Trip Of A Lifetime

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Our Time In The Balkans

I suspect that there is either a picture that won't work or a photo of Adie chatting up a statue in one of our hotels at the beginning of this post but I can't be sure because it won't load properly so I'll leave it to chance.

We had a great time in the Balkans, especially in Croatia (but I suspect that was because we spent more time there than in the other two countries.) I'm so glad that we decided to book this trip. We started in Slovenia where we had one brief afternoon to ourselves before setting off on tour the next day. We decided to go for a wander and ended up in Park Tivoli, a huge a gorgeous park filled with statues, tree-lined promenades, grassy fields and so many people taking advantage of the good weather. The next two photos were taken in this park.

Our first day of touring took us into the Postojna Caves of Slovenia. These are naturally formed caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites all stuggling to join after years of inching towards each other. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take photos, and those that Adie took before we read the sign didn't work particularly well, because this place was stunning. You feel so overwhelmed as you walk through the different chambers. What nature can do is just amazing. Here's Adie standing waiting to go in... I'm sure there's some symbolism here, if only I could put my finger on it. From Slovenia we headed straight to the sunny coastlines of Croatia. Our first stop was Split, where we saw ancient Roman ruins. Man, those Romans knew how to get around! In this photo I'm standing in front of (and on top of) the Sea Organ, a manmade structure that uses the waves and wind to create music. It's incredible to hear... although apparently the locals aren't too thrilled, expecially when the weather turns stormy! Who can say 'howling banshee'? From Split we went to Dubrovnik, where we were shown around by a guide who frequently steered off the topic. It didn't bother Adie, he doesn't really listen anyway when there's a photo to be taken. Dubrovnik, like many places in this part of the world, shows signs of struggle. They have worked hard to piece everything back together again to get us tourists in and eagerly looking around. This photo is of me standing inside one of the old monasteries that contains a courtyard garden in the centre dedicated to St Francis. It's a beautiful and peaceful place.

And this is a shot of Adie at the top of the city wall looking out over the town and the water. There are thousands of little islands off the coast of Croatia, how brilliant would it be to sail around them!

After Dubrovnik we travelled into Bosnia where we stopped in two places, Mostar and Sarajevo. Both of us felt a real sense of loss for the people of this country. The land itself is so green and lush and just stunning, but everywhere we drove there were houses in ruin, houses with the scars of war all over them and signs telling us to keep out because the area had not yet been cleared of landmines. Can you believe that these people still have to contend with something like 24 000 landmines scattered around the countryside?

Mostar, with it's famous bridge, was a beautiful little town doing it's best to try and make money off tourism. There were even two young men standing on the bridge in their speedos collecting money, when they had enough moulah they jumped off the bridge and hopefully into the little patch of deeper water. I couldn't bring myself to stay and watch.
Then it was on to Sarajevo, where they are still trying to build everything back up again. This is Adie in the market square of the Old Town. It was great fun here and the people were incredibly helpful and friendly. Actually, you could really see the Turkish influence in the markets of Bosnia. The only thing missing was the pushy salemanship and apple tea. Once finished in Sarajevo, we went back into Croatia to go to the Plitvice National Park. Man this park is beautiful. It's set up around naturally formed waterfalls that cascade into lakes. It's some form of waterfall that grows a couple of centimetres each year. Adie was in heaven and then hell. Heaven because there was so much to photograph. Hell because he had a limited number of shots left. (This was my fault really becuase I was in charge of packing while Adie went to work and I forgot to pack the camera. This resulted in our buying the cheapest camera we could find duty free at the airport.It also meant that he only had one memory card and not three. Whoops! But at least now I get a camera!)

Our last two stops were Zagreb (Croatia's capital) and Ljubljana (Slovenia's capital). Below is a photo of me in Zagreb's old town. Both cities are the types of places you can just wander around for hours, getting lost and enjoying it. Of course we didn't have anywhere near enough time in either.


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