Monday, May 4, 2009

Back HOME in Melbourne!!

Yes, yes...the rumours are true...I am back in Melbourne!!

And am being given lots of lovin' by all my friends and family!!

I have been a bit slack with this blog over the last 2 months of my trip and would like to finish it off so that you can all hear the rest of my tales...there are many to be told.

Watch this space and I will let you all know as I put more up.

And for those of you I havent managed to catch-up with yet, hopefully we will see each other soon. I am back on the same mobile number, or email me at

Ci vediamo

Friday, April 10, 2009

Verona before Valentines...

Despite all the worries and planning about getting back into Italy in order to meet up with Mike after my time travelling north along the coast through eastern europe, as I said at the end of the last post, I strolled (literally...or maybe it was more of a stagger with my big bag on my back and heavy load!! haha) back into Italy basically across an empty questions, nothing!!

Once over the border though, the ease of it all didnt continue and I was reminded of the organisation of the Italians. The plan for the day was to catch a slovenian train from Bled to Novo Gorica in Slovenia then walk across the border and catch a local bus to the other side of Gorizia (the Italian side of the town)....which all went smoothly but this is where the easy ride finished...

Upon arrival at Gorizia station I was told I couldnt have a ticket to Verona because the man at the ticket booth didnt know when the trains were leaving and at that point no trains were running from there to anyway...classic Italians and their constant strikes!!

Eventually the ticket guy called me back over and advised me to get the first and next train to a bigger interchange station nearby and hopefully there would be more trains going further from ther...

I finally made it to verona at about 9pm, found my hostel (another almost empty one...just my luck!! haha) and all I could manage for dinner was to stumble out and find the closest pizza place and get a take-away...welcome back to Italy!! haha

I spent my 2 days here wandering the streets and looking at all of the classic touristy things...not to mention the Romeo & Juliet pariphenalia!! And all this was even more enhanced with it only being about 10 days before Valentines and so there were love hearts in every shop window and hanging all donw the main pedestrian prominade...

I went to "Juliets house" with the balcony that apparently is what Shakespear based the story and events on...and of course eveyone has wanted to leave their mark of love outside for their lover...

And to escape the cold middle-of-the-day drizzle one day I escaped into a great little trattoria and had a feast of a main dish, side dish/salad buffet, coffee and not to mention free basket of good bread for 10 euros...what a bargain...and what a belly full!!

I saw the castle, a few churches and climbed the tower to get a view of the centre of town which sits in the bend of the main river...

I did meet one young guy at my accomodation though, from New York, but he left the following morning. The night I arrived though we had a bit of a chat as I think he was feeling a bit lonely in the apartment style hostel as there was no one-else there not even the owner or staff...and he recommended a bar to me in the main square that did good house wine for 6 euros for 1/2 litre, and then a free aperitivo buffet of nibbles and antipasto to go with it which sometimes included a plate of risotoo too!! So I went one night and it was great for a cheap dinner and even ventured out to try in at another bar on my last was a great way to save a bit of money on food...

Ci vediamo

Friday, March 13, 2009

It's BLEDing snow!!

Next stop...Bled in northern Slovenia.

It was a fairly epic journey all the way up from Sarajevo to Bled which is north of Ljubljana (the capital of Slovenia). I caught an overnight train from Sarajevo to Zagreb (capital of Croatia) for which I decided it was well worth paying the extra 20euros for the LOCKABLE sleeper cabin when there were many dodgy looking Bosnian men hanging around...I then arrived in Zagreb at 7am and had a couple of hours before my train to Ljubljana, from where I caught the bus to Bled...straight into piles and piles of snow which didnt stop spewing down the whole time I was there!!

Bled. straight from when I arrived, was beautiful...but VERY quiet!! Particularly with the constant falling snow. You know how earily quiet it can be in the snow...

I stayed in a great little hostel which I was once again alone in for the first night but was then joined by 3 Manchunians (youngens from Manchester) on the second!!

I had three nights in Bled and by the time I arrived after my trek there on my first day I was too exhausted to do anything but have a sleep and then head out for an early dinner before going back to bed.

I then spent a day walking around famous Lake Bled whilst the snow continued to fall and continued to cover everything in sight in thick snow...

