exciting doesn't it. The area it was in was just outside the main square however all the streets were named the same the only difference was they were numbered. The numbering however was roman, which Mum doesn't recognise, and not in sequential order. You can imagine the fun we had leaning out of the car window oiing strangers to see if they knew where the street was. Adam's opening line was always "Scuse me, do you live 'ere?" (yell it and say it with a twang) followed by a bewildered Slovene trying to help us but not really caring. Thoughtful people the slovenes.

Anyway we found it, bright yellow, on a corner, right where it was supposed to be. Some might say it was hard to miss but we wouldn't say that. Our room was great, location was a bit deceptive and we got called kangaroos, they love that hopping action. We headed into town oblivous to the fact that it was a Labour Day (???) public holiday weekend so not much was happening. We found a bit of restaurant action in the form of a pizzeria (I know, I know pizza again). We were suited to the food situation and huddled inside in a nice cosy corner eating pizza and drinking wine. The next day we ventured out back to the city. Ljubljana is absolutely unspeakably fan- bloody- tastic. We have both decided we would go back there in a heartbeat. It is set right on the Ljubljanica river and has cafes, bars and restaurants all up and down both sides. The population is about 270 000 and the name is actually taken from a poem by France Preseren and from the slovene word ljubljena which means 'beloved'. See we are learning not just eating and drinking. It is the prettiest place, for lack of a better word, and has a lazy ambience with a bit of zest. Very difficult to describe, we are both sitting here, with a wine of course, trying to find the words. Anyway we absolutely loved it and think you should all go.

Ljubljana made way 2 days later for Bled. Bled is a small town built on Lake Bled with the Julien Alps as a backdrop, which cross over into the north of Italy. The scenery is beyond picturesque. Once again, little trouble finding our hotel but we always get our man (we also got addicted to the Crime channel on Cable, probably best we are now without it again). Naturallly our room was on the top floor and there was no lift so as soon as the lovely hotel man offered to help with bags, we were on him like a rash. The sweat patch on his tummy when he finished tells us he may not offer again next time so freely.

Hiring a row boat is the must do activity so we felt we must do it and we did. Well Adam rowed, Angela took the time to continue resting her delicate frame after her vicious food poisoning episode. We made it to Bled Island, rang the bell in the church for good luck and then rowed back again. A lovely time was had by all. Lunch blah blah blah, Dinner blah blah blah.

Last Slovenian stop, the Adriatic Coast in the town of Piran (pop 4430). On the way we nipped into Italy for a coffee in the town of Gorizia. Gorizia is on the border of Slovenia and Italy and we found the plaque in one of the Piazzas where you can be a multinational and have one foot in each country. Very very exciting. The old ladies watching us fiddle with the camera to do self timer shots would have lovely stories to go home and tell.

Piran is literally built next to the water therefore parking is a no go. We had rented a room right in the main square, best location yet and will be hard to beat with its water views, and subsequently had no parking. The story in Piran goes like this, you park outside the city in a public parking garage and catch a shuttlebus into the main square. Easy enough? Sure. Except....we thought we would drive in first and drop our bags and then go back and park. Mum didn't seem to think it was a problem and we were feeling confident. However narrow cobbled laneways in foreign cities don't lend themselves well to turning sharp corners. We turned back minutes after bagging an Austrian woman (it is the Australian way) for quitting on the turn herself. In the end the white flag was raised and we drove to the car park, reassuring ourselves that it wasn't us it was the inadequate engineering of the town design.

Piran was amazing. Emerald green water on one side and pastel coloured buildings with flower pots full of colour and vibrance overlooking the cobblestones of labyrinth (yes a better one) lanes on the other. We fell in love and spent ages walking aimlessly through all the laneways to see what each turn would deliver. It takes you back to that childhood feeling of hide and seek where each corner opens up a myriad of possibilities. We met a friendly waiter while having a waterfront lunch and he delivered some local knowledge on what villages to visit when we next hit the road. While keen to take a dip the water temperature is still just that bit too chilly. Visiting in May was probably too our benefit as in June, July, August it would be overrun with tourists and would ruin the ambience of this tiny seaside village.

