Saturday, July 15, 2017

Kotor and cats

I had already planned a trip down to Kotor, as Dubrovnik is expensive to stay in! So I got the bus, spend a lot of time at the border, then I was out the EU into Montenegro! However, confusingly, they use the Euro as currency (before that they used the German Deutsch Mark). Still easier for me, than another currency. The bus continued, went on a short ferry across the bay and eventually arrived at the small bus station. From here I could walk to my accommodation. I just had to find it. After wandering back and forth looking at GPS, some guy took pity on me and led me to the room.
Heading out I found that there is another main gate to Kotor which opens out to more of a square, with cafes & restaurants. The bay itself is a spectacular setting with steep mountains enclosing around the water from all side. I ended up at the Cats of Kotor museum, it there is a picture of cat then it will be added to the museum. Not a patch on the cat museum in Kuching though. Plenty of cats hanging around town.

Around 17:30 I decided to head up to Kotor Fortress perched high upon the hill, it is a rather arduous 1300 odd steps up. Should have waited another hour as the sun was still blazing!
As you go up, vendors sell water bottles at ever increasing prices. Finally made it to the top, a ruined fortress. However today it had a crazy guy dancing around the fortress wall slagging off his mate below for taking so long to come up.

Back down at the bay, I had some dinner which was like 4 spicy barbecue burgers with salad, quite tasty but way too much! The next day it was back to Dubrovnik. A longer wait at the border as I re-entered the EU. About 3 o'clock I got back to Dubrovnik. Grabbed a quick bite, visited the Konzum (Croatian 7-11!), organised my airport shuttle, and a final look around the old town. All that was left was to have a Croatian Rib-Eye steak for dinner and early the next morning it was off to the airport.
The guy was scanning tickets. Bleep bleep as people went through, until me. BLEURP BLEURP BLEURP. Oh oh. But it turned out I was a few minutes too early to go to the gate (that's a first!)
Other than that a smooth trip back to Edinburgh where it is 12C and drizzling...


After the ferry from Mljet, I arrived at Dubrovnik ferry port, a short bus ride to the old town.
Encased in city walls, the old town is well preserved despite various rulers over the years.
I had arrived shortly before the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, the equivalent of the Edinburgh Festival. Wandering around town, I saw a sign for a Dali exhibition and went in their for a nosy. Not the biggest exhibition, but a few paintings of interests. I liked the painting of Sancho Panza, a whirling scribble of a man.

Walking along underneath some construction, it wasn't until I turned around that I realised that directly above was full of cats. Sitting, eating on the planks above the pavement, unknown to passerbys below. As the day drew on, I headed for the city walls. Great place to be near sunset, with the light bathing the red tiled rooftops of the old town. Towards the end of the walk, I stopped off at a cafe for a fresh orange/lemon drink and to watch the bay. A few speedboats zooming around, annoying the kayakers!

Walking around there are loads of restaurants for lunch and dinner, I stopped off for lunch. Decided on a chicken teryaki for a change of flavour and it was excellent. After lunch I popped into a couple of small museums. One was a Dominican Monastery, which housed some old reliquaries. A quiet spot away from the tourist crowds for a few moments. Another museum turned out to be another religious place, staffed by a nun. It did have a secret church at the top though!

 Strolling around the outside of town, there isn't too many roads to follow. I headed out East past Banje beach and popped into the swanky Excelsior for a drink. Back in town there was some sort of setup for music. I went to a nearby restaurant so I could listen to the music while I ate a rather bland tasting flattened out meat. Oh well, can win them all!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Island Hopping the Dalmation Coast.

So with a fistful of ferry tickets I headed out of Split to the island of Hvar. I arrived early in the morning, too early to check-in, but I dumped my bag and headed back to the harbour for a quick spot of breakfast. This was a bit busier than I expected. I headed up to the fortress on top of the hill, what was once defence is now busy with tourists.

I went up in the morning and got great views over the bay and a seat in the cafe for a cool drink. Looks like I beat the crowds as there were a lot more people coming up when I headed down.
Cruise ships stop nearby and shuttle people in. Hvar town turned out to be more stretched out than I first thought with restaurants continuing along the island. Later sunset walk along the coastal path turned out to be quite lively, plenty of people milling around, a few with cans in hand. As I was on the islands some some nice grilled whole fish was the order of the day for dinner, and hit the spot as a nice change.

Next stop Korchula.

The home of Marco Polo! I visited their museum which takes you on an audio journey with a biography of Marco Polo, quite interesting. But laid on thick, 'Marco dreamed of the crystaline seas of his home town, Korchula! This was quieter and smaller than Hvar with a main old town which you could walk from side to side in 5-10 minutes. However I'd booked somewhere that turned out to be further out of town than I expected, so a fair bit of walking in the baking sun there. The old town is situated on a hill and bounded by the sea or the city walls. While it has lots of tourists, it isn't yet fully developed into tourist tat town. A few unused crumbling buildings haven't yet been turned into refurbished apartments! Glancing in an estate agent window might have found the answer, anybody got a spare £500,000 for a beach-side villa?

Finally onto Mljet

Docking into the port I decided just to walk into town, didn't look to far. However not much shade!
Sobra a small village on Mljet, has a population of 131. Decided where to go for lunch was easy, there only is two restaurants. And one was shut.
Happy just to relax here, which is probably just as well as there isn't much else to do!
I guess you can arrange trips to elsewhere if you are in the mood, but I picked up a cough in the last few days so happy to take it easy. Another grilled fish dinner, finished off with a Grappa for medical purposes (tastes like medicine!)