I stopped to re-hydrate at one stage too...there was enough around!!
And stopping to escape the cold and snow...and of course to try the local sweet delicacies...

I tried to get one of the boats (written about in my Lonely Planet bible) across the lake to the famous pilgrimage church in the middle, but the lake was semi-frozen and I was advised that none of the boat drivers would be willing for any amount of money or people in that weather...I didnt really blame them especially with their boats looking like this...

And by the second day, the lake was well and truelly frozen...

So I took the trek up the hill over-looking the lake to the castle...but once again as I have told you from experiences in other European cities in the winter, most of the castle was closed...including the ancient printing works, which I was quite annoyed about. But I did get to see a great view of the lake and church in the middle.

I had a great dinner of grilled calamari (it was MASSIVE) for a very cheap 7euros on my final night and then caught the train to the border the following day and walked over the border without a sideways glance from anyone or a question or even a viewing of my passport...

I just walked across a VERY quiet town square on the Slovenian side of town.

Ci vediamo

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What can I say...Sarajevo!!!!!!

I was pretty excited about heading to Sarajevo, a big and facinating city, after being in all of these quiet and lonely coastal towns at the wrong time of year, or at least when all the locals were having their break from the summer rush.

But I had a long bus ride in order to get there, which didnt bother me in the planning phase, but once on the bus and in the 5th of 6 and a half hours, I was well and truelly sick of being on that bus, especially as I could feel a cold coming on.

By the time the bus arrived in Sarajevo, I was feeling about 10 times worse than average but still managed to haul my body and all my extensive luggage to the hostel. I checked in and was shown my bed and couldnt fathom doing anything more than lying on my bed and sleeping. And this is when I started burning up with fever!! Yep, flu had set in and I ended up spending the following day pretty much in bed or at least inside in the hostel.

This was really hard because there were lots of really nice and chatty people staying at this very homely feeling hostel, and I had been by myself for so long with no one to talk to, but all I wanted to do was sleep and not talk too much (cos my voice was also struggling) and keep to myself!!

I was feeling much better by my second day and so ventured out into the cold streets of Sarajevo, with a light sprinkling of snow around and continuing to fall on and off, and covering all of the roofs...

The old town and the new town are right next to each other but are hugely different...the old still with its cute little shops all single story with tiled roofs and the new town like any other city with lots of shops and cafes and funky bars.

The thing I found most fascinating about Sarajevo, was its VERY recent history...the war and being under siege and how as a city they coped with that. I did what is called "The Tunnel Tour" which included a tour in a jeep first of the main sights around the new and old town and then being driven out to the "Tunnel Museum"; a museum created at one end of the small remaining part of the tunnel which the civilians and Sarajevan soldiers dug under the Sarajevo airport during the 3 year siege in order to get supplies and people in and out of the city, to describe how life was during the siege for all Sarajevans and how the tunnel was used to allow them to survive...

Being Australian and coming from a very stable first world country, I found this all VERY fascinating. Not to mention also that the guide was a young Sarajevan guy who had fought in the Sarajevan army during the siege, but by choice and was only 16 at the time!!

I bumped into 3 others from my hostel (an Australian couple and a Canadian guy) at the museum and so we all ended up spending the afternoon together and making a fantastic meal of lasagna, salad and plenty of cheap Bosnian beer for dinner in the hostel kitchen...

Jackie digging the masterpiece out of the pot we had to cook it in.

Nigel, Jackie and Justin eagerly waiting to start their meals whilst I take a photo!! haha

The following day, the four of us headed out together again, and to the History Museum which had a lot of information on and things to see from the years of the war and the siege and what events led to it all...once again all very interesting and shocking and hard to believe and understand...

But the lack of heating and the very cold temperature and snow outside, and thus temperature inside the building added the the oppressive feeling from all the information and displays!!

And the guns!!

Oh, and of course I cant forget some food photos to make you all hungry...

I HAD to try the coffee that the bosnians drink...basically turkish coffe for those of you kwho know how the turkish drink their coffee...thick, strong and sweet!! Made in a pot and then they pour it into the small cup over a sugar cube, or they put the sugar cube in their teeth and drink the thick coffee theough it...