So on that note we said Cau (Ciao) to Slovenia. Slovenia has blown our mind with its beauty and the friendliness of the people. Everyone was happy to help us and we never encountered any unfriendliness (aka germans lol.) We are Croatian bound and excited about what comes next. Love to all xxx

Posted by Ange and Adam 06:53 Archived in Slovenia Tagged ljubljana bled piran Comments (1)

Hungarian Hovering

Slovakia and Hungary in a week

semi-overcast 20 °C

We left Czech in a blaze of glory and headed into Slovakia to rest up for the Easter Weekend in a town called Nitra. It is on the south western side of Slovakia and is the oldest city in the country. Being the Easter weekend though, everything was closed. We had a relaxing bottle of Slovak wine for dinner and then to the Irish Pub which was only serving nibblies because of the public holiday. The Slovaks were extremely friendly and practised their English on us, thank goodness. Our hotel was the best yet though, the shower alone was worth the visit. We know what you are thinking, shower whoopee doo but this shower talked to you when you switched it on, had blue lighting and sprays coming out from all directions. You could listen to the radio or turn it into a spa bath. We had lots of showers over the two nights as in some ways it was the only thing to do. These Europeans take their public holidays seriously, as well as their ice-cream and their pizza. I think there are more pizzerias than traditional restaurants.

After two slow days in Slovakia, we crossed the border, again without any fanfare, into Hungary and headed for Budapest. Our hotel was easy to find but when we arrived the front desk person told us we were early before he even knew who we were. On further investigation he had no booking for us let alone be early for anything. He fussed and frazzled for awhile until realising that out of the 300+ rooms there was easily one for us. We think the hotel used to be a hospital, wide corridors and a real hospital feel. The shower was the complete opposite of Nitra and caused us to be fussed and frazzled. Lets call it a disaster.

Out to explore Budapest on the public transport, like the locals. For the next three days we traipsed and hiked all over the Buda and the Pest side looking at castles and other historical doo dahs. Adam learnt that in Hungary they have a special move that we have dubbed the "hover" which involves the waiter handing you the bill and then hovering over you until you give him a tip. Obviously we did not realise this delicate manouevre and it had to be explained to us. We learnt after that and even think we can turn the "hover" into a dance move. Angela was taken by a brochure for a labyrinth, never one to pass up a puzzle, we headed for it. We decided it was a big fat rip off and a severe OH and S issue with all the dark tunnels and trip hazards. It was by no means a labyrinth. Hungary is known for its thermal baths so we decided to treat ourselves and head to one in the big inner city park area. It was very relaxing and fun to be swimming in cool weather right next to people wearing shower caps. After a big busy day we dined at a cafe by the Danube. Angela got violently ill from the tuna salad, who would have thought getting seafood in a land locked country could make you ill. Due to Angela's weakened state the last day was one of R and R.

The one specific place that deserves a mention is the Museum of Terror. It is in the actual premises of the Nazis headquarters and then the Communists headquarters. It still has the cells and torture chambers that were used against the Hungarians and really evokes emotion. We took a good two hours to work our way through the history of the building and the Hungarians. It depicts the atrocities towards the Hungarians in such a way that it feels eerie and gives you a real sense of the cruelty and suffering. The final room is a name and shame room which has pictures and names of the people that committed these extreme acts of violence. It has their birth and death dates as well and it looks that a lot of them are still alive. Very Very moving.

A town called Sopron (Shop-ron) was our next destination. A two and a half hour drive towards the Slovenian border. Lonely Planet called this town "Little Prague" so we were immediately sucked in. It is a pretty little town that still has its medieval wall around parts of the old city. We are staying in a great little pension which finally has a comfortable bed as am not sure how mcuh more our backs can take. We are thinking about visiting Tesco (or the like) to get our own pillows. They are all flat and lifeless. Adam is still LOVING his goulash and we have found ourselves a rhythm which is great.

Tomorrow we head for Slovenia, a new country and a new adventure. Enjoy the photos!!