I arrived late in Zadar and went for food at a local restaurant, turned out to be more massive portions, double pork chops! Next day I headed into the old town, a 30 minute walk along the coast and then down the pier where a boatman rows you across for 5 kuna. I had a browse around and headed into the archaeological museum, which is order chronological from the top floor. On the top floor is iron age/prehistory, not so much to look at. The floor below is Antiquity, the Roman era which has much more. It covers various aspects of life, e.g. economy.

Another place with lots of cafes, but like most central locations not the cheapest prices. I just grabbed a sandwich from a bakery, too much heavy food! At night in the old town there is the 'Sun Salutation' an odd installation which is powered by solar cells during the day to light up the led panels at dusk. Alongside the sea organ, a serious of wave powered pipes powered by the sea to make 'music' in the loosest sense of the word. I had dinner in the old town, but the local restaurant the night before was much better!

Friday, July 07, 2017

Plitvice Lakes

I continued south stopping off for a day at Plitvice Lake. If you see pictures of Croatia, this place is almost certainly included, and with good reason! Thankfully my bus stopped at Entrance 1 (It looked like I was getting dumped at the other entrance) which was near-ish my guesthouse, so I dumped off the bags, returning for lunch at the on-site restaurant. I picked up a two-ticket as my bus wasn't till 15:15 the next day. Heading into the Lakes fairly late, I seemed to miss the worst of the crowds (I saw a huge queue the next day!) Many people will do it as a day trip so have to be back to catch their bus, I had the luxury of not having any time constraint. Once you have your ticket, you glance at the map and come to the entrance and wow! Situated form a height, overlooking the park, a huge waterfall on the right, lakes with a multitude of waterfalls on the left. Walkways snake below link the lakes and the big waterfall. A series of staggered freshwater lakes forms a unique ecosystem with logs and reeds filtering the crystal clear water. Going in the water is strictly forbidden.

I followed Path C seeing innumerable waterfalls with the aquamarine lakes. Eventually I got the bus all way back from Station 3 to Entrance 1. Here I headed back to the restaurant as everywhere else had shut. The next day I was up fairly early to beat the crowds and headed back into the park. I walked a few hours in the morning, returned for lunch then I still had a few hours till the bus, so I may as well head back in rather than looking at the carpark! Unfortunately that's when it decided to absolutely pour down for an hour or so. I waited it out for a while, but decided to call it a day and head back to the bus. At least I had great weather for the most part, and unlike some poor people my visit wasn't a washout! I got into my guesthouse in Zadar around 18:00, still damp and a long day but definitely worth it!


A 5 hour bus journey brought me from Budapest to Zagreb. A quick walk around find the funicular railway, This 'connects' the old town to the new. An entirely pointless contraption which takes 55seconds to go the 66metres distance. You are quicker just walking up the stairs than waiting for it, but worth it for the ride once.

Loads of small museums are dotted around Zagreb. One building catches the eye with a neatly tiled roof depicting the Croation flag. I popped into the Naive Art museum which houses art from artists with no formal training. So perhaps farmers who painted in their spare time, most of was actually very good. Back near the main square, a market is just closing with all the traders packing up, escaping the afternoon heat.

I headed to have a look at the impressive Zagreb Cathedral, apparently still the tallest building in Croatia. An unusual way of getting around is to go through the Gric Tunnel which go mainly East to West underneath the shops and houses for 350m.

Another day I decided to head out to the Zoo. Jumped on a tram and 30 minutes later was in a large, leafy park opposite the Dinamo Zagreb stadium. A ticket is 30 kuna and a decent way to spend a few hours, maybe not the best zoo in the world, but probably decent for the region. 3 big lions lay sleeping in a cave, with just a glass panel in between (thankfully!). Elsewhere a shaven llama looked ridiculous.

Some other museum and galleries were in the city centre so I went in for nosy. One had an exhibition on furniture which wasn't too riveting. Another grand gallery was almost empty. Lots of really old paintings, some from the 12th century, very much focused on religious iconography but over time subject digressed. As there was nobody else there I had to wave around to get the lights to go on in each room!

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Breezing through Budapest

Following the main transport routes it was time to revisit Hungary.
Ahoy is actually Hungarian for hello.
Maybe I was in different areas, or Budapest has been revamped, but unlike Prague it brought back little memories. Had a look through of the shopping district, high-street like areas, don't remember it being like this all but perhaps it's been reinvigorated since my previous visit. But further out of the city centre there is more people on the streets than other cities I've been to.

I popped into a local eatery and strangely enough they had a menu for Thai food (with Thai writing which always makes it look legit!) So I had some Chicken Fried Rice, and it was pretty good, portion was about 3 times what you would get in Thailand!

Later I took a roadside seat for a beer in a Hungarian Karoke bar where somebody was cranking out some ridiculous 80s metal falsettos. On Sunday most things were closed and I was happy to have a relaxing day, next stop Zagreb.

Breezing through Bratislava

From Prague I reversed direction travelling back through Brno and on to Bratislava, Slovakia.
I visited the City museum, not many people in here so staff are keeping an eye on me. Cafe culture in heaps. Dotted about every which way, was pretty busy on the Friday. I wanted to visit the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum, a modern art museum which, as you might have guessed, is on the Danube. You can get a boat to go here as it is 20km out of town, but the boat only runs weekends, so I was on the bus. After finding the bus 'area' I couldn't quite find the specific stop, until I saw the bus pull away round the corner.

Oh well, I'll get the next one, time for a wander through the nearby, shiny and new Europeum mall. Anyway at the museum, it is a mix of outdoor sculpture and indoor exhibitions. Some wacky stuff, like 'Yellow Embrace' where you duck into a space and are surround by large portraits of a yellow being! Back in town the main thing to do seem to be to drink coffee or beer and watch the world go by. I can do that!