Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thursday, August 31, 2017

dubrovnik one more time

Posted by Hippobean at 11:50 PM 0 comments

last day, heavy heart. didnt want to leave. The carvings on the tombstones at Radimlja were very interesting. A man showing his free hand with palm open without weapons, a sign of peace and welcoming friendship. The tvrdos orthodox monastery wasnt much to see. Herzogovina's wines are 'second world wine category' and the monks' white was very good but the red proved too full body for me. on our way to Trebinje, a holy cow suddenly decided to cross the road and to avoid it, our drive slammed on the breaks and the car behind us rear ended our minivan. It was following too close behind and our driver had to make a choice of either hitting the cow or letting the car behind us hit us. Thus we wasted 2 whole hours waiting for the bosnian police to come and do their thing. First they went looking for the cow to identify the owner and to fine him. Next they did measurements of the area but without actually measuring where the cow crossed in front of our van. Because of the wasted time due to the accident, we didnt stop to see the town of trebinje and I was sorely disappointed. Border crossing to Croatia didnt take long. We checked in to the Zagreb hotel in Dubrovnik, a 100+ year old 3 story pink house that had a nice front garden and located on a pedestrian street. The room was small and sparsely furnished but adequate. We took the local bus to the old town. It was late afternoon with the cruise ships all sailed away but still crowded with tourists. It's been quite a few years since I was last here but I seemed to remember every red roof, church, alley and nook. paid my ticket and walked the wall again, breathing in the fresh adriatic air. it was 40 degree C in late afternoon and the air on the adriatic side of the wall was refreshing and with a bit of breeze. Took peeks at all the 4 churches that were still open and brought Saffie a GOT tshirt ($36 euros, very expensive). By chance I picked an alley and went up the stairs and came upon the Dubrovnik city shop that had the iron throne. had to buy something if we wanted to take a picture with the throne. so I bought a fridge magnet, sat on the throne and got myself a photo ("i'm not a princess, i'm a kaleesi").

Alen took us to dine at one of the alley's open air restaurant and my grilled squid was burned and miniscule and it was the most expensive meal on this trip. Dubrovnik, all touristy and over priced. I've blown my last kunas at the dolce vita ice cream parlor. we all licked our ice creams standing on the marina overlooking the boats with evening lights around us. evenings should be like this. and that is why I love to travel.

Dubrovnik 2017 photos:

Radimlja photos:

Trebinje photos:

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

breathtaking sahat kula over the neretva

Posted by Hippobean at 10:04 PM 0 comments

Got up at 6:30 to photograph the old bridge and walk across it without tourists in the way. I so loved this town.

Today we went to Počitelj and climbed to Sahat Kula, the silo-shaped fort that dominated the town skyline. The views up there were breathtaking. We could see the meandering Netreva and the valley. Then we drove to the Kravica falls on the Trebižat River. Due to the drought and being summer, the cascades werent spectacular and too many locals bathing. The water was clear but tiny fish swam in it and it didnt look very clean or healthy. Not really impressed though Snowie took some photos. Saw some women with hijabs and fully clothed swimming. Their clothing of course was all wet and clung to their bodies, and I wondered how they would dry themselves or change since there werent any proper changing rooms there. At Blagaj, we had a lunch of delicious grilled fresh trouts from the buna river right next to the restaurant. The Tekija, an ottoman house and Dervish monastery was adjacent to the Buna spring which feeds the buna river. Blagaj also had a few old flour mills still powered by the Buna. back at Mostar, had wanted meat for dinner but instead Alen took us to a crepe place that only had sweet crepe and pizza. Opted for the pizza as I didnt like having a sweet dinner. Late at night, I went down in front of the illuminated old bridge and just absorbed it. It tucks my heart. Last night at Mostar, simply didnt want to leave.

Pocitelj photos:

Kravica Falls photos:

Blagaj photos:

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

monster at mostar

Posted by Hippobean at 11:03 PM 0 comments
The drive to Mostar along the Neretva river was again filled with scenic mountains on one side of the road, absolutely gorgeous, picturesque villages, and the river on the other side. Our second most scenic drive on this trip. The Hippo was stuck on the window looking out the whole way. Alen played us the Bosnian folk songs, the Sevdah, slow tempo and intensely emotional melodies, that sounded like Portuguese Fado. One particular by Kemal Monteno called Sarajevo Moja (1995) was a heart stealer. Absolutely need to get his CD. he unfortunately passed away with a weak heart in 2015.