And some Bosnian goulash, other traditional dishes and house baked hot bread at a really good restaurant with the others from the hostel...

The last thing I did before leaving was to climb up the hill on one side of the city to the cemetary (which is obviously quite extensive due to the recent bloodshed) to have a look at alll the white headstones stanidng tall in the snow and for a view of the city.

Ci vediamo

Croatia...unfortunately not-so-sunny Croatia!!

I had heard so many great things about Croatia from so many people that I just had to go and see for myself...imagining clear blue ocean and beautiful sandy beaches with the sun shining and lots of seafood to eat!!...which Im sure it could have been, IF I hadn't gone there in winter!! haha

I had already had the harsh realisation during this trip that winter wasnt always the best time to travel for many reasons...but that had been reinforced once again with my third stop on the coast in Eastern Europe and having to cope with wind and rain and almost everything being shut!!

So as I said at the end of my Montenegro post, it was raining on the day I arrived in Dubrovnik, and HEAVILY!! But the trip along the coast was beautiful, not to mention stormy...definitely the highlight of doing the coast of these countries, even in winter.

I had booked a guest house to stay in and the owners very kindly offered to pick me up from the bus station which was very helpful considering the weather!! But also for any of those of you who know Dubrovnik, it is very spread out and VERY hilly so I would have had quite a trek getting there with all my stuff.

The owners were an elderly couple and their son who lived elsewhere in Dubrovnik with his wife but helped with the running of it all mostly in summer. So it was the elderly husband who picked me up in his little Peugot and showed me everything at the guest house and to my room...and then a couple of hours later, the wife arrived at the door of my room with a plate of home-cooked croatian cheese and spinach pastry!! YUM!! was still warm from the oven!!

I spent one day walking to the Old Town and wandering around, "doing" the sights haha. I followed the path set out in "my bible", the Lonely Planet, and most things were closed or being restored, like the church!!

But in my wanderings I found a path leading down to some rocks which they must have problems with nudists using....

And instead of nudists gracing this rocky outcrop at this time of year, I found a couple braving the wild seas and doing a spot of fishing...

For my second day I took a long walk around the wintery coast, which was great for appreciating the environment and flora even is very beautiful!!

One evening of course I HAD to go out for dinner and try some of the local delicacies...

Fish brodetto with polenta...amazingly fresh fish of course, it was very nice!!

And "Dubrovnik creme caramel" for dessert....the only difference I could find from a normal creme caramel was that it tasted more citrusy.

And then leaving the restaurant which was in the Old Town, there was hardly anyone around and it had been raining outside, so the streets were all shiny!!

Then it was back on the bus again, to head further up the coast to Split...once again, the lovely man at the guest house dropped me off at the bus station too.

Split I also experienced mostly in a shroud of rain...well actually it was more on and off in Split and more calm there for some reason.

A bit like in Dubrovnik, there wasnt much to do in Split, and what was in the guide book...the palace mainly and some other bits...were mostly closed!!

Once again, I did a lot of wandering around the wet streets and went for a few walks up to the park on a hill above the city where there is a great view of the bay and further around, of the coast...

I also had the chance to be "in-charge" of a hostel for a night in Split!! Haha

The hostel I stayed at was very nice and comfortable and easy to find. The nice woman running the place also gave me a full run down with the map of where everything was in town and what there was to do, which was very helpful and meant I didnt have to ask many questions later...however later in the evening when I had returned from dinner and she was exasperated as the only other two people who were booked into the hostel for the night hadnt showed, and she had called them to see where they were and they said they had found other accomodation as they couldnt find the hostel, she came into my room and said "Ok, so I am off home now. There is another person booked to arrive tomorrow but they wont be here until 1pm, so I will be back around then...ok, goodnight!!". And she left!! Haha...So I was staying in this apartment of a hostel all by myself, banging and crashing around as loudly as I liked!!

Oh, and before I go...something I saw at the market, that I have seen before but made me think of something which my parents always used to say to us when we were little and asked "Whats for dinner?"...


Ci vediamo
Jo xox

Thursday, February 12, 2009

And the rain Kotor

I hadnt really planned on going to Montenegro...cos I guess I didnt really know much about it. But then when looking where to go next on my way north, it was the logical path into Croatia and so why not stop in there somewhere to break up the trip...