Posted by Ange and Adam 12:03 Archived in Hungary Comments (1)

Get Some Pork on Your Fork

sunny 25 °C

So each day we become more and more knowledgeable about the world. Here are some things we have learned this week:

1. Prague is like the european version of Bali - there are people everywhere here for Easter. Imagine being at the Easter Show and squeezing past people to get to an open space. There is also the situ when you feel like everyone is walking the other way, swimming against the tide so to speak, so you feel it is just easier to turn around and go with them. In saying all of that, yes Prague(Praha) is beautiful. Charles Bridge has great sculptures every few metres along on both sides, surprisingly though a lot of them are quite demonic and seem to have an evil subtext. None of the plaques have any English at all, so unless you commit your first born for a guide book then you just have to infer and speculate (which is actually more fun). There is one section where people were queuing to rub som statue of a fat man thing and we had no idea why, but when in Rome, he felt good. We spent three days walking kilometre after kilometre visiting every possible nook and cranny we could find, the best ones had pots of gold (also known as .3litre Gambrinus).

2. Buy your coffee far far away from tourist spots. After visiting Prague castle, and deciding not to see the Midday concert which started at 1pm (??), we felt in dire need of a caffeine hit. We sat down at a lovely looking kavarna (cafe) because greedy guts we are noticed they had bowls of chips on the table. Beauty, free feed!!! WRONG! Written in tiny writing on a sticker on the side of the bowl facing away from the chairs was the price of 45kroner, which is about $3. So fingers off, who needs junk food anyway? So dva cappucino prosim (2 capps please) and leisurely sat there drinking and when we said uchet prosim(cheque please) we found we had been charged 110kroner for 1 coffee. The other side of the bridge was only 45. Thieving so and so's. So after stern words about how we were not happy and were going to tell all our friends (consider yourselves told) not to go there, we flounced away. You should see us flounce, we are good.

3. Karlovy Vary is better than Prague, or at least we thought so. It is a town west of Prague on the Ohre River and a population of 60 000 and is totally devoted to spa and health retreats. We took a day trip out to there and another small village called Loket. Karlovy Vary (KV) had a feeling of opulence and wealth but not intimidating. It is based on the thermal springs that are all around that area. These are supposed to be healing waters and all through the town are little fountains where you can fill your spa cup. A spa cup is a little tea pot looking thing ranging in size from 60ml to 1/2 litre. You sip the sulphury tasting water from the spout. To balance the taste you buy a optlaka which is a big wafer thing. We were too tight to buy a spa cup so we were feral and just cupped our hands under the running water. We also noticed while walking the streets we were getting a lot of up and down looks fromso people passing us by. I know what you're thinking, its because we're so good looking. Angela thinks its because we were more tanned than anyone is a 1000 mile radius, Adam thought it was because we looked like movie stars. What do you reckon?

4. Toilet visits can be free if you are clever!!! After eating our poor mans lunch in the park we went into the Elizabethan pool set up place in KV. We wandered through the halls and stumbled upon a toilet. Eureka!! We grabbed the opportunity to get a freebie and went in. I have never felt like so much of a criminal in all my life. I imagained a scary nurse looking woman waiting for me, hands on hips, on the other side. I'm surprised I didn't get stage fright.

5. Czech drivers are Crazy!! They overtake with minimal space, We're talking cutting it so fine that Adam and I are bracing ourselves for their crash. Speed limits are not obeyed. Surprise surprise. By the way we bought a TOm Tom so we are global again.

6. Hotel Rooms waste space. The last couple of hotel rooms have these random entry areas that completely inhibit the bed space area. Not interesting I know but annoying when it is happening to you.

7. Olomouc is not exciting. Its a bit like a test cricket match, boring, boring and more boring and then BAM something exciting happens. Today we wandered around Olomouc wondering why Lonely Planet included it, (lucky we are only here for one night) when all of a sudden policie cars were everywhere. About 1000 bikers were in the old town square and then did a ride through of the streets with the policie as an escort. It was impressive, which is lucky because otherwise we may have fallen asleep in a doorway.

We are in Olomouc tonight, another small Czech town and then tomorrow off to Slovakia. We are boycotting the capital Bratislava in favour of a small town called Nitra. We will be there until Tuesday and then off to Budapest, very excited about that. Angela will be the Buda and Adam is the pest.

Happy Anzac Day!!

Posted by Ange and Adam 09:42 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged olomouc karlovy vary Comments (0)

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