Our hotel was just a few steps from the Stari Most, the iconic old bridge at Mostar, and the entrance the old city. The bridge was stunning and Small Snowie absolutely went ecstatic seeing the bridge and demanded photos with it. The lights went on early in the evening, and Small Snowie took yet more photos with it. D called him the monster at Mostar and T said 'there he is'.

Our boutique hotel is a Comfortable hotel ( which means slightly better than a standard hotel) and my room on the second floor had a grand view of the mosques and minarets and roofs of the old city. snowie again sat in front of window to look out at Mostar old city. couldnt be more euphoric.

For lunch i had 2 long sticks of beef and lamb Će Ćevapi the bosnian Ražnjići (shishkebab) on a mountain of lettuce and onion, tomatoes and cucumbers, hot peppers and goat cheese, with Ajvar, the famous eggplant and garlic red peppers sauce, all on a flat bread. It was absolutely out of this world. The TimaIrma, a national restaurant that served traditional Bosnian food, was in the old town and we had the loft all for ourselves. When the BBQ started, the loft was filled with smoke but the AC was blowing also, so we survived. The waitress (family owner) was funny and insisted we each doubled our drinks which were free. We had heck of a fun time lunching here. After lunch we visited a local mosque (not much to see) and the Biscevic House a Turkish house open to visitors, with very colorful floor carpets and nice sitting rooms with decorated cushions and little tea tables with gorgeous tea/coffee sets). The rest of the day I simply painted town. I walked all cobble stoned streets of the old town, lined with restaurants and souvenirs shops on both sides. Bought quite a few souvenirs here. Crossed the newer small bridge over the narrow Radobolja river and this area was quiet and the river narrow, creating a serene part of town that reminded me of a place from long ago, but its name and exact location now escaped me. I paused a moment for recollection. crossed the famous most photographed old bridge that connected the 2 sides of the Neretva river, into the east side, the moslem side of the old town. The parabolic bridge was entirely made of stone, the wide curved steps going up and down it were slippery and demanded a bit of careful effort. The iconic bridge is picturesque and the views all around simply gorgeous. East the Velež mountain and west the Hum Hill. We had wine tasting at a local wine shop, with local cheese (goat and cow) and french bread with eggplant and garlic dips. The white was bland but the red was smooth. I had wanted to get one of their wine glasses but they refused to sell. evening came and the light went on on the building and bridges. young students congregated in the area south of the illuminated old bridge and the evening was filled with their happy carefree chatting. I stood there, a little above them and simply admire the bridge. So picturesque. Absolutely digged this town. Never seen one so pretty and intimate despite the horde of tourists.

Mostar photos:

Monday, August 28, 2017

Monday, August 28, 2017


Posted by Hippobean at 11:59 PM 0 comments

2.5 hour drive brought us to the lukomir village, the highest altitude and most remote village in bosnia. our trek took us to a viewpoint of the Rakitnica canyon and the Bjelašnica mountain range. Spectacular views. The lunch was provided by one of the main families in the village. potato and cheese pies, with tomatoes and cucumber salad and goat milk which tasted sour and un-pasteurized. only took a few sips. then bosnian coffee which was a variation of turkish coffee using the same style brass pot and tiny cups, not too strong with a medium flavor. the village had a cemetery with ancient tombstones the stecci. on our way back to sarajevo, it rained a little and it turned the barren mountains into misty blears. very romantic. Back in Sarajevo, it continued to drizzle which was actually refreshing, a break from the oppressing heat. so I ventured out to finish up my souvenir purchases and had some more of Grandman's Kitchen's sarmas. loved their food. lovely city with so much bloody history. really loved it.

Lukomir photos:

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sunday, August 27, 2017


Posted by Hippobean at 10:01 PM 0 comments
as we enter sarajevo, we noticed the remnants of war. buildings with huge holes from mortar shelling and some totally devastated and not rebuilt. our hotel was right at the entrance to the old town and around the corner from the princip assassination bridge, previously the latin bridge and now they call it the latin bridge again. We've learned about the bloody senseless war at the tunnel museum and walked a small part of the tunnel. Alen our local guide survived the sarajevo siege. his experience was heartfelt. for 2 years he lived in sarajevo, with little fuel and limited food and movement. every day the serbian snipers up on the hill would randomly pick a civilian target or building and shoot. one never knew when the next shelling would come. He was lucky to get on the second UN convoy to the free zone. the first convoy was bombed. with the tunnel, suddenly people inside the sieged area had eggs, milk and chocolate again. a sobering visit. Alen took us to some of the Tito's monuments, now all neglected. shame. I quite like this guy. although a dictator, he allowed religious freedom and women werent suppressed. There was peace and prosperity as long as you didnt oppose his regime. I would call that a good dictator. And he was friendly with both the west and east. his only downfall was to not had anyone to succeed him. after he died, the people started killing each other. First time on this trip, we saw women in abaya and hijab.