By guide book didnt give me heaps on Montenegro apart from the coast being the "place to go"...obviously this wasnt hugely helpful for me in that Im not really here at the "beach time of year"...but I didnt let this deter me, did I!?! Haha

Originally I planned to head to Budva on the coast, but just before leaving Tirana I was advised by the young guys who ran the hostel that Kotor was much it was decided, Kotor here I come!!

As I said, I entered Montenegro from Schkoder in Albania and this was an adventure in itself!! What with it raining heavily the day I wanted to leave and finding out that the minibus that I thought was going to take me across the boarder, didnt run in winter and then being offered to go in a taxi for 20 euro which I could share with others if there was anyone else who wanted to go but no one showing and then finally being offered 15 euro just for me...I FINALLY made it into Montenegro to Ulcinj, the closest town to the border. From there I caught a bus to Bar and then a bus to Kotor.

But what a drive along the coast...WOW!!!

I wish I could have taken more photos but photos dont always catch the natural beauty, especially out of a moving bus window!!

As I looked out of the bus window as we decended into the valley that holds the Kotor fjord (cos it is a town that surrounds a fjord), I knew I had made the right decision about where to go in Montenegro...

As soon as I got off the bus in Kotor, I had 2 men trying to convince me to go and stay in rooms at their houses (which I know what you are thinking, sounds VERY dodgy) which I was advise in Albania was the way to go for accomodation in Kotor, that people have rooms in their houses that they rent out to tourists.

So after a lot of indecision and negotiation, I ended up following a very sweet man to his house which was a 2 minute walk from the bus station, which made it very convenient. I met his very smiley and very blonde and very much wanting-to-please wife who showed me everything and I had negotiated a very good price with the man, so I said 'yes'. The only down-side to this house was that clearly both of them were smokers and smoked inside and so the house STANK but I figured this would almost be the case anywhere I went in Montenegro...especially when despite any new laws about not smoking inside, they still do and no one does anything!! haha

The gate into my adoptive home and their very cute little orange car out the front there...

So as I said earlier, Kotor is a town surrounding a massive fjord and then on one side is the very small and heavily enclosed old town. On my first afternoon there I thought I would go into town and get my bearings and have a quick look around, and ended up seeing pretty much ALL of the old town in that time!! haha

The following day I climbed up the Old Fortifications of the town that cling to the hillside behind the old town. I was told that it was about an hour walk of course I did it in 30 minutes...haha

Once at the top, there was an amazing view of the whole town and of course the fjord and the surrounding mountains!!

Imagine what it would be like in summer...

I was definitely the "King (or Queen) of the castle"!!

Oh and I found some friends up there...

Mamma Billy Goat and her two very cute kids who wouldnt stop wailing!!

On my second and last day there I decided to go and check out Budva, where I had originally planned on stopping in Montenegro before I was advised otherwise. I had seen a little of it on my way through on the bus on my way to Kotor, and even then knew I had made the right choice!!

Lets just say that Budva isnt the prettiest of beachside towns, especially in the dead of winter when it is basically closed and is left to run down...(before what I imagine to be a very rushed clean up before the tourists start pouring in) because you could very clearly see where all the gimicks and touristy stuff is set was all abit sad really and looked like a broken down and neglected theme park!!

Budva also had an old town which I also explored in an hour or so...or not even...
I ended up finding myself a restaurant on the water and having a BIG bowl of mussles!! YUM!!

And then when I went back outside to go for a walk along the water before returning to the bus station to catch the bus back to Kotor, the overcast sky of course turned into galeforce wind and rain!! Just my luck!! haha

I had torrential rain nearly the whole time I was staying in Kotor and so the fjord was brimming with water...and nearly overflowing!! I kept thinking how much home in Australia could do with all of that water which was just excess for the Montenegrins. I even passed a toad hopping across the footpath on my last evening!!

SO of course that meant that I left on the bus the following day in a shroud of rain and it was on and off like that all the way up the gorgeous coast into Croatia...that was SPECTACULAR!!

Ci Vediamo
Jo xox