A Travellerspoint blog

April 2011

Montenegro-Albania-Greece

semi-overcast 19 °C

Some of the nicest things about travelling like this are the surprises you find on the way. This also works in the reverse of course and one of the disapointments was we never made it to Turkey for Anzac day. Unfortunately the roads are just not conducive to long distance travel over a short time. A three hour journey according to TomTom (lying bugger) can easily take eight hours so the decision had to be made to give Gallipolli a miss. We may make it yet, but flying instead of driving.
After a pretty lazy week or so in Dubrovnik we had to move on otherwise it would have been 2 months there. A beautiful spot called Mlini was the camp but Greece was calling so the run through Montenegro and Albania was next. We chose to forget about sightseeing and to do the drive over an easy 2 days by following the main motorway through both countries. Montenegro’s roads steadily got worse as we motored south, however the coast line similar to Croatia in parts without any of the tourism. Most of the real hard work came when we entered Albania. Albania is a very poor country and although there is construction everywhere there seems to be a lot of people out of work. The re-building of this country will be a long one. An odd site is the thousands of concrete bunkers that litter the countryside like little igloos. Apparently the previous regime instructed the people to build these to protect them from the ugly hordes coming over the hills to get them. The country is covered with them. The main highway through the country is not more than a winding, twisting dangerous goat track that can see anything from a fifty wheeled truck to a donkey pulling a cart. We split the drive over two days and we just about needed most of the hours to cover the six hundred odd kilometres. It was very difficult driving and very hard on the poor old van. We’d all just about had enough when we finally made a campsite. Quick dinner and into bed. The Albanian countryside can be spectacular at times especially in the southern parts but unfortunately you don’t get a chance to really see it trying to hold the van from falling off the road. We are now in Greece for the next few weeks.
Andiamo
Mike

Posted by mike1967 09:34 Archived in Greece Comments (1)

Dubrovnik, Croatia

sunny 23 °C

After nearly being blown off the campsite we packed up our tin can and headed for the old town of Dubrovnik. It was supposed to be an easy drive down the coast promising more spectacular scenery. We were turned around by the police just after starting out because the wind was considered too dangerous for vehicles on the coast road. The detour was over a considerable mountain range and added about 3 hours onto the trip but for all the hassle it was probably worth it. The mountain range scenery was very nice and a surprise was the snow on top. We eventually crawled into Dubrovnik and made camp at a small site about 7km's from the city. Again on the water and stunning. The walk to the beach and cafe's is a little longer but just helps improve the appetite.
Dubrovnik's old walled city is the jewel in the Croatian crown. The walls encircle a medieval old town that has been in existence for over a thousand years. During the war in 1991 the Yugoslav army did their best to destroy the old city but all they managed to do was draw international condemnation for the bombings. The aftermath was devastating to the city but it looks like most has been repaired and re-built to it's former glory. The restoration must have been painstaking and there is still some work going on. For the most part the only way you can recognise new from old is new roof tiles and new pointing on the block work. The old marble cobbles appear to be unscathed as well as the monuments that seem to adorn every building however if you look a little closer shrapnel damage can be easily seen on most of the facade's. Old Dubrovnik still has a large population that lives within the walls however most of the general area is taken up with restaurants, cafe's and souvenir shops. There is a lovely easy feeling here that life seems to be run at a slower pace, maybe a legacy from the war but life seems to be appreciated more and enjoyed. Old people as well as young frequent the cafe's for a glass of beer or wine and just seem to share the day's news. For a better view of the city we climbed the old walls and had a birds eye view of life here, I must say it looked pretty good. Beautiful views, bright sunshine reflecting off pristine water and a great vibe coming from the cafe's. Add it to the list of places I could live for a while.

Posted by mike1967 02:00 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Split

To say the water temperature along the Adriatic coast is a little chilly at this time of year is like saying it can get a tad warm in Death Valley in Summer. I’m convinced Polar Bears come here for holidays. Looks can be deceptive as the warm days, crystal clear water and calm seas look inviting. The challenge went out early to see who was foolhardy enough to take a dip and of course there was no doubt, one in all in (except Pat, she’s the brains of the outfit and a girl). Matt braved the dive first and the cold literally took his breath away, instead of the usual yahoo it was more pure concentration and a steady stroke back in mumbling to himself about hypothermia, no smiles at all…not a good sign for me. I’d convinced myself that something so beautiful couldn’t possibly be so harmful and that Matt was a weakling so in I dived off the jetty ( we decided off the Jetty rather than the beach so full wetness and no going back). The cold hits with a serious shock to the body and like Matt I just wanted out. fast! I can say without any doubt in my mind that it was the coldest water I have ever been in. The temperature outside the water was about 17 degrees and it felt warm as soon as you were out. Brenton hadn’t witnessed our efforts because he was at the shops with Pat but when he returned we were waiting, convincing him that it wasn’t that bad. He was in mid dive when Matt told him he was lying. For the normally reserved person Brenton is it was hilarious to hear the string of expletives coming from him although again in a serious concentrated whisper. Matt and I tried one more time to see if it really was that cold and it wasn’t any easier the second time around. A thirty minute shower for Matt to warm up. Later in the day Bren fell in fully dressed. Don’t know what happened, one minute he’s throwing rocks off the pathway, next he’s tripped over his own feet and ended up coming up like a dunked kitten.
Pat and I took the bikes and had a great afternoon to ourselves around Senj. We rode the bikes up to the old castle, back down for a drink in a small pub and then decided we needed haircuts. Through gestures, pointing and probably a little interpretive dance we managed to get across what we wanted, mine was easy, anything is an improvement but the girl’s take their hair a little more seriously. Anyway good result after all the miming. The day was finished off with dinner at the pub and watching the mother of all electrical storms from the relative safety of our tin can. Off to Split tomorrow. Andiamo.

Posted by mike1967 08:48 Comments (0)

Croatia

sunny 24 °C

We made good use of the motorways today and made a line for Croatia. We were starting to go a little stir crazy not being near the water so it was time to smell the salt air. We are heading down the length of the country following the coastline that promises to be spectacular. Stopping in Senj for a night or two won't be a problem. The problem will be moving on. The water is crystal clear and our camp site is literally on the water. Matt's already started fishing. All for the bargain price of 20 euros. Sundowner drinks today will be a sober affair after last nights effort. Three and a half hours on Skype with John and Lorraine K left us with a couple of sore heads this morning. Patti and I have retired hurt for the evening so its tea and a good lay down. Amateurs! We will have to put in some serious training if we are even thinking of competing in Dublin.

Posted by mike1967 09:44 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Prague to Graz

sunny 23 °C

I'll be the first to admit I am not the world's best driver, it's not that I lack the skills it's I tend to lack the concentration level that is required over a long period of time. My hat goes off to long distance drivers of heavy vehicles ( tipped to you Mal!) who can maintain vigilance and not kill themselves or anyone else on the road. My trouble started when we left Dresden for Prague. The main thing wrong was the lack of coverage of the GPS. Hire company must of thought it hilarious to give us a GPS without maps. It did have some maps, only the ones we didn't need like Scotland and Sweden. Anyway to cut a long story short, after going up streets the wrong way, nearly being cut in half by a tram and running up gutters designed for roman carts and not six metre tanks we finally made it to a camp ground on the other side of town. We only made it there after buying our own GPS in an electrical shop that we just happened to pass completely lost. God must have decided enough was enough. We were wrecked afer what was supposed to be an easy day. the following day made up for it with a visit to the beautiful city of Prague. Without a doubt the most beautiful city I have ever been in. The place is just covered in magnificent old buildings and monuments. Everything is just so bloody old. Bridges and buildings go back to the thirteenth century and the surprising thing about it is that it wasn't that long ago that Prague was shut off behind the iron curtain. The city is now a renowned university hotspot with students from all corners studying in Prague and although it's ancient the place has a real sharp vibe with edgy fashion and really cool bars and cafe's. Another city I could definitely live in.

We've decided to try and make Gallipoli for Anzac day so after only one real day in Prague we headed down through the Czech Republic to Cesky Krumlov. Another small but beautiful UNESCO world heritage site. It seems like every corner you go around there is something. Pushing on through we headed through to Austria, over and under some of the Alps, back into Germany unknowingly and finally back into Austria and are currently in Graz. I could give a detailed account of most of these towns but suffice to say that if you're into old buildings and history then Europe is the place for you. If you're also into the best food you'll ever taste and cheap beer sold by the half litre then this is also the place for you. For a committed fat antique junky with a drinking problem, i believe i'm in heaven.
Graz is another one of those places that is like a postcard. We are here in Spring so the weather is mild and really comfortable. Everybody seems happy to be out and getting heaps of exercise. Spring must bring a real optimism to places that have long winters. A sign in the city said be careful of avalanches.... coming off the roofs above. Imagine if you were having a bad day and half a ton of snow landed on you from twenty feet up, just to cap it off. Seemed too funny for words. I'm really enjoying the sophistication of these cities after coming from Asia. Gone is the smell and dirt and dust only to be replaced by spotless streets with beautiful smells coming from bakeries and deli's. Unfortunately we can'y stay so it's off to Ljubljana.
l

Posted by mike1967 06:21 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

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