I've decided to visit the national museum and although it had quite a lot of everything from greek vases to egyptian tablets, taxidermied animals, insects, paintings, there wasnt anything particularly bosnian, so I was disappointed. I guess there's really nothing truly bosnian. We had our best meals there at the Nanina Kuhinja (Grandma's kitchen) in the old town. sarmas (vine leaves wrapped with minced meat) , sarajevo pots which contained stuffed peppers and onions and sarmas, the local goat cheese which just about sent me to euphoria, the bosnia pot with tender beef stew and potatoes. My favorite was their pasta in cheese and garlic sauce, a winner with everyone. yum! it was so good that I had all my 3 dinners in sarajevo there.

the old town was crowded with restaurants and very colorful souvenir shops. went crazy here. found a glass shop that sold intricate tea sets in special crystals. I found several that I particularly liked but they were all over 100 euros. Quite enjoyed Sarajevo.

Sarajevo photos:

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Saturday, August 26, 2017


Posted by Hippobean at 11:49 PM 0 comments
aug 25

this morning we walked to the Black lake in the Durmitor park. wooden cabins and chalets lined the initial part of our trek to the lake. Zabljak is indeed a very pretty ski town. Being early in the morning and out of the central part of town, the air was crisp and the outskirts were quiet. We got peeks of bobotov kuk, montenegro highest peak on the way to the lake. the views of the mountains were great but not spectacular. Was a bit disappointed as I've expected Montenegro to be more stunning. The lake was turquoise and it had an 8 shape. The trek around it was gentle, mostly flat with a few ups and downs. the water was cool to the touch, murky by the shores but deep blue and clear at the center. lunch was provided by a local family in the Podgora village, veggie soup, 2 types of local cheese, goat and cow, tender lamb, yellow potatoes, tomato and cucumber salad and local apple pie for dessert, washed down with domestic pomegranate juice (too watered down), all traditional montenegrin mountain food. The Podgora village was tiny and looked deserted but the view of the mountains all around gave us the feel of 'the hills are alive...'. We stopped at the Tara bridge over the tara river canyon. The bridge was very narrow and there were ziplines on both sides of the bridge and river rafting (only a level 2). Hit all the souvenir shops that were by the bridge but found nothing to my liking. Still hunting for the illusive montenegro fridge magnet. so far havent seen one I like. In fact, the only souvenir I liked was an orange cup showing different montenegrin cities, purchased in the kotor old town. Didnt want to do the lousy buffet again and not being hungry, decided to forego dinner and just stayed in my room to read 'I am number four' series last book 'united as one'. So far it's slow but building up for the dramatic end. Snowie still on the window sill looking out at the montenegrin mountains in the Zabljak night.

aug 26

today was the day that proved montenegro a gorgeous mountainous country. we drove through the durmitor interior with impressive limestone peaks, chasms, valleys, got a peek at triangular Bobotov Kuk, the highest peak in Montenegro, past small settlements with sheep grazing while imperial eagles soared above, drove past a sheer vertical rock face with horizontal strata, erratic boulders with "karst erosion so tortured that one can almost feel the stone writhing and moaning". then winded down in and out of tunnels along the piva lake to the piva gorge with the stunning blue river, now on the left, and now on my right. I was mesmerized by the views. They reminded me of the rides in and out of mountain tunnels in Austria. this drive was one of the most scenic I've ever had although the day was smoky due to the forest fires. we stopped at the Modra rijeka rafting campsite where they offered alpine wooden cabins of different sizes (the hippo would love to stay there) and walked down to the piva river with crystal clear water running smoothly downstream. we crossed the old suspension bridge which connected the 2 river banks, bosnia on the other side. after lunch, we crossed the border at Šćepan polje into bosnia, and drove the rest of the way to sarajevo.

Durmitor photos:

Podgora photos:

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Thursday, August 24, 2017

from coast to mountain - Zabljak

Posted by Hippobean at 9:48 PM 0 comments

didnt really want to get up so early as I was bone tired and the bed was comfy but the climb to the old town wall was a must. Alen said it would take an hour but in less than half an hour we made it to the church and all was worth it because we could see the entire Kotor old town below and the bay from up there. This was the first hike and there would be many more on this trip. Driving out of Kotor and up the hill to a vantage point where we could see the entire bay. another gorgeous view to add to my memory bank.

morning visit to Montenegro ancient capital city Cetinje at the foot of the Lovcen mountain. small neglected town, with nothing interesting to see. King Nikola's palace was small but nicely and not exaggeratedly decorated. The Blue Salon had very nice blue sofas but unfortunately my photos came out all blurry. I quite liked this palace. i had the bosnian pizza for lunch and it came without sauce with just unheated pepperoni, fresh tomatoes and a few uncooked arugula on top. you call that pizza? More like a salad on top of a flat bread.

One of the site that the hippo had very much wanted to visit was the impressive holy shrine the Ostrog monastery. quite disappointed as although the monastery building itself was carved from the mountain face, unlike the interesting cave monasteries in Armenia, Ostrog wasnt much to see. Lots of pilgrims, some religious mosaic icons of angels and of St Vasilije who founded the monastery, and not much else.

Zabljak, the mountain resort, proved to be a nice little town surrounded by mountains and pine wood forests. from my room window (slanted halfway up ceiling) i could see mountains and the ski area. Reminded me of Tahoe. The room was strange as aside from the weird window, there's a double bed and a sofa on each side of it, so to get to the bed, i had to climb over the sofa since there's no room to move either sofa. on the window sill, Snowie planted himself looking out to the mountains. lots of backpackers in town and mostly young people. the one and only supermarket was always crowded and long lines at the cashier. We chose the hotel dinner buffet and at first I spotted grilled fish but when I returned to the dinning hall after a walk in town and shower, only deep fried fish remained. disappointed. Unlike kotor, being on the coast with fresh seafood, Zabljak is mountain food territory.

Cetinje photos:

Ostrog photos:

Zabljak photos:

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


Posted by Hippobean at 11:35 PM 0 comments
got up early to walk along the marina. colorful yachts and boats were docked and people were breakfasting on the decks. on the other side of the marina, the old city walls went up the mountain side. the old town of Kotor had a triangle shape, at the base of the mountain, with a 4.5KM long fortification wall that went up to the St John mountain. I knew I wanted to climb this thing. The old town is very pretty, with labyrinth cobblestoned narrow alleys that ended in squares, each with a church and grand town houses they called palaces, all modeled after the Venetians. lots of restaurants and shops. local musicians played on the squares, violin and cello. Celloman played the GOT theme. Really digged this place. in the afternoon we drove to Perast for seafood lunch by the bay (i had the squid and it was fresh and delicious). Built by Italian sea captains, Perast is a very picturesque town with venetian flavors. the panorama offered beautiful palaces and houses with gardens, protected by a venetian fortress and dominated by the church of St Nikola. after lunch we got on a boat to visit the lady of the rocks island and after that a very enjoyable and refreshing boat ride on the bay of kotor, east europe's largest fjords (and she loves fjords), with views of the towering cliffs of the Dinaric Alps, Venetian red roof houses, fortress walls and churches, back to Kotor. Since we're doing budva in the late afternoon, we decided to get up extra early the next day to climb to the Lady of the Remedy church, the halfway point to the St John fortress. it would be much cooler anyway. after a shower to shake off the sweat and heat, we drove to budva. the city was filled with tourists and locals sun bathing. the small old town had a wall all around it and I of course walked the entire length. The views from the wall werent much since the wall was not very high. Tried to get to a beach to look at the Adriatic, but one couldnt get to it as the beach side was lined with restaurants and hotels. Defeated there was no desire left to pay the ticket to go up the small fort. For dinner I had the seafood pasta that wasnt any good. only got a few small pieces of squid. not impressed with budva simply because it was too touristy and crowded. The night life was loud and it completely smashed an otherwise romantic town by the adriatic.

Kotor photos:

Perast photos:

Budva photos:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

en Montenegro finalmente

Posted by Hippobean at 9:34 PM 0 comments
aug 19 - 22

I dont believe it but this was the most relaxed and uncrowded KLM flight ever. I've paid extra because of the star alliance discount to get the window side of the 2 seaters on the back of the boeing 747-400 because I knew from prior flights that the back rows had some space between the seat and the window. I chose the second 2 seater row, and it turned out there was nobody next to me nor in front of me. But the individual monitor didnt work so I've moved to the row in front. Still there was nobody around me, so I had plenty of breathing space. It was the most enjoyable 10 hour flight. I've watched Passengers and it was a pretty good movie.

Arrived Amsterdam in the rain around 9:30 and the CitizenM room was available. Trained to Ams Centraal and the day turned out to be warm. Lots of tourists out already. It's been some years since I've visited this city. Last was a few years ago when I dined with Borg at the Bird Thai restaurant (still remember the chicken satay and pad thai, yum), but didnt get to see anything else. So a bit of homework showed there was actually a palace in Ams and it was within walking distance from the station, so I went there.

It was built as the Town Hall later converted to royal palace. the citizen's hall had fantastic statues and ornate chandeliers. Although the rest of the palace wasnt much as compared to other royal palaces, it contained secret meanings that must be observed carefully to get their full significance. Built right on Dam square, with the pediment facing the square, signifies the importance of the sea to the city. Atlas carrying the burden of the firmament, at the center of the Hall symbolizes Amsterdam as the center of the universe, Poseidon with connection to the sea. Argus' all-seeing eyes marble relief positioned at the entrance of the chamber. the four elements earth, water, fire and air depicted in the arches leading to the galleries. the maps on the marble floor are based on the star charts by the family Blaeu, the best known cartographers in the 17th century. the Insurance Chamber (Assurantiekamer) paintings are all about protection, pledges and insurance for trades and merchants. peace is symbolized by Venus and Mars, looking at each other, no war. 'Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall' proverb was used to warn merchants not to take unnecessary risks as doing so would lead to ruin, as shown in the icarus relief above the entrance to the Bankruptcy Chamber (Desolate Boedelskamer). The paintings in the Orphans’ Chamber (Weeskamer) are by the artist Cornelis Holsteyn from Haarlem. Good upbringing vs negligence. Very interesting and I wondered why not many people visited this palace. Glad I did.

After the lessons at the royal palace, I simply walked the east canals till my legs begged no more. Not very hungry but wanted to try the french fries that came in a paper cone. when asked what sauce (not that question again), i chose mustard and got my fingers smeared with the yellow stuff. For dinner, i got a nice chicken tagine from this place at Schiphol which name I forgot, and watched 2 free movies in my room: arthur legend of the sword (boring) and underworld blood war which was pretty good. wanting to check in early on the Croatian flight to get a window seat but none of the self check-in machines recognized my reservation. Still, was able to find out which check-in counter was for Croatian airlines.

See Amsterdam Palace and Amsterdam 2017 images:

No word from Borg. It would have been nice to see him again in his hometown. Hope he's doing fine.

the next morning, found the check-in counter and was able to get window seats. however, the boarding was a bit delayed due to the serbian airline plane stuck on the gate. But the flight to Zagreb actually took off 10 minutes early. no significant food offered on the flight. a box of 'croatian delicacies' turned out to be a bag of strange crackers, a few small pieces of croatian bacon and a dried fig. about an hour layover in Zagreb, and there was nothing in the terminal to buy, eat or drink. no matter, since I only had USD and euros.

Arrived in dubrovnik and we drove immediately to montenegro, crossing the border to Bosnia first. The otherwise 2 hour journey took an extra hour because bosnian driver and minivan had to first return to the home country in order to go to the next country. strange law but they claimed it's for the driver's benefit. go figure! The bosnian border took a while but the montenegro one was quick with just a few cars ahead of us. By the time we got to the bay of Kotor, it was already dark and instead of driving another half hour around the bay, we took the ferry to cross the bay. It was a most welcome 2 minutes ride since the Hippo had never been on a ferry with cars. Reminded me of the war of the worlds where Cruise got on a ferry and the aliens attacked and turned it over. We got out of the minivan to see the opposite shore appearing and the castle walls and churches on the mountains illuminated. It gave me a mediterranean feel, like in small village in some lake in Italy. The evening was pleasant, a bit warm but not too hot. Definitely a moment to cherish and remember. My room at the Porto Inn had a balcony that faced the back of the hotel with views of the Dinaric Alps. Very nice comfortable hotel. We walked to the old town to dine on tomato soup, pork and potatoes and seafood rice and chocolate cake at the hotel marija. The marina was just in front of our hotel. The old town walls were illuminated on the hill and the yacht lights were on in the most pleasant evening. The short walk was heavenly. spent some time with Snowie on the balcony to take in Kotor's air and admire the mountains in the tranquility of the night. very happy. In Montenegro finally.